Legendary DJ Gene Shay will retire from WXPN's "The Folk Show." His last show will be February 1.
Shay, who will turn 80 next month, told me that health issues and a desire to spend more time with his family spurred the decision to leave. "I have done everything I have set out to do with folk music and I won about every award there is to get," Shay said.
He added, "I was growing tired working on Sunday nights for years and working on the [Philadelphia] Folk Festival for 53 continuous years. The folk music crowd has changed considerably. It's not there where it used to be. The old guys I used to know are dead or they moved out of town or they're into rock 'n' roll. I want more time with my family."
Shay started his career in radio while in the armed forces. He has been in the Philadelphia market since 1962 with his debut on WHAT, and started "The Folk Show" on WDAS, before bouncing to WMMR, WIOQ and WHYY. It finally landed at WXPN in 1995, after Shay was wooed by former WMMR colleague David Dye, who told Shay he has tried to mimic his laid back style. In 1962, Shay co-founded the Folk Festival.
"It is impossible to quantify the impact Gene has had on folk music and artists in the region and the country for the last half century. Folk music and Gene has been synonymous at WXPN for over two decades. He is a living legend in his field." WXPN General Manager Roger LaMay said in statement. "When I came to WXPN 12 years ago, one of the exciting parts for me is that Gene would be a colleague. Now I am proud to call him a friend. He's not leaving folk music, just the radio. But he will always be part of the WXPN family."
Shay said there was absolutely no friction with WXPN at all, specifically praising LaMay and WXPN Program Director Bruce Warren.
"My life has been unbelievable trip for me. to get to hang out with James Taylor and Carly Simon, to meet Tom Rush, to be friends with John Denver," Shay said. "We've had our health woes but everything has calmed down so I guess it's time to relax. And then I'll be ready to lie down in front of a bunch of people and have them say some funny things."