For many Caribbean New Yorkers, Saturdays aren’t Saturdays if their radios are tuned to “The Godfather.”
For more than 40 years, Gil Bailey has been the voice of Caribbean radio in the New York tri-state area. Along with his wife Pat, Gil has worked hard to make his brand a household name.
“Pat and I are a team,” he says, “She has always been there for me, from the beginning until now.” Now, the duo have branded themselves with a younger audience as well, these are the children of their loyal listeners who have stayed with Gil and Pat from their days at WHBI and WNWK to today WPAT.
“My show is formatted,” says Gil. “From 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. it’s gospel, then from 9:00 a.m. to noon it’s Oldies but Goodies, then from noon to 12:30 p.m. it’s Soca, of course.
“Mrs. Bailey and my assistant, Sharon, have a talk segment called, “Let’s Hear It”, which airs from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and it’s very popular with the listeners; then from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. it’s the mix, where I play the more popular reggae songs.”
Smiling Gil shares that, “I have been blessed in the business, many have come and many have gone, but I am still here.”
Only recently Gil launched a brand new program on WE radio 87.7 FM on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. where he plays oldies but goodies.
Gilbert Bailey was born in the town of Bath, in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica. However, he will be the first to tell you, “Me never like country.” After moving around in Kingston, staying with different uncles, Gil left Jamaica for London in 1958 to live with an uncle.
Gil was motivated to come to America because of the way the American GI’s profiled at the Q club, with their sharp suits and the wads of money. “I used to say WOW, that’s how it is in America!”
In 1966 Gil arrived in America but he was very disappointed. “All you did was stay in the house, you had no where to go.”
He worked as a valet, waiter, even as a short order cook but it was his stint at driving a limousine where he was finally able to make some good money. Gil drove for celebrities like Stevie Wonder, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne and many other celebrities. He was making good tips and while his co workers would take their tips and spend it at the liquor store around the corner, he would save his and soon he had amassed a nice stash of $3,000. “I used that money to open a record store on Southern Blvd. in the Bronx” says a proud Gil Bailey.
From the moment Gil and Pat met, it was love at first sight. Gil said, while he was in Jamaica waiting to pick up in visa in 1968, he met Pat’s sister who was dating his cousin. She gave him Pat’s number and when he got back to the New York, he called her. She spoke to him as if they had known each for years. Gil and Pat got married in 1969. Together they worked hard and saved their money. Today, they are respected as pioneers in New York’s Caribbean Radio.
“I like what I do and the respect is there,” he says. Gil’s popularity is as much today as it ever was and his advice to those considering a career in broadcasting, “Be yourself, don’t try to be anyone else, you can’t be a Caribbean person on a Caribbean station trying to act like an American, it won’t work.”
He recalls that when he first started, they would diss him, saying he can’t talk on radio. However, Gil says, “I’ve stayed true to myself and that’s how I’ve won people over and see now today, I am highly respected and I am proud of that.”