Imhotep Gary Byrd
Award-Winning Radio Broadcaster | Poet & Songwriter | Executive Producer
Imhotep Gary Byrd is the award-winning host, creator, and executive producer of The GBE, the longest running Black radio broadcast in the history of New York City. His career as a multi-media radio personality, spoken word-recording artist, songwriter, and motivational speaker has always focused on “raising human consciousness thru communications.” In a career that spans over 40 years, Byrd, as a modern day griot, is dedicated to “telling our story and lifting every voice.”
Imhotep has received numerous awards and honors. Among them are the prestigious Hal Jackson Award from the International Association of African American Music and the Living Legend Award from the Living Legend Foundation. He has also been inducted into the National Black Sports and Entertainment Hall of Fame, along with the legendary Frankie “Hollywood” Crocker and Byrd’s brilliant musical collaborator, Stevie Wonder. Most recently, Imhotep was named as a Black Media Legend for McDonald’s Faces of Black History 2011 Tribute.Imhotep was also honored at the New Federal Theatre’s 40th Anniversary Gala,along with Mayor David Dinkins,Sidney Poitier,Ruby Dee,Amiri Baraka,Ntozake Shange,Alicia Keys,George Faison,Terrie Williams and others as “individuals who changed the cultural life of America”.
Background in Radio/Media
Hank Cameron, a teacher and broadcaster in Buffalo, saw a young Byrd acting in a local play and gave Byrd his first break in radio. As a teenager in the 1960’s, Byrd worked at WUFO-AM, the city’s first Black-oriented radio station (home of radio legends Eddie Ojay, Frankie Crocker, and Gerry Bledsoe). From there he became the first African American in Buffalo to broadcast on a general market mainstream station (WYSL AM/FM Radio).
In 1969, Byrd followed his mentors and went to the top Black radio station of the day: WWRL-AM in New York City. Still a teenager, Byrd became the youngest Black radio personality to work in New York City. There, in the media capital of the world, Byrd launched The GBE (The Gary Byrd Experience). The GBE innovative all-night format was both revolutionary and extremely popular and it catapulted Byrd into the public spotlight and cemented his position amongst media pioneers.
Beyond radio, Byrd has numerous accomplishments in television as well. Off camera, he was the announcer for PBS’ groundbreaking all Black variety show, SOUL! and he was voiceover specialist for Max Trax on Cinemax. In front of the camera, Byrd co-hosted Essence: The TV Show with Susan L Taylor. He has also had several feature appearances or guest performances on various television programs in the states and in the UK.
Byrd was invited to Inner City Broadcasting’s WLIB-AM by the late Chairman Emeritus Percy Sutton. At WLIB-AM, Byrd transformed The GBE into The Global Black Experience. From there he broadcasted live from the Apollo Theatre and became even more respected in his field. The extent of his popularity was evidenced in the 1992 birthday tribute to Imhotep at The Apollo. It was standing-room-only.
The Wonder-Byrd Connection
Imhotep and Stevie Wonder have collaborated on several songs that have stood the test of time. Village Ghetto Land is one of the five classics that they collaborated on and it’s from the 1976 multi-platinum album Songs in the Key of Life (Songs). Pop superstar George Michaels performed Village Ghetto Land at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Celebration, garnering a worldwide audience of over 600 million people in nearly 70 countries. At this event, Wonder also performed Dark n Lovely, an anti-apartheid theme song from the Characters CD, written by Wonder-Byrd. The duo also co-wrote Black Man, also from Songs. At the 40th Annual NAACP Image Awards, this bi-centennial tribute song was performed by Stevie Wonder, with an added tribute to the newly elected President of the United States, Barack Obama. Michael Jackson said in Jet magazine: “Black Man is my favorite song.”
Songs is named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” A documentary DVD about Songs was created based on VH1’s Classic Albums programs. Byrd’s commentary is featured throughout, offering an insider’s narrative which threads the story together.
Other Wonder-Byrd collaborations include Misrepresented People for the opening score on Spike Lee’s feature film Bamboozled (Byrd also appears as himself in the film, interviewing the star of the film, Damon Wayans); and The Crown, a 10-minute spoken-word motivational rap classic celebrating African history and culture. The Crown (performed by Imhotep & The GBExperience), became a top five record on the pop charts in the UK and a smash hit throughout Europe in the 80’s. To date, The Crown is the only record released on Stevie’s Motown-Wondirection Records.
Spoken Word-Recording Artist; Songwriter
Imhotep Gary Byrd has always been an innovator in the spoken word/rap genre. He has numerous recordings as a spoken word poet on Real Thing, RCA, and Motown Records. As a songwriter, Imhotep has over 30 published songs. His first recording was the classic Every Brother Ain’t A Brother, followed by his first album of spoken-word poetry Presenting The Gary Byrd Experience. Are You Really Ready For Black Power? was the back side of Every Brother and was released in the UK on a compilation called Stand Up & Be Counted featuring Nikki Giovanni and the legendary James Brown. The Godfather of Soul was a friend and fan of Imhotep and dedicated his song Mindpower to that “young man up in New York with the GBE.”
As a recording artist, Byrd also recorded Soul Travelin’ backed by the Jimmy Castor Band, with producer and funk legend Jimmy Castor. Soul Travelin has been sampled by various including Jazzy B (of Soul II Soul) and Nas. A strong advocate and supporter of the independent artist movement, Imhotep Gary Byrd produced his last CD Words of Power from Planet Africa on his own label.
Byrd has also enjoyed consistent success oversees. He hosted the American Chart Countdown Show on the BBC, which was broadcast by satellite in New York and England over BBC Radio One. He also hosted a gospel radio show: Gary Byrd presents Sweet Inspirations, a live weekly trans-Atlantic broadcast from New York to England. The show spawned a compilation album by the same name which was released on BBC Records.
Currently on the Air
Imhotep Gary Byrd is the first radio personality since his mentor, Hal Jackson, to broadcast from three different New York City stations –WLIB-AM, WBLS-FM, and WBAI-FM.
On WBLS-FM, Byrd hosts and executive produces Express Yourself, a weekly call-in show heard Sunday evenings from 6:00 - 8:00 pm. The show’s final hour morphs into the Express Yourself Radio Town Hall, simulcast over WLIB-AM and WBLS-FM. The show features the popular Imhotep’s Guide to Black Events, also carried in the Amsterdam News.
From 8:00 pm - 12 midnight, WLIB features the GBE Mind Flight: Your Gateway to the Black Experience. Weekly features of Mind Flight include President Obama’s weekly radio address and The Obama Watch, a roundtable of top news journalists. Byrd also executive produces and hosts the GBE 2.0: The Global Black Experience and The Global Beat Experience, a two hour talk and music show that airs Saturdays at 5:00 pm on WBAI-FM. Imhotep is a creative consultant and a life creativity coach. He lectures regularly and is frequently called upon to serve as a Master of Ceremonies. Currently, Byrd is working on a new project with Stevie Wonder, creating new book-theatrical material, as well as launching his own online GBE Radio Network.
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