Pews filled at funeral for Joe 'Butterball' Tamburro

A funeral mass was held Thursday for Legendary Philadelphia radio personality Joe "Butterball" Tamburro. The pews were filled at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. WDAS, where Tamburro worked for decades, devoted last weekend to remembering the broadcast and civil rights pioneer. Tamburro helped the careers of many R&B artists. He also contributed to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Tamburro died Friday after suffering heart-related problems. He was 70-years-old.
August 2, 2012 3:47:44 PM PDT
A funeral mass was held Thursday for Legendary Philadelphia radio personality Joe "Butterball" Tamburro.

The pews were filled at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Tamburro was a Philadelphia radio icon for a half century at WDAS where he was a major personality and a program boss.

The lanolin smooth and charming voice of "Butterball" will be remembered as part of Philadelphia's music history.

"He was a fabric of the city. He was ingrained in us and music was ingrained in us. We all remember his music; we grew up with it, our parents grew up with it," said radio personality Mimi Brown.

Born to Italian American parents in South Philadelphia, Tamburro found that his musical love was soul music, urban rhythm and blues.

In the mid 60's, Bob Klein, then owner of America's top soul station, promoted him from ad sales to a part time on-air role, and he took off from there. His oldies show soon became a hit.

Tamburro went on to became Program Director for WDAS and is credited with giving many R and B artists their start.

Klein's daughter owns the website wdashistory.org.

"He was a young man from South Philly, and there was this racial reality. WDAS was perceived as a black station," explained Wynne Alexander.

"He was the only white guy that I knew that could sound like a black man. If you didn't see him, you wouldn't know it, and it didn't even matter," said Robert Woodard.

Other fans and colleagues shared similar sentiments.

"He was rapping even before people know what rap was," said James Cade.

"Butter had a phenomenal golden ear," said Alexander. "He really did know a hit."

He was honored for his work on the air by Philadelphia Mayors William Green and W. Wilson Goode, the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, Philadelphia City Council, the Pennsylvania legislature and others.

Officials from WDAS-FM said the station was in the process of planning a 50th anniversary retrospective of his career in broadcasting at the time of his death. The station was honoring his memory Friday by playing "the music and the artists that he broke."

WDAS-FM Program Director Ken Johnson said in a statement, "I have met and worked with quite a few legends in my career. Butter was the pinnacle. He will be missed, but never forgotten."

Tamburro is survived by his wife, five children and five grandchildren.

Load Comments