Transcript


Video Script

“Making Waves: Louisiana’s Radio Story”

Produced By: Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Draft: Final Edited Program (Full Version)
Date: August 9, 2005

"Funding for this program is provided in part by a grant from the
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the
National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment
for the Arts, The Louisiana State Arts Council and the Louisiana
Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department
of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism."

NARRATOR
No place in America is quite like Louisiana. So it comes as no
surprise that the stirring sounds of this Southern state, would
carry with it diverse visions of a changing world. 

NARRATOR 
From colorful politics and personalities…

KEVIN FONTENOT
. . . everyone listened to Huey Long when he was on the radio
whether you liked him or not. It was the thing that  people
wanted to do.

NARRATOR 
To the Great Depression and World War II…

RADIO REPORTER
The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii from the Air!

NARRATOR
From distinctive Creole creativity and Cajun "Joie de vivre" 
to race relations and the "cradle of the stars." 

NICK SPITZER (INTV. 2- TAPE 1- TOP OF PAGE 5)
… an awful lot of the great music on the Louisiana hayride is the
music that reflects the growth of the oil fields. Honkey-tonk
 music and it’s the beginning of Rock and Roll.

NARRATOR 
Filling the airwaves with powerful sounds of speech and song, radio
would help connect Louisiana to the world- and the world to Louisiana.. 

MUSIC BRIDGE
"Who listens to radio... that go where you go medium called radio, that's
with you every night through the long commuter flight..."

 

NARRATOR

Radio’s origins sprouted from different corners of Louisiana - its
inventors certain that this medium would one day grow into
something huge.   In 1921, New Orleans electrician Dorr Simmons
created the “first complete wireless instrument of its’ kind in the South.” 
From his Garden District residence, Simmons played phonograph records,
sending his signal to the far Northwest reaches of the state. 
Dorr predicted
…“One day wireless telephony will develop
“to such a point that a band in
one city can supply music for a dance in another many miles away.” 

NARRATOR
In North Louisiana, at about the same time, Shreveport radio buff and
pioneer William Erwin Antony  started one of the first experimental
stations in the state- operating it from his own home.

JOEY KENT   
. . . He would do his broadcasting, read stories from the newspaper,
people would send in telegrams and letters that he would read,
free-of-charge, over the air.  Many people, in fact, in rural areas,
got their mail that way, they would just send in something and
have it read over the air. 

NARRATOR
Even as early radio stations first went on the air, popular interest
in the medium was almost immediate: 

JOEY KENT   
. . . In the 1920’s , radio stations began to pop up and by January,
1922, radio. . .  was all over  the newspapers. 

NARRATOR
By 1922, Antony’s passion became WAAG- Shreveport’s first popular
radio station.  WAAG would later become KFDX-  the first church
operated station in the world- and then, finally, KWKH - home to one
of radio's most influential personalities..  

KEVIN FONTENOT
. . . perhaps in the twentieth century at least the first half perhaps
the most powerful unknown person in Louisiana history was 
Will K Henderson. . . that might surprise people but Henderson
was on the cutting edge  on a new industry in this state and that
was the broadcast industry…

MUSIC
Down in the town of Shreveport, out on the radio, he's telling
all the people what they need to know. . .

NARRATOR
By 1924  the wealthy Shreveport maverick William K. Henderson
had taken control of WAAG and used his own initials to rename
it KWKH.  Henderson would not only have a major impact on the
historical development of radio, but on the political history of
Louisiana as well:

JOEY KENT  ( PT. 2)
…Huey Long had befriended Will Henderson  in the mid 20’s
in shvpt and Henderson became a fan of his populist beliefs.  . .
He made an arrangement with HL to give him all the airtime on
kwkh he wanted.  And you can imagine today’s candidates being
given free tv airtime – all they could use –this was a huge boost
to the Long campaign …

JIMMY FITZMORRIS (TAPE 1) 
…Huey Long would come on radio and he would say, "Now
this is Huey Long.  I'm going to play some music and i want you
to get on the telephone and call your friends and tell them that
I'm on.  And i'm going to give you about 10 or 15 minutes to do 
that."  And you’d be amazed at the number of people- my dad
included- that would immediately get up and get on the telephone
and call friends and other people would call their friends.. 
07-23-17

COSIMA  MATASSA16.35. . .
He had this appeal I think that people felt they could not miss
a speech of his. They couldn’t miss it. It was part of their lives.
And I don’t know  that  anybody today knows a politician of
that magnetism. It was  just astounding.

HUEY P. LONG
The Lord has answered the prayer.  He has called the barbecue…

NARRATOR
William Henderson had a lot in common with the Kingfish- namely,
he said what he thought and did what he wanted.  When Henderson
became aware that the Federal Government was awarding Northern
chain store radio stations higher frequencies and better wavelengths
than Southern stations, he ranted over the air against the inequity:

WILL HENDERSON
All the stations are using clear channels, the best wavelengths,  and
they should be put on one wavelength giving space for independent  stations. . .

KEVIN FONTENOT
Henderson had certain foibles.  One was he was very opinionated. 
The second, he liked to drink.  The third, he liked to curse.  And
when you put all three of them together and you put them on the
airwaves, that’s a recipe for disaster.

WILL HENDERSON
The idea is to chain everything.. confounded and flagtekit!  You want to write. . .

JOEY KENT   
.  . . So Will gets on the air and he starts cussing up a blue streak
and when he wouldn’t get the frequencies he wanted allotted by
the govt., hewould  simply relocate his station further down the
dial to a more suitable location.  His reasoning being he was
providing a service for the south and if the  govt. couldn’t
recognize that the south needed to be represented equally
with the north then he would just take matters into his own hands.

NARRATOR                                                                                              
Henderson also baited authorities by constantly changing his station’s
transmission strength, upping it from the licensed 1000 watts to over
10,000. KWKH listener response cards were received from as far away
as Hawaii.  By 1927 the antics of the radio rebel from North Louisiana
prompted national legislation.

NARRATOR
Although the Federal Radio Commission wasn’t fond of Henderson,
his contributions to radio were enormous. 
Within 5 years of assuming
the helm of KWKH he had built it into the most popular radio station
in the South and by 1930 the most popular in the country.  He also
marketed the first per inquiry radio product -"Hello World" coffee -
a pound of coffee in a can with his picture on the label.  It sold for
one dollar at a time when a pound of coffee cost only 10 cents.
Henderson was also a pioneer of radio broadcasting techniques
including turntable mixing and electronic transcription.

KEVIN FONTENOT
. . . he’s the type of broadcaster that existed in the 1920’s one
of those wildcatters guy who were willing to say and do anything
on the radio aiming at that audience They disappeared with the
rise of the control of the Federal Radio Commission the
Federal Communications Commission and it’s not til the 1980’s
that a species that species of radio broadcaster sort of returns and
in a lot of ways W.K. Henderson is a forerunner of today’s shock jocks .

WILL HENDERSON
"Hello World, Doggone You!"

NARRATOR
Will Henderson's style of broadcasting would never have been
tolerated by Louisiana's first publicly licensed radio station, WWL,
run by the Jesuits out of Loyola University in New Orleans.  The 
priests had to first get direct permission from the Vatican before
they began to operate WWL as a family entertainment station. On
March 31st, 1922, Loyola made history by sending out what is thought
to be the first public radio program ever on the Gulf coast- a piano recital.

During World War I, Loyola's priests and professors trained soldiers in
radio operations- making the school's extensive facilities, research, and
expertise invaluable to the nation- a loyal cooperation with the government 
that would continue in future years.

However, Loyola, had to continually lobby the government for more
wattage.  Unlike Henderson, though, the priests followed the rules,
and by 1928 the FRC allowed Loyola to increase to 5,000 watts on a
“clear channel”- the most powerful station in the South.  By the 30's,
WWL was allotted 50,000 watts, giving it one of the most powerful
signals in the world.

NARRATOR
Further up river, more radio stations started to dot the Louisiana
landscape including KPLC in Lake Charles, KVOL in Lafayette,
KALB in Alexandria, and WJBO in Baton Rouge.

Radio had begun to become an important part of everyday life in Louisiana.

RALPH:
Well it was not uncommon to have a whole family listening.. sitting
around listening to this little box . .  it was a family affair by and large.

NARRATOR
Ralph Sims started his broadcasting career at WJBO in 1939.  Network
programming had already begun — primarily in the evenings. But, at most
stations of the time, there was still significant local coverage and
broadcasters needed to be good at a variety of tasks.

 

RALPH SIMS:
In the 30's, it was somewhat like public radio is today. Something
for everybody. . .  starting off early in the morning, we’d have
agricultural programs  with country music . . . and then we would
go into news and of course we had music in between. . .

RALPH SIMS:
We picked up all the important things. Whenever anything important
happened outside the studio, a WJBO microphone was there. . .

SPORTS Announcer
He scores!  Billy Cannon races some 89 yards for a touchdown!

GEORGE JONES
…you could go down the street in Baton Rouge there was no air
conditioning everybody’s windows were open. You could walk
home from wherever you were and not miss anything on there
because everybody was tuned to the same station. 

NARRATOR
Around the same time Ralph Sims began broadcasting in
Baton Rouge- WWL's Pinky Vadokovich started a variety
program that  would last for 11 years as a favorite of fans
across the state.  It was called the Dawnbusters.

RADIO ACTOR
"That's a hat?  No. No.  This is a hunting hat.  A hunting
hat, eh?  Yeah. my brother's at home hunting for it." (Laughter)

BOB WALKER
this had to be a classic show with the talent they had on there uh..
Henry Dupris, Pinky Vadonkavich, who was the Mayor of Bayou Pom Pon
on the show and did comedy, and they had the Odair sisters,
Margie Odair and her sisters . . .

RADIO ACTORS
“You know when television sets in you’ll be able to get all the big
college games.  Well the boss  bought a small set and he says we’ll
only be able to get High School games.  Oh!  (Laughter) 

MARGIE O'DAIR
It was fun, it was like my  playground-  the musicians were
my closest friends, because  they played with my father in
Vaudeville and so therefore, I was like their little sister and
they took care of me.  (top pg. 1)

MATASSA
19.30 It’s a show  probably could  never happen again. First, It was a
big band and the economics of the day say no one is going to pay 8, 10,
12, 15, guys to sit there and play music while what ever else had to happen.

 

MARGIE O'DAIR
. . .the orchestra consisted of Al Hirt, but also Pete Fountain made
an appearance when we had leaders on vacation, he would come

COSIMA MATASSA
It was sort of like a nightclub show, but it was taking place on the
air- you know early in the morning.

BOB WALKER
Everybody was from New Orleans and…they sang and they danced
and they interviewed people and they told jokes and it was a good
time and a lot of people remember that show to this day…

PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Mr. Chief Justice.  My friends, this great nation will endure as
it has endured.. Will revive and will prosper.  Let me assert my
firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

NARRATOR
By 1938 the shadows of a world war were creeping ever closer. 
Germany had already begun to annex and occupy parts of Europe. 
Now,  radio entertainment began to take a back seat to more serious
implications- even for young listeners:

MATASSA
22.53  … I remember I was 8 maybe and I listened to the
Joe Louis, Max Schmelling heavy-weight championship fight
on a crystal radio that I had built myself.

RADIO SPORTSCASTER
"Joe Louis leads Max with 2 straight lefts to the chin."

MATASSA
25.22 It had international implications even to a kid like me.
Everybody knew this was America beating the Germans as well
as Louis and Schmelling and that’s the way people looked at it. . .

 

MATASSA
And that was a great fight because they were both great fighters, but even bigger.

NARRATOR
On December 7, 1941 Louisiana's attention, along with the rest of the
country's was drawn to the news over the airwaves of an attack…
an attack that would instantly change the face of the nation and the role of radio.

RADIO REPORTER
From the NBC newsroom in New York today. . .

