Clear Channel Media+Entertainment in Philadelphia, the local community and the nation mourn the passing of WDAS radio legend Joseph "Butterball" Tamburro, who died at the age of 70 on July 27, 2012. Everyone from devoted listeners to recording artists who got their start from Butter to national leaders such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton called in to a tribute show hosted by WDAS-FM's Patty Jackson held shortly after his demise. Clear Channel Media+Entertainment Philadelphia President Dennis Lamme said,"Butterball was a broadcasting icon." Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter remembered listening to Butter growing up. "He communicated the mood and attitude of the times." The Mayor went on to say, "We celebrate a wonderful person, a great man and a kind individual. I will never forget him."
At the time of Butter's death, WDAS-FM was in the process of planning at 50th anniversary of his career in broadcasting. Butter was a broadcasting icon who never lost a personal touch with listeners. Throughout his years in radio Butter was responsible for giving many R&B artists their start. In addition to his contributions to broadcasting and the music industry, Butter was also an important figure in the local civil rights movement, offering the airwaves to leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Cecil B. Moore.
In 1964, Butter got his foot in the door of WDAS as an advertising salesman. He was nicknamed "Butterball" by Jimmy Bishop, the program director at the time. Within a few months, Butter became a part-time DJ doing the first oldies show on black radio. Listeners loved both the oldies show and Butter, and both remained long-running fixtures on WDAS. Butter was Program Director for WDAS-FM and WDAS-AM until an illness forced him into semi-retirement, but was still active as an on-air personality on WDAS-AM. Butter spoke to his listeners rather than at them and because of this created a strong connection. He once said, "I smile when I speak on the air."
Throughout the years, Butter was honored for excellence and service by two of Philadelphia's former mayors (W. Wilson Goode and William Green). The NAACP, F.B.I., Philadelphia City Council, Pennsylvania State Legislature, American Jewish Committee, Martin Luther King Center for Change, and numerous other organizations also paid tribute to Joe Tamburro. He received awards and honors in the music industry from the Black Music Association and from many trade publications such as R&R, Billboard Monitor, B.R.E. Magazine, Gavin Magazine, Impact and Jack The Rapper. Joe was the 1997 recipient of the Ken Garland Lifetime Achievement Award from the March of Dimes' A.I.R. Awards and was a 1997 Philadelphia Music Alliance inductee on to the Art Bank's Walk of Fame. Joe was the 1998 recipient of the Salute to Excellence Award. However, of all of his various accolades, he held dearest the love he felt from the listeners who welcomed him into their homes each week. Listener support continued to yield high ratings for his show and WDAS-FM overall.
Joseph Tamburro was married, the father of five children and the grandfather of five. He collected old records and classic cars. He once aspired to become a race car driver. He was also a skilled auto mechanic, a lover of good foods, and a connoisseur of restaurants.
Joe "Butterball" Tamburro was dedicated to raising awareness about diabetes. To honor his memory, join the Butterball Team as we Step OUT – Walk to Stop Diabetes on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. To Join the Butter Team, go here.