When Merritone principal Monte Blake heard that veteran Jamaican broadcaster Gil Bailey had died as a result of the coronavirus in New York on Monday, he wasn’t surprised. That still hasn’t made the news any easier to bear.
“I knew him well and I heard he was sick,” Blake told BUZZ. “He’s really a legend in the New York area. He was a stalwart and he’s sadly missed.”
Bailey, who is remembered as ‘The Godfather’, spent his life in radio and contributed to the strong West Indian culture in the tristate area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut).
To honour his legacy in Caribbean broadcasting, Blake presented Bailey with a Golden Mic award at the annual Merritone Family Fun Day in Long Island, New York, last August.
He recalled Bailey being “happy and thrilled” to be recognised. “Over many years he did a great job with regards to keeping Jamaicans and other people of the diaspora connected and people would tune in to the radio to know what’s happening locally and at home. We gathered him and some other personalities who had contributed similarly and honoured them.”
Blake said the two kept in touch after the event, but he steered clear of enquiring about his health.
“I never really spoke to him because when you go into the hospital, as I have been a few times, people would love to share everything with you but sometimes when you’re very sick it’s difficult for you to tell everybody,” said Blake who turned 75 in March. “I have been in hospitals and sometimes you can get too many visitors, everybody means well, and you’re getting too many phone calls. They even took my phone away so knowing all of that from personal experience I didn’t bother to contact him but I was in touch with my good friend who gave me updates on his health.
Bailey celebrated his 50th year in radio in 2019. He made his start in 1969 with The Gil Bailey Show in New York, which he co-hosted with his wife, Pat. The show was aired across Caribbean radio stations like WPAT, WNWK and WHBI, and served the best in reggae, soca, gospel and calypso music. Pat died in 2016 at age 77, and Bailey took his show to YouTube in 2019. The programme kept the same music format and was live-streamed from Monday to Saturday from 6pm to 9pm.