Over the years The Living Legends Foundation, through our annual Awards Banquet , has honored dozens of the most notable stars and executives in the entertainment business. These are the people who built the foundation of the industry.
Al Jefferson, noted media personality, began his career in radio broadcasting where he became interested in the record industry. He continually welcomed the opportunity to introduce other young people to the radio and record industries and helped to launch the careers of individuals such as Curtis Anderson, Don Brooks, Mary Clayburn and Keith Newman.
During his career, he was associated with WOOK, WUST and WWIN radio stations in Washington, D.C. and was able to increase their audiences through his steadfast commitment to listeners and their ever-changing tastes. Mr. Jefferson left WWIN Radio to start “Al & The Kidd Promotions”, an independent record promotion company. He worked closely with the giants of the record industry as he continued to encourage the growing popularity of all types of music and musicians.
In 1985, a proclamation was issued by the mayor of the District of Columbia, Marion Barry, declaring July 19, 1985, “Al Jefferson Appreciation Day”, saluting Mr. Jefferson for his contributions to the music world. In 1985, Mr. Jefferson was also honored by his peers in the record industry and issued a resolution by The City Council of Baltimore in recognition of his “35 Years of Dedicated Service in the Field of Radio Broadcasting”.
August Sims adopted his independent spirit from boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and singer Jackie Wilson during his early days on the road with the two of them. These two legends opened doors by introducing Sims to people who otherwise may have remained inaccessible.
In his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Sims was doing his own thing. As a professional dancer, he danced the Lindy Hop in local clubs before moving to New York. After serving in the Army, he returned to New York where he began frequenting Uptown clubs. It was then he first met Sugar Ray Robinson. Soon he became his masseur and for the next 11 years he traveled the world with Sugar Ray, staying with him until his last fight.
Ironically, it was in the same Harlem setting that Mr. Sims met Jackie Wilson. Mr. Wilson took an instant liking to him and asked him to join his management team. Mr. Sims became Jackie Wilson’s manager and right hand man. He stayed with Mr. Wilson until his fateful stroke. Fortunately while touring with Jackie Wilson, Mr. Sims met many industry professionals who later played a major part in future business ventures. He started his own record company, Asoma Records and Tapes, which lasted only a short while. Problems ensued with his label, which forced Mr. Sims to go into the field of independent promotion. Soon he realized that keeping track of store sales was as important as getting airplay. In 1987, Asoma Records became Asoma Marketing. It was there that he perfected his marketing skills. He marketed the product of Lalah Hathaway, Luther Vandross, Gladys Knight, Janet Jackson and Keith Sweat.
Prior to his death, you would find him in his box seats at Yankee Stadium.
Bernardine C. Washington
A four-year honor student from DuSable High School and a product of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, Bernadine C. Washington was significantly involved in community activities most of her adult life. Her positive approach to any program made her a “first” in many of her endeavors.
Before entering the broadcast field, she was the first woman of color to become a Fashion Buyer for a department store. She traveled to New York and California markets every six weeks purchasing the latest in styles. Bern, as she is fondly called, was a “smartly groomed oddity” when attending the fashion showings of famous designers, since she was a one-of-a-kind female in the room. Ebony Magazine’s New York photographer and writer accompanied her during one of her unique journeys, which resulted in a five page spread in the national Johnson publication. Because of the innovative ideas she brought to the store, she was made their Community Relations Director in addition to her fashion duties.
Her dulcet voice tones and genial personality when commentating fashion shows brought her to the attention of the entrepreneurs of L and P Broadcasting Company who were forming brand new radio stations in Chicago…the Original WVON-AM and WSDM-FM, (today WGCI-AM/FM). Influenced into leaving the store, she was hired as the station’s Women’s Director and eventually promoted to Director of Marketing.
Through her natural enthusiasm in those positions as well as in-depth community interest, the Bern Club was formed. Comprised of 700 plus females from all walks of life in all areas of the city, the station named the organization for her. When L and P Broadcasting purchased an additional facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin…WNOV, another Bern Club was effectuated. During its 18 year existence, the group awarded $98,000 in academic scholarships to deserving African-American female high school graduates and to charitable organizations of merit. She is a role model guest speaker in the public schools and Women’s Day speaker in many community churches and spearheaded a book drive to donate books to area schools.
Another first was added to her accomplishments when she was named Vice President of both facilities. Not only was she the first Black female named to this high post in a major market whose signature appeared on all company checks, but the first female period! Realizing that Operation PUSH was the only open forum for the community at that time, one of her first undertakings was in persuading the owners of the company never to charge the organization for their weekly broadcasts. It is still a practice today. It was during this period that she became the first female to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Chicago State University.
Small in stature and meticulous in appearance, Bernadine C. Washington was noted for her warm personality and meaningful community activities. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Joint Negro Appeal and was a member of the administrative team of the late Mayor Harold Washington and Honorable Eugene Sawyer. Prior to her death, she served as Director of Management Services to the Mayor’s Chicago Commission on Human Relations. For 21 years, she was married to Ed “Nassau Daddy” Cook, who preceded her in death.
As the owner of The Joy of Music in Cleveland, Beverly Taylor was down-to-earth, savvy, and hardworking. She also did radio promotion for Columbia, Tommy Boy, Rap-A-Lot, and Maverick Records and worked retail promotion for other powerhouses such as Epic/Sony, Arista and Motown.
Ms. Taylor caught the entrepreneurial spirit after working in another record store and started her own store with seven hundred fifty dollars. She developed her business into more than a simple store. It is a community center, a cultural explosion, and a musical mecca where she was affectionately known as “Ma.” With seven schools in the area, she had plenty of opportunities to talk one-on-one with young people about their Blackness and the importance of excellence.
Her boundless energy was also spent as President of retail coalition SIMMS of America, where she worked to promote economic strength and community action. While she worked on projects such as voter registration drives and benefits for a battered women’s shelter, she also thought it was important to take time to talk to people, to try to help them, to touch their lives.
Bruce Webb’s first exposure to the record industry as an employee came in 1960, through Progress Record Distributors, which was housed in the Majestic Hotel located at Broad and Girard Avenue. Hired to do sales and promotion, he started Joe E. Rack, servicing independent supermarkets with cut out records. Mr. Webb decided to start his first record shop.
In 1963, along with three other friends, Mr. Webb started a department store named Throughgoods. In 1967, going on his own, he changed the name to Webb Through-goods. In 1968, it became Webb’s Department Store. In 1963, he joined Scoop USA News Paper, as entertainment editor which is a position that he currently holds today. Along the way with King James, Paul Mosby and Mr. Ray, he started BRAT’s Record One Stop, with seventy-five other black retailers.
Bruce Webb became an active member of the Black Music Association, and a few years later, along with David Brown and King James, he started Triangle Record Distributors, servicing independent record labels. An active member of the NAACP since 1963, Mr. Webb spent fourteen years in politics and several community organizations honored him with several awards: NAACP Outstanding Service Awards of the West Philadelphia branch; the Black Panther Party; the Girl Scouts; Black Peoples University and BMA, to name a few. In 1972, Mr. Webb and John Martin were instrumental in starting the Wharton Education Community Program. At the Wharton School, part of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Webb taught Blacks from the community how to become entrepreneurs.
Recently, he started Mister Webb’s Consultant & Public Relation Strategist. Mr. Webb says he’s still moving on, looking for the next project and the next experience.
Claude "B.B." Davis
Claude “B.B.” Davis got started in this business by accident. The first black owned radio station in Shreveport, KOKA, was raising money for the needy. Mr. Davis had pledged some money and no one ever came to pick it up so he decided to drop it off one Sunday. B.B. says, “There was only one person at the station that day, Bill “Omar” Jackson. He let me stay in the control booth and I asked him a bunch of questions about everything. After that, I went back every Sunday. One Sunday Omar walked out of the office and left me by myself. So I opened up the mike and started giving out the station identification. Eventually, the station manager signed me on to do a gospel show from sun up until noon. I was paid fifty cents an hour.”
After five years of working part time on the gospel show, Mr. Davis got his shot at the R & B show one day when the regular jock didn’t show up. He was at KOKA for 30 years, until the station was bought by KVKI where he hosted “The Night Flight with B.B., Bird Brain, Davis.” His nickname, the “Bird Brain” comes from a joke he was telling about the 1955 Apollo space mission. He said, “The Apollo went up today, it’s gonna go up again. Next time I’m gonna go up as an interpreter.” Well, a listener liked the joke so much, he sent a letter addressed to the Bird Brain Davis. From then on, he opened his show as B.B. (Bird Brain) Davis.
Curtis Mayfield played a major pivotal role in soul music and influenced countless musicians and politicians. Between 1961 and 1971, he wrote a succession of influential singles for his group, including “Gypsy Woman” (1961), “It’s All Right” (1963), “People Get Ready” (1965), “We’re A Winner” (1968) and “Choice Of Colours” (1969).
Mr. Mayfield wrote tender love songs and those protesting social and political equality. Decades later Bob Marley lifted lines from “People Get Ready” to populate his own recording, “One Love”. Two independent record companies, Windy C and Curtom, emphasized Mr. Mayfield’s important role within black music, while his continued support for other artists as composer, producer or session guitarist, enhanced a reputation beyond that of just a singer.
Jerry Butler, Major Lance, Gene Chandler and Walter Jackson are among the many Chicago-based singers benefiting from Mr. Mayfield’s songwriting skills. Having parted company with The Impressions in 1970, he began his solo career with “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go”, a suitably astringent protest song. The following year Mr. Mayfield penned one of his biggest songs, “Move On Up”, an energetic dancer that charted in the USA and U.K. alike.
The awards continued as success was maintained with “Freddie’s Dead” (US R & B number 2 / number 4 pop hit) and the theme from “Superfly” (1972), a Blaxploitation film for which he wrote the music. Both singles and the album achieved gold status, inspiring further excursions into the movies. The soundtracks include ‘Claudine’, ‘A Piece Of The Action’, ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Short Eyes’, the last of which featured Mr. Mayfield in an acting role. The singer continued to prove popular and subsequent work, including his production of Aretha Franklin’s 1978 album, “Almighty Fire” is held in high regard. In 1981, he joined the Boardwalk label, for which he recorded “Honesty”, his strongest album since the days of the early 70’s. The death of the label’s managing director left an enormous gap, and Mr. Mayfield’s career was then blighted by music industry lethargy.
In 1990, a freak accident, in which part of a public address rig collapsed on top of him during a concert, left Mr. Mayfield permanently paralyzed from the neck down. The effects, both personal and professional, proved costly, but not completely devastating in terms of his musical career. The material from ‘BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert’ was gathered from the gig at London’s Town And Country Club during Mayfield’s 1990 European tour. In 1993, Warner Brothers released “A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield” featuring various artists including Lenny Kravitz, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Elton John and Steve Winwood, which was an excellent tribute to the Mayfield songbook. Aretha’s version of ‘The Makings Of You’ was excellent.
A year later Charly Records reissued the majority of Mr. Mayfield’s 70’s albums on CD as well as several compilations. In 1996,Rhino Records gathered the best package in a three-CD box set. At the end of 1996, a new album, “New World Order”, was released to excellent reviews. During the recording of “New World Order”, Mr. Mayfield had to lie on his front, suspended by a harness, in order to give some gravitational power to his voice. His contribution to soul music has been immense. Whatever the limitations of his disability, his voice, however, remained perfect, sensitive and unique. In 1999, Mr. Mayfield passed away in his sleep at the North Fulton Regional Hospital in Roswell, Georgia, U.S.A.
Dave Clark, former Sr. Vice President of Malaco Records in Jackson, MS, was the first black promoter in the music industry and was dubbed “The Godfather of Promotions”. This blues songwriter extraordinaire and Julliard Conservatory Of Music trained musician got his start in his native town of Chicago in 1938 promoting local blues concerts.
During his 50+ years in the music industry, Mr. Clark worked for a number of record labels in various executive positions, including Chess, Duke/Peacock and Stax Records. Mr. Clark’s many career highlights include being named “The Number One Promotion Man” by Downbeat Magazine in 1963, ‘65, ‘66 & ‘67. He was also inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall Of Fame in 1981. He worked with legendary greats such as Z.Z. Hill, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland and the J. Geils Band.
Douglass Jocko Henderson
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Douglass “Jocko” Henderson was the youngest of three sons whose father, Elmer, was the first “Director of Colored Schools” for Baltimore (an elementary school bears his name). He graduated from Douglas High School in Baltimore and attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama majoring in biology. His first on-air position was in 1952 at WSID in Baltimore. He continued in Philadelphia at WHAT than at WDAS. While on the air in Philadelphia, Jocko commuted to New York to do a live show at WADO. For a period of 20 years, Jocko hosted and promoted hundreds of shows at the world famous Apollo Theatre. He was also the first African-American to host a daily live television show in New York City.
In the early 70’s, Jocko was publisher of Philly Talk magazine, a slick monthly publication geared toward the upwardly mobile black population in the Philadelphia area. In the early 80’s, Jocko founded Get Ready, Incorporated, a Philadelphia company which developed and distributed educational materials that used “rap music” to relay the curriculum to help inspire and motivate today’s youth to acquire basic cognitive skills. Mr. Henderson died in 2000.
Edward J. “Eddie” Castleberry was born on July 28, 1928, in Birmingham, Alabama. After attending Miles College from 1950 to 1951, he worked as a disc jockey at WEDR and WJLD in Birmingham. Later, he became program director at WMBM in Miami, Florida; newsman and disc jockey for WCIN in Cincinnati, Ohio; disc jockey and news announcer at WABQ in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1961 to 1964; program director at WVKO in Columbus, Ohio, from 1964 to 1967; worked for WHAT in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1967 to 1968; and held disc jockey and news announcing jobs at WEBB in Baltimore, Maryland. Finally, Eddie worked for the Mutual & National Black Networks as anchorman and entertainment editor.
Eddie received the Newsman of the Year Award from the Coalition of Black Media Women in 1980, Newsman of the Year from the Jack the Rapper Family Affair in 1980, and Outstanding Citizen Award from the Alabama House of Representatives in 1983.
“One thing I can say about my career is that it has been varied and productive.”
Eddie O’Jay began his radio career in 1951 as a disc jockey at WOKY in Milwaukee. From there, he went to WABQ in Cleveland and WUFO in Buffalo, finally working his way to the “Soul at Sunrise” show on WWRL, WBLS and WLIB in New York City. After a distinguished 27 year career in radio in the United States, he expanded to include an internationally syndicated radio program on “Swazi Music Radio,” in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1980.
Because of the familiarity and popularity of his voice, he was nominated and inducted into the Black Radio Hall of Fame. You’ve probably heard his voice on commercials for Chevrolet, Schlitz Malt Liquor, Sears, Perdue Chicken, Lipton Tea, Campbell’s Soup and on “Sesame Street.” He was also privileged to have performed in theatrical productions which emanated from the Karamu House in Cleveland such as “My Sister Eileen,” “Wonderful Town,” “Golden Boy,” and “The Connection.”
