KEARNY’S GLEN ‘JONESEY’ JONES’S RADIO TOAST SPANS THE GLOBE WITH A KEARNY FLARE

One afternoon in late April 2020, during the height of COVID-19 quarantining, legendary radio host and Kearny’s own Glen “Jonesey” Jones had a thought.

Since he was broadcasting from home, and not at the WFMU 91.1 FM studios because of the lockdown, he figured he could have a drink and toast his audience.

Jonesey could not have anticipated what happened next.

The toast, now called “Jonesey’s 2 p.m. Toast!” — began in reaction to his feeling isolated and disconnected from the world. Jonesey thought it would be nice to boost his audience’s spirits and connect with them more personally. Having the luxury of being at home, he took a sip of whiskey and toasted a “cheers” to a handful of his many listeners by name.

He finished the toast by playing “Raise ‘Em High!” by the Jersey band Jon Caspi & The First Gun. A cult favorite, the song is about underdogs prevailing against the cocky perennial winning team, and then the underdog team toasts the new losers with a wink of sarcasm.

That seemed to be the end of it.

It hardly was.

In response to the toast, listeners, also quarantining and feeling separated from their friends, families and environments, started posting selfies of themselves and toasting Jonesey and each other on Facebook. So Jonesey decided to do the toast again the following week and announced it as the official 2 p.m. toast and that he would be doing it every Sunday afternoon at 2.

He also christened “Raise ‘Em High!” as the official toast song.

Fans continued to take selfies and post them to Facebook, tagging friends and Jonesey and his toast co-host (and co-host on another radio show), Gina “The Broad” Bellando. In a short time, hundreds of listeners were toasting on Facebook. It was a way to be a part of a community during a time when everyone felt so isolated.

In response, The Broad created a Facebook group called “Cheers! The 2 p.m. toast heard on the Glen Jones Radio Programme WFMU 91.1,” which now has 670+ members actively toasting each week with selfies and singing along to the official song. It created community and connection in a world where everyone was pinned to their homes and not socializing.

Bellando recalls the rise of the toast.

“It took off like crazy, with fans toasting on many different Facebook pages,” she says. “So the logical step was to organize and have a page where everyone could celebrate the toast in one group. I love that it is a hybrid of social media meets traditional broadcast media.”

When asked about the toast and the community it created, Jonesey highlighted the power of radio.

“Radio is the most intimate of all mediums as evidenced by the response,” Jonesey says. “To be able to touch our listeners in this manner is a beautiful thing.”

The feeling of the new community was said best by Neil Wood, a regular listener to the show.

“During our darkest days, the king of freeform radio characters created a place for all of the freaks, geeks and weirdos to gather and share a ray of hope and help each other realize that we would pull through this crazy (stuff),” Wood says.

Almost a year later, and with the lockdown lifted, the toast community continues to grow. The need for connection remains and the uplifting spirit of the toast has become a central part of the rhythm of the week for so many.

“I thought after the lockdown was lifted, folks would be out on weekends and no longer thinking about the 2 p.m. Toast,” Caspi, the official song’s writer and singer, says. “But I was so wrong. This thing just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

And for Caspi and his bandmates, the toast has given new life to a tune that came out in 2013 and although the song was known amongst their fans, the connection to the Toast and Jonesey’s listeners has been a thrill.

“I was truly honored that he chose our song. I smile every week at 2 p.m.,” Caspi says.

The band has plans for a new video and possibly an updated recording of the song for a vinyl release.

The Toast group page may be found at www.facebook.com/groups/644610059534935.

Jonesey, you may recall, is also known for being in the Guinness Book of World Records for DJ Marathon Broadcast. He and his former partner, also Kearny’s own the late X-Ray Burns, accomplished that feat 20 years ago, in 2001.

 

KEEPING UP WITH JONESEY

We spoke earlier about how Jonesey has a cult-like following, especially in Kearny. That, of course, is because a good chunk of his life was spent here, especially in his younger years. Though he was born in the Brick City, Kearny is truly his hometown.

“We moved to Kearny from the Newark projects when I was 5 in 1966 and lived there until the late ‘80s. My family lives in Kearny to this day so there is still a connection,” Jonesey says. “Every Friday night was fish & chips and summers at (the since-closed) Stewart’s for hot dogs.

“I was always fascinated by being served in our car. I am both happy and proud to have been raised in Kearny. To this day, when I hear from a listener in Kearny, I reply ‘07032-4-Life. Bagpipers on parade and meat pies.’ Bought my 45s at Ben Franklin’s and my albums at Two Guys. More often than not, these memories are points of conversation on the show. And somehow, listeners all over the world get it.  They had similar paths.”

Those memories have allowed the Sunday show to continue for decades, even though we sadly said goodbye to X-Ray a few years ago. And it’s led to an expansion of his broadcasting resume which, by any standards, was already phenomenal.

“We hear from listeners all over the world, but I broadcast to the people of New Jersey and Kearny,” Jonesey says. “When the station went worldwide, Kearny remained a central focus. Same when I lived in New York City. Broadcasters can make the mistake of talking about what they think folks want to hear, but if you remain true to yourself and your roots, that is when you make a strong connection.”

And his connection with The Broad has led to more on-air fun.

“Sharing the airwaves for The Toast with Gina ‘The Broad’ Bellando eventually led to our launching our own talk show, “Keep Ip with the Joneses,” heard Mondays and Wednesdays at 1130 p.m. on WSNR 620 AM locally and streamed at www.radio620am.com. Being in lock down during the pandemic led to having time on my hands and launching a series of independent free form music programs on the AM dial on WPAT-AM NJ/NYC and WNDZ-AM Chicago.”

If youre among the few in West Hudson who hasnt yet heard the radio show, learn more about by visiting www.GlenJones.net. Or, listen in on the show on WFMU 91.1 FM on your radio dial, which may be heard in northern New Jersey, New York City and in Rockland County, New York. Information about Jon Caspi & The First Gun can may be found at www.joncaspi.com.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.