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WERD Atlanta – Americas First Black Owned Radio Station

Radio doesn’t mean much to the millennial generation in that the Internet has stolen younger listeners with tailorable music – but in the 40’s through the 90’s radio was King. But it wasn’t until 1949 that black folks owned their own station, and prior to the mid 60’s black radio was confined to only daytime, operating from sunup to sunset on AM bands at low power. Black Music radio was largely missing post sunset in most of the country, as the local white owned station only played music by white musicians. The low power limitation meant that black station reach was decidedly limited, typically no more than 20-30 miles of an urban center. AM Radio bounced off the stratosphere, and at night you could hear radio from cities sometimes over a thousand miles away, So called “Bandit” stations (not operating with FCC licenses) were popular at night as they played exciting new music that never made the top 40 stations.  The development of FM Radio, and the Civil Rights Movement eradicated this form of discrimination as black stations rushed to go FM and get free of he “Daytime” limitation.

My father and I looked at buying a low power AM Station in the early 60’s which had been owned by whites. I was still a youngster, but my various grass cutting and handyman jobs had netted me a decent chunk of money to make the down payment, and a local black owned bank was amenable (with my father’s signature as I was only 13) to loan the $5,000 necessary. The price of Daytime AM Stations went though the floor due to the anticipated emergence of FM.And like the Internet where the value of a property is based on the number of eyes who visit a site, the value of a radio station is based on the coverage market in “ears” listening. So Urban stations are vastly more valuable. The issue was the “Community Service” clause in the FCC regulations. Black folks were fairly thin on the ground in my suburban area – so the FCC rejected our application because they felt a black owned station wouldn’t be serving the predominately white community. Took another shot in the early 70’s at buying an FM Station – but by that time they had become expensive properties (@ $3 m) beyond my means to raise enough money to do.

America’s first black-owned radio station let the words of MLK and others ring

Two blocks away from the famous King Center in downtown Atlanta is a small brick building that tourists typically overlook.

But in the 1950s, that little brick building reverberated with the messages of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders.

The building was home to the first black-owned radio station in the United States — WERD — and it was the medium that King used to broadcast his Sunday sermons then, later, announcements of his civil rights marches. The station was a fixture of Atlanta’s African-American community. It offered a rare public venue for black jazz and blues performers during the Jim Crow era, and amplified the voices of King and other African-American leaders as they encouraged black citizens to vote.

In the decades that followed the tumultuous 1950s and ’60, the building that had been WERD went through the incarnations of any professional building in a changing city, finally serving its community as a hair salon during the 1980s and ’90s. That — a hair salon — was what hairdresser Ricci de Forest thought he was getting when he signed a lease in 2004.

What he knew, though, was that it was not just any hair salon; it was one of only two “Madam C.J. Walker” hair salons left in the country. Named for an African-American beauty pioneer who made a fortune from licensing her salon chain and selling beauty products in the early 20th century, the salon and the building housing it had the appeal of that historical niche.

“I wanted to attach her legacy to my business,” says history buff de Forest.

It wasn’t until about two years later that he discovered his new salon had a much broader and deeper place in African-American history, as the birthplace of WERD and as the amplifier of King’s words to a community and to a nation.

The discovery was met with a sense of jubilation mixed with disappointment. De Forest didn’t understand why the space hadn’t been preserved in the years before he came to Atlanta from Cleveland.

“The burden of the responsibility hit me like a sucker punch. This is a heavy responsibility,” he says.

In 1949, Atlanta University Professor Jesse B. Blayton Sr. bought WERD for $50,000. Although it was only allowed to operate from sunrise to sunset and was allocated limited frequency power, it quickly became a staple to Atlanta’s black community.

King’s office at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is on the other side of the wall. It was said that King would tap the ceiling of his office with a broomstick to get the attention of the WERD DJ upstairs when he needed to make an announcement.

Today, you can still hear broadcasts from WERD online, where de Forest plays his record collection under the motto “All vintage. All vinyl. All the time” on Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET.

De Forest wanted to preserve the legacy of both Madam C.J. Walker and WERD by gradually turning his salon into a makeshift museum. Thousands of donated vinyl records — including albums by Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Count Basie — decorate the walls, along with segregation-era signs de Forest has collected over the years. His desk displays a rusty “we serve colored carry out only” sign.

The hair salon portion of the building looks like an early 20th century time capsule and still operates as a functional hair salon. While Some of de Forest’s regular customers get their hair done, visitors stop by to look at the old curling irons and hair straighteners on display. One visitor named Selena says she’s lived in Atlanta for 18 years but didn’t know about the legacy of this place.

“It’s embarrassing — I’ve never stopped but there’s so much history in this one little space that I never knew about.”

It’s not just this building that doesn’t get much foot traffic along Auburn Avenue. In fact, many of the historic buildings in this district are not frequented by many visitors.

A once bustling district built by black entrepreneurs in the early 20th century, Auburn Avenue later suffered from a lack of investment after the city integrated. The National Trust for Historic Preservation declared the area “endangered” twice.

De Forest says he sees his efforts to preserve the Madam C.J. Walker Museum and WERD radio station as part of a larger mission to preserve the district’s history and contributions to the civil rights movement.

He gained nonprofit status in fall 2015 and keeps a small donation jar at the entrance of the building. De Forest says he’s received a few donations over the years but also has to frequently dig into his own pockets to keep the doors opened.

“I’ve been keeping it open for years and it hasn’t been easy … it hasn’t been a financial gain. It’s been a financial drain.”

Despite this, he says he loves going in to work, where he is part-time hairstylist, DJ and tour guide.

“It’s like a 5-year-old going to ride his tricycle. It’s unbelievable. I feel that good.”

Nowadays, de Forest frequently thinks about retiring and moving abroad to train other hairstylists, but also worries about what this would mean for the future of the museum. He invites young local artists to use the museum for performances as a way to reach out to younger generations, with the hope that they, too, can share his enthusiasm and love for the space.

His outreach seems to be working. There are a handful of young volunteers, including a bubbly 24-year-old named Chiane Matthews, who by chance stopped by the building last spring and had been returning almost every day since.

“I fell in love with this place and so I wanted to do something to help preserve it,” says Matthews.

She started volunteering as a social media director and show producer and eventually brought her best friend, 23-year-old Amani Hassan, on board. In the short time before our interview, they had both been able to persuade another one of their friends to volunteer as “brand manager” for the museum.

On Wednesday nights, young men and women fill the makeshift museum. Matthews and Hassan take turns announcing the performers of the night, which include two R&B singers and two local rappers accompanied by a small band. During the performances, de Forest quietly sits in the corner and listens as he plays black and white video of a jazz duo on the back wall projector. “I want them to know this is where it started,” he says.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Black History

 

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David Bowie

Had stayed away from the orgy of angst about he passing of musician and model David Bowie. For all of his gender bending wild art, Bowie was a consummate artist crearting music over a 60 year period. His last foray was in a soon to be released Jazz album. What some people forget about him though, is he also was a key voice against the discrimination in the Music Industry. In this 1983 interview, Bowie puts MTV on blast for their lack of black artists.

This is the original video from Bowie’s first major hit in 1969 – “Space Oddity”

And the 1983 hit “Let’s Dance”

Bowie’s latest release off a soon to be released Jazz album “Blackstar”

Shades of Sun Ra! Indeed…

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Citizen Media Minutes…The Confederate Flag and Citizen Broadcasting

Back in the 60’s and 70’s I used to love to visit cousins who lived in New York City. The city was teeming with pirate radio stations, some of which only covered a few blocks. You could hear music that never made it onto any of the big company stations, whether latin, fusion, or jazz, San Francisco also had several famous pirate radio stations, which played part in the emerging culture of Haight-Ashbury.

Our technological society has allowed folks to create and voice their opinions through the airwaves. As in anything, some of that is good, some mediocre – depending on the originators and the thought put into their work. Seems like 100 years ago, but in the pre-internet age, there was an effort to re-create “Low-Power Radio“, to license station covering small area, such as community as democratic means of expression and local interest outside of the mainstream media. So called Pirate Radio was common prior to the 80’s, principally in urban areas, and derived their audiences from folks tired of the basic canned Top 40 formats and weak community interest programs by the licensed operators. It was pretty much eviscerated by Reagan era FCC rules. Black folks operated pirate radio, because of the “daylight rule” and difficulty in getting licensed. The FCC limited the number of stations in an area in any particular format. In the 50’s and 60’s almost no black radio stations were allowed to operate between the hours of sunset and sunrise on the then popular AM Spectrum.

That changed after Reagan, and there was an effort to restart the format. I started a LPR Station in the late 70’s which was looking to use low power as a means of communications in a business area, oriented toward providing information to the community about training and education being offered, events, business talks by local ventures, and interviews of local businessmen. The stiffening regulations of the Reagan FCC pretty much put the end to that effort due to the rising expense and regulations favoring the big companies. The goal had been to leverage that into the emerging Low Power TV in 1982 – however, the price on that skyrocketed, making breaking even extremely difficult. Since then, LPR and LPTV  never really took off, but folks are still trying. Some people believe it is the future of free over-the-air-radio. The cost of entry into LPR is less than $1,000 today, and the broadcast range, receivable by standard FM Receivers is about 3 miles. LPTV is substantially more expensive, due to the migration to Digital.

A modern equivalent of LPR is the YouTube Channel. No longer restricted by geographic region, small operators may host their own news and opinion shows. Three of the videos below are from just that sort of show. This group about the confederate flag…

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Antique Radio Collection – Man Saves America’s Audio Treasures

Check out his picture. As an admirer of industrial design from yesteryear, I have to say Mr. Goldin’s antique radio pushes the “kewl” factor right through the roof!

Not to mention his sucessful effort at saving some of the Nation’s audio treasures from thieves.

I hope the Police and Archives can recover those items which were sold.

J. David Goldin and his Antique Radio Collection

Amateur sleuth helps stop National Archives thefts

When J. David Goldin saw the recorded interview of baseball great Babe Ruth for sale on eBay he knew something was wrong. There was only one original record of that 1937 interview of Ruth on a hunting trip, and Goldin had donated it to a government archive more than 30 years ago. Now someone was auctioning it off, the winning bid just $34.75.

“I took one look at the record label and I said, `holy smokes, that’s my record,”‘ said the retired radio engineer.

From his home in Connecticut, filled with antique radios and tape reels, Goldin launched an amateur sleuthing effort that helped uncover a thief ripping off the country’s most important repository of historical records. The heist turned out to be an inside job. The culprit was the recently retired head of the video and sound branch of the National Archives and Records Administration — the government agency entrusted with preserving such documents as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Leslie Charles Waffen, a 40-year employee, has acknowledged stealing thousands of sound recordings from the archive, and prosecutors say more than 1,000 were sold on eBay. The thefts started as early as 2001, and the stolen recordings include items ranging from a recording of the 1948 World Series to an eyewitness report of the Hindenburg crash. Waffen was set to be sentenced Thursday by a judge in Maryland and will likely spend a year and a half in prison.

It was Goldin’s meticulous record-keeping and some sleuthing worthy of a modern-day detective drama, however, that brought Waffen to authorities’ attention and helped catch him.

The 69-year-old Goldin’s interest in radio began when he was a teenager. He taped his first broadcast at age 14 and studied radio production at New York University before working for CBS, NBC and other stations.

At the same time, he became passionate about preserving radio’s history. He started creating his own archive of sound recordings, in the early days storing records under the bed in his small apartment in the Bronx.

These days, Goldin has a computer catalog for sorting through his holdings, more than 100,000 programs in all. He paid to have the system custom designed for him in the 1980s and estimates he’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars obtaining and archiving broadcasts. Rows of neatly organized boxes of tape reels fill the basement of his Sandy Hook, Conn., home, which he shares with his wife Joyce, three dogs and 917 antique radios.

Now retired, he spends his days preserving recordings by transferring them from their original metal, glass and plastic records to tape. He cleans up the sound with a bank of equipment that takes up part of his living room and makes his catalog available on his website. He says he has enough uncataloged recordings to last the rest of his life.

Once Goldin has listened to and copied the recordings, however, he doesn’t need the original discs. That’s one of the reasons why he asked the National Archive in the 1970s if it wanted the originals, most of them radio broadcasts from the 1930s and 1940s. The archive said yes, and Goldin donated thousands of recordings ranging from political speeches and interviews to Congressional hearings. Then, he says, he mostly forgot about them.

In September 2010, however, he typed one of his routine searches for records into eBay and saw the Babe Ruth recording for sale.

Goldin wasn’t sure what was happening. He wrote to the National Archives. Were they getting rid of old material? If so, he wanted his records back. He got a call a few days later. No, the archive hadn’t sold anything. The record was missing, and it seemed likely it had been stolen.

Goldin, a meticulous record keeper, turned over the information he had, including documentation of his donation. He knew the eBay seller with the Ruth record was going by the name “hi-fi-gal” and lived in Rockville, Md.

Then Goldin did some detective work of his own. He ordered a different recording from “hi-fi-gal,” and when it arrived he traced the package’s return address. It came back as the home of Leslie Waffen, the man who had accepted Goldin’s donation to the Archives more than 30 years earlier.

“I was kind of puzzled at the beginning and then disappointed when I discovered it was Les Waffen,” said Goldin, who added the men hadn’t stayed in touch.

With that information and more, federal officials obtained a search warrant and raided Waffen’s home, carting away two truckloads of materials. Late last year, Waffen pleaded guilty to stealing government property. He and his lawyer have declined to talk to reporters.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in American Greed

 

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Feminists Ask FCC To Take Out The Limbaugh Garbage

Before Raygun and the Reprobates took over – Radio and TV stations had Civic Duties to support and help improve the communities which they served.

What Fonda et al are asking for here is legal – and should have been enforced a long time ago.

FCC should clear Limbaugh from airwaves

Ironically, the misogyny Rush Limbaugh spewed for three days over Sandra Fluke was not much worse than his regular broadcast of sexist, racist and homophobic hate speech:

–Women cabinet members are “Sex-retaries.”

-“The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

–The National Organization for Women is “a bunch of whores to liberalism.”

–[Said to an African American female caller]: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

These are just a few samples from the arsenal of degrading language Limbaugh deploys on women, people of color, lesbians and gays, immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, Muslims, Jews, veterans, environmentalists and so forth.

Limbaugh doesn’t just call people names. He promotes language that deliberately dehumanizes his targets. Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, he creates rhetorical frames — and the bigger the lie the more effective — inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans. His longtime favorite term for women, “femi-nazi,” doesn’t even raise eyebrows anymore, an example of how rhetoric spreads when unchallenged by coarsened cultural norms.

At least this most recent incident has turned a spotlight back on the vile, damaging statements Limbaugh has been promulgating for years. His sponsors are dropping him; his stations have begun to follow suit. VoteVets, a coalition of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, released a statement by female vets, including Katherine Scheirman, former chief of medical operations in the U.S. Air Forces, demanding that the American Forces Network drop Limbaugh from its programming.

They state, “Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other — women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect.”

That makes this a fitting time to inquire of his syndicator, Clear Channel Communications, whether it intends to continue supporting someone who addicts his audience to regular doses of hate speech. Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks Inc., which hosts Limbaugh’s program, has defended his recent comments.

If Clear Channel won’t clean up its airways, then surely it’s time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh’s show in fact using their licenses “in the public interest?” Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Homeless Guy Lands Radio Job After Interview

This guy has got “The Voice”, which takes a lot of years to develop. Having at one point in my life done some minor work as  a DJ and announcer – I can tell you it takes a lot of work to get this right!

A homeless voice has the sound of a fairy tale

The smooth baritone of Ted Williams became an Internet sensation yesterday when a Dispatch.com video compelled millions of viewers to take a closer look (and listen) at a homeless panhandler who sometimes works the Hudson Street ramp off northbound I-71.

Carrying a hand-scrawled cardboard sign touting his “God-given gift of voice,” an otherwise ragged Williams was recorded last month offering up his radiant pipes to an idle commuter for spare change.

That voice delivered.

Eclipsing the initial awe over Williams’ “gift” were the scores of phone calls that followed – media inquiries and potential job offers that could ultimately provide the one-time radio announcer with a second chance.

“My boss said to me: ‘If you don’t get him hired, you’re fired,'” said Kevin McLoughlin, director of post-production films for the National Football League. He contacted The Dispatchlast night in search of Williams.

“I can’t make any guarantees, but I’d love to get him some work.”

The 97-second clip – posted Monday on Dispatch.com and copied yesterday morning to YouTube by an anonymous user – was filmed on a whim by Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III.

As blog entries, Facebook posts and Twitter exclamations turned viral, so did the calls from news producers at ABC, CBS and CNN, as well as national talk shows.

“We run into these guys at the exit ramps and we pretty much ignore them,” said Chenoweth, who was en route with his wife to the grocery store when he first saw Williams. “This guy was using his talent.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Nawwwwww!

 

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Glenn Beck Dumped By NYC Radio Station WOR

Perhaps the beginning of the end…

Glenn Beck dropped by New York’s WOR radio station over poor ratings, replaced by Mike Gallagher

Glenn Beck may be one of the hottest talk show hosts in the country, but he apparently left New York‘s WOR cold.

WOR (710 AM), one of the city’s two biggest talk radio stations, said this morning it is dropping Beck’s syndicated show as of Jan. 17 and replacing him with a familiar New York name: Mike Gallagher.

“The reason is ratings,” said WOR program director Scott Lakefield. “Somewhat to our surprise, the show wasn’t getting what we wanted.”

Beck, whose style is sometimes off-center and who hosted a well-publicized national rally in D.C. last year, has been seen as one of the rising conservative radio and TV talk stars.

What was that line from the Frank Sinatra Song?

If you can’t make it there, you can’t make it anywhere?

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Domestic terrorism, Stupid Tea Bagger Tricks

 

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