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  1. #1
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    Default Great article I found about the history of black radio in Detroit

    I'm currently listening to old clips of The Famous Coachman and The Electrifying Mojo, and remembering that radio can be something special when people with passion, intensity, and a coherent vision are given free reign over the playlist and microphone. I used to hear these guys do live broadcasts, back when I was a young whippersnapper.

    http://blogfiles.wfmu.org/DY/electri...loween_rap.mp3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXu3Alw0-Hw
    http://www.wfmu.org/listen.ram?show=20565&archive=30411


    I'm also very grateful that someone wrote a beautiful article about them, as well as a Detroit radio personality I'm too young to remember: Ernie Durham.

    ------------


    Three Legends of Detroit Black Radio

    January 28, 2008 by Tom Sanders

    Flint, Michigan wasn't a pretty place. Detroit was bigger, but that doesn't always equal nicer. Fortunately, there was radio to soften the tough personas of these two cities.

    Everyday life, even that far north, in the Sixties, was still to some extent segregated. There were the white, and black, parts of town; boundaries defined by certain streets and factories and the Flint River; places you simply didn't go if you weren't the right color. On the radio dial, there were black stations and white stations. Flint's, and Detroit's, large black populations meant that those playing current singles dipped deeper into the jazz and rhythm and blues charts. There were also stations that played "good music" (as opposed to the stuff I listened to), whose positioners implied that the music their competitors played was something other than good. The distinction was still black vs. white.

    To a kid who grew up out in the country, Flint seemed like it was on the other side of the world. Detroit may as well have been in the next galaxy. Radio waves shortened those distances. Three legends of black radio, the equals of any deejays in any PBS documentary, shattered the boundaries.

    ERNIE DURHAM - WBBC Flint / WJLB - WDET Detroit

    . . . ooo-wee, it's Frantic Ernie D for thee! My darlin' my dears, please lend me your ears, and dig these sounds that go around, sounds so neat, sounds oh so sweet, sounds to rock ya, roll ya, satisfy your soul, ya hear?

    Author, poet, and Sixties activist John Sinclair, who grew up in Davison -- right outside Flint -- tells the story of how, when the call came to play baseball in the sandlot down the street, he would sometimes tell his friends no, he had to stay in and listen to Ernie D count down the week's top ten records.

    Ernie Durham started on Booth Broadcasting's WBBC. The bosses at WJLB -- for owner James L. Booth -- decided that anyone with a following the size of his, who could sell that much of his sponsors' products, belonged in Detroit. For a while, he worked at both stations, before freeways, when the 100 mile round trip commute was all on surface streets.

    WJLB, although purchased from white owners, was America's first black-owned radio station. It played whatever black music was called at the time -- jump, jive, rhythm and blues, soul -- in the daytime, and at night aired programs for Detroit's Greek, Polish, and Hungarian communities.

    Through the Sixties, Ernie Durham had the key afternoon shift, when it seemed like everyone in Detroit was on the road. Drivers crawling on Woodward, and on the Lodge, the Edsel Ford, and on the Chrysler Freeway around Nine Mile where it still backs up like clockwork around five every afternoon, would hear something like this:

    . . . twenty minutes past five is the time, in the land of rhyme, on TigerRadio 14 WJLB, with Ernie D for thee . . . Jun-ior Walk-er and his crew, now, to sing for you . . . hear what I mean, Mama Queen - what does it take? To win your love . . . great googa-mooga shooga-rooga!

    Shakespeare, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Kerouac, in one package. It made sitting in traffic bearable. You'd wish it was published, so you could have it to hold and read, or at least that you could get it on tape, just Ernie's raps, like the Charlie Parker fan who followed Bird from show to show just to record his solos.

    If you met Ernie D off the air and started a casual conversation, he'd speak in rhyme. He couldn't help it. He came from a time when the star on every black station was the cat with the crazy name who rhymed everything.

    Ernie Durham left radio for advertising, but in 1992 returned to Motor City airwaves on Wayne State University's WDET. He sounded ever so grand on the FM band.

    THE FAMOUS COACHMAN - WDET

    . . . at this time I would like to ask you - are you ready for some blues? . . . Plenty of blues . . . many, many blues . . . that you've never heard before . . . and some you may never hear again . . . and some you may not have heard in a long, long time . . . let's do it like this now! Bo - Bo Jenkins! Let's shake 'em on down! Look out, Detroit and neighboring cities! This is the blues this morning!

    Bobo Jenkins owned the Big Star Recording Studio, on Detroit's west side, and played blues guitar. His music was as rough as a gravel road.

    By the mid-1970s, soul had gone Vegas, and disco had become America's urban music. Very few radio stations played blues. No station in Detroit played any. Bobo Jenkins decided the time had come for a local blues show, and that the Coachman would be its host.

    Every station they tried said no. Finally, WDET said yes.

    If you could stay awake until two AM on Saturday night -- actually Sunday morning -- you would hear, as the Coachman promised, many, many blues that, unless you had a large record collection, you had never heard before.

