The star earned by this erudite Briton got plenty of attention in 2009, but for the wrong reasons. Mourners thinking they were honoring the recently departed King of Pop, instead were leaving flowers and condolences at the marker for the other Michael Jackson, the dean of talk radio, who spent 32 years at KABC-AM (790).
Born in London, Jackson's family moved to South Africa after World War II. There he got his first on-air job, at Radio Springbok at age 16, lying that he was 22. He worked as a rock 'n' roll disc jockey in San Francisco, at KYA and then KEWB in the early 1960s, but, disenchanted with the music during his overnight shift, he spent more and more time talking to callers on the air, and thus began his talk radio career.
From 1966 to 1998, Jackson held court at KABC with collegial, noncombative interviews of politicians, celebrities, authors and more ordinary Angelenos with a story to tell. He dominated his morning time slot and pushed KABC to the top of the local ratings, until Rush Limbaugh debuted at rival KFI-AM (640) and, with his brash style and zealous partisanship, began his ascendancy over a new brand of talk radio.
After being exiled to weekends on KABC, Jackson bounced to KRLA-AM (1110), then KLAC-AM (570), each time falling victim to format changes. Next came stints at KNX-AM (1070) and KGIL-AM (1260), and in 2009 he returned to KABC, hosting a Sunday-morning investment show.
In 2003, he was selected to the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago, in recognition of what executives there called "his articulate and incisive commentary and strong interviewing skills." He entered in a class alongside Gene Autry and former Viacom President Mel Karmazin, among others.