By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Joe “Butterball” Tamburro, who died on July 27 at age 70 (see related story), was eulogized on Thursday as a Philadelphia radio icon who crossed racial boundaries.
Funeral services were held at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Center City.
It was standing room only in the Cathedral as thousands turned out to honor the DJ who most simply called “Butter” and whose love of music touched hundreds of thousands during five decades at WDAS.
Among the mourners was fellow DJ Patty Jackson.
“This is such a great musical town, and Butter was so much a part of it” Jackson said. “A lot of people didn’t know that he was this Italian guy from South Philly, playing this great soul music. But he believed in the cause, believed in the people, and believed in justice for people.”
Butterball started at WDAS in the ‘60s, a rare example of a white DJ playing soul music at a black radio station during the turbulent civil rights years.
“Butterball was a trailblazer in the areas of social progress,” said WDAS historian Wynne Alexander. “And racial and social justice.”
Even politicians came to pay respects, including State Senator Anthony Williams, who grew up listening to Butterball, and Mayor Michael Nutter.
“(He was) a person who crossed racial boundaries,” Williams said. “(He) was well-respected, and obviously had a part of my heart and everybody else’s heart in Philadelphia.”
“His impact on music in this city, across the country, if not around the world, will be felt for a long, long period of time,” said Nutter.
Fellow WDAS DJ “Cut Master Butter” said Tamburro will definitely be missed.
“It’s hard to look over there, and look in that chair, and recognize that he’s not going to be there anymore,” he said. “But you know what? He would want us to keep the show rolling. And that’s what we’re going to do.”