Historic R & B Radio Moments © 2001 JCMarion


In 1948 Santa Monica, California radio station KOWL (owned by singing cowboy Gene Autry) decided to go to a format aimed at the Black community of Los Angeles. The station brought in Joe Adams to be an on air d.j. and also serve as program director. . . . . . . . . . . .New Orleans station WMRY has an all Black on air staff broadcasting in 1949 . . . . . . . Station WDIA serves the Black population of Memphis and the surrounding area. They feature on air personalities Hot Rod Hulbert, Bee Bee King (yes the same), and Nat Dee Williams who made history as the first Black radio disc jockey in the South. In 1950 Willa Moore becomes the first Black woman d.j. in the entire country. The station claims the highest number of listeners of any non-network radio station in the United States. . . . . . . .In early 1950 both Bon Bon on WDAS and Ramon Bruce on WHAT broadcast live from the bandstand at the Showboat in Philadelphia . . . . . . . . .KVVC in Ventura California features weekly radio shows with Bill Gaithers Combo with vocalists Ernie Andrews and Betty Sheppard . . . . . . In May Detroit's WWJ broadcasts Erskine Hawkins and his orchestra with Wynonie Harris from the stage of the Paradise Theater . . . . . WLEY-FM in Chicago airs Jimmy Gordon's band with Memphis Minnie from the Club Blue Flame . . . . . Al Benson's TV show called Spotlight Talent features The Dozier Boys on WBKB in Chicago . . . . . . . .The Ravens do a few shows as d.j.'s on radio WLIB in New York during July of 1950 . . . . . . . . .During the Christmas holidays the Armed Forces Radio Service airs a live set by The Orioles from Carnegie Hall as part of a program honoring servicemen in Korea.

In 1951 WERD in Atlanta becomes the very first Black owned radio station in the person of J.B. Blayton, who is the only Black CPA in the state of Georgia. The station began broadcasting in February of 1950 and top personalities on the station are "Jockey Jack" Gibson, Johnny Martin, and Bobby Brisendine. . . . . . . . . . .Other radio stations with on air Black personalities are WAAA in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and WEDR in Birmingham, Alabama. . . . . . . . . . . . .Sugar ray Robinson does a live Sunday evening radio show from the Elks Hall in Los Angeles . . . . . . . . .In New York an interracial duo broadcasts R & B music on WHOM - Willie Bryant and Ray Carroll . . . . . . . . . .many Los Angeles R & B radio programming takes place from record stores in Black neighborhoods . . . . . . . . .In May of 1951 the first all Black program on network radio is presented on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Leonard Reed is the m.c. and featured performers are Roy Milton & his Solid Senders, Camille Howard, and Jimmy Witherspoon. . . . . . . . . .Hunter Hancock does an R & B amateur show from the Last Word nightclub on Central Avenue in Watts on KFVD . . . . . White dj's playing R & B music include Hunter Hancock and Dick Hugg in L.A., George Oxford in Oakland, and Moondog Freed in Cleveland. The biggest of all was probably Dewey Phillips on WHBQ in Memphis with his "Red, Hot, and Blue" show. From October of 1950 the show is the highest rated R & B show in the city. . . . . . . . .Robin Bruin on L.A.'s KGFJ broadcasts live remotes from the 5-4 Ballroom.

In 1952 Vernon Winslow, known as "Dr. Daddy-O" on WMRY in New Orleans is picked as one of the top ten radio personalities in the country. . . . . . . . .In February Joe Turner guests on Nipsey Russell's radio show over WLIB in New York and does a live version of his newest record "Chains Of Love" . . . . . .. .On April 19 the full Mutual Broadcasting System presents "The Concert At Midnight" live from Carnegie Hall. The mc's are Willie Bryant, Ed Sullivan, and Art Ford. Highlights of the broadcast are Dinah Washington singing "Wheel Of Fortune", Lionel Hampton's six minute version of "Special Delivery", "September Song" by Debbie Andrews, Sugar Ray Robinson playing drums on "Ding Dong Daddy", Louis Jordan's "Knock Me A Kiss", Sonny Parker doing "Red Light", Lynn Hope playing "Hope Skimp and Jump", and pianist Eddie Heywood on "Begin The Beguine". . . . . . . . ..In May John Dolphin reports that close to forty per cent of the business in his huge record store serving the Black population is now by White record buyers, where one year before the customer base was almost exclusively Black. He attributes this fact to the influence and popularity of R & B radio programming in the city by Hunter Hancock, Dick Hugg, Joe Adams, Gene Norman, and John Dolphin himself. His record store is the location of much of the R & B programming. . . . . . . . . . .Alan Moondog Freed broadcasts live from the Summit Beach Ballroom in Akron, Ohio on WJW. Featured performers on the show are Edna McGriff, The Swallows, and Buddy Lucas and his band. . . . . . . . . .New York's WJZ does a live remote from Birdland featuring Dinah Washington . . . . . . .In late August Moondog returns to the Summit Beach Ballroom in Akron, this time with Charles Brown. . . . . . . .In Annapolis, Maryland, Hoppy Adams on WANN presents live remotes every Sunday evening during the summer from R & B shows at Carr's Beach Pavilion . . . . . .KWEM in Memphis features the Willie Nix Combo every Saturday evening.

In March of 1953 Alan Freed broadcasts live from the Akron Armory on WJW and features Count Basie's Orchestra and Danny Overbea . . . . . . . . .In November of 1953 Newark, New Jersey radio station WNJR which heavily programs R & B music goes with an all Black staff which includes George Hudson, Ramon Bruce, Charlie Green, and writer-performer Babs Gonzalez. . . . . . . . Jocko Henderson on Philly's WDAS is live from Pep's Lounge with Tab Smith and the Dorothy Ashby Trio . . . . . . .April of 1954 finds Alan "Moondog" Freed live on air from the Akron Armory with Charles Brown, The Moonglows, Margie Day, and the Paul Williams band. . . . . . . .The following year George "Hound Dog" Lorenz takes part in the new 50,000 watt WKBW in Buffalo with a live show from the Zanzibar Lounge in that city. The broadcast features Clyde McPhatter and Ruth Brown. They present a version of their new Atlantic release "Love Has Joined Us Together".

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