GEORGE JONES
. . . I felt a cold feeling like you know gee something’s happened to us
that hadn’t happened before. 

GEORGE JONES:                                                                                                                                                                                     
.  .  I was sitting down; the radio was on the table.
. . . I was sitting there;  the radio was on the table. 
I had my right leg up on the table…I was leaning back and it came over
the radio . . . and they said that there’d  been an attack on Pearl Harbor.  

“I’ll repeat that President Roosevelt says that the Japanese
have attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii from the air.”

GEORGE JONES
Well I knew Pearl Bailey but I didn’t know Pearl Harbor. I knew it was
a place but I didn’t know where it was.  And they said it was Hawaii.

“All army and navy bases on the island of Haleiwa and Hawaii are now under attack.”

GEORGE (PG. 8 TOP OF PG.):                                                                                                                                                             
. . the impact right then was instantaneous.  This was given to us on the radio as it
happened….as it happened….not something that they read that happened yesterday…

The White House also reported today a simultaneous air attack on army bases. . .

RALPH:
Meantime, the news was just dribbling in-  not too much because not too
much was known at that time. And so I stayed up all night that night
broadcasting bulletins as they came in.

RALPH:
…news became more important and by that time instead
of  reading the newspaper on the air, we had a united press wire which
was edited for radio


NARRATOR
The government office of censorship asked broadcasters nationwide not
to mention weather conditions and listener call-in’s for music or
announcements were forbidden except in dire emergencies.

RALPH:                                                                                                                                                                                                      
… We would sign on and sign off…”Operating in the public interest;
convenience and necessity...according to the federal Communications
Commission. And we took that seriously.”

 

 

NARRATOR
With the start of World War II, WWL in New Orleans once again allowed
the government to Use its’ powerful facilities to aid the country, while at
the same time producing wartime radio  programs highlighting
Louisiana’s many contributions to the cause. 

(WWL REPORTER)
An ultimate tribute to a brave Louisiana soldier.

NARRATOR                                                                                                              
From the beginning, the government saw the important role radio and its technology
could play in U. S. war efforts. One of Louisiana's early radio pioneers was enlisted
to work secretly on the country's most controversial Wartime project.

JOEY KENT   
During WWII, BA was asked to contribute his talents to the war effort …He had
been working  on radio projects, but he had no idea what they were going towards
and was shocked to find out that when they first went off – when the atomic bombs
went off, he had actually created the radio detonators for ‘em.

(music up full with bomb blowing up)

 

NARRATOR

One of the few new radio stations allowed to startup during the War was KNOE, 
which began broadcasting  from downtown Monroe. Begun by former Governor
James Albert Noe, the station’s call letters incorporated the politician’s last name.

Noe also started WNOE which broadcast from the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans.
(Music- “W-N-O-E!”)  Since WNOE was located on the eastern side of the
Mississippi River, its call letters were mandated to begin with a “W”…allowing
Governor Noe to own two stations in the same state with virtually the same name.

 

NARRATOR
After the war, sales of radio sets skyrocketed and  life in America
would never be the same.  With a massive outburst of consumer
 interest, came dramatic new programs as well- programs like KWKH's
Louisiana Hayride- which was in its' heyday from 1948 to 1960.

 

LOUISIANA HAYRIDE SINGERS
We're going to have a good time tonight on the Louisiana  Hayride tonight.

KEVIN FONTENOT. . .  
The Louisiana hayride is quite simply  one of the most important radio
programs In American history.. Think about it Elvis Presley, Slim Whitman,
George Jones Johnny Horton Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash-  all of those guys 
.. .get their break. Right there in Shreveport on KWKH .

LOUISIANA HAYRIDE ANNOUNCER
"Yes, it's Saturday night and time for one of America's most colorful country music shows."

FRANK PAGE    
We felt a competitive spirit with the Opry….  You had to be a semi-star to get
a start on the Grand Ole Opry but not in Shreveport.  We would try them all.(00:17:35)

NARRATOR 
The Louisiana Hayride fostered so many successful country music careers that it
came to be known as the "cradle of the stars.
  One of those future celebrities was
an obscure artist at the time named Hank Williams.   Hayride announcer Frank Page
worked closely with Williams who would eventually make it big at the Grand Old Opry:

 

FRANK PAGE  TAPE  1   (06:03:20)
When I worked with Hank Williams at 7:15 each morning doing a live show,
little did I know how big he would be…he would come in the morning time
and he would strum  a few strums on the guitar, maybe sing a line or two
of a new song that he was writing and ask me if I liked it or I didn’t like it. 

NARRATOR                                                                                                   
For many artists, the Louisiana Hayride had been a stepping stone to
The Grand Ol' Opry, but for one young singer it became a springboard to politics.

In 1944, Jimmie Davis was elected governor of Louisiana, partly
because of his early days of fame- Singing on KWKH- at the
invitation of Will Henderson, (pause)  and later performing songs
like “You are my Sunshine” on the Louisiana Hayride.

Ironically, as Davis - who would later become known as the
segregationist governor - began his first term, the radio medium
which had helped bring him to power was, itself, beginning to desegregate.                                       

        

JIMMIE DAVIS MUSIC
You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. 

KEVIN FONTENOT
In the years following the second world war  there was A proliferation of radio stations
and a growth. And you saw a rise of many African Americans coming on the radio
stations.  . And, records, disc jockeys began to emerge and they began to play records
by artists they like, without any concern for the color of those artists…

NARRATOR
In 1947, a black art professor from Chicago named Vernon Winslow, started a show
highlighting black music in New Orleans- which was to air on WJMR- a white-owned
radio station.  The show's DJ used the name Poppa Stoppa, which unknown to most
listeners was a local street term for condoms.   Also unknown to most listeners,
was the fact that the on-air disc jockey was white.   Winslow merely wrote scripts,
selected music, and taught the white DJ how to sound black. 

