It’s slightly surreal meeting someone in person when you’ve only heard them on radio. That’s what it felt like when I visited the G98.7fm studio and met Creative Director and DJ legend, Jonathan Shaw.
Jonathan’s name, like many of the people I interview, had been scribbled on my infamous “to-interview” list for many years. Not sure why I never reached out to him before – we have been social media friends for a few years, but we never corresponded. But one fateful night we did.
It was on a night that I was feeling particularly down about not landing a major interview that I was positive I was going to get. Actually, it was a week of rejection after rejection. It seemed as though no one wanted to be interviewed. So instead of sulking, I revisited my old interview lists (I have many. I’m constantly creating new lists) and noticed that Jonathan Shaw’s name was written on all of them. I decided at that moment that I was going to email him because as crappy as I felt, I had nothing to lose.
I quickly crafted a message and fearlessly sent it that evening. When I woke up the next morning, I checked my phone and noticed that he replied saying that he would love to be interviewed. Yessss!
I literally leapt 10 feet into the air! I’ve wanted to meet him for years…. and he said yes! #Blessed.
During our epic 2-hour meeting, I found out a lot about Jonathan. Outside of the fact that he is an incredible DJ and has one of the most recognizable radio voices ever, he is a really nice (and believe it or not, kinda shy) guy. He’s generous with the advice he imparts and knows that whatever you want to achieve in life, you gotta put in the work (psst – he single- handedly learned how to publish a website because he was determined to get his done).
But the most amazing thing that I learned about Jonathan was that he has an unrelenting spirit. He recounted numerous trials and tribulations he’s gone through, but refused to let them stop him. Even though he was forced to drop out of college due to lack of funds, he was still able to establish an impressive radio and DJ career and work at Toronto’s first – at the time, black owned radio station, FLOW 93.5, and now G98.7fm.
Wanna see how it all began? Read his story.
Hometown: Malton, Ontario
DJ Name: The Juiceman Jonathan Shaw
Original DJ Name: Rock Master J
Astrological Sign: Gemini
When did your interest in radio begin?
At 15, my mother bought me a ghetto blaster and my brother-in-law showed me how to hook up the cable to the UHF so you can get all the different radio stations that were available on cable. I dialed into CKLN (88.1fm) and I was like, “how is he able to put two records together?”
When I started working at age 16, I didn’t get to listen to the radio as much. But on my off days I would listen to CKLN [Ron Nelson and the Fantastic Voyage program]. One day I won tickets, and I was like, “can I come down and see what you guys do?” I ended up working there and helping Ron Nelson answer the phones. I finally saw how you mix two records together. That’s where I learned to DJ.
The experience was eye opening. Ron was studying Radio and TV at Ryerson and I was able to see how he programmed the show and planned every element.
You also volunteered at CHRY105.5fm. How did college radio prepare you for your work in radio?
At CHRY 105.5fm, you had to do everything. You had to learn to cut the tape, record your own drops—there were no computers.
Did you have a mentor that has helped you or guided you in the industry? I’m more of a sponge. I’m more of a person who watches people do something and I’ll try to do it. I went to school (Humber) for radio, but there was no one outside of class to teach you how to do things. A lot of trial and error.
When was your first break into DJing? I was in my second year of Humber doing radio and I was also DJing at a club called Vertigo. I was making money, but it still wasn’t enough. I had to defer my classes for that year.
One night I decided to do a “WBLK” party at Vertigo. That same night York University was having a dance…….so Vertigo was empty. Everyone was at the party at York. A fight broke out at the York dance….and the dance “got mash up” and everyone came to Vertigo. And the rest is history!
How often do you DJ now? As much as I can. I do a lot of private functions- weddings, corporate functions and birthday parties. I try to keep myself busy. It’s kinda 50/50. Either I’m speaking or I’m DJing.
You are currently the Creative Director for G98.7fm. What do you enjoy the most about your role?
Hearing all the commercials I write and voice on the air. Jester does an amazing job with the production.
What prompted you to branch out into motivational speaking? Having young children and having a lot of godchildren – they look up to you. They want to hear your story…..I had a story to tell.
People would ask me to if I could come and speak at their school. I started talking to kids, youth and adults about history, black politics and saving money.
Do you have any upcoming speaking engagements? I will be speaking [at the end of April] at Stand Up with the Toronto District School Board. It is 50 Black men from various industries talking about their career and telling kids about the pitfalls of not getting an education.
Any advice for anyone that would like to pursue work in radio?
Learn how to do more than just talk. At a radio station, your value increases with the more you can do. Volunteer at community radio stations, start your own Internet radio program or do a podcast. Keep improving on your craft.
I feel like I need to write another interview to provide you with all the info that Jonathan bestowed on me. He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to motivating yourself, and doing what you love. So happy I decided to get over my fear of rejection and reach out to him. Thanks for the chat, Jonathan!
For more info, visit these links Website: https://www.jonathanoshaw.com/