He was fortunate to have discovered while at WABQ, a fine group of five young beginners in the business called The Mascots from Canton and Masilon, Ohio. He was asked to manage and direct the group which took his name, The O’Jays. The rest, as they say, is history.
Edna Mae Hatter
At an early age Eula Mae Hatter accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, and she has been in his service ever since. Her mission is to spread the gospel news through her work and the example of her life.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Eula Mae Hatter attended East Baton Rouge public schools and later furthered her education at Southern University. Her love for Christ created a burning desire within for her to testify to His goodness and mercies. Ms. Hatter realized that the medium of radio provided a powerful vehicle for mass communication. She knew that the messages of hope and truth that were shared in thousands of local churches would find homes in the hearts of many through radio broadcast. In 1954, she worked on her first gospel show “The Cousin Carrie Gospel Hour,” and for the next 11 years she ministered to thousands of listeners, inspiring many and touching the souls of many more. In 1965, she changed the name of the show to the “Eula Mae Hatter Gospel Hour.” The show quickly gained popularity and soon became one of the top-rated shows on WXOX, extending across nine parishes in Louisiana and making Eula Mae Hatter, the first black woman to carry a gospel radio program within 100 miles of Baton Rouge.
Employed by Citywide Broadcasting as a gospel show hostess, Ms. Hatter had no peers! For 40 years at WXOX, she became the personification of the precepts and doctrines of her show: an embodiment of goodness and light. Affectionately dubbed by friends and followers as the “First Lady of Gospel,” Eula Mae Hatter blazed the trails carrying her torch of truth. At 9:00 a.m. five days a week, listeners tuned in for the very best in gospel music and oftentimes her show served as a clearinghouse for gospel news.
Requests for appearances at seminars, conventions and religious programs poured into her office on a constant basis and she traveled extensively throughout Louisiana and its surrounding states to serve as guest emcee, guest speaker, guest soloist, or in whatever capacity was required. Her witness for the Lord was not confined to the 60 seconds of her one hour gospel show, it consumed all of her time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She was an active member of the New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, and the Publicity Chairman of the Emmanuel Baptist Association. Eula Mae Hatter also served as the musician for the New Prospect and Greater Arlington Baptist Churches as well as a member of the James Cleveland Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Gospel Announcers Guild.
Her over 40 years of incomparable service at WXOX and more importantly its listening audience, received recognition by both Governors of the State of Louisiana, Edwin W. Edwards and Charles “Buddy” Roemer. While Eula Mae Hatter affirmed that her service to God and her fellow man is “the purpose of her creation,” and demands that “all praises are due to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” community organizations, civic groups and political figures, have felt the need to honor her with numerous awards. Former President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. recognized Eula Mae Hatter for her service to the community, as did the Louisiana State Representatives. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has also honored Eula Mae Hatter with an Award of Distinction.
Major television networks, The Baton Rouge Daily Newspaper and the bi-monthly periodical, The Woman, are among the many electronic and print media that paid tribute to Eula Mae Hatter’s long and distinguished “labor of love.” To all of this, Eula Mae Hatter responded with humility, reverence and dignified grace. She died in 2000.
“… Then sings my soul, My Savior Lord to Thee; How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art!”
It was for the love of music, Emma G. Garrett, started her music career 30 years ago. As a youngster, Emma’s love for music followed her to adulthood where she found her true love in the industry.
In May of 1964, Emma entered the entertainment industry at Campus Distributors where she worked as on inventory clerk. With her excellent achievement she was promoted to office manager after six weeks of being hired. In August of 1968, Henry Stone of Tone Distributor, an arm of T.K. Records, hired Emma. Emma was responsible for servicing accounts and placing orders with major record companies. After three months Emma was promoted to the recording section of T.K Records where she was responsible for artists contracts and calling radio stations about their product.
Emma’s achievements and learning abilities gained her recognition throughout the industry. In April of 1976, Bunky Sheppard hired her at Motown as a promotion manager. Truly earning her way through the industry, Emma was recommended by Fred Ware for a position as promotion manager for Columbia in October of 1976. Emma remained at Columbia for six years.
If you were in the New York metropolitan area in the ‘60’s, you should recall Enoch Gregory. The faceless voice filled the airwaves at a time when we were beginning to identify with our music.
Enoch was born in Hertford, North Carolina. He attended North Carolina A&T before joining the Army where he attended broadcast school. After completing the course, however, he found that there was no place in the Army’s overseas broadcast unit for a Black man. Instead he was sent to a small fort in Kentucky in the press office. Undaunted, he established relationships with local radio stations and began giving them news feeds.
After his Army service, he moved to New York. He took a job at WNJR-AM as a summer replacement. He became an on air personality for WWRL-AM and was known as the “Master Blaster” because he created explosive sounds throughout songs. Enoch is credited with bringing Black radio out of the dark ages and into a time of formats. He took a modem approach to ethnic broadcasting. He took pride in being a down-home guy. He brought plain folk to the airwaves. He recognized that there was a place for everyone in what was going on.
In the late ‘60’s, he moved to Detroit where he was able to bring WCHB-FM to the number one spot in a period of three months. He worked at several stations in the Detroit area before returning to New York. He feels fortunate that he was accepted back into the New York radio scene. Because of his earlier training, Mr. Gregory was able to create and produce national radio commercials for many products. He was singled out in 1974 for creating a series of educational vignettes designed to challenge school children. For his “Cool School’ efforts, he was awarded a citation from New York City and honored with Enoch Gregory Day.
After 25 years in radio, Enoch retired. However, he temporarily re-entered with a gospel ministry program in Maryland.
In the business since 1955, Estes Fletcher, owner of Fletcher’s One Stop Records & Tapes, began as a small neighborhood record store owner in the Chicago-area, carrying a full line of Gospel, R&B, Blues, Jazz and more recently, Hip-Hop music.
“I got into the business because of my love of music”, says Fletcher, who remembers the days when his store stocked 78s, 45s and 33 1/3 EPS. Over the years, Fletcher’s expanded to five locations across the city and a video store.
In 1955, he made the conversion from mom and pop owner to One Stop distributor, serving the Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin areas. “The opportunity for profit is much greater with a one-stop”, says Fletcher, “and at the time there was not much competition.”
Still a family-run establishment, Fletecher prides himself on operating a punctual, well-stocked one stop with knowledgeable, friendly staff. His daughter Susan, recently joined the company as manager.
‘The music business is more professional these days”, he says. ‘Before people were in the business as a hobby, supplemented with regular employment and now most people today are strictly record people. Susan is helping to bring a professional air to the business. She has a modern approach.
Georgie Woods was a product of four of the largest cities in America. He was born in Barnett, Georgia (near Atlanta), raised in New York, married in Chicago and spent most of his working life in Philadelphia. He was widely known as a talk show host, disc jockey, civil rights activist, community leader, promoter and entrepreneur.
Mr. Woods worked as a disc jockey for WWRL Radio in New York. He moved to Philadelphia in 1950 and got his first job by calling WHAT Radio after reading of a job opening in Jet Magazine. His first salary was $18 net per week. He worked for WHAT Radio for three years and then became employed at WDAS Radio. For more than 20 years, he worked for one or the other of these African-American oriented radio stations as a disc jockey or talk show host.
He began his concert promoter career at Philadelphia’s Town Hall with Jocko Henderson, featuring The Velvelettes. He produced many one-nighters with different groups and moved his show to the Nixon Theatre and eventually to the Uptown Theatre in 1957. Some of the music industry’s top names were presented to Philadelphia by Georgie Woods including, but not limited to Michael Jackson, The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Jerry Butler and Earth, Wind and Fire. Mr. Woods produced these shows to provide alternative activities for the city’s youth and to create an outlet for their unharnessed energy.
Mr. Woods active civil rights career began in 1960, as vice president of the NAACP. He was credited for bringing peace to the Philadelphia neighborhoods during the 1964 riots. That year, Mr. Woods participated in the March on Washington. Through his efforts, 15 bus loads of people went to Washington for that historical event. Here he heard Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This made such an impact on him that he became one of Dr. King’s most ardent supporters.
Georgie Woods was active in every civil rights struggle in the country. Locally, he was a key operator in the struggle to get Girard College to admit African-American youth. For years, they kept up a constant vigil outside the walls of the College and had a strong contingent of youth involved in this effort. In 1965, he traveled to Selma, Alabama with Dr. King. As part of a national protest, he led a march on City Hall with 15,000 African-American people tying up traffic. They went to protest the treatment of African-Americans by the government and this was the closest branch of government to which they could take their message.
This was also the period in which Malcolm X was speaking across the country with a very different message of equality for African-Americans. Mr. Woods worked with the Muslim community in support of some of the activities initiated by Malcolm X.
In 1966, Mr. Woods and Sam Evans invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Philadelphia. Despite some resistance from the African-American leadership about bringing this “outsider” into the Philadelphia civil rights scene, Dr. King was greeted by massive crowds for the five days he spent in Philadelphia. Georgie Woods joined Philadelphia recording artist, Bobby Rydell on a 17-day tour of Vietnam. He was the first African-American to go to Vietnam to entertain the troops.
While disc jockeying and promoting was his main profession, Woods used his position to raise money for the needy. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised, primarily from the music industry, to feed the hungry and house the homeless. One of his most ardent supporters was songwriter/producer, Kenny Gamble. Georgie Woods began his formal political career in 1967. He ran for City Council on the Republican ticket and received 333,000 votes. While he won the election with the original count, he lost the recount. This was a very serious political lesson for him.
After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death in 1968, things seemed to go downhill. African-American leadership seemed to be shattered and the leadership void couldn’t be filled. Mr. Woods began to again concentrate on promoting shows and sponsoring benefits for different groups.
In the 70’s, Mayor Frank Rizzo proclaimed Georgie Woods Day and public schools were closed for the day. The Jackson Five, Don Cornelius (Soul Train) and Mrs. Coretta Scott King came to Philadelphia to help celebrate. He received the Liberty Bell and later the Liberty Bowl, Philadelphia’s two highest honors.
In the 80’s, Georgie Woods worked to get politicians elected. He was active in the elections of the first African-American Mayor, first African-American State Senator, first African-American City Commissioner, and most of the African-American politicians that have been elected since he had been in Philadelphia.
In 1988, Georgie founded the United Black Business Association (UBBA) and built it into a membership of more than 100 businesses in less than a year. UBBA provided a new level of knowledge of minority business in the city. He is the father of one son and three daughters. He is distinguished as being the only African-American to witness the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty by President Jimmy Carter at the White House.
In 1987, he was approached by Saboor Muhammad with an idea to merchandise “Georgie Woods Potato Chips”. Mr. Woods thought he was joking, however, Mr. Muhammad kept coming back to him and after the third visit, he said “yes”. His first check was received a month later and they reported selling over 3 million bags a year. Mr. Woods passed away in 2005.
Harold “Hal” Jackson was a popular radio and television personality and one of the most respected men in the communications industry. As a radio pioneer, Mr. Jackson experienced many “firsts” that assisted in opening doors for other aspiring Black broadcasters, musicians and performers. He was the first Black radio announcer in network radio; the first Black host of a jazz show on the ABC network; the first Black play-by-play sports announcer on radio in the country; the first black host inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1990 and the first black inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995. Until his death in 2012 at the age of 96, he hosted the “Sunday Classics” radio program, which was rated #1 by Arbitron in its time slot for many years on WBLS in New York. He was on the air over 75 years.
Born in Charleston, SC, Mr. Jackson grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended Howard University there. He launched his broadcasting career by announcing the school’s home games and the American Negro League games over station WOOK. Later, he could be heard daily on three different stations - a nightly news interview program over Washington’s WIMX, a five hour sports show on Baltimore’s WSID, and another sports show on WANN in Annapolis.
He went into television, hosting a variety show that was broadcast from the stage of the Howard Theater. The show gave him the opportunity to interview such historic figures such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Charles Drew, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Adam Clayton Powell and A. Phillip Randolph.
For over 23 years, Mr. Jackson was the Executive Producer and host of the Talented Teens International competition, which highlights the intelligence, creativity and talents of young minority women 13-17 years of age. The ladies are given the opportunity to display their talents and compete for educational scholarships and trips abroad.
In 1989, Hal Jackson’s 50 years of broadcasting and his major contributions to youth and charitable causes were acknowledged by Honorable Mervyn M. Dymally of California on the floor of the House of Representatives, which became a part of the Congressional Record.
This gentle and charitable man lived a life devoted to sharing his talent and time to helping those less fortunate. His career and lifestyle can be summarized by the theme he has chosen for his radio programs — “It’s nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.”
Mrs. Irene Johnson-Ware’s long-standing illustrious career in Gospel radio started in 1961 in Mobile, Ala. Mrs. Ware began at WGOK as the host of The Mandy Show, now known as “The Brighter Day.” There she rose to the level of General Manager and enjoyed an unprecedented thirty-seven and a half year tenure.
Mrs. Irene Johnson-Ware has exemplified the terms empowerment, mentoring and networking, by positively impacting the lives and careers of women in the entertainment industry. Mrs. Ware’s stellar career is evidenced by her numerous appointments and awards:
1966 – Open Mike Magazine’s Gospel Personality of The Year
1967 – Record World Magazine, Top 10 Gospel Personality
1975 – 1976 Who’s Who Among Black Americans
1977 – Jack The Rapper’s Roy Hamilton Award
1979 – Gospel Music Workshop of America’s Gospel Announcer of The Year
1990 – Recipient of the NBPC’s First Heritage Award
1990 – NBPC Gospel Announcer of The Year Award
1992 – Urban network’s Living Legend Award
1997 – PUSH Excellence Award in Communication
Marie V. Dixon Order of the Eastern Star #875, Humanitarian Service Award
General Manager of the Year, BRE Magazine
Two-time winner of the Thomas Dorsey Award, Midwest Radio and Music Association
In 1992, Mrs. Ware was elected president of the struggling YBPC, Young Black Programmers Coalition, later renamed NBPC, National Black Programmers Coalition. Under her direction, the NBPC’s growth in industry visibility, membership and financial status was extraordinary. Noteworthy as well is the dynamic increase in the national conference attendance and donations to the organization’s scholarship fund. Known for her “always put God first” lifestyle, Mrs. Ware is a faithful member of the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church in Mobile, AL. There she serves as Counselor of the Matrons, member of the HB Choraliers, member of the Trustee Board and the first woman to serve as Chairman of the Trustee Board.
Mrs. Ware was the popular host of the WDLT-AM midday Gospel program, A Brighter Day and a devoted mother of two sons, Darryl and the late Ronnie Johnson, who was Sr. Vice President of R&B Promotion, Atlantic Records, at the time of his death.
Mrs. Ware always has words of inspiration and encouragement for all she encounters and continues to inspire with her unrelenting drive to improve opportunities for African Americans in the music and entertainment industry.
Jerry Rushin is dedicated to the preservation of Black music. He furthered these efforts with his executive positions at WEDR-FM and WRBD-AM.
Mr. Rushin was born in Georgia and reared in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He returned from the Army to resume his high school job at a furniture store. He was passed by for promotions because the senior management did not believe the other workers would take orders from a Black man. He then decided to change career paths, following in his brother’s footsteps, by going to broadcasting school. After finishing school, he landed a job at WEDR-FM as a part-time announcer. Rushin knew from his previous experience that he had to be better than good because of his color. He gained more responsibilities with full time positions as R&B Announcer, Program Director, and in 1980, he became Vice President/General Manager.
While many radio professionals were moving from station to station, Mr. Rushin took the time to invest in WEDR. He brought the station from 16,000 watts in the ‘70’s to 100,000 watts. He credits his mentor and broadcasting school instructor Bob Gaynor in helping him make productive career choices. His secret to success has been his ability to look at the long range picture. He was more concerned with making good career moves than finding a job.
Mr. Rushin credits WEDR’s success to being faithful to the Black format. He believes in Black people and their causes and helps by being involved in the rebuilding of the Black community. He was also involved in the rebuilding of WRBD-AM, the station he purchased in a joint venture with James Thomas and WEDR. They picked up the troubled station and were committed to turning it around. The two ventures (WEDR-AM and WRBD-FM) worked together until the sale of WRBD in 1997.
In 1980, Mr. Rushin was named general manager, and later Miami VP and Market Manager for Cox Media Group, which, in addition to WEDR, included WFLC 97.3 FM, WHQT 105.1 FM, and WFEZ 93.1 FM. He retired from Cox Media in 2012 after 40 years in radio.
The measure of a man may not be summed up in monetary value of dollars and cents but on the accomplishments he has made to help someone else survive against the odds. That odds maker is radio legend “Diamond” Jim Sears.
Diamond Jim, as he is known by coworkers in the radio industry, has had the unique experience of having served as one of the few pioneer Black radio salespersons in major markets and achieving the title of General Manager. He began his career more than 30 years ago in the budding years of Black radio. He worked part-time at WSID-AM in Baltimore before taking a full-time position at WEBB-AM. There, while working with Program Director Jerry Boulding, Mr. Sears divided his time between being an on-air personality and a station account executive. He accepted the challenge of becoming General Manager in 1968, a year before the station was purchased by recording artist James Brown.
“Mr. Brown was not only the hardest working man in show business, he was a hard-nosed businessman who wanted WEBB to generate revenue. He used to call me up at 3am to discuss business,” recalls Mr. Sears. “I worked with James Brown for more than 12 years, and during that time he helped me to help others. We organized events to feed the hungry, distribute toys at Christmas and extended a helping hand to our listening audience the community of Baltimore.”
During that time span, Mr. Sears did a little more than help the community. He developed the community, giving young men an opportunity to pick up a
microphone to become a disc jockey. For many, that opportunity helped establish a foundation for their future. The confidence they developed on-air led to career successes. Among those persons who were impacted by opportunities on WEBB-AM during Mr. Sears’ tenure were Kirby Carmichael, Chuck Woodson, Bernard Miller, Kwesi Mfume, and Curtis Anderson to name a few.
Mr. Sears left the Northeast and headed south to Miami, Florida in 1979 and began a new phase in his life working with a recognized “Living Legend,” Jerry Rushin of WEDR Radio. He embraced the South Florida community, working as a salesman of WEDR and at The Miami Times, a 74-year old weekly publication which had never missed an edition. “I have been blessed to have worked for three great Black men, each of them leaders in their own right: Jerry Rushin, Garth Reeves and James Brown, the godfathers of radio, print and music,” he proudly exclaimed.
After ten years of working radio and print, Mr. Sears established his own firm. Until his death in 2011, he enjoyed spending his days on the golf course and developing promotions and special events in the Miami area.
Jim Tyrrell was a widely experienced executive businessman, skilled in the marketing of consumer products and services, as well as corporate administration. He provided the benefit of his unique experience to entrepreneurs in the Black community for many years, counseling firms and individuals involved in various enterprises. Through the years, Mr. Tyrrell was a full service management representative for recording artists who had achieved gold and platinum sales awards and/or significant critical acclaim.
Mr. Tyrrell is a native New Yorker who was one of the founding members and officer of the fraternity of Recording Executives (FORE) and the Black Music Association (BMA). He conceived and founded the PACE Scholarship fund, which for many years benefited New York City Public High School graduates on their way to college. In addition to cash grants, the students were mated with high-achieving notables who would serve as lifelong mentors. In his words, “No one can do it entirely on their own.”
A musician who began his studies at age four, Mr. Tyrrell become a popular New York studio musician, one of the first to play the fender electric bass in live performance as well as recordings. Many of the hits of the top artists from the 50’s and 60s have used Tyrell’s bass sound on their records, which includes several hits by the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown. In the mid 60’s, he left the Apollo Theatre house band and Broadway to become a pioneering end innovative executive in the new field of pre-recorded tape cartridges, better known as eight track and cassette.
For nearly ten years at CBS, Mr. Tyrrell advanced to Senior Vice President of Epic & Associated Labels Group where he made a key contribution to the seven year growth of sales from $6 million to more than $190 million. More importantly, he was the first black record executive to handle both Urban and Pop music. The label broke more than seven artists in each of those years: Clint Holmes, Jeff Beck, Labelle, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, The O’Jays, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Meatloaf, Charlie Rich, Ted Nugent, Englebert Humperdinck Cheap Trick, and The Jacksons, to name few. He was responsible, held approval, authority and influence in all creative, administrative and budgetary areas: operations in sales, merchandising, advertising, artist development, product management, promotion, production and inventory coordination, personnel development, branch sales and key customer relations. On top of all that, he served on all divisional executive groups.
In 1983, Mr. Tyrrell was selected by a longtime music industry friend to serve as Managing Director of the Kingston, Jamaica-based Tuff Gong Records, LTD., the enterprise founded by the late Bob Marley. This full service operation included recording labels, recording studies, retail and wholesale sales activity and disc pressing plants. Before departing Tuff Gong, Mr. Tyrrell successfully reversed the negative cash flow conditions in one year.
Prior to his death, he served as Corporate Secretary, Member of the Board of Directors, executive Vice-President of Safe Waste Systems, Inc., a publicly held New Jersey firm, which manufactured and marketed a unique industrial chemical to hazardous solid waste remediators around the world.
After serving nearly four years in the United States Air Force, James Cephas went to work for the Postal Service for eight years. During that span, he realized that he liked playing the piano and entertaining so he formed a jazz band and started doing nightclub work, college gigs and cabarets. He became King James and his band was known as “King James & His Men Of Rhythm”. In the beginning it was weekend work but the demand for this band became so great that in 1961, he was forced to resign from the post office so that he could travel with his band. In 1968, King James opened a record shop on 52nd Street in West Philadelphia. The idea was to have something constructive to do during the day time and also to supplement income. He used his stage name for his store, “KING JAMES RECORDS”. The business did well so in 1971, he opened a second store on Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia. That store also did very well. King soon realized that he favored retail over playing on the road and decided to quit the stage to run his store full time.
He joined the NARM Organization and traveled to its conventions annually to obtain merchandising knowledge and meet other retailers from all across the country. In 1975, King won a sales increase contest from CBS Records that awarded him an all-expense paid trip to Acapulco for seven days. He joined The Black Music Association which also took him to many parts of the country. He later became Vice President of the Philadelphia Chapter of The BMA. King was twice awarded Retailer of the Year at the Black Radio Exclusive conference.
In 1980 James opened a third store in a West Philadelphia Strip Mall called Haddington Plaza. With an outstanding inventory, a lottery machine, a casino transport service and a concert ticket agency, this latest store has proven to be the most busy. King James has survived 25 years as a retailer. He has witnessed many changes in the industry, including configuration changes in product; policy changes, price changes and distribution changes. King believes that to survive in this business, you must always “pay attention”.
Louise Williams Bishop
State Representative Louise Williams-Bishop was born in Cairo, Georgia. She is a graduate of West Philadelphia High School and received her degree in communication and radio broadcasting from the American Foundation of Dramatic Arts.
Ms. Bishop was re-elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1990 to begin her second term as a state legislator. She is an ordained Baptist Evangelist minister and has a 30-year career that spans the Philadelphia air waves as a radio personality. She was first ordained Evangelist by the Pennsylvania Baptist Association in 1978. She serves her ministry with the Message of God’s Saving Grace and has conducted revivals throughout the East Coast. Her radio career began on WHAT until she began hosting her own program on WDAS-AM and FM, where she currently is host and Gospel Programmer of “The Louise Williams Show” on WDAS-AM.
Representative Bishop was appointed by House Speaker Robert O’Donnell to the following House committee assignments for the 174th Legislative Session: State Government, Aging and Youth and Liquor Control Committee. She is currently the secretary for the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and a member of the Legislative Housing Caucus.
For her commitment and dedication, Ms. Bishop has been honored with the following awards: Philadelphia Mayor’s Council on Youth Opportunity “Outstanding Citizen Award”; City Council of Philadelphia Citation Merit “Outstanding Woman Award”, Bright Hope Baptist Church; Richard Allen Award (Highest African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Award); “Mother of the Year”, Penn Memorial Baptist Church; Missionary Baptist Pastors Conference “Community Service Award”; “Woman Preacher of the Year”, Ministers Conference; an honorary doctorate of Humanities from Monrovia College; Philadelphia Mass Choir of the James Cleveland Workshop of America “Community Service Award”; Philadelphia Tribune Achievement Award; Outstanding Radio Personality Awards by: CBS Records, Philadelphia Record Promoters and Gamble & Huff; “Woman of the Year Award”, Operation Push; Thomas A. Edison Home & School Association “Community Award”; The Voice of Fellowship; United Holy Church of America; and Pennsylvania State Choir.
Ms. Bishop is a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus: NAACP; National Political Congress of Black Women; Afro-American Historical & Cultural Museum; Baptist Minister’s Conference; National Association of Women’s Clergy; LaSalle University (Honorary).
Ms. Bishop is the mother of four children: Todd James, Tabb Jody, Tamika Joy and James Alburn Bishop, Jr.
Martha Jean Steinberg
Contrary to popular belief, there is indeed royalty in this land of ours. Over 30 years, Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg reigned over the airwaves of radio stations in six states. Starting in 1967, a group of dedicated followers known as “The Queen’s Community Workers” was in civic service involving penal institutions, senior citizens, youth scholarship and tutoring programs and working with housing authorities throughout Michigan.
“The Queen’s” career in radio began at the Tennessee based station WDIA, the first 50,000 watt Black oriented station in America. Broadcasting through five southern states, Ms. Steinberg took on the role of “town crier”, and alerted her listeners to impending legislation, civic, cultural and religious events that were upcoming in the area.
The year 1963 had her moving to Inkster, Michigan, on WCHB, but it was in 1966, after a move to Detroit to WJLB, that she found her true calling. Electing to dub herself a voice of the people, she was an immediately respected spokeswoman of the community at large. She had an instrumental part in quelling the 1967 civil disturbance due to her appeals for non-violence and her personal appearances at vigils to restore peace in the riot-torn neighborhoods of her listenership. Following the uprising, she originated a program entitled, “Buzz the Fuzz”, which featured then police Commissioner John Nicholas. The program was nationally acclaimed and helped to re-establish a trusting relationship between the police and the citizens of Detroit.
Such efforts and accomplishments did not escape national attention—the “Queen” was the guest of both Presidents Nixon and Carter, and was also asked to give the opening prayer for Congress’ 1993 session. Her contributions to such national organizations as the March of Dimes, where she held a post as an Executive Committee Member, and the NAACP, which has awarded her an Outstanding Service Award at the annual Freedom Fund Dinner, are further testament to the altruism that belied her every effort.
The respect that the African-American community held for her has had influence on the private sector as well. The National Bank of Detroit, A&P Supermarkets, the City National Bank, Lane Bryant and the City National Bank all called upon her for consultation regarding public relations in the black community. Such a well-rounded career garnered her a place in the Detroit Historical Museum’s prestigious Black Women’s Hall of Fame.
Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg died in 2000.
Oklahoma-born Melvin Moore began his show business career 56 years ago as a vocalist with a number of big bands, including groups led by Ernie Fields, Dizzy Gillespie and Fletcher Henderson. In 1952, through Ruth Bowen, Moore joined the world-famous Ink Spots as a singer and drummer and literally traveled the globe with the group until 1963.
In 1964, renowned record exec Joe Medlin introduced Moore to the world of promotion and he became National Promotion man for Decca Records. In 1970, Moore left to join Brunswick Records, where he worked records by such artists as Jackie Wilson, The Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis and Bohannon. Until his death Moore continued working as an independent promotion consultant for several independent New York-based labels.
Mildred Carter owns the oldest Black radio station in the United States. Mildred’s late husband, Andrew, bought KPRS-AM after many unsuccessful attempts to get a license. It was with the help of Missouri’s Governor Landon that he was finally able to obtain a license and purchase the radio station in 1950. During the next ten years, Andrew was able to move the station to Kansas City where KPRS-AM became KPRS-FM/KPFT-AM.
Meanwhile, Ms. Carter was working with a public relations/promotion firm that brought prominent Black entertainers into the Kansas City area. She knew of Andrew but did not meet him until 1960. They met at a dinner party and were married five months later. Andrew immediately brought Mildred into the broadcasting business, teaching her most of what she knew about broadcasting.
Ms. Carter was always involved in the Black causes of the day. She remembered marching on picket lines in the South and bringing the bread line to Kansas City. KPRS-FM has maintained top status in the marketplace by giving the people the kind of music they want to hear. She had many opportunities to sell the station but kept it in the family because that is what her late husband would have wanted.
Mildred and Andrew Carter moved to Florida when he became ill in 1970. Between 1971 and 1988 she spent many tearful years running the station out of Florida. At one point she spent 11 months away from her husband until she found the right station manager. She is proud to say that with the exception of one, all of the managers were Black. KPRS is now run by her grandson, Michael Carter.
Prior to her death in 2003, Ms. Carter served on the Board of the Cape Canaveral Hospital and was affiliated with the local Chamber of Commerce. She received many awards during her career including the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters Award and she was voted one of the Most Outstanding Black Women by Good Morning America.
Ron Mosely enjoyed over three decades of success in the music business. His accomplishments include over 20 gold records for songs such as, ‘‘Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Scorpio.” He has worked with many celebrated recording artists, including Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, the Isley Brothers, Bill Withers, Isaac Hayes and Anita Baker. After studying at American University and spending four years in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Mosely began his career in the music business in 1963 as an independent producer/writer. He then joined Screen Gems as a producer/writer. Later he became General Manager of End Records. However, it was with MGM that he received his first gold record with Spider Turner. Mr. Turner went on to become head of National R&B Promotion and Special Products at Warner Brothers, where his success continued with “Hypnotized” by Linda Jones. Next, he was appointed National Pop Singles Promotion Manager at ABC/Dunhill Records. He discovered the Occasions, who went gold with “I’m A Girl Watcher”.