POPPA STOPPA
"We spell it P-O-P-P-A. . . S-T-O-P-P-A. . . "

Art Neville (Tape 2)    00-42-41-00
I thought that all of them were black dudes back in those days, and
like I say in those days  that’s when vernon winslow was coming
through the back doors to teach  the other guy what he needed to say..
and I thought that he was black until I met him - Poppa Stoppa.. You
know so I mean it was crazy man. . . 00-43-25-00

 

NARRATOR
After being fired for taking to the microphone when the white DJ was
a no-show, Winslow went on to WWEZ and become New Orleans'
first black DJ - "Doctor Daddy-O".  But, racial prejudice followed him
there as well:

COSIMO MATASSA
2.30 … They offered to put him on the air, agreed to put him
on the air and then they told him b/c they were in the Jung hotel
he was going to have to go up the freight elevator. And myself
and a couple of friends told him  that was not going to happen.
We just weren’t going to let that happen.

COSIMO MATASSA
So I built a little console with turntables and cue switches
and stuff and got a pphone line from our studio to the station
and put him on the air from my studio because. . .

COSIMO MATASSA
…it was just unthinkable that he should have to go up the freight
elevation and he is the feature of the show. It was unthinkable.

FATS DOMINO MUSIC
“Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah”

NARRATOR
Cossmo Matassa had recorded big name black artists like Fats Domino
and Little Richard in his studio. Now, he would allow Vernon
Winslow to originate his show there by way of the front door. Within a
 year, The "Doctor Daddy O" show was the top rated radio program in
NewOrleans and Winslow was one of the top ten DJ's in the country.

 

ROCK MUSICIAN
Well Lawdy, Lawdy!

Art Neville (Tape 1)  00-26-14-00
He had this show you know... It was Dr. Daddy O.. Good morning
mother how you doing this day?  Oh I can smell the bacon.. That’s
why I had to go to the studio to find out what are they cooking in
the studio.. He’s got celephane paper right  by the microphone and
it sounded just like bacon frying... 00-26-52-00

MATASSA(4.27- Tape 2)
It was like the Berlin wall, he broke down walls b/c eventually he
was accepted and he did go to the front of the hotel and go up the
regular elevator with everybody else and go do his job b/c it had
to be. It couldn’t be denied. Too many people were comfortable with it.

NARRATOR               
Winslow was joined by other black DJ's in New Orleans, including
WWII veteran Tex Stephens- one of the most popular jazz DJs in the city. 

Tex Stephens  (Tape #1)
01-09-01-00
We would go to bars and lounges and they were glad to see a black face
on the radio playing music because prior in the 40's and 30's they
heard nothing but white people playing music.  01-09-25-00

Tex Stephens  (Tape #1)
01-15-12-00
We've come a long way and I think we laid the strategy and the structural
metamorphasis for a new agenda in radio broadcasting.  I'm just glad . . .
I truly believe that I'm a part of that history.  01-15-28-00

 

MUSIC  (CHUCK BERRY)
Just let me hear some of that Rock and Roll Music.. Any old way you choose it.

NICK SPITZER (INTV. 2- TAPE 1- TOP OF PAGE 5)
Shreveport becomes the city to go to and you know an awful lot of the
great music on the Louisiana hayride is the music that reflects the growth
of the oil fields. Happy talk music and it’s the beginning of Rock and Roll.

NARRATOR
The year 1951 marked a revolutionary trend in radio.  Cleveland DJ Alan
Freed had begun to play a style of black music he called "rock and
 roll"- a street term for sexual relations.  This heavy beat music carried
with it a frenzied popularity not experienced before in musical history. 

ALAN FREED
Hello everybody.  How ya'll tonight.  This is Alan Freed the Old King
of the Moon doggers.  And its time again for another one of your
favorite rock and roll sessions.

NARRATOR
Leading
New Orleans Catholic radio station, WWL refused to play
the genre on their airwaves.   But, Shreveport's KWKH made a
different choice, and  would help groom a young man from
Mississippi into the most famous rock and roll  star of all time.

HAYRIDE ANNOUNCER
He’s only 19 years old.  He has a new distinctive style.  Elvis Presley. 
Let’s give him a nice hand.  (SMALL APPLAUSE)

ELVIS PRESLEY
(Guitar strum)
Ah, well, I’d like to say how happy we are to be down here. It’s a real honor
for us to be to get a chance to appear on the Louisiana Hayride.  We gonna
do a song for you we got on Sun Record.  It goes something like this.

 FRANK PAGE:                                                                                                        
We heard a record of Elvis Presley.  It was “That’s All Right Mama” and
“Blue Moon of Kentucky.”  We were innovative at the Louisiana Hay Ride. 
We said, “What the heck.  Let’s give him a chance.” (00:13:10)

FRANK PAGE:18.03.10 18:03:10 
…He was about ready to quit when he came to Shreveport. He was
about ready to give it up. He’d been turned down by the Opry and
that of course, was the ideal place to go at the time….Well, he came
to Shreveport and we encouraged him.  He honed his talents. He
didn’t have the snarl.  He didn’t have the wiggle when he came here. 
But he developed them on the show . . . (18:46:14)

MUSIC (ELVIS PRESLEY)
Well remember my momma she done told me, Poppa done told me too…

KEVIN FONTENOT
in the fifties KWKH and the hayride is picked up on the armed forces
radio which means it’s broadcasted all over the world. So you're not
just hearing Elvis Presley in Dallas or in Meridian Mississippi your
hearing him in Germany, you're hearing him in Japan, the voice of
Louisiana KWKH is all over the world…and it’s broadcasting that
musical culture through out the world.

 

MUSIC (ELVIS)
You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog

 

PAGE:                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Elvis, the last time he appeared for KWKH, was 1956.  He owed us
one more appearance.  So he came to the coliseum.…We had 9,000
screaming 13 year old girls (Screaming Girls).  . . You couldn’t hear
him in the coliseum at all.  You could hear him on the radio but in the
coliseum you could not hear him.  And that’s the place that Horace
Logan who was the producer of the Louisiana Hay Ride at that time,
said Elvis has left the building.  That’s where the words were spoken
the first time.(00:29:53)

"Alright, Elvis has left the building"

NARRATOR

One year later, Elvis would bring national recognition to another
Shreveport radio station - KJOE. When local record distributor
Stan Lewis received a shipment of records he found an extra one
that he hadn’t ordered. It was Elvis’  “All Shook Up.”

