Say what you will, but through all the ups and downs and good and bad and ugly and beautiful in urban radio, Elroy Smith continues to stay on top of American radio programming without batting an eye, at the same time developing as an entrepreneur with his own radio station in his native Bermuda.
Smith was born and raised on the island of Bermuda, the youngest of six children born to Ismay and Littenfield Smith. He wasn't excited about school as a child, and in fact, preferred doing just about anything over studying and behaving in class. As a teenager, he began to develop a keen interest in music. He joined a singing group, the Universal Five, which soon became the Universal Four when Smith was fired! He decided to look at other ways to get involved in the music business.
Smith's fascination with radio led him to ZFB in Bermuda, where he was told by the PD that he would never make it because of his inability to read. Determined, Smith went to New York to attend Announcer's Training School, and when he returned home, PD Sergio Dean offered him a part-time job at ZFB as an on-air personality.
Smith wanted to go to college, even though he didn't have a high school diploma. After getting a letter from a politician and a minister in Bermuda, he was admitted to Graham Junior College in Boston. No one knew his secret, that he was a college student who could not read. So Smith took it upon himself to learn to read, and he did this by reading the encyclopedia every night, teaching himself to read. After finishing the two-year program at Graham, he enrolled at Emerson College seeking a bachelor's degree in mass communications. At Emerson, he did an air shift on the college station, WERS, and then started an internship at WILD in Boston. Steve Crumbley, who was the PD at the time, offered Smith a slot doing a Caribbean show on the weekends, which eventually led to a full-time air shift.
In 1983, Crumbley left the station and Smith was offered the PD position, but there was a major problem now, as his school visa had run out. Ken and Bernadine Nash, who owned and managed WILD at the time, didn't want to lose the blossoming Smith, so they not only sponsored Smith, they even paid his legal fees, making it possible for him to stay in the United States.
In 1988, Summit Communications hired Smith to program its new station, 100.3 Jamz in Dallas. He ended up back in Boston. Once again an opportunity in another city called, and this time it would be permanent. Smith replaced James Alexander at WGCI in Chicago in 1992 and the station has consistently been a ratings leader in a number of demographics ever since. Smith, in fact, made history in 1993 by carrying WGCI to the No. 1 slot in the metropolitan area for three consecutive ratings periods. He has maintained WGCI as the No. 1 music station in Chicago for the last 13 years.
In November 2000, he also became PD of Urban AC station WVAZ-FM (V103) and maintained it as one of the top adult stations in Chicago. In 2003, WVAZ-FM received the prestigious Marconi Award for Urban Station of the Year from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Smith has received numerous awards and accolades over the years, but he will readily tell you that one of his proudest moments was at the 2005 Grammys, when Alicia Keys thanked him for making sure her award-winning song got played.
In 2007 Smith found himself at the top of the urban hill, AGAIN, as Elroy was named OM of Radio One-Philadelphia, where he also took on programming responsibilities at Gospel WPPZ and Urban AC WRNB as well as overseeing Urban mainstream WPHI.
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