TAMPA — A week after he was terminated as the longtime host of “AM Tampa Bay” for NewsRadio 970 WFLA, Jack Harris told the Tampa Bay Times that he is not retiring from local morning radio.
“I’ll be back,” Harris said.
Other stations have expressed interest in hiring him, he said. The only holdup is a six-month noncompete clause with iHeartRadio, which owns WFLA radio.
The 81-year-old had been with WFLA off and on since 1970, including the last 29 years, when, he said, the station informed him on March 29 that his morning program had been canceled effective immediately, without a goodbye show.
But Chris Soechtig, West Florida metro president of iHeartMedia, said via email that Harris was offered one final show. “Jack is a local broadcast legend and has been part of the fabric of the Tampa Bay community, and we wanted to celebrate all his contributions with a farewell show.”
Harris said that was news to him. “They didn’t offer me one. They did a few years ago when they thought I was going to retire, but not last week.”
The Salem Media Group wanted to host a tribute show for Harris on AM860 and 93.7 FM. It was originally to be this week, then pushed to next week. Harris now thinks it might be April 14 if it happens at all.
“I sent an attorney my contract to see if I can get a farewell on that station,” he said.
Through a text, a spokesperson with Salem Media Group said due to Harris’ noncompete clause, they are “working to execute this tribute to Jack properly without risking any negative impact on him.”
On social media, the cancellation of Harris’ show has received negative reactions from fans of the man known as “Wacky Jack,” who was the “Cracker” in the “Cracker and the Cuban” duo with his longtime broadcasting partner, the late Tedd Webb.
In recent years, “AM Tampa Bay” broadcast on weekdays from 5 - 7 a.m. It was followed by “The Ryan Gorman Show” from 7 - 10 a.m.
“The Ryan Gorman Show” is now broadcast from 5 - 9 a.m.
Last week, Gorman addressed the change during the opening of his first show in the new timeslot.
“This show isn’t replacing ‘AM Tampa Bay,’” he said. “I am not replacing Jack Harris. That is not possible ... I know this is a tough change for so many of you who are used to waking up with Jack each morning. I get it. I truly hope you continue to keep us as part of your morning routine.”
Gorman said that he will “personally” push for Harris to be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. “He absolutely deserves it.”
For now, Harris said, he is enjoying some time off. “It’s definitely nice to not have to wake up at 3:15 in the morning.”
But he is also looking forward to doing so again.
“I definitely want to do morning radio,” Harris said. “That’s where I belong.”