Media Guide: Work, Work: Johnny Never Takes Holiday
By Dave Hughes
When Johnny Holliday is driving around the Baltimore area, he's probably not listening to sports talk on the radio. His dial is likely tuned to an oldies station.
This year, Johnny Holliday celebrates his 30th year as radio voice of the Maryland Terrapins -- covering both basketball and football.
But that doesn't mean the sports media veteran doesn't have his sports favorites on the local radio dial. And on TV.
He says he's a big fan of Channel 13/WJZ's Mark Viviano and WJZ-FM's Scott Garceau. Add to that ESPN 980's "Doc" Walker. Plus, legendary Washington, D.C. TV sportscasters Warner Wolf and Glenn Brenner. And former Channel 4/WRCer George Michael, plus former radio voice of the Redskins Frank Herzog. Not to forget Tom Davis and Tim Brant, and newcomers like Dan Hellie.
OK, it's a long list. After a recent interview, Holliday even called back to list more names he forgot.
There was enthusiasm in Holliday's voice. Heck, there's always enthusiasm in Holliday's voice. Even after many decades in broadcasting, he loves every minute of the time he can get behind the microphone.
This year, Holliday celebrates his 30th year as radio voice of the Maryland Terrapins -- covering both basketball and football via Baltimore's 105.7 WJZ, and Washington's 106.7 WJFK.
Holliday -- a 2003 inductee in the Radio Television Broadcasters Hall of Fame -- has broadcast more than 1,100 Terrapin football and basketball games, including 11 bowl games, 10 Sweet 16s and two Final Fours.
According to the University of Maryland's Web site, Holliday's sports reports air on the ABC Radio Network, as well as on Sirius XM. His list of credits includes ABC's coverage of the Olympic Games, championship boxing, the USFL and the Masters. Holliday has served as public address announcer for the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco Warriors and the old Baltimore/Washington Bullets.
He has also handled play-by-play duties for George Washington University basketball and Navy football, done radio and television coverage of the Bullets and Wizards, and hosted a Redskins television show with Dexter Manley, Mark Moseley, Bobby Beathard, and Charley Casserly. Throw in play-by-play duties for ACC women's basketball, the Orioles and national gymnastics events.
Born in Miami as John Holliday Bobbitt, he got his radio start at WBBN in rural Perry, Ga. That's where he started using just his first and middle names as his radio identity because the man who ran WBBN thought "Johnny Holliday" sounded better than "Johnny Bobbitt."
After radio stints in Florida and New York state, Holliday became a "Top 40" radio superstar at stations in Cleveland, New York City and San Francisco.
In the late 1960s, Holliday found himself at WWDC radio in Washington, KYA's corporate sister, then a full-service "middle of the road" music station. Holliday was doing the morning show, heavy on the banter as he voiced 17 different characters.
By the late 1970s, with the changing of formats at WWDC, it was on to D.C.'s WMAL, which was also then a full-service "middle of the roader," where he segued into sportscasting.
The rest is history. But wait, there's more.
Holliday was the voice on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley" and "This Week With Sam And Cokie," along with ABC radio's Sam Donaldson show. He was also seen on the CBS television series "Good Morning World." His face and voice are widely familiar in local radio and TV, with hundreds of commercials and narrations to his credits.
Holliday doesn't just love radio and sports, but theater and acting, too. And he really loves his charity work. His radio station celebrity basketball and softball teams have raised millions of dollars for charity. He has served as television host for the Easter Seals, Muscular Dystrophy, March Of Dimes, Children's Hospital and the Cerebral Palsy and Leukemia telethon.
Holliday doesn't find much difference between the fans of Baltimore and Washington. "Look, a fan is a fan," he says. "Everyone wants their team to win."
And there's no slowing down for Holliday. His Maryland sports contract lasts another three years or so. "No sight of retirement any time soon," he said with a broad smile.
Issue 135: March 2009