Like anyone with a little bit of tenure leaving today's radio scene, Ron "JoMama Johnson" Shepard wants to emphasize that leaving is his decision.
Who can blame him? In modern radio, where executives often seem to cutback on their cutbacks, every departure of a well-known name leads to speculation that the move was less than voluntary.
But Shepard says that, after 23 years working at Clear Channel Radio stations in Birmingham, Ala., Fort Myers and Tampa, the time has come to retire, so he can spend more time with his 88-year-old mother, Celeste.
"I'm a mama's boy; that's in my name," said Shepard, who works as program director and midday personality on Tampa R&B/hip hop station WBTP-FM (95.7 The Beat). "I can always go back to work, but I may not always be able to see my mom."
Listeners may remember Shepard's JoMama as host of one of the most successful "quiet storm" programs around for 15 years. It dominated the local airwaves from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday to Thursday on WFLZ-FM (93.3), with a deft selection of soul and R&B songs.
Beginning in 1990, Shepard's show aired before Tampa Bay area FM radio stations directly targeted fans of so-called "urban" music, leaving a huge audience for those who wanted to hear R&B and soul in stereo.
He started as an intern at Jacor, a huge radio company that would eventually sell its stations to Clear Channel — later helping establish WBTP in 2003 as the biggest local FM radio station to openly court black listeners.
Shepard's last day is today; he'll celebrate with a public party beginning at 5 p.m. at Club Atlanta, 1731 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.
"I'm happy...23 years with one company, that's unheard of, especially in radio," he says. "But sometimes, in life, your decisions should be made for you and not what you love to do."