    I thought "Famous Coachman" was an air name, like Wolfman Jack, since even he called himself "THE Famous Coachman." I pictured a sharp-looking man in uniform, in charge of a team of horses pulling a fancy coach; a streetwise dude who came across on the air as the guy you didn't question when the subject was blues.

    Coachman was his real last name, and Famous, more common in the South than up north, was his given first name. He owned a tiny shop, Coachman's Radio And Records, on East Charlevoix Avenue, that was stuffed with blues 45s and albums and autographed pictures, and tubes, and radios and TV sets in various states of repair. An often told story was that John Lee Hooker, when he lived in Detroit and needed a TV repairman, called on the Coachman.

    On "Blues After Hours," records skipped. Scratchy records were played. Songs would be introduced, buttons pushed, and nothing would happen. The Coachman talked over instrumental breaks, and over whole records. He'd sing along. ("Hey! Hey! The blues is all right!") Dead air would be followed by several minutes of rambling, in a throaty growl that made the listener think a lion had slipped on headphones and opened the mike. The show sounded like me and my friends did when, with an old turntable and Dixie cups for mikes, we pretended we were on the radio.

    Perfection often becomes dull.

    Actresses whose looks give the impression that God used one of the six days just on them can appear ho-hum when compared with a slightly flawed girl. Too thin, nose too big, a mole where the world can see it. Skinny legs. Superficial flaws. But they give the less-than-perfect actress whatever "it" is that endears her to the public, skinny legs and all.

    The Coachman's "it" was his on-air sound. "It" was how I had imagined radio sounding down South, fifty years before, while wishing I had been there.

    <...continued...>

  2. #2
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    THE ELECTRIFYING MOJO - WGPR / WJLB / WHYT Detroit

    When you're nearing the end of your rope, don't slide off . . . tie a knot . . . keep hanging . . . keep remembering . . . ain't nobody bad like you . . . For the next five hours there will be no need to change stations, insert eight track tapes, cassettes, video discs or other music or entertainment paraphernalia . . . sit back and relax . . . let Mojo handle it . . .

    WGPR -- Where God's Presence Radiates -- sounded the most down-home of any Detroit station. Fittingly, its studios were in a building, on East Jefferson Avenue at Mt. Elliott, that had once housed an automobile dealership.

    This building was also home to WGPR-TV, America's first black-owned television station. Its broadcast day circa late 1970s consisted primarily of old public domain movies played from video cassettes. Wrinkles and dropouts would pass by on the screen.

    Come midnight, while "Reefer Madness" was on channel 62, the visitor to 107.5 on the FM dial would hear this:

    Will all the members of the Midnight Funk Association please rise . . . if you are in bed, you don't have to get up, as long as you get down . . . if you are in water, make waves . . . if you are driving - honk your horn, flash your lights . . . if you are at home, turn on your porch light for the next hour to show solidarity with the MFA . . . This meeting of the International Midnight Funk Association is hereby called to order, Electrifying Mojo presiding . . . may the funk be with you always . . .

    I flashed my headlights. In traffic coming the other way, I'd see blink-blink . . . blink-blink . . .

    No one called anything "awesome" in 1979. But this was; pure theater of the mind coming from a little room in the orphan radio station on the east side of town.
    Mojo was deliberately secretive. He never allowed himself to be photographed. Few people knew his real name. Between radio jobs, he would hole up and listen to music, and radio, all day, for weeks. As he explained -- over music from Star Wars soundtracks -- he came to Earth from a distant galaxy in his Mothership, with one purpose in mind: to play music for the inhabitants of our planet.

    He did, however, admit to, while a long record was on, standing at the plate glass window of the former auto showroom and watching traffic pass on East Jefferson, just to get a feel for the city whose rhythms and sounds and people he loved.

    If I was headed home late -- with WGPR on, of course -- and the light at Mt. Elliott turned red, I'd roll up to it and look for a shadowy figure standing between the parted curtains. If there was none, I pretended he was there anyway.

    Mojo took the Mothership to WJLB, by that time on FM, and then to WHYT; the former WJR-FM that had dropped beautiful music for a top 40 "Hot Hits" format in 1982. A Mojo set might include, between New Edition, Run DMC, and Prince; Falco, the B-52s, or Thomas Dolby. The gap between black stations and white stations had virtually disappeared.

    Over four hundred friends gathered at Detroit's Tried Stone Baptist Church, on December 7, 1992, to say goodbye to Ernie Durham. The Coachman passed on Christmas Eve 2000. The Detroit Metro Times printed a tribute. Mojo is still in town, somewhere, possibly on 105.9 WDMK. The original Mothership, thanks to a donated collection of old airchecks, lands every Friday night at ten, Motor City time, on Detroit-based Internet broadcaster Emancipation Radio.

    In the radio business, last month can seem nostalgic. Not that many calendar years have passed since Ernie D and the Coachman and Mojo ruled, but it can seems like forever. 1400 in Detroit is now a talk station. You have to search hard among the talk shows on WDET to find music. "Air personalities" -- they're not deejays anymore -- read what is written for them, and none of it rhymes. (So much for personality.) And having blues on any station that calls itself Kiss or The Mix would be asking way too much of an already overburdened world.

