Radio professional. Music composer. Event promoter. Advertising creative. Entrepreneur.
The list of titles that Jay Advertising Founder and Chairman Ferdinand Jay Smith can rightfully claim is nearly long as the lifetime of accolades that go with it. Take a trip down memory lane with FJ, as he reminisces with WHAM radio’s Dom Genova and shares a few stories and nuggets of wisdom around the pivotal points that helped shape one of Rochester’s most accomplished careers in media and entertainment.
If you like name-dropping, you’ll love this interview. Throughout his journey, the stars Ferdinand shared microphones with are a who’s who of the brightest constellations. From James Brown and Aretha Franklin to Led Zeppelin and Mike Tyson, he broke bread and records with the biggest names.
Part of his success came from being laser focused on what he wanted to do in life. Since a child, it was the radio. As an adolescent, Ferdinand became a Jesuit-trained orator and never looked back. At 15, Ferdinand Jay started his legendary on-air career in Newark, before lending his velvety tone for years to WBBF, where, during a time when radio was the prime music influence for popular music, the Blue-eyed Soul Brother’s reputation as a dream-maker and as someone who could gracefully cross cultural and racial barriers, took shape. (For the latter, FJ attributes the mentoring of businessman Al Goldberg and music promoter Calvin Carter.)
His prowess as a peddler of the newest sensational sounds eventually gave way to his desire to compose music himself, which Ferdinand did in landmark ways, for television. A self-described “head writer,” Ferdinand created the music for multiple national network (ABC; CBS) theme songs, culminating with his epic composition for the HBO theme, which is now the longest-running in television history.
Today, as he has for the last half century, Ferdinand runs Jay Marketing and Communications, which has successfully marketed companies of all industries and sizes in the Greater ROC area and beyond, including General Motors and Wegmans. Which allows him at times to apply his passion for and talent in music. In addition to developing music identities for new clients, he also recently teamed up with hip hop artist and Rochester native BLK GABLE, who released the anti-violence song Closer, meant to address the scourge of gun violence (and its particularly devastating effect on black communities across the nation).