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Jim LaBarbara returns to Tri-State radio

Pittsburgh native Jim LaBarbara, who came to WLW-AM in 1969, has spent more than half of his life at Cincinnati radio stations.
John Kiesewetter
Pittsburgh native Jim LaBarbara, who came to WLW-AM in 1969, has spent more than half of his life at Cincinnati radio stations.

"The Music Professor" is now living on the air in Cincinnati hosting mornings on the WDJO Oldies Network.

Now that he's out of politics, Jim LaBarbarbra has returned to the local radio airwaves hosting mornings on WDJO's Oldies network (1480 AM, 99.5 FM, 107.9 FM).

"I'm excited to get back on the radio," says LaBarbara, who debuted on WDJO Monday morning. "Today I’m out of politics and I’m doing what I love – and that’s radio. It is a crazy love affair that began when I did my first show in 1959."

Dubbed "The Music Professor" for his stories about rock 'n' roll artists big and small, LaBarbara has been living on the air in Cincinnati since hired by WLW-AM in 1969.

"This is my music - '50s, '60s and '70s. I’ve interviewed or know many of the artists we play and I played the music when it was new," says LaBarbara, who published a memoir in 2011 calledJim LaBarbara, The Music Professor: A Life Amplified Through Radio & Rock 'n' Roll.

LaBarbara has been off the air since 2016 while running for – and serving one term as – Sycamore Township trustee. He was defeated in a re-election bid in November.

"It’s been 4-½ years since I did my own radio show, and sitting in the studio I feel like a kid in a candy store," he says.

WDJO Program Director Marty Thompson, his boss at WGRR, had asked LaBarbara to do WDJO's 5-9 a.m. morning drive show in April. He declined because as a candidate for re-election, the Federal Communications Commission "equal time" rule would have required the stations to give free air time to the other two candidates in the race - challenger Tracy Lynn Schwegmann and incumbent Tom Wiedman.

"Win or lose, I said I’d like to resume my radio career after the election," he says.

The Pittsburgh native has spent most of his life in Greater Cincinnati. After WLW-AM (1969-83), he worked for WCKY-AM, WSAI-AM, WKRC-AM and WWEZ-FM before enjoying a long run at WGRR-FM (1993-2007), which plays rock and pop hits from the 1980s and '90s. He later did two stints on classic country WNKR-FM in Dry Ridge (2007-09, and 2016-17).

For WDJO, Thompson is putting the old WGRR band back together.

"Marty hired me in 1993 for WGRR and I worked there with Jack Stahl, Bobby Leach, Dan Allen, Cool Bobby, and now we are back together on WDJO," he says. "We carry Ohio State sports, and the voice of the Buckeyes is Paul Keels. Paul was my newsman on WLW when he was just a kid from Xavier University."

WDJO wasn't the only area station interested in hiring LaBarbara.

"I had an offer for a daily show on another station, but I decided WDJO was the perfect fit," he says. "I’m blessed that Cincinnati accepted me and I once again have this opportunity to share my stories on the radio."