MUSIC (ELVIS)
I'm In love, I'm all shook up.  Uhuhmmm, Huhmm. . .

DON
He looked in all of the charts and it wasn’t there; no reviews
so he realized I’ve got a record i don’t think anybody has.
And it was an exclusive. He
took it down to his friend Joe Monroe,
and George Carlin was the
DJ there at KJOEAnd George Carlin
played the record on the air
… and he got his name on the national
wire and it was a big story. . . 

 

NARRATOR
In  New Orleans, WWL, which had avoided rock and roll and it's stir
of controversy, became famous for big band dance music throughout
the 50's and early 60's. 
 The prediction of early inventor Dorr Simmons
had come true as the Leon Kelner Orchestra performed and broadcast
live dance music from the Roosevelt Hotel's Blue Room.

BLUE ROOM ANNOUNCER
The Blue Room, You'll Say it's magnificent presents the music of Leon Kelner.

MAURY MCGILL
I think the broadcast of WWL actually made The Blue Room because
of the fact that WWL Clear Channel station could be heard all over
the country at night…(Top pg. 2)

MAURY MCGILL (Top Pg. 1)
we received many cards and letters from people who not only live in
the United States, but also in Hawaii, from Finland, people at certain
times of the year could pick us up on a regular set…so it was worldwide
and it was world famous . . . the Blue Room.

GEORE JONES
I've danced to Leon Kelnor's music at the Blue Room.

GEORGE JONES:                                                                                                                                                                                   
You know he played on the podium a full, I suppose 12 piece|
band or something and dance music and popular tunes of the
day. Good, good classy stuff.

 

BLUE ROOM ANNOUNCER
This program is a presentation over CBS radio through the facilities of WWL.

BOB WALKER (Last soundbite of interview)
… so that was the type of programming they chose to get into which was more
in tune with the image that they had nourished throughout the years. . . 
 the Leon Kelner show was quite monumental and uh and it lives on to this day.

NARRATOR                                                                                                                
By the fifties and sixties, radio in Louisiana began to reflect the blending of cultures
taking place throughout the nation and the clashes that accompanied them.

NICK SPITZER (Bottom of pg. 12)
you have this emergence of these new markets being driven by AM radio,|
Am radio, and you have all of these charismatic hosts particularly across
the south uh you know white host talking to black audience and black host
talking to white audiences. This new emerging medium of Rock and Roll.
and Rhythm and Blues

MUSIC (CHUCK BERRY)
Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans

Art Neville (Tape 1)
(00:09:56:00) We all agreed that back in these days what kept the races
from annihilating each other was the music- what the white kids would
listen to was  the same stuff the black kids were listening to .  . .00-10-24-00

MUSIC (CHUCK BERRY)
Go Johnny, Go, Go, Go, . . . Go Johnny, Go, Go , Go , Go

 

B.B. DAVIS:
. . ..Now the white kids loved the blues more than the black kids who
loved the R&B like Aretha Franklin and stuff like that. But the white kids
were just a regular group of people that listened to KOKA that had the
music they wanted to hear. When the white kids would come to the
programs at the municipal auditorium; the police would come in and run
them out

MUSIC (CHUCK BERRY)
It’s Gotta Be Rock Roll Music, If you want to dance with me.

 

Larry McKinley  (Pg. 1- lower pg. bite)
well, it was beginning to get into the Civil Rights movement. I first saw
D
r. Martin Luther King covering him in a speech for the station. That’s
when I felt I was being part of a movement. 

NARRATOR                                                                                                             
Young
New Orleans DJ Larry McKinley began giving further voice to the
emerging civil rights movement by covering marches and demonstrations
from behind the microphone:

Larry McKinley  (Middle of Pg. 2)
we knew when  the sit ins would happen. I knew when they were going to
happen and I could be there and let the public know what was going on.

Larry McKinley  
My show was the only one because I had the freedom to do what I wanted to do.

Larry McKinley
We didn’t say “this is for the black listeners or the white listeners. This is what’s
going on. “ I think we did good for the whole city because there were many
people…everybody wasn’t a racist. And everybody wasn’t militant so
all 
we did was give  the news and as it happened. (Bottom of pg. 2)

NARRATOR                     
While integration was finding a powerful and influential voice in radio at
the beginning of the 60's, the airwaves had been assisting another distinct
group of Louisiana people who had also been marginalized. 

 

KEVIN FONTENOT
… In the late 1920’s Sadey Carville and Dennis Magee two of the deans
of Cajun fiddle music went up to Shreveport and they broadcasted over
KWKH. I can’t say for certain that it’s the first Cajun broadcast in the
history of the United States but it’s definitely one of the earliest. . . 

NARRATOR
By the 1930’s radio had reached the prairies of South Louisiana,
influencing the sounds of  Cajun dance hall bands. No longer
would dancers hear only accordians and fiddles.  The guitar
was added, creating a blend that would  reshape Cajun music.

But Cajun music was still considered a novelty on the radio.
  French-speaking programs like those of Cajun renaissance
man Dudley Leblanc had a small but devoted following. The
former state senator and creator of the  famous Hadacol healing
tonicowed much of his political and financial success to the
loyalty of his Cajun listeners.

KEVIN FONTENOT
Leblanc had a radio program on Sunday mornings right after mass so
Cajuns would go to mass they would come home sit down to eat, cut the
 radio on and there was Kouzan Dud  even the use of the name Kouzan
Dud implies  familiar relationship. So you want to invite him in he gave
the news in French in Cajun French he talked about issues not only in the
state but around the world that were of interest to Cajun people..

