October 28, 2005

RIP: Bwana Johnny (1946-2005)

It seems like we've been doing this a lot lately.

Bwana Johnny (1970)Word came from Sam Lee today that Bwana Johnny, who had been battling congestive heart failure for the past several months, died in Seattle at age 59.

Bwana, whose real name was Richard Johnson, had been a popular disc jockey at the old 1260/KYA back in the late 1960s. Most recently, he had worked in production with Jones Radio Networks in Seattle before his illness forced him into a care facility.

Before coming to the Bay Area in 1969, "Beautiful Bwana" worked at KLOG/Kelso, Wash., WUBE/Cincinnati and KJR/Seattle. He moved on to WWDJ/New York as music director and afternoon-drive jock (1971-1973) and spun records for a year at WFUN/Miami before returning to his hometown, Portland, Ore., as "Crazy Dick Simms" on the Rose City's legendary KISN in 1975.

The Bwana was the first radio "star" that I met, and was the subject of the first article I ever wrote about radio: my sixth-grade class at Blacow Elementary School in Fremont played another neighborhood school in a "Banana Day" baseball game sponsored by Chiquita Bananas, and Bwana came out to emcee the event. I got to interview him for about ten minutes and became a fan for life.

Knowing that he wasn't doing well, I dedicated the first "Archive Feature" on the Bay Area Radio Museum website to him back when it was first launched. If you've never heard him — or heard of him — give the Mighty Bwana a listen at:



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bwana was in Des Moines, Iowa in the late 70's. They brought Him into our Market in a Helicopter throwing out silver dollars to the crowd in the Radio Station Parking Lot of Kioa-KMGK. Too many people and not enough dollars if ya know what I mean. Great memories of Bwana Johnny, He was a true Legend.

December 21, 2007 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hired Bwana when I was one of many P.D.'s at WIRK in W.Palm Beach, back in 1965. He was fresh out of Corvallis, Oregon and didn't have a driver's license at age 18. The station paid to send him to driving school so he could get to remotes, etc. He came to us as Johnny Dollar, but that somehow turned into Bwana Johnny and we took promo pix of him wearing a pith helmet and peeking from behind a bush in the radio station parking lot. He was an instant hit. We lost touch until I was in Cincy one weekend and heard him on WUBE. I called and he invited me over to the studio. We caught up on our moves and travels and it was like we had never lost touch. Several years later I heard him on WFUN in Miami and called again. He was always happy to hear from old friends and jocks he had worked with over the years. I was amazed to Google his name and find all the listings for him.

What a guy!!!!! They threw away the mold.......

Great memories of a great guy.

John Thacker

April 11, 2008 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard Bwana during his stint on WFUN in Miami. Best DJ that station ever had. RIP, Bwana.
Quack Quack

November 12, 2010 2:35 PM  

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