A legendary Baltimorean fell silent when Sir Johnny O, who for years graced Baltimore’s airwaves as a host on WWIN-Spirit 1400 AM radio, died on Oct. 29. He was 70.

Sir Johnny, whose real name was Johnathan Compton, had been battling a respiratory illness at a a Baltimore hospital. Several former colleagues visited him during his illness, and shared their memories of their peer and friend.

Compton’s involvement in the media business began in his teens. In 1962, he distinguished himself when, at the age of 19, he landed his first on-air position at 1600 WWRL-AM in New York. Opportunities continued to present themselves, and a year later, he moved to WDAS in Philadelphia.

By 1964, Larry Dean, a former WWRL radio host who had helped Compton secure the New York gig, had advanced into a management position at WWIN in Baltimore. Dean convinced Compton to move farther south, and he assumed the 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift at WWIN, where he stayed for 20 years. During that time, he created the popular “Turnpike Jazz” segment which aired as part of the all-night show.

In later years, Johnny handled fill-in shifts at WEBB and WITH and also tried his hand at Internet radio.

A venerated veteran of the business, Compton mentored several fledgling jocks trying to break into the Baltimore radio industry, including J.B. Brown, Sam Beasley, Guy Broady and Curtis Anderson.

Many of his mentees and colleagues recalled the fascinating stories he would share about his time in the business. One such tale revolved around the April 1968 riots that erupted in Baltimore at the news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Compton was at the studio and on the air when shots were fired through the window and he had to dive for cover, he told them.

“We won’t forget his engaging personality, deep and cultured baritone voice, or his love for the business and the many who worked with him,” radio veteran Bob Mathers said in a statement.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO