mike phillips stevie wonder cliff winston

Saxophonist Mike Phillips, Stevie Wonder & Cliff Winston (photo: KJLH)

“Someone asked me a question one time. If you could find out when you’re gonna die and how, would you want to know?  I don’t know. I don’t think so,” was a comment made by the late radio legend Cliff “The Body” Winston in a 2015 interview with “Magic Mike” Mann, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stevie Wonder owned, Los Angeles based radio station, KJLH 102.3.

Two short years later, on December 19, 2017, at the age of 63 and without advance warning, Cliff’s time on earth came to an end. As we first reported, he succumbed to a heart attack after complaining of chest pains and being transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.  It has been reported that he was at the downtown courthouse for a deposition when the chest pain began.

Cliff was born and raised in Los Angeles where he attended Dorsey High School before venturing off to the University of Washington (Seattle) to pursue a degree in Communications.  After graduating from college, he worked at radio stations in Seattle (KYAC), St. Louis (KMJM-FM), Chicago (WBMX), Detroit (WDRQ-FM) and Houston (KRLY) before returning home in 1986 to Los Angeles and KJLH radio, as their morning man.

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KJLH’s Janine Hydell Greg Johnson and Cliff Winston (photo: KJLH)

Cliff was a KJLH listener favorite until 1990 when he decided to move over to the competition, KKBT (The Beat).  He went back to KJLH in 1993, became Program Director in 1994 and stayed until he left for good in 2006, where he once again went to KKBT.  He said KJLH was home, comfortable, he really missed it and the decision to leave was difficult; however, he was at odds with the new music director and decided to leave.  On the decision to leave, Cliff said, “If you’re not appreciated and someone else thinks you’re great…” He admitted even though the KKBT offer was very good, he had to think about what he was leaving at KJLH.   He knew he made the right decision on Friday when he went to pick up his check and they told him he couldn’t come in and had to wait in the parking lot for a security guard to bring his check.  OUCH!

I made a daily morning commute to downtown Los Angeles and Cliff and the home team got me to work each and every day.  When Cliff left KJLH, so did I.  I tried to give the replacements a chance, but it just didn’t work for me and I was definitely not alone, as the online comments rang out loud and clear with discontent.  I missed his warmth and sense of humor.  I forgot how much I missed it until he did the 50th anniversary interview.  He spoke of being in awe the first time he met Stevie Wonder, how he should have worn Pampers because he almost used the restroom on himself and how when leading Stevie to the restroom, he made him bump into a popcorn machine and thought he would be fired.


Cliff had stories galore; funny and otherwise.  I learned about celebrities who weighed enough to break a chair at an interview, celebrities who fought each other, rude celebrities, classless ones and those that came to interviews high as a kite.  I also heard about Cliff giving generously to people and what he missed the most about KJLH.  You can hear it all in the 50th anniversary interview via the video player immediately above.

I smiled when I read he spent the bulk of his time with his twin granddaughters and teaching radio at the Challengers Boys and Girls Club.  I always enjoyed his personal touch, e.g., sharing the on air stories he told about his children.  Sometimes I felt like I was watching them grow up.  Now I’m hearing about another generation.

Cliff was a humble man who loved people, feeling in touch with them and feeling like family.  When discussing how the public could see in to the KJLH studios, he said, “I like the ground level because you feel like you’re closer to the people.  When you’re up high, you see the city, but when you’re down low, you see the community and there is a difference.”  Cliff’s love for people came across loud and clear.  The public loved him back.  When news of his passing spread, the sadness and disbelief was almost unbearable.

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Cliff Winston surrounded by fans (photo: KJLH)

The celebrity community was equally as rattled.  DL Hughley tweeted, “Cliff Winston passed! I was his side kick on KJLH and learned so much about radio from him! He was a gem of human being! RIP” Body”  “Sad to hear,” wrote musician Boney James on Facebook. “He was always a pleasure to hang with and super supportive in my early days. My thoughts are with his family.”

I think it goes without saying that Cliff Winston came a long way from the little boy who used to ride his bike and watch the on-air disc jockeys through the window.  From the little boy who dreamed of being a radio disc jockey, to one of the most loved disc jockeys in Los Angeles Radio history, not bad at all.  From one of his many admirers, THANK YOU CLIFF WINSTON!  Gone but never forgotten.

Viewing/Going Home Service Info

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 4p – 8p
Angelus Funeral Home
3875 Crenshaw Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90008

Funeral Services:
Thursday, January 4, 2018 1:00pm
West Angeles Church of God in Christ (North Campus)
3045 S. Crenshaw Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Immediately following Service
Inglewood Park Cemetery
720 East Florence Avenue
Inglewood, California • 90302

marilyn smith

Marilyn Smith

Marilyn Smith is a Los Angeles Based writer/reviewer. Contact her via [email protected].