Fri | Dec 1, 2023

François St Juste, voice that built FAME, dies

Published:Tuesday | August 30, 2022 | 12:10 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
François St Juste goofs around with ‘Sunny Side Up’ co-host Paula-Anne Porter Jones.
François St Juste goofs around with ‘Sunny Side Up’ co-host Paula-Anne Porter Jones.
Wearing one of his trademark felt hats, Francois St Juste sports a FAME-branded shirt.
Wearing one of his trademark felt hats, Francois St Juste sports a FAME-branded shirt.

FranÇois St Juste, whose baritone voice and trademark “Good moooorning, Jamaica!!!!” roused morning radio audiences and whose steady hand transformed FAME 95 FM, has died.

He forged a sterling career in media, spanning 38 years, and co-hosted the weekday morning show ‘Sunny Side Up’ with Paula-Anne Porter Jones on Radio Jamaica 94 FM until the time of his passing on Monday.

The 60-year-old broadcaster had been ailing for more than two weeks at The University Hospital of the West Indies.

While completing an undergraduate degree in physics at The University of the West Indies, Mona, in 1984, St Juste joined FAME 95 FM on the invitation of Don Topping, Norma Brown-Bell, and Hol Plummer as an announcer and presenter.

He quickly made a name for himself as one of the bright young stars of the FAME 95 FM family and became supervisor of the staff in 1987.

Then in 1991, he was promoted to assistant programmes manager and rose to the rank of executive producer in 1996.

St Juste, who helmed a morning drive-time show ‘Trivial Pursuit’, became the unmistakable face of FAME, positioning the station as the ‘party capital of Jamaican radio’ and burnishing its brand with roadshows, beach parties, and a merchandise line.

St Juste auditioned Porter Jones for a post at FAME 95 FM when she was only 18 years old.

She was hired in 1994 and not only gained a job but a mentor and friend who was one of the emcees at her wedding 25 years ago.

“He inspired me to learn how to mix. Maybe not the first ever, but certainly in that time, I was the only girl who could properly mix as a deejay at sessions with the men, and that’s because he told me that there was a prime-time slot coming up and if I wanted it, I had to learn to mix my own music.

“He coached me through it and gave me the opportunity to do that and so many other things,” Porter Jones told The Gleaner on Monday.

The broadcaster and lecturer shared that as a boss, St Juste created a “magical period” at FAME 95 FM that has never been duplicated.

The dynamic duo began hosting ‘Sunny Side Up’ on April 10, 2017, and Porter Jones said she will miss fighting with him over petty things because he understood that they could have differing opinions but still enjoy each other’s company.

It’s a radio relationship that echoed the synergy of the iconic morning duo of Alan Magnus and late Dorraine Samuels Binger, with St Juste saying in Radio Jamaica’s 70th anniversary magazine published on July 4, 2021: “We understand each other’s personalities and styles, and it makes it very easy for us to work as a team.”

St Juste was born on January 24, 1962, to Marguerite St Juste, who worked in media, and Franklyn ‘Chappie’ St Juste, an iconic film and video producer and director of photography.

He received an education at Wolmer’s Boys’ School and was a member of the Colts football team of 1976-77 that went to the finals and lost their only match of the season to St George’s College.

His older brother, Brian St Juste, described him as a very great human being who was kind, calm, and helpful.

“We didn’t party together, but if I was ever in any problem, I knew I could count on him, and the same for him, he could count on me,” Brian said. “Usually it’s the younger brother who looks up to the older. He may have looked up to me but I certainly looked up to him and respected him and his work and respected his dedication.”

St Juste is also survived by his sister, Maya.

At age 25, St Juste received the Caribbean Media Award for his programme, ‘François Goes the Distance’, in the category of services to the community in 1987.

The programme brought to the fore the problems, joys, and misconceptions about blind Jamaicans and raised funds to undertake projects on their behalf with the collection of 90 per cent of pledges made.

Michelle Wilson-Reynolds was a close friend of his for 44 years, dating back to their high-school years.

She told The Gleaner that his death took her by surprise and has left her devastated.

“It’s hard for me to speak in the past tense, but I considered him my best male friend. My year was the rebel year, in that we staged joint activities with the boys without the permission of our headmistress,” she said.

Wilson-Reynolds went abroad for university and, on her return in 1984, she joined RJR 94 FM, where they reconnected.

She stages professional and charity events and could always call on St Juste as the master of ceremonies.

“I don’t know if he never knew how to tell me no, but he never did,” Wilson-Reynolds said.

St Juste became general manager of radio (RJR, FAME and HITZ) in 2007 and, five years later, began hosting the Saturday morning show on Radio Jamaica, a prelude to his position as co-host of ‘Sunny Side Up’.

The late broadcaster and musicologist had, in the 70th anniversary magazine, praised Radio Jamaica for giving wings to his career and allowing him to be himself within its corporate framework.

St Juste oozed vivacity and was known for his infectious humour.

In a series of eight fun questions posed to male celebrities in September 1999, St Juste was asked if marriage is a dream come true.

His response: “ The wedding is a dream come true. Marriage is wake up and smell the coffee. If you’re lucky, the coffee is good and invigorates the rest of your life.”

President of the Press Association of Jamaica, George Davis, said St Juste was a giant of Jamaican broadcasting from his early days on FAME 95 FM to his last assignment as co-host of ‘Sunny Side Up’.

CEO of the RJRGLEANER Group, Gary Allen, said the entire company was shocked by St Juste’s death, describing it as “a big body blow”.

Allen said the late broadcaster was known for his innovativeness and expertise in project planning.

The CEO shared that St Juste was also a talent spotter for media professionals.

Government leaders were among those who poured in tributes.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness expressed deep sadness at the passing of a “much-loved and admired radio and media personality”, while Opposition Leader Mark Golding said he brought humour and joy to the airwaves and “made an indelible mark”.