Around the Mall & Beyond

Red-hot, beat-me-down, bring-you-up swing tunes' are just part of Radio Smithsonian's Black Radio...

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Art Neville, eldest brother and keyboardist in the Neville Brothers band, tells about Dr. Daddy-O's breakfast program on WYLD. "One of the sponsors was a bacon company, and I could smell it — it sounded as if he was actually frying bacon in the studio. I got a chance to go there one morning, and there was no bacon. He had the cellophane off a pack of cigarettes and was crumpling it in front of the microphone."

One episode in the series will concentrate on white DJs like Wolfman Jack (who recorded an interview for the program before his recent death), Hoss Allen in Nashville and Hunter Hancock in Los Angeles. They all learned a lot about style and presentation from black announcers.

Today, Webb says, what used to be called black radio is "urban radio." "Many stations don't call themselves 'black,' either. Because the advertisers wouldn't buy black. They want 'adult,' 'contemporary,' 'urban.' They say, 'Black? What do you mean? I need people from 21 to 45 because they buy the most stuff.'"

Well, you can give it a different name, but like the Cheshire Cat's smile, it won't go away. This Smithsonian series is a celebration of the songs, the names, the energy, the sheer unbuttoned joy that radiated from black radio. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy." Doctor Hepcat. Poppa Stoppa. "Green Onions" (first heard on WLOK at 7 in the morning, sold out in the stores by 9 a.m.). Booker T. and the MG's. Dizzy Lizzy. Eddie O'Jay. Dr. Daddy-O (not to be confused with Daddy-O Daylie). Theo Wade, better known as Bless My Bones, who used to make what he called "goodwill announcements" on the air, such as, "One of our friends has lost his false teeth, like to help him get them back. . . ."

It was a world.

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