John Picano: Radio Legend, SoFla Fair PR Dies

John Picano

John Picano, in one of his favorite pastimes! (Via Facebook)

John Picano, a longtime WJNO-1290 AM newsman and South Florida Fair marketing director, has died after a year-long battle with lung cancer.

He was just 60 years old!

He reportedly passed away peacefully while watching television on Thanksgiving morning, at his home near the fairgrounds in Unincorporated West Palm Beach. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, their two sons and daughter.

While Picano tirelessly promoted the fair for the past 17 years, it is in Palm Beach County radio that he made his true mark.

Through the 1980s and ’90s, he was both morning drive-time news anchor and program director.

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As on-air personality, Picano had a voice perfectly-pitched for news that most radio listeners recognized instantly. At one point, he captured 10 percent of the morning audience despite the station’s low, 1,000-watt signal.

A Booming Voice

“He had a super-booming voice,” said Palm Beach County Film Commissioner Chuck Elderd, one of Picano’s on-air hires in the mid-1980s. “You could hear him outside the sound-proof studio.”

For nearly 15 years, and until he nearly lost his voice in the late 1990s, Picano took motorists through morning rush hour with no-nonsense news and talk.

As program director, meanwhile, Picano was credited for making WJNO, then a Fairbanks station, one of the best news station in the history of the Palm Beach/Treasure Coast market.

He managed to lure top talent to a small market, often by just being nice and fair.

His all-star hires included local household names like Jack Cole, Randi Rhodes, Mike Miller, Lee Fowler, Don Silverman, Dick Farrell, Dan Bryan, and others.

Committed to the listeners

Fairness, meanwhile, was important to Picano. For each liberal talker, Picano hired a conservative voice.

“He had two jobs,” Elderd said. “He anchored the morning show, and ran the talk shows for the rest of the day. Through it all, he kept calm, composed and in control. I never saw him lose his temper. That’s rare in radio.”

Picano, Elderd said, slept next to a police scanner and would alert reporters to fires, shooting and breaking news in the middle of the night.

“That’s how committed he was to the listeners,” Elderd said.

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  1. says

    It was a PRIVILEGE working for Mr. Picano from 1989 – 1992. I had t quit only because my wife was seriously ill and I had to take care of her.

    Our relatively-small, 1000-watt station beat out our sister station, 100,000-watt WRMF during morning drive – such was the quality of “The Morning Report with John Picano,” which I produced for much of my time there.

    Those of us whom he nurtured, put up with, and learned from, loved him far more than as our boss. When we made mistakes, we felt we were personally hurting John and it that hurt us more. Speaking for the producers and directors behind the scenes – producers and board ops as I was – we would gladly have cut our right arms off for that man.

    He was family-oriented, and not just to his personal family.

    He could discipline hard when necessary, bit also apologized when he had to. He never was in love with himself; only wit his product.

    Inside politics forced him and others out of his job, sometimes, simply “for sake of change.” Russ Morley, WRMF’s Program Director (and although owned by the same company, was our competition) was very jealous of us, and placed pressure on John, through their bosses. But through love of hs family, faith, and his innate gentleness, Mr. Picano stayed as calm as possible, working tirelessly on his show, and on behalf of this staff.

    I literally cried when I received the news here. Kathy, his wife, was a diamond in his life, and obviously she is mourning. She would like to hear from anyone else who worked at the station, so that she may contact them for information about John, as the press is asking.

    Please, if you ever worked for John, contact me via I will get your contact information to Kathy, immediately.

    Thank you!

    Sheldon Swartz, former show director, producer, and WJNO Production Director

  2. Toni says

    Would be interesting to know what happened to some other local on-air radio voices of the past like Vic Knight (WDBF), Paul Dunn (WDBF & WEAT) and Mark Prichard (WKAO).

  3. Mike Miller says

    I felt so badly when I heard about John’s passing. Working with and for him for 6 years at WJNO was some of the most rewarding years in my 30 year broadcast career. He was not only a colleague but I considered him a friend. It’s hard to believe that when I think of my tenure at WJNO, John, Lee Fowler and Jack Cole are gone. They were all such talented personalities. So. FL was fortunate to have them. And I was fortunate to work with them. My thoughts and prayers are with Kathy and the family.

  4. Ed Sigall says

    As a friend and neighbor, I used to enjoy my occasional lunches with John, who was vitally interested in his community and nation. We always had lively discussions about politics and world events. Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about getting together for another lunch once he was feeling better. Sadly, it never happened.

    John was a world-class human being, not just as a top-notch professional in the news business, but also as a wonderful husband and dad to three children. He was mindful of the needs of others, always kept an open mind and was a positive influence in the community.

    He was not only highly regarded for his achievements, but well-respected and well-liked. That is a rare combination, an enduring accomplishment few achieve. He is gone too soon, but the example he set and the life he led wil long be remembered. ###