NARRATOR
By the late 1940’s a new form of French music was emerging in southern
Louisiana.  A form that  blended African American Rhythm and Blues
with a Creole beat.  Popularized by accordionist Clifton Chenier , Zydeco’s
cultural mix  was also its barrier to radio exposure. 

NICK SPITZER (Bottom pg. 10)
.. Zydeco has a  more difficult road for getting airplay on the radio until
recent times . It was considered too black for a lot of the French stations
and too French for the black stations or the country stations.

ZYDECO DJ
Welcome to the Luke Collins Foot Stomping Zydeco on KSLO…

NARRATOR
Some individual DJs began to create their own Zydeco radio programs-
buying time on local South Louisiana stations.   With the help of radio, 
this new musical form would become popular throughout America.

 

NICK SPITZER (Top of Pg. 11)
. ..   when it got out of Louisiana people instantly felt its appeal at a
very broad level because it had elements of Black American Music, it
had elements of Caribbean  music, it had elements of a regional ethnic
music like Cajun Music and so suddenly Zydeco really became very
satisfactory to a lot of people in a broad sense and I do think now
zydeco does get quite a bit of airplay.

MUSIC (ROD BERNARD)
Bells will Go on Forever

NARRATOR
While Zydeco featured a merging of Louisiana styles,  Swamp-Pop music
reflected the broadening influences of radio on the regional sounds.

NICK SPITZER (TAPE 1)
So… everyone is not just listening to who’s next door, they’re now hearing
the radio, the records, they’re hearing Nashville. . . So . . .  the state starts
participating in a bigger and bigger soundscape and yet, it does not lose
it’s distinctiveness because people take those things from afar and make
them over their way.

ROD BERNARD (Middle pg. 4):
… we kind of combined country music, which was my first
love, with rock n roll, a touch of Cajun and we came out with what is
called swamp pop music. 

MUSIC (ROD BERNARD)
Swamp Pop Music on the Radio… See you Later Alligator. . .

ROD BERNARD  (Middle pg. 4):
that type of song – the ballads with the pianos going clank, clank,
clank – and somebody told me the money-making octave, and then
the horns could sustain notes in the background, and we called it
that old Louisiana music back in thelate  50's and the 60's.   

NARRATOR
These Americanized sounds were departures from traditional French music. 
To some Acadians, the new music reflected a shame in the old culture.  

But in 1962, the beginnings of a Cajun Renaissance developed when KEUN
launched weekly remotes from Fred's lounge in Mamou.

KARL DEROUEN: 
The broadcast from Fred’s involved live Cajun music every Saturday
and Revon Reed was the emcee. I can still hear Revon checking his signal
as he’d go on at 8 o’clock in the morning and 8 o’clock in the morning
the bar was packed at Fred’s in Mamou for this big event.

NARRATOR                                                                                                                
More than forty years later, the weekly broadcast  from Fred’s lounge
still continues-  now heard over KVPI in Ville Platte.

BARRY ANCELET
It had the effect of validating local culture because it was coming in
over the airwaves just like the national broadcasts were too.

 

 

KARL DEROUEN:
As a result of Revon and guys like Revon, there was renaissance
and rebirth of the culture and nature of the music and everything
else and that’s where we are right now.

MUSIC (ZION SPIRITUAL TRAVELERS)
Glory to His Name

NARRATOR   
While radio played a part in the revival of South Louisiana Cajuns, it also
gave a voice to rural blacks and their church communities.  In it's early years
Gospel music was revolutionary.   Ironically, before Rock and roll even
existed, the term "rocking" was used by Southern gospel singers to describe
a kind of spiritual rapture. Now, in the 60's “rocking” spiritual music and
preaching, had made its' way onto the radio scene: 

NICK SPITZER (TOP OF PG. 8)
 I think black gospel radio is really powerful and really important but its very localized
in most cases in Louisiana and  its you know whatever preacher can get the air time.

SISTER PURLY TOLLIVER
I am the Jewel of the Dial

NICK SPITZER (TOP OF PG. 8) (???)
… I think of a lady who was a local Dj up in Monroe Louisiana, Sister Purly
who played a few records but mostly did advertisements and sort of preached
the gospel and it did in a wonderful way that I think you find in the black church
where you balancing kind of this delicate high minded rhetoric you know kind
of rip roaring calling in of the spirits

SISTER PURLY TOLLIVER
I’m thinking about you and I am praying for you.

MUSIC

NICK SPITZER
Because radio is an extension of the human voice- whether you’re singing or
preaching, everyone’s going to use it- so that includes black preachers as
well as white preachers.

JIMMY SWAGGART
They’re all the way from happiness!

NICK SPITZER
Even Jimmy Swaggart,, one of the most famous preachers in Louisiana,
based in Baton Rouge, is still using radio because it can get easily
" worldwide- and it’s less expensive and is still very intimate.

(APPLAUSE) JIMMY SWAGGART
Hallalujah!

NARRATOR
Radio stations had been able to maintain strong local ties by airing programs
their communities wanted. 

NARRATOR
Louisiana stations also responded at the local level to the concerns of the
nation. In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, WWL in New Orleans,
once again allowed the government to use its large and powerful radio
facilities for communications operations.

JOHN F. KENNEDY
I want to express our thanks to the radio stations who were so helpful 
and contributed such an important national service to us.

NARRATOR
Then in the late 60's and throughout the Vietnam War, KOKA in Shreveport
became the information pipeline between soldiers overseas and their families
back home, using communications provided by  Armed Forces Radio.

BB DAVIS (Top of pg. 10)

…they started sending me a 3-inch tape which would tell about 5 minutes
about the local guys in this area and I would get the tape and I would call
the parents and let the parents hear what their loved ones had to say to them. . . 
a guy was in Texarkana which is about 75 miles from Shreveport and he heard
me on the air and he drove down and the guy come in the radio station and he
says you BB Davis?  I said yes I am and he introduced himself to me.  I didn’t
know he said, you didn’t know, but you called my parents, but I just wanted
to drive down here and shake your hand and tell you how much I appreciate
what you done for us guys over there.   …

(MUSIC) 
This is number one, W-T-I-X!

