Mr. Rufus Thomas and a stack o’wax!
Funky16Corners Radio v.44 – Hey Mr. DJ!!
Aircheck – John R>>>
John R (WLAC, NASHVILLE) – Keep On Scratchin’ (Rich)
Bernie Hayes (KATZ, ST Louis) – Calling All My Buddies (Bright Star)
Jerry-O (??, CHICAGO)– Funky Football (Wand)
Aircheck – Sonny Hopson>>>
Sonny Hopson (WHAT, PHILADELPHIA)– Unhh-Unhh (Giant Step)
Rufus Thomas (WDIA, MEMPHIS) – Talkin’ Bout True Love (Stax)
Joe Youngblood Cobb (WVON, CHICAGO) – It’s LB Time (Expect More)
Aircheck – Lucky Cordell>>>
Lucky Cordell (WGRY, Gary, IN – WGES/WVON, CHICAGO) – You Made a Man Out of Me (Happiness)
King Coleman (WTMP, TAMPA, FL) – Freedom (Fairmount)
Aircheck – Jerry Blavat>>>
Jerry Blavat & Yon Teenagers (WCAM, CAMDEN, NJ – WHAT, PHILADELPHIA) – Discophonic Walk (LPC/Favor)
Paul Sir Raggedy Flag (WIGO, ATLANTA) – Papa Momma Romper Stomper (Atlantic)
Aircheck – Sly Stone>>>
Sly (KSOL, SAN FRANCISCO) – Buttermilk Pt1 (Autumn)
E. Rodney Jones and Larry and the Hippies Band (WVON, CHICAGO) – Right On Right On (Sex Machine) (Westbound)
Aircheck – Georgie Woods>>>
Georgie Woods (WDAS, PHILA, PA) – Potato Salad (Fat Back)
I hope all is well on your end. Here in the Funky16Corners compound we spent much of the last week in sick child lockdown, with our youngest suffering with an ear infection, and then, just as he was on the mend his older brother coming down with some sort of rogue virus that had him burning up for the better part of four days. Following multiple trips to the doctor, and lots of missed work, everything seems to have returned – at least temporarily – to what passes for normal these days.
This edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast has been brewing in the back alleys of the dark recesses of the forgotten corners of my mind for what the kids might refer to as a “long-ass” time.
The event that got me to dust off the idea and move forward with the podcast was – as hard as this may be to believe – the purchase of a 45.
An old friend of mine sends out a periodic set sale list, and on one of his recent lists there was a copy of one of those sides that had been sitting in my mental want list for some time; ‘Papa Momma Romper Stomper’ by Paul ‘Sir Raggedy Flagg’. It was only after I got the 45, and started to do a little research that I read a post of Brian Poust’s excellent ‘Georgia Soul’ blog that went into Flagg’s history, indicating that he had been – first and foremost – not a singer, but rather a radio personality.
I should also take a moment to shout out to Jason Stone over at the (also) excellent ‘Stepfather of Soul’ blog, who has been running a series of classic soul radio airchecks, which also played a part in the genesis of this particular mix.
Now, while I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever made a concerted effort to track down soul sides by DJ’s, I have always found these records to be a fascinating sub-category of the world of soul, and grab them while digging. While the quality of these record varies wildly, on the R&B and soul side of things there happen to be many excellent examples.
Today’s youth are already a few generations removed from the halcyon days of radio. I’m 45, and happen to have been lucky enough to have grown up in the New York area, where most of the big names in 60’s AM radio were still working when I first glued my ear to the radio. I spent many a night staying up well past my bedtime listening in the dark.
Though I heard a lot of great black music on WABC in New York, it was restricted to songs and artists that made it into the Pop Top 40. My firsthand experience with black radio was very, very limited, probably because when I initially became interested in soul music, most of the black stations in the area (probably the entire country) were deep into the disco era.
