When the history of Kenya’s radio entertainment is written,one name that will certainly feature is Jimmy Gathu. Gathu was one of the pioneer presenters of modern radio entertainment. He rode a highly popular career that saw him spend time on major stations such as Capital FM, Kiss FM, Classic FM and Nation FM.
In particular, it was at Kiss FM that he hosted the once highly rated show People’s Parliament. “I never sat down and said, ‘I’ll make this last 25 years or 30 years’. I wasn’t classically trained to be a media personality; I learned on the job and because I wanted to be good at it, I paid close attention to everything,” he said in an interview with a local daily.
Along the way, Jimmy made himself quite a good fortune. In fact, he made his first million at the age of twenty five and at a time when Ksh. 1 million was a fortune.
“I remember, though, in the first four years of my career, my name was always mentioned in the column Letters to the Editor. Mostly it was people complaining about me. Some didn’t like my show, some didn’t like me as a person. So, it shocked me when Coca-Cola called and asked me to be their youth ambassador in 1995. I made my first million at the age of 25. Back then, that was a lot of money,” he said.
Ironically, this was three years before Jimmy Gathu joined radio. “When I became a radio presenter in 1998, it didn’t matter that I had been on TV because it’s a completely different discipline. In fact, my name meant nothing to radio stations, I had to prove myself afresh,” he said.
Jimmy said that his talent was so in demand that he hardly ever had to look for a job. “I had never been unemployed, I had never even looked for work – people looked for me,” he said. In 2016 though, he lost his job, and the people who looked for him stopped looking. “My phone suddenly stopped ringing. I hadn’t planned for it, I had never considered a space where I wouldn’t be getting a full-time salary,” he said.