NARRATOR
Some Louisiana stations, like New Orleans’ WTIX, responded to their
communities by tailoring musical selections to meet local tastes.

BOB WALKER (BOTTOM PG. 3)
… in the sixty’s you had Irma Thomas, the Neville Brothers, Ernie K-DOE,
Bennie Spellman, Lee Dorsey, all these people WTIX knew that that’s what
the community wanted to hear, WTIX gave it to them where as a station like
WNOE, the competitor, stood more toward leaned toward the uh, the national
hits, and in my opinion that endeared WTIX to the community quite a bit because
it made ties with the local singers that still exist  to this day.

NARRATOR
By  playing local New Orleans favorites WTIX surprisingly  became
one of the most prominent radio stations in the country- influencing
other stations to air many of the same songs. 

KRVS in Lafayette was also making local songs part of its' diverse
musical playlist  featuring styles like Zydeco, Cajun, Jazz, and blues
…as it still does today.  Like other community oriented stations
(around the state), KRVS also made a point to air live, local
performances and festivals:  

BARRY ANCELET
If we are going to have any chance at all of preserving Louisiana's
French culture and language and heritage it's important to have
French broadcasting on radio and television.  Eighteen and a half
years ago we began to develop the Liberty Theater Show which was
a dream come true for me.  I mean every Saturday night between six
and seven thirty I offer a class with live musicians as demonstrators
and a live audience and a live audience on the air.  I always end the
show by saying  (speaks Cajun French phrase).  That's our show for
tonight.  Ya'll be careful on the road.  We'd like to see you back in as
soon as you can. Bon Soir.  Good Night.

NARRATOR
While local audiences could help shape station content, some record
labels would attempt to influence station  playlists through illegal payments:

 

 

COSIMA MATASSA (TAPE 2/ 7.32)
When major companies got involved, they institutionalized payola. I
knew a jock out here at one of the popular stations and I’m not going to
say him or it, a certain national label would send him airplane tickets that
they bought for cash and he would go down to the airline and cash it in.
so he would play their  records..

BOB FRENCH  00-53-46-00
…  We won’t say who took it.. But there was a thing called payola.  You paid
for a tune, you’d be surprised at the tunes that got to be hits because someone
put up the money..  00-54-05-00

 

Art Neville           00-34-18-00      
If you don’t get radio play, it’s going to limit what you will be able to do..
It’s  difficult... you got so many artists out there and you got so many
people out there with lots of money that going to spend it on certain
people and that’s how it goes man...  00-34-44-00

 

NARRATOR
In 1960, an amendment to the Federal Communications Act outlawed
under-the-table payments and required broadcasters to reveal if airplay
for a song had been purchased.

NARRATOR
By the late 60's, in response to playlists shaped by corporations and
stricter regulations, a movement was born using the new technology
of FM stereo. . . . It was called "underground radio." 

 

NICK SPITZER (BOTTOM OF PG. 18)
. . . underground radio was where this sort of educated hippies went to play
the music of the era. and before all the record companies and commercial
advertisers got into it,  …we had really almost total freedom in beautiful
stereo FM  that had been largely left alone.

BOB WALKER (Bottom of Pg. 6)
… underground radio was started in New Orleans in a about 1966
there was a station called WWOM they called it mother radio and
this was the home for a very unique class of people at that time it
they featured album cuts which nobody was really listening to at the
time but it was the beginning of a new culture in radio

RADIO DJ
And Mother continues to rock your radio at ten after six.  My name is
Barabbas.  You and I are together until eight when Michael will be here.

BOB WALKER (Bottom of Pg. 6)
so WWOM picked up on this niche and they have uh quiet a few characters
that worked there they all took unique names like Judas or Popeye.

 

RADIO DJ
 “WWOM FM, New Orleans”

 

BOB WALKER (Bottom of Pg. 6)
Judas was a man named John Laroquette that’s where he got his start at mother radio

 

NARRATOR
As radio neared the 21st century, Will Henderson’s concern for what he called
“chain stores”  began to come true:   

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 increased the number of radio stations an
individual company could own in a single market.  As a result, more and more
stations were brought under the ownership of big, national  corporations--
causing most local, community formats to fade away. 

ROD BERNARD (Top of pg. 6)
In fact you can go… today – I can take my records and go to most stations
around here and ask them and they'll say right away, we don't play local
records.  They'll stick to the top 20 or top 40 and that's all they'll play. 

BOB FENCH (TAPE #1)  00-39-58-00
. . . You know it’s like you’re  listening at a radio station, they may be
running the music from New York City and the station is in new Orleans. 
So, but you gonna hear the same thing everyday basically around the same
time everyday, b/c it’s all programmed.  00-40-33-00

BB DAVIS  (TOP OF PG. 9)
You don’t have a lot of community news and
etc on your radio stations now. They don’t really gear to that
anymore. Back in the old days; that was the life of the radio station
really…

NARRATOR
Resisting the homogenization of radio, a handful of Louisiana stations
have managed to maintain an independence, diversity, and distinctive
community sound as part of their broadcast mission: 

NICK SPITZER (PG. 24- 2ND INTERVIEW)
you have a place like WWOZ where people are starting to mix and mingle
across lines of race and class through shared love of culture and a station
like OZ …puts all kinds of community voices on the air..

DJ 
This cd’s titled Dis, dat, or The Other and that’s Mac
Rebennack
It’s called the Monkey Speaks His Mind.  Get em Mac!

LARRY MCKINLEY:  (TOP PG. 6)                                                                         
. . . to me that is a throwback to real radio. You have different personalities.
They have freedom; and they play good music and they play all types of music.

 

ART NEVILLE  (Tape #2)   00-39-00-00
They play every.. I mean any type of music.  They play French, they play
Spanish, they play the  cajun, they play the local  r &  b, the local jazz.....
00-39-58-00

MUSIC (KERWIN RUFFIN)
If I had a million dollars, I’d go and buy some chocolate flowers.

