Having interviewed and mingled with many of R&B and urban America’s most celebrated stars, Gillian Harris is a name that has gone overlooked for years. Unlike many of her equals, some of which built personal brands and went on to world-renowned fame, Gillian went a different direction with her life. AXS recently spent time with Gillian, discussing some of her most memorable moments in radio. Here is AXS exclusive interview with Gillian Harris.
Gillian Harris: So, I started radio at KNAC in Long Beach. It was this historic rock station. I was horrible as a news-caster. That was 1980. Stayed there for 3 months and left for a station in Santa Barbara where I could hone my skills. My intention was to come back to the L.A. market much better.
AXS: What happened in LA?
GH: Six months after starting in Santa Barbara, on the verge of being fired (because I was too progressive and hip) I learned of an opening at Stevie Wonder’s KJLH in Los Angeles. They needed a Broadcast Journalist. I applied and started immediately. I earned about $17K per yr at 102.3 KJLH so when 1110 AM -KRLA called it was awesome. I would finally earn what I was worth. Still a broadcast journalist, even though not my preference. I always wanted to be a DJ but since my first gig at KNAC was typecast as a broadcast journalist.
AXS: Who all did you meet there?
GH: The Real Don Steel! When I met him at KRLA first thing I excitedly said was, ‘I used to listen to you all the time when I was a kid’. His face dropped! I didn’t know much about being politically correct then!
AXS: That’s interesting. What other events happened while you were a DJ?
GH: Jan 20 1986 I was on the air when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight. I was ridiculed for doing my newscast audibly shaken to tears by the news I was reading. Morning Jock Charlie Tuna was one of those telling me to “pull it together”! This space shuttle disaster/tragedy and the requirement that I write, rehearse and broadcast repeatedly the bloodiest, scariest stories I could find lead me to quit radio in the fall of 91. My intention as to be out of it for at least a year before trying to come back as a DJ – my original intention.
AXS: Anything else?
GH: The Rodney King Riot started in April of 92. I got a call from the Program Director of 103.9 KACE who needed more news coverage at the Inglewood station. I’d only been off the air for 6 months but craving to be of service during the city’s crisis, I jumped at the opportunity. The Riot ended and I was rediscovered at 103.9 KACE. I was asked to stay. Turn of events lead to me becoming a DJ at this station. Overnights, then sharing morning drive then ultimately KACE was sold and became a sister station to KFI and KOST. At that point I was given my choice of afternoon drive 2-7pm. I ruled the airwaves during that shift for 7 years. The first female to do an afternoon drive show, solo in L.A.! This was the peak of my radio career. My show featured tons of cool trivia about the artists we played, R&B Oldies from the 70s – 80s and I was known to have many of these artists on the air with me for interviews.
AXS: Who were you able to interview?
GH: I got to interview Patti LaBelle! The amazing Patti LaBelle! It was after her book, ‘Don’t Block the Blessings’. She touched me in conversation, just like she touches me when she’s on stage. I was especially taken with 1) her share on perspective which is where we will either block or allow our blessings and 2) her candor on her fear of death in light of her siblings early transitions. I loved her book I hope one day she reads mine!
AXS: What other interviews stand out?
GH: MC Hammer was probably my first big on air moment. I am terrible at celebrity names so my boss had to show me a picture and sing a piece of a song to remind me who MC was!Then my boss proceeded to give me background on MC’s then hot topic life. He gave me perspective – controversy – distinct questions that would be amazing if answered. I was like, “copy dat, boss!” By the time I got to the sexist undercurrent displayed in one of his g-string music videos he got up and announced on air that he was leaving! I played a song while my boss talked him into coming back on the air! He finished the interview with me but he did not like me! This was a very talked about show! Talked about for a long time!
AXS: Did you meet any other celebrities?
GH: I met the late Gregory Hines at Golds Gym in Venice. I had such a crush. Mentioned this to my boss, Kevin Fleming. Kev is like, “Ask him on your show!” I’m like, “Oh, Right!” So I invite Greg on my show. He accepts. It was an amazing interview. A highlight was when I asked him what he did prior to becoming a successful actor, singer, dancer. He told me about making pizza! He had this gig at the pizza parlor that he absolutely loved and the fact that he loved what he was doing made it easy to do while he did his auditions and other stuff in reaching for his ultimate dreams. His favorite R&B Oldie was Chaka Kahn’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’. After Gregory left, my friggin traffic guy, knowing how I really felt about him, got on the air and before delivering the freeway catastrophes said, “Hey Gregory, you should ask Gillian on a date! 2 minutes later, Gregory called and asked me out! I had a date with Gregory Hines! Definitely a highlight moment in my life!
AXS: What was one of your favorites?
GH: Stevie Wonder came into my studio one afternoon with Lou Rawls. That was interesting. I wanted to talk about having worked for Stevie at the other station but the other station (JK+KJLH) was a competitor so I couldn’t really…say what I wanted to say. That was weird! Lol! Stevie is such a confident man. But I think I might of made him a little uncomfortable when I mentioned one of his former background singers who is also the mother of his son Mumtaz who is also, one of my dear friends Melody McCully. I distinctly remember a chill in the air when I brought her up. I knew in that moment that he was terrified at what I might say! But I was totally cool. There were so many more, jeez, Wolfman Jack, Four Tops – Levi Stubbs, The Average White Band, Brenda Russell, ConFunkShun , Tina Marie, and so on, and so on!” Man, it certainly was one hell of a ride.
Getting to know Gillian was quite the experience, her history in radio and music really was one for the ages. Gillian said, “I have no regrets.” In fact, her experiences assisted in making the transition from media personality to a successful entrepreneur and influential voice of the metaphysical. Gillian is now founder and CEO of Bless & Clear, a business that focuses on sacred ceremonies. In the early 2000’s she also founded Valet Of The Dolls, which is a private event valet company based out of Malibu, CA. A longtime student of Spirituality and Metaphysics, Gillian says “My interests in the spiritual world began when I was a teenager with clairvoyant and inter-dimensional experiences.” Those experiences eventually led to her first and best selling manuscript, “The Secrets of Lost; The Validity of Multi-Dimensional Existence.”
To find more about Gillian Harris’s incredible journey, please visit her website here.