At Capitol Records, where he was Director of R&B Activities, Mr. Mosely coordinated promotion and marketing for the label’s R&B product. He was responsible for such hits as “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne and “Give Me Just A Little More Time” by Chairman of the Board. He also directed the successes of Candi Staton, Nancy Wilson and Lou Rawls.
As co-founder of Sussex Records, Mr. Mosely prided himself on the success of Bill Withers, with whom he achieved four Gold Singles, one Platinum Single and one Gold LP. Mr. Withers’ “Lean on Me” became the biggest selling single in the history of the music business at the time, selling over 2 million copies.
In 1974, Mr. Mosely became Director of R&B Promotion and A&R Director at Polydor Records. He soon took on additional responsibility as Polydor’s National Promotion Director for all product. He left Polydor to become Vice President of Black A&R and Marketing at RCA. There he was responsible for the acquisition of TABU Records, where he worked with Evelyn “Champagne” King and Vicki Sue Robinson. He was also responsible for the initial success of “Sara Smile” by Hall &Oates.
In 1985, Ron formed Ro-Mo and Associates, an independent promotion, consultation and management firm. As CEO, Ron was involved in the personal management of Isaac Hayes, Sweety “G”, Carolyn Townes and Octavia. His clients included TABU Records, Warner Brothers Records, Qwest Records, Quincy Jones and Elektra Records and others.
For more years than he could remember, Shelley Stewart woke up at 3:30 a.m. so he can be on the air at 5:30 for his morning show on WATV in Birmingham, Alabama. His radio career began in 1949 at WEDR where he became known as “Shelley the Playboy.” It was his outspoken stand on race relations that singled him out as an on-air jock, and through his years at stations in and around Birmingham, Mr. Stewart became the most popular radio personality in the area.
In addition to his radio shows, Mr. Stewart promoted shows throughout the South through the 60’s, working with acts like Sam Cooke, Little Richard, Lou Rawls, Bobby Bland, James Brown and B.B. King. In 1964, he began a stint with the legendary Otis Redding as his personal P.R. representative. His association with Phil Walden Management led to work with acts like Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes and Johnnie Taylor. While pursuing P.R. ventures, Stewart remained in radio and had been on the air continuously for 43 years, during which time he had never been out of the Top 5 in ratings. A mentor to industry stalwarts like Ray Harris, Hank Spann, Tom Joyner and Sidney Miller, Stewart was co-owner of WATV and ran Shelley Stewart & Associates, which worked on image-building for individuals and municipalities.
Sylvia Robinson’s creative instinct kept her on the cutting edge of the music business. She also understood the importance of having your own and worked toward helping other independent entrepreneurs to maintain their own as well.
Ms. Robinson was born Sylvia Vanderpool in New York City. Her musical talents were recognized by her parents at an early age. She learned piano as a child and at the age of 12 was recording for Savoy Records. In high school, she was taught guitar by Mickey Baker. At 16, she teamed up with Baker to record the hit single “Love Is Strange.” They continued as a duo until Baker moved to France. By that time Ms. Vanderpool had met Joe Robinson and their alliance evolved into a marriage and business partnership. In the early ‘70’s they formed All Platinum Records. It was here that Ms. Robinson honed in on her writing and producing skills. Her biggest successes came with the Moments (“Not on the Outside,” “Sexy Mama”) and her own rendition of “Pillow Talk.” She would produce another top 10 hit with Shirley Goodman’s “Shame, Shame, Shame,” which became one of the first disco hits.
All Platinum acquired the Chess catalogue in 1975. They were able to reissue some of the Chess classics before running into financial problems in 1978. In the autumn of 1979, Ms. Robinson came up with an idea that would change the music business forever. While attending a disco party she happened upon these guys who were rapping into a microphone. Her instinct told her that this was an idea, and as she says, “the rest is history.”
This concept gave birth to the Sugar Hill Record Company. They released “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang, which became an underground hit and a number one song in many countries. Sugar Hill went on to record hits by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Melle Mel, Sequence and other rappers.
Ms. Robinson made another controversial move when she released the Sugar Hill hits to the smaller distributors and mom-and-pop stores before shipping them to the larger chains. By this time, her three sons had joined the family business. Their efforts helped to keep the music young and alive. Sugar Hill kept the hits coming while critics believed rap would not last. It would take five years for the major labels to take rap seriously.
Ms. Robinson continued her revolutionary concepts under her new record label, Diamond Head Records, releasing a song by Kyro. Ms. Robinson’s earlier songs can still be heard via samples on current rap records. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre have both used her music.
Sylvia lived in Englewood, New Jersey until her death in 2011.
Ted Hudson believed that the easiest way to sum up his forty-six years in the music industry was to say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Mr. Hudson’s whole family enjoyed music. They would frequently patronize the only African American music store in St. Louis. In 1950, he realized the popularity of this entertainment medium, and its potential for growth. As a result, he opened his first retail record store, “Hudson’s Embassy Records, Inc.” The logo was a phonograph record with the credo “First with the Latest” emblazoned on the rim.
The “Embassy” portion of that name came from the concept that American Embassies serve as safe havens for American Citizens overseas. He wanted to give artists a safe and friendly outlet for their music and music lovers a safe and friendly place to listen to and purchase music. By 1982, Hudson’s Embassy Records, Inc. expanded to eleven retail record stores. In addition, the concept for “Hudson’s Embassy” was franchised six times. In 1965, he opened one of the first African-American owned distribution companies, serving approximately 100 independent record labels and artists with distributions along the Eastern seaboard, Midwest and Southeast.
Ted’s One Stop, Inc. opened in 1968 as a wholesale operation servicing local and regional retail record stores. He also opened an advertising/promotional agency, a recording studio for independent record labels and artists and an electronics wholesale business. Mr. Hudson considered himself fortunate to have been a founding member of the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers (NATRA) and the Black Music Association (BMA). After resigning his political office as Committeeman of the 19th Ward of the City of St. Louis, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson sat back and enjoyed life’s little pleasures.
Thomas R. Draper
Tom Draper began his career in the music industry in 1965 with RCA Records in Detroit as a consumer electronics sales trainee, where he progressed to National Promotion Director in the music division. From there, his career flourished with an array of executive management positions at Warner Communications/Time Warner.
One of his most interesting positions was at Warner Communications as Vice President of Community Relations. In this position, he was able to expand the organization’s image in minority communities and reaffirm its commitment to responsible corporate outreach by forging alliances with leaders of not-for-profit organizations.
Other notable milestones during his career at Warner Communications/Time Warner included developing media concepts and public relation strategies, such as the Paul Simon U.S. and Canadian Graceland Benefit Concert Tour. During the tour, receptions were planned to discuss UN sanctions against South Africa relative to artist collaborations and activities.
Mr. Draper also produced the Al Jarreau/Roberta Flack and Friends Concert at the world famous Apollo Theatre to benefit the Correctional/Osborne Associations. He conceived “Beat the Odds” as an effort to reach out to the younger generation. The event is a program for the Children’s Defense Fund, which draws on music industry executives to honor young people for excellence in pursuing their goals while surmounting tremendous odds. The program is now celebrated in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, DC, Minneapolis and New York.
In March of 1991, he was presented with the first annual “Pioneer in Music” Award from the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Inc. He was also a guest lecturer for the “Portraits in Rhythm and Blues” series at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
For more than 3 decades, millions of listeners tuned in to Vaughn Harper’s broadcast, confident that his smooth voice would enhance their evenings. His appeal to an audience with an ear for ballads, jazz, fusion, classics and today’s R&B is not just legendary, it’s well documented (repeatedly rated #1 by Arbitron metric services). As the front-runner in Quiet Storm programming he has influenced generations of Quiet Storm host who still admire, respect and seek his professional knowledge. Mr. Harper has been credited by some with initiating the platform for Smooth Jazz radio by being one of the first to feature a vast array of Smooth Jazz artist prior to it becoming an established format.