NICK SPITZER (24/25- 2ND INTERVIEW)
. . .  its  on in a fancy uptown home, its on in the cab, you know, its on next
to the lucky dog vendor on the transistor, uh…you know its on everywhere.

BOB FRENCH  TAPE 2  (01-03-11-00)
But. . .  this station and stations like it all over the country are important
b/c they’re not run by corporations- they’re run by people who know
something about music-   corp. only know about the dollar-- you know,
people here know about good music
. . .  (01-04-19-00)

DJ
So the next time ya’ll are by, 10:58 in the morning.  This is WWOZ FM in New Awlins

DJ
I just got one thing to say about that Coz. . .

 

NICK SPITZER (Top of Pg. 11)
I think K-BON is a really amazing station. They’ve realized that uh the
local music that people love goes into a bunch of directions, its Cajun, its
Zydeco, its Rhythm and Blues, it’s soul, it’s Louisiana Music, you know
embedded in the call letters, is the joke on K-BON, how great, how good…

DJ
KBON 101.1 , your variety music station.

PAUL MARX (Top of pg. 13)
My concern was to get the people to listen to Cajun music, to get the
people to listen to swamp pop music, to get people to listen to zydeco
music, to get people to listen to the other local artists we have in the area. 

PAUL MARX (bottom of pg. 9)
Can you imagine if the local sound, the local music would close up and
we'd sounded  just like everybody else, what reason would we have for
people to come to LA …

GOLDMAN THIBODAUX (Top of pg. 2)
– they keeping the old tradition where it won't die out.  And if it wouldn't
be for people like them – all of  this would be bye-bye

 

GOSPEL LEADER
Singing songs of Faith, Hope and inspiration, the Zion Travelers Spiritual Singers." 

NARRATOR
The Baton Rouge Zion Travelers started broadcasting their Sunday morning gospel
radio show back in 1948 at a white-owned station- which was unheard of at the time. 
Now, over a half century later, the spiritual singers are still  broadcasting the same
show on the same station- WIBR in Baton Rouge: 

MUSIC (GOSPEL SINGERS)
You've got to move, you've got to move, you've got to move

Robert McKinnis (Tape #1)
00-45-47-00
You wake up in the morning and turn on your radio and you got
the gospel, something that can bring you love. . . you know some
people in the world probably can’t make it to church, but they
turn the radio on and then the first thing they hear is the Zion
Traveler spiritual singers and the songs  that we sing uplift their
spirit and give them what they’re missing . . . 00-46-24-00

 

 

Ado Dyson (Tape #2)   01-01-36-00
 I’m sure that this is something that the public don’t know that other
radio stations you have to pay a fee for the time you’re on there...
the Zion Travelers all these 56 yrs. have never paid a penny.   01-01-59-00

(MUSIC) (GOSPEL SINGERS)
Have a little talk with Jesus, Tell him about our troubles

Robert McKinnis  00-48-48-00    
. . .. We thank God for WIBR- for having us b/c I don’t think any other
station would they’d  probably with changes and the way things are
they might say hey we don’t need this any longer, or  let’s go with
something else , so WIBR is staying with the tradition and people
are being blessed.  00-49-13-00

(MUSIC) (GOSPEL SINGERS)
 “Have a little talk with Jesus makes it right”

NARRATOR
One program that has reflected the many, varied aspects of Louisiana
music is a Public Radio show called American Routes.  Based in
New Orleans, host Nick Spitzer weaves together musical history,
while reflecting a mix of all different musical cultures- from blues
and jazz to  rock and zydeco.  But, while American Routes
(spelled r-o-u-t-e-s) is a nationally syndicated program, the music
is heavy on the Louisiana Roots.

RADIO HOST
"You're on American Routes"

NICK SPITZER (PG. 21- INTV. 2)
… I thought I would make this show American routes it will embrace
all kinds of American music but it will have a very strong New Orleans
gulf south southern Louisiana feel to it in content and in concept that
mixing mingling concept to the true to old routes of things that’s what
we’ve tried to do with the show and everyone said it wouldn’t work…

 

NICK SPITZER (PG. 21- INTV. 2)
And so the show is just the tumbling forward set of segways based
around topical ideas sounds that have an awful lot to do with life
here in Louisiana  as lived on the grounds and the music scene.

(MUSIC- American Routes Theme Song)

 

 

NARRATOR
Louisiana and its’ radio waves have created sounds with a vision. 
Visions of entertainment and crisis. . . disillusionment and glory. 
Wherever history  has taken Louisiana and America, radio has also
been there-  influencing and being influenced...: 

KEVIN FONTENOT:
. . .  I think we tend to forget radio. It’s always there in the car. there’s the
radio we have em at the house we have em at work we don’t think about
radio and what a radical radical technology it was and it is . .

NICK SPITZER (9PG. 26- 2ND INTVW.)
And one of the blessings of radio is that it’s still relatively inexpensive no-
picture. And you know it has an intimacy and direct connection to the
human imagination that will make it I think essentially an almost
progressive medium for the future, if its in the right hands

B.B DAVIS (LAST PAGE).:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
 “Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a hip-shaking; foot-stomping;
toe tapping; heel kicking; knee knocking; finger popping; shoulder
hipping good time.  We gonna shoot the juice to the moose and spread
some gravel for everybody’s daughter to travel.  Get high like a Georgia
pine spread fourteen different ways, Finer than camel hair like a pony
on a range.  Tommorrow, same time, same place.”

(MUSIC)  (Sarah Vaughn’s Who Listens to Radio?)
Who listens to radio?  That go where you go medium called Radio. 
That’s with you through the night, through the long commuter flight,
and in the morning with your toast and marmaladeoo!  Who listens to radio..
Only 150 million people, only 150 million people, only 150 million people, that’s all!

For more information on this program visit LPB on line.

Funding for this program is provided in part by a grant from the
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the
National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment
for the Arts, The Louisiana State Arts Council and the Louisiana
Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of
Culture, Recreation, and Tourism.

(MUSIC)

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