Tyrone “Big Daddy” Rucker, a well-known television producer and host with Pasadena’s public access station, died late last month after suffering an apparent heart attack.
A producer at Channel 56 PCAC producer, the 56-year-old lifelong resident died at his home on Nov. 15. His body was discovered by his daughter, Danielle, and a co-worker on Nov. 16 after friends with the station at Hen’s Teeth Square became concerned about his unexplained two-day absence from work.
Weighing nearly 350 pounds, but possessing a soft heart and a warm smile, Rucker could be seen regularly wearing his trademark black derby hat.
A John Muir High School graduate, Rucker also worked on “Citybeat” on the city-run station, Channel 55 KPAS, which featured panelists such as Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, and “Newsrap,” another news program featuring longtime actor and former congressional candidate Barry Gordon.
Michael Zinzun, Rucker’s childhood friend and host of “Message to the Grass Roots,” was informed Monday of his friend’s death by the Weekly.
Zinzun and Rucker grew up together in Pasadena, attending the same churches and schools.
“He was a very friendly guy,” Zinzun said. “During the ’70s he fell into that ‘mack’ thing. That’s when we started calling him Big Daddy Rucker. He came by the house a couple of months ago and said he was having chest pains, and he went to the hospital the next day and they kept him there for awhile. I had been trying to get in touch with him.”
Mack was a term used to describe a cool black man who had a lot of women in his life.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Rucker became a bus driver for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He also had a passion for building custom cars and motorcycles and joined the Chosen Few Motorcycle Club, where he was referred to as “Pleaser.”
A few years later, Rucker moved to Northern California and became a truck driver. He moved back to Pasadena 10 years ago and joined the station.
“He was outspoken, opinionated, raw and uncut,” said his daughter, Crystal Jackson. “He was a loving father and grandfather and very talented and persistent. If it was something that he was trying to get done he would keep going until he accomplished it.”
Rucker missed several weeks of work this year due to health problems. He had been admitted to Huntington Hospital in September and was forced to take time off again in October, said his family and friends.
He is survived by his daughters Najah, Crystal, LaKysa and Danielle, his mother Roxie Hines and six grandchildren.
The family is seeking donations to help with costs and will hold a benefit from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday at the Masonic Lodge, 2533 N. Fair Oaks Ave.
In Rucker’s honor, KPAS staff ran programming featuring Big Daddy all day on Nov. 22. During “Newsrap,” Gordon and guests and callers shared their memories of Rucker.
“Tyrone left a huge imprint on all of our lives,” said Gordon. “He was larger than life, and was a mentor to me and a great friend.”
Rucker had an affinity for music and could name the title and artists from most songs from the 1950s and ’60s after hearing them for just a few seconds. He also hosted “The Big Daddy Show,” a taped oldies show in which Rucker asked viewers to call in and request songs. However, Rucker never mentioned on air that the show was taped. Perplexed callers, who often wondered why no one would pick up the phone, left their requests on the answering machine and Big Daddy would play their requests the next night.
“He would get emails from people across the world who wanted to know what songs he was playing,” said KPAC Executive Director Don Repella. “He got emails from New Zealand and Europe.”
But Rucker brought more to KPAS than just production talents. He knew Pasadena and Los Angeles. He often chimed in on “Newsrap” to share his experiences.
Earlier this year, on an edition of “Newsrap” discussing the Watt’s riots, Rucker revealed that he was in Watts getting a haircut in 1965 when the riots started, and declined the opportunity to get a “free TV set” as one friend requested and instead made his way back to Pasadena. He called the event an uprising, and said that at the time black people were tired. Later he joked that he didn’t take the TV because it was cheap.
During Hurricane Katrina he started a food and clothing drive on the spur of the moment for survivors of the disaster and drove to the Dream Center in Los Angeles to deliver food. He eventually drove a family of survivors to the station to talk about their experience on the air. During that show, Rucker convinced Big Mama’s Rib Shack to donate free barbecue to the guests.
“His biggest strength was his ability to build ties to the community,” said Repella. “That is what we are going to miss.”