One of Us: Patty Jackson, WDAS-FM DJ

The 27-year veteran DJ on battling back from a recent stroke, the best album ever, and why you’d be wrong in assuming she’s not a huge Barry Manilow fan.


Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Patty Jackson. Well, that’s my air-personality name. My given name is Patricia Nolan, which is an Irish name, and they didn’t think it was urban enough, so they named me Patty Jackson in 1982. My father was very mad. He said, “What’s wrong with my name?”

I was born … right here. I’m a proud South Philadelphian, from 23rd and Ellsworth.

I went to school … at Southwark Motivation, which was part of South Philadelphia High. I didn’t go to college, because I started my broadcasting career six months after I graduated from high school.

The most important African-American in Philadelphia history is … Cecil B. Moore. He was brave, brash, a little before his time. They had never seen a man like him.

The best part about growing up in South Philly … was the sense of knowing your neighbors, knowing the butcher and the guy behind the counter. And there was a sense of pride. We all have that same bravado.

My son is always telling me … to stop nagging. He’s 14.

On Valentine’s Day, I will probably be … spending time with my family — not a significant other. Miss Patty is single.

I got my big break … when this DJ didn’t show up for work one day when I was interning at a Camden radio station. They let me go on and do the news. I was terrible, but they liked me, and the rest is history.

I left the city … 10 years ago, when my house literally collapsed. The back of the house just came crashing down. We were all in the front: my mother, who was 81 at the time, my three-year-old son and my eldest sister.

One thing people don’t get about my job … is that you have to be upbeat and happy regardless. That’s show business.

My mother taught me … how to be good to people. My father taught me how to be a good worker. He worked at the Navy Yard, and I got my work ethic from my dad.

These days, I live in … Wyncote. The weirdest part of it was when I asked a neighbor about having a block party. She had no idea what I was talking about.

The best album ever is … Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. Love songs. Conscience songs. Uplifting songs. Party songs. I remember when my father gave it to me. It was a double album with a 45 of “I Wish” as a bonus.

If I weren’t doing this … I would be a chef. Not only do I love to cook, but I can cook. My best dishes are peach cobbler and seafood salad.

My favorite radio interviews have been … President Obama, Denzel Washington, Hillary Clinton, Quincy Jones, Patti LaBelle and Barry Manilow. My boss said, “Why are you interviewing him?” I love Barry Manilow. I also love the British Invasion bands, Barbra Streisand and ’80s pop music. I was so geeked when I met Rick Springfield and Duran Duran. Oh my God! They were like, Why is this black girl squealing like this?

The biggest way my job has changed is … social media. It’s no longer just about what you do but how you share it online.

One thing about Philadelphia I’d like to fix is … the school system. It’s a darn shame.

When my mother died in October … it was the saddest day in my life, even though I knew she had gone to a much better place. And with the stress from it, I had a stroke two weeks later. A vessel popped in my head. The physical therapy is grueling, but I have to do it. I must regain my life.

Published as “One of Us” in the February 2016 issue of Philadelphia magazine.