    Fortunately, there was tape. Airchecks allow the next generations to hear samples of what made this era of black radio history so great. Tape does come with a curse, however. Regardless of how many airchecks you have, or hear, you'll always wish there were more.

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/art...io.html?cat=33

  3. #3
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    Great!!!!
    Thanks..

  4. #4
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    I can recall a Dan Akroyd interview where he would listen to Famous while travelling between the Second City centers of Chicago and Toronto. This would take him through Detroit at odd hours. He would always listen to Famous and his briefcase of blues. Famous was the inspiration for the Blues Brothers.

  5. #5
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    Coachman, Mojo, and Frantic Ernie, what a treat!
    Loved 'em all.
    Radio was once alive and well. Local stations, with local personalities. Sometimes, the best part of a road trip was searching for the right station with the right vibe.
    In Detroit, we were fortunate to have these guys. Don't forget Lee Alan, with his fine tuned horn!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DetroitPlanner View Post
    I can recall a Dan Akroyd interview where he would listen to Famous while travelling between the Second City centers of Chicago and Toronto. This would take him through Detroit at odd hours. He would always listen to Famous and his briefcase of blues. Famous was the inspiration for the Blues Brothers.

    Now THAT is cool.

    I remember hearing a couple of Famous Coachman shows archived online a few years ago, but they're gone now. Somebody NEEDS to make some mp3s of the Coachman and put 'em on a server.

    I really miss that man. Before I heard his show, I thought the blues began with Albert King and ended with ZZ Top. That might have been true in the alphabetical sense, but Coachmen knew there was a difference between having the knowledge and understanding what it meant.

    "It's not enough to memorize the notes, you have to realize why they need to be played."
    -George Carlin
    Last edited by humanmachinery; August-28-09 at 04:31 PM.

  7. #7
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    Anyone remember the "1440 WCHB SOUL RADIO" jingle?

  8. #8
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    Good Stuff HM....thanx for sharing.

    LONG LIVE BLACK RADIO! Another extension of the Black experience...The brilliance of something being born out of necessity!

    My favorite station growing up was 107.5 WGPR. They jammed me through many days of boredom. I remember meeting MOJO at the studio when me and my crew decided to stop by the studio as we were riding on bikes back from our trip to the Isle. He gave us MFA (Midnight Funk Association) buttons, cards and T-shirts (wish I still had the shirt), and promised to give us a shout out over the radio waves.

    Here is a list of Black radio DJs that shaped my view of Detroit Radio.

    JC, James Cage (WGPR weekday mornings)
    Rock'n Reg Brown (WGPR Saturday mornings)
    Marvelous Marv (Your Midday DJ)
    Tiger Dan (Your Drive Time DJ)
    Reubin The Bukka (1440 am)
    Tony 'T Square' Anthony (WGPR after drive time)
    The Rose (WJZZ)
    Buzz Gorie (WGPR 'Deep Space Six' broadcast)


    .....and even though he wasn't an on air DJ, Jeff Mills ought to be mentioned when one speaks of great Black Detroit DJs. Jeff Mills, aka 'The Wizard', revolutionized Detroit radio with his unique style of mixing. He brought the Club to Detroit radio. I believe MOJO first introduced the Wizard on the MFA.


    HM, you mentioned that MOJO's broadcast is currently on air at 105.9 WDMK on Friday nights? If so, WHAT a pleasant surprise!

    blksoul_atcha!
    The BJL, the color you love to hate!

  9. #9
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    Anyone know the title of the song that's playing at the beginning of Coachman's show at the wmfu link in the initial post?

  10. #10

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    I listened to Coachman from his beginning on WDET. A friend and I would sit in the car with a beer and maybe a doobie, listen to his show and practice on our harmonicas. Good times. I called him at the studio a few times. He usually took some time to B.S. with me about blues music and blues artists. He was a cool guy.

    Don't forget about Ed Love. This guy continues to educate me about some good music.

    These are probably the only d.j.'s that I would listen to in order to hear what they have to say, and not just for the music. Oh, and Robert Jones too.

    Not only do they spin the records, they are true professors in the art they love.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by blksoul_x View Post
    Good Stuff HM....thanx for sharing.

    HM, you mentioned that MOJO's broadcast is currently on air at 105.9 WDMK on Friday nights? If so, WHAT a pleasant surprise!
    Not that I know of, but it's possible I didn't write that article. I think they were talking about Emancipation Radio. That's an online webcast sort of deal.

    http://www.emancipationradio.com

    I don't see him listed on their Friday night schedule, so this info might be out of date. The article is over a year old.

    As for WDMK, he might be on staff there in some other way. Wiki says he's rumored to be a program director at a number of local stations, but he probably wouldn't tell you if it were true. Mojo does his own thing on his own time.

  12. #12
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    The Electrifying Mojo helped shape my appreciation for