Beyond the radio industry as host of Millennium consumer’s most successful video game “Grand Theft Auto 4”, Mr. Harper is featured as the voice of the in-game station VIBE RADIO. His sultry voice directs the R&B and Classic Soul that accompanies the action while young adults are playing the game. His influence also reaches the artistic side, after featuring Joe Sample’s album cut “In My Wildest Dreams,” night after night on New York radio as his show theme from 1987-1995, former New York resident, rapper Tupac Shakur, featured the track as the backdrop of his 1995 hit “Dear Mamma.”
Throughout his career, Mr. Harper’s accomplishments have been featured in trade publications such as Billboard, Cashbox, and Urban Network and in popular news periodicals NY Times, NY Daily News, NY Post and The Amsterdam News. He is the recipient of numerous awards some of which include Black Radio Exclusive’s “2008 Jeep Unlimited Radio Personality of The Year”, an induction into The Living Legends Hall of Fame and landing the #4 spot as “Best Urban DJ of all-time” via a 2010 online industry survey.
A native New Yorker, Mr. Harper’s first career choice was basketball. Starting as an All City High School player at Boys High in Brooklyn, recruited as an All American standout that played in the NIT tournament with his alma mater Syracuse University, then spending a brief stint with the CBL, which garnered him a try-out with the Detroit Pistons. But make no mistake about his transition to radio; it’s been a championship run from day one.
Recruited to the broadcast field and trained by legendary programmer Frankie Crocker, Mr. Harper is often referred to as Mr. Velvet Voice, because his smooth voice is as personable as it is distinctive, contributing to the preservation of “Personality” radio. On the commercial front, the Quiet Storm Captain has spanned the globe with commercial success as the voice of Great Kings Of Africa (Budweiser Black History month special), host of Japan’s Suntory Quiet Storm (rated #1 for three years straight), voice talent for Clear Channel Urban properties, master of ceremonies for Amateur Night at the Apollo, the CEBA Awards, the UNCF national telethon along with serving as the in-flight announcer of Delta Airlines “A Journey Of Soul” (black music month special). Harper also served as co-producer of the 2004 ballad driven album “Vaughn Harper Presents Quiet Songs”. On the Philanthropic front he established an annual “Celebrity Toy Drive” that provided gifts to underprivileged children in the New York metropolitan area during the Christmas holidays.
Verna S. Green
Ms. Green was appointed General Manager of WJLB-FM April 1982 and led WJLB through the most comprehensive turnaround in ratings and sales in the history of Detroit radio. This turnaround encompassed aggressive recruitment of new talent and management, tightly focused marketing, consistent pricing, and a firm commitment to community service.
In 1982, Green initiated Detroit’s Coats for Kids, a program that has distributed over 200,000 coats to needy children. This program has been copied in cities all across the United States. Since she began her radio career with WJLB, Ms. Green has ensured that listeners have access to major national entertainment and has overseen WJLB’s presentations of massive free concerts, such as Ladies Night Out and family Fun Day. Ms. Green was promoted to Vice President in 1986, and in 1994 her responsibilities were increased to include managing the powerful FM urban duopoly of WJLB-FM and WMXD-FM (Mix 92.3).
Ms. Green’s performance is unique in that she is the only African American woman in the country to lead a radio station in a top-ten broadcast market to first place ratings in all major demographics- not just once, but for many successive rating periods. WJLB has been the number one FM in Detroit since 1985 and is currently Detroit’s top ranked radio station in all major demos. Throughout her broadcast career, Ms. Green has demanded that African American consumers be treated with dignity in commercial messages and in promotional activity.
Prior to broadcasting, Ms. Green’s experience included organization development, marketing, human resources management and labor relations in the automotive and health care industries. A native of Detroit Mich., she is a graduate of Cass Technical High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Wayne State University and her MBA from Michigan State University through its Advanced Management Program.
Ms. Green is a graduate of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce’s LEADERSHIP DETROIT program, where she served as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. Ms. Green was recently elected to represent the state of Michigan on the Radio Board of Directors of the National Association of Broadcasters. She is active in many civic, service and professional organizations and has been recognized with many civic awards. Ms. Green is the proud mother of two sons.
Warren Lanier Sr.
Warren Lanier, Sr. is a public relations specialist who offers the best in creative services to achieve positive and rewarding results for clients, with a professional approach. Over the past fifteen years, he has focused on introducing ideas and images relevant to the communities of black consumers the world over.
His weekly syndicated column is called “Ebony Etchings Etc.” Mr. Lanier’s clients over the years have included Etta James, Jimmy Smith, B.B. King, Johnnie Taylor, Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra, LTD, The Dells, Denise Williams, Millie Jackson, Marla Gibbs, Fred Williamson, Richard Roundtree, Roger E. Mosley, The Gospel Keynotes, and countless others. Other corporate assignments have included the United Negro College Fund, Cinerama Releasing Corporation, Brut Productions, Miller Brewing Company, Black Associated Sports Enterprise, and numerous others.
Wherever radio signals travel, Willie Mitchell’s music has been heard. For more that four decades now, “Pops”, as he’s known within the industry, has been writing, arranging, producing and playing on hit records. The purity of his sound has become a signature trademark. Soft, tough, elegant and junky no one does what Pops does. He is rightfully accredited as one of soul music’s greatest producers.
Willie Mitchell’s talent was recognized at an early age. Before he could finish high school, several big bands were recruiting his talents on the trumpet, and he was also asked to play on B.B. King’s first recordings. Rust College became his base soon after, and from there Willie Mitchell be-bopped as a part of the special services band that backed Vic Damone. Upon being discharged, Willie formed a jazz band and signed with Hi Records in 1961. Hi wanted him because of the hits he’d produced on the label for the Bill Black Combo. From there his name underscored Ace Cannon’s pivotal bestsellers, and then Willie began making a radio signature of his own, scoring a string of 22 instrumental hits in the sixties that were defined by “Soul Serenade” and “2075” that made the Willie Mitchell band consistently the hottest touring band in the world. As the 70’s dawned, after ten years a beloved, accomplished, best-selling and respected player, Willie Mitchell’s switched hats to a full-time producer and recreated history.
Al Green, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright, Denise LaSalle, Syl Johnson, Hi Rhythm - to connoisseurs of rhythm & blues, such a roster constitutes an impressive field of heavyweights style called southern soul. All were discovered and brought to media life by Mr. Willie Mitchell. No one could reproduce the Mitchell sound, and the public ate it up. Willie produced 22 Gold & Platinum records with Al Green alone. He mastered the recording of Ann Peebles’ signature “I Can’t Stand The Rain” during this same period, and directed the touring bands that wowed sold out-audiences throughout the world. Willie Mitchell has produced tracks for Ike & Tina Turner, Bobby Bland, Paul Butterfield, Jesse Winchester, David Hudson, Lynn White, and Rufus Thomas. He is a Memphis music legend and a recording industry icon, deservedly recognized with a Grammy Award in 1986.
Willie Mitchell has always been an unselfish talent, serving on the Executive Board of the Memphis Music Foundation, the Beale Street Foundation, and was appointed to the Tennessee Film, Tape, and Music Commission to lend his particular expertise in a way that would help the city’s recording industry.
Willie Mitchell made his transition in 2010, in his beloved Memphis, Tn.