Some years later, when my musical tastes were much better developed, and I was reading everything I could get my hands on about music I started to encounter stories about the great R&B/soul DJs of the past, mainly via the recollections of white musicians who came of age in the 50’s and 60’s who fell in love with black music thanks to (literally) far reaching AM radio broadcasts.
The first real encounter I had with the power of the “old time” jocks was via a film that would become one of my favorites ‘American Grafitti’. By far, the most affecting part of the film was the sound of Wolfman Jack running through the background of the film. George Lucas had captured the power of a radio personality to affect millions of listeners hungry for a musical guide. These disc jockeys were far more than mere announcers. They became something much deeper, projecting themselves onto the night and into the imaginations of countless impressionable listeners, to whom they would become demigods of a sort.
How so many of these performers decided to move out from behind the console and onto vinyl isn’t much of a mystery. Some of them were, in addition to having a gift for broadcasting, were also serious musical performers (i.e. Rufus Thomas, Jerry-O and most importantly Sly Stone). Others were merely inspired dabblers, taking a shot at capitalizing on their existing fame to sell some records.
Just a note first, to let you know that in the mixed version of this podcast I’ve included a number of aircheck snippets that you really ought to check out. Though I’ll post the zip file like I always do, this really needs to be heard continuously.
The mix opens with a side by one of the all-time great personalities of R&B/soul radio, John Richbourg, known far and wide as ‘John R’. Richbourg, along with fellow legend Hoss Allen (who emceed the TV show ‘The Beat!!!’) – broadcast on the high powered, Nashville-based AM station WLAC. Richbourg and Allen, who were both accomplished jive talkers, and made a very good living playing black music, were both – ironically enough – white. Richbourg, who started playing blues and R&B on the radio in the mid-40’s, helped to make WLAC popular with both black and white audiences. John R’s recorded efforts are fairly typical, in that, while he wasn’t much of a singer (he even released a couple of instrumental 45s?!?) he was a gifted rapper with a deep, rich voice, used to great effect on ‘Keep On Scratchin’.
Bernie Hayes was a major DJ in the Chicago area (especially on WVON) who went on to become a fixture in St. Louis radio. He, like many of his brethren dabbled in the record business, and worked on a number of Jerry-O-and-related sides during the 60’s. He went on to record a few 45s for the Volt label, and the selection in today’s mix, which manages to namecheck most of the personalities on this set list. ‘Calling All My Buddies’ was recorded for the Chitown label Bright Star (which also released sides by Junior Wells), and is basically a tribute to the starts of late 60’s soul radio.
According to what few references there are, Jerry-O himself did time as a DJ in Chicago, though I haven’t been able to nail down the station (though there were a number of local stations that catered to the black audience, including WGES, WSBC and the aforementioned WVON “the Voice of the Negro’). His recording style fits in very well with the other jocks in this mix, mainly limited to a long string of jive talking, and dance step calling shout outs. The difference between Jerry-O and most of the others in this mix, is that he turned that style into a career of sorts, repeating the formula many times, as well as writing and producing other artists for his own Jerry-O records, and other labels. ‘Funky Football’ is one of the rarer sides in the Jerry-O discography, falling on the funky end of the scale (the only side he ever did for the Wand label).
When it comes to black radio in Philadelphia, there were many great stars , but none could lay it down like the Mighty Burner, Sonny Hopson. If you haven’t heard the aircheck that was released a few years back of the Burner in his funky prime on WHAT, you need to get your hands on it now because it is positively life-changing. Hopson took the rapid-fire style into a whole new dimension, rapping over and around the records he played, doing live commercial reads and just sounding amazing. He was also had a little known dalliance in recording, making at least one LP for the local Giant Step imprint which featured none other than Hammond giant Charles Earland (who recorded a tribute to Hopson, entitled – of course – ‘The Mighty Burner’). Much of the album is middle of the road supper club stuff, but the track featured here ‘Unhh-Unhh’ swings at full speed with Hopson (actually a decent enough singer) dropping a few of his trademark phrases into the mix.
Rufus Thomas was one of the major hitmakers for the Stax label in the 60’s, but he got his start as a disc jockey on WDIA in Memphis. Thomas, who started performing and recording as a singer in the 40’s worked at WDIA – one of the first stations in the US with an all-black air staff – from the early 50’s into the 1960’s. The bluesy ‘Talkin’ Bout True Love’ was the the flip side of one of my fave Rufus tunes, 1967’s ‘Sister’s Got a Boyfriend’.
Joe ‘Youngblood’ Cobb worked in the 60’s and 70’s at WVON in Chicago, and despite the much earlier sound of ‘It’s LB Time’, the record was actually released in 1972 (check the Jimmy Castor Bunch references in the lyrics).
Lucky Cordell, ‘The Baron of Bounce’ was a major star of black radio, first in Gary, Indiana in the 1950’s, and then at a number of stations in Chicago through the 60’s. Cordell’s contribution to this mix ‘ You Made a Man Out of Me’ is pretty much a boilerplate disc jockey record, in which Cordell makes no effort to sing, but rather talks his way through the side, over a bluesy-cum-churchy backing.
Carlton ‘King’ Coleman is best known as an often crazed R&B/soul singer (have you heard the ‘Boo Boo Song’ ?!?!?, If not check out Funky16Corners Radio v.14.5 at the Podcast Archive), but he got his start as a disc jockey/emcee in Tampa, Florida at WTMP. While most of Coleman’s 60’s sides are party style records, his mid-60’s side for Philadelphia’s Fairmount imprint was a real departure. Here Coleman lays down a socially conscious proto-rap performance over a vaguely Eastern-sounding, rock influenced track. This is the kind of track that makes his transition into preaching not at all surprising.
Another jive talking, white motormouth, and a man who is still working in the Philly area today is the Geater with the Heater, Jerry Blavat. Blavat, who was a teenage dancer on American Bandstand, and got his radio start across the river from the City of Brotherly Love in Camden, eventually worked beside Sonny Hopson at WHAT. Blavat was so popular in his prime that he had a TV show, the Discophonic Scene, thus his 1967 raver ‘The Discophonic Walk’.
Paul ‘Sir Raggedy’ Flagg was a big star in the late 60’s on WIGO in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ll send you over to ‘Georgia Soul’ for the in depth story on Flagg, but I will take the time to tell you that ‘Papa Momma Romper Stomper’ is a funky gem with some superior rapping by Flagg over a heavy guitar riff.
Sly Stone was a very popular disc jockey at KSOL in San Francisco in the years before rocketing to stardom with Sly and the Family Stone. It was during this period, in addition to acting as writer, arranger and producer for a number of Autumn Records acts (Bobby Freeman, the Beau Brummels and others) that Sly started to record his own sides for the label. One of the first was the soulful ‘Buttermilk Pts 1&2’.
One of the truly great stars of Chicago radio was E. Rodney Jones. Jones, who went on to a second career as a blues DJ in the South, was a major star in 1960’s Chicago and recorded a number of records including ‘R&B Time’ for Tuff, which remains a very popular side with the Northern Soul crowd. His cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘Sex Machine’ (retitled ‘Right On Right On (Sex Machine)’ was produced by Jerry-O and Bernie Hayes and issued two times, first on Double Shot and then again on Westbound. While the original was an instrumental, Jones – backed by Larry & the Hippies Band, who had 45s on Toddlin’ Town – raps a positive message over some wah-wah fuzz funk, making this one a long time fave of mine.
Georgie Woods was an institution in Philadelphia radio for four decades. Like Lucky Cordell and E. Rodney Jones, Woods was much more than just an entertainer, working as a community leader of sorts. He was deeply involved in the civil rights struggle during the 60’s and was a successful local businessman outside of the radio business. The track that closes out this edition of Funky16Corners Radio, ‘Potato Salad Pts 1&2’ borrows the melody of Lionel Hampton’s funky ‘Greasy Greens’ and lays some solid rapping on top making this my favorite of all the records in this mix.
As always, I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you later in the week with some more grooves.