Imhotep Gary Byrd’s longtime WLIB talk show “GBE Mind Flight,” a weekly Sunday mix of news, talk and music heard from 9:00pm to 12:00 midnight and featuring leading Black journalists from U.S., Caribbean and African press, has been cancelled as a result of national budget cuts by parent company Emmis Communications. Starting Easter Sunday, it was partially replaced with a simulcast broadcast of Byrd’s popular WBLS talk show “iGBE: Imhotep Gary Byrd’s Express Yourself,” heard Sundays from 7:00pm – 9:00pm, and now on both stations.
Imhotep Gary Byrd’s “GBE Mind Flight: Gateway to the Black Experience” on WLIB soared with news and information focusing on the African Diaspora from the New York metro area through the global perspective. Each week, the “Obama Watch” roundtable discussion had insights on the impact of America’s first African American president from a panel of noted journalists including: Milton Allimadi, publisher, Black Star News; Cash Michaels, editor and chief reporter for North Carolina’s The Carolinian; Felicia Persaud, publisher, “News Americas Now;” Bankole Thompson, editor, Michigan Chronicle and George Curry, editor-in-chief, BlackPress USA and NNPA. A regular guest was Congressman Gregory Meeks of Queens. Other weekly segments focused on leading Black journalists such as: Richard Muhammad, editor-in-chief, Final Call; Tony Best, senior editor, Carib News and Chika Oneyani, editor and publisher, African Sun Times. There were also interviews with top political figures, community leaders, music artists, noted actors, business experts, authors and many others.
Byrd, whose career in radio spans 50 years, has spent 30 years as a talk show host at WBLS and WLIB. “I am frankly disappointed about the cancellation of the ‘GBE Mind Flight’ show on WLIB, especially for the community we served. I feel very proud of the level of broadcasting my colleagues and I were able to bring to the airwaves of WLIB in New York City and the tri-state,” he said. “I am thankful for the opportunity provided to develop the format by WLIB management over the years and very thankful to our community for its unprecedented support of the ‘GBE Mind Flight’ broadcast on WLIB.”
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Byrd’s “Express Yourself” broadcasts are now available to listeners on variety of multiple media platforms. The simulcast WBLS and WLIB talk show is available globally at WBLS.com,WLIB.com, WBLS-HD2, and iHeart radio. “iGBE: Imhotep Gary Byrd’s Express Yourself” programming is also interactive in real time on his highly heralded Facebook page, which is curated and managed by former GBE-Apollo producer Nyerere Shannon.
A New York radio legend, who has been on the airwaves since the 1960s, Byrd began his career in Buffalo NY on WUFO, discovered and mentored by broadcaster-educator Hank Cameron as a radio prodigy at age 15. As a teen, he integrated Buffalo broadcasting as a radio personality on the general market McLendon station WYSL. By age 19, he was tapped by radio programming genius Jerry Boulding to be a DJ on then famed soul station WWRL-AM, where he created his music infotainment show “The GBE: The Gary Byrd Experience.” Since the 1980s (after being hired by Percy Sutton & Hal Jackson, co founders of Inner City Broadcasting) he’s been a talk show host on WLIB, WBLS and WBAI. During the 1990s, he innovated the milestone “Global Black Experience,” a live broadcast for the “World Famous” Apollo Theater, featuring many standing room only audiences, outstanding special guests and breakthrough live event programming.
“The loss of the WLIB airtime and the overload of issues for our community means that I have to do even more with less. But isn’t that a familiar situation for us as a people and community?” – Imhotep Gary Byrd
However, there’s also his unparalleled career as a poet, author, performer, spoken word artist and lyricist. A longtime friend and creative collaborator with Stevie Wonder, Byrd served as lyricist on Wonder’s classics “Village Ghetto Land” and “Black Man” on his milestone album “Songs in the Key of Life.”Both songs were performed in Stevie’s recent national tour with Wonder calling for Imhotep to stand and be acknowledged at Madison Square Garden. The late Michael Jackson called “Black Man” his favorite song.” Byrd also co-wrote two other classics with Wonder–“Dark N Lovely,” a tribute to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and “Misrepresented People,” for the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s movie “Bamboozled,” in which Byrd appears, playing himself as a radio talk show host. Over the years, his music has been sampled and covered by high profile artists. George Micheal performed “Village Ghetto Land” at a special London tribute to Nelson Mandela, where Wonder sang “Dark-N-Lovely.” Byrd has also written songs for other artists from Kurtis Blow’s “Feelin Good” to “I Cry” for Millie Jackson, which have been sampled dozens of times by a long list of Hip Hop artists including 50 Cent, Nas and several others.
Byrd wrote, performed and released his own first single “Every Brother Ain’t a Brother” on Real Thing Records after popular demand for the original poem from his WWRL overnight radio audience, on his trend setting overnight show “The GBE: The Gary Byrd Experience.”
As an artist on RCA Records, Byrd also recorded his first album “Presenting The Gary Byrd Experience.” And, later the single “Soul Traveling” with the famed Jimmy Castor & The Bunch, also on RCA Records. James Brown “The Godfather of Soul” dedicated the song “Mind Power” from his “Big Payback” album to Byrd.
In the 1980s, Imhotep became a Motown recording artist. His spoken word-rap song “The Crown” was on Wonder’s label, Wondirection Records, distributed by Motown. “The Crown” featured music by Wonder and background vocals from Andrea Crouch, Teena Marie and Syreeta Wright. “The Crown” became the longest record to make the top 10 in the history of the British Pop Charts. This international rap classic is still played around the world.
For many years, Byrd was a popular radio and television personality in England, hosting shows on the BBC and other British networks. Currently, Byrd can also be heard nationally as “The Voice” of Sirius XM’s “Soul Town” Channel (“Classic Soul & Motown”). His New York City public broadcasting program on Pacifica, “Radio GBE,” a weekly talk and music program, is heard live every Friday night from 6:00pm -8:00pm on WBAI-FM and at WBAI.org (archived).
His “must read” full page tri-state arts & entertainment community column ”Imhotep’s Guide To Black Events” runs weekly in the New York Amsterdam News, one of the nation’s oldest African American newspapers. (www.amsterdamnews.com)
“The loss of the WLIB airtime and the overload of issues for our community means that I have to do even more with less. But isn’t that a familiar situation for us as a people and community?” said Byrd. “So, on my WBLS and WLIB “Express Yourself” simulcast, I have to create a programming approach designed to overcome the time challenge for the community and myself. I am also very sure that “GBE Mind Flight” will fly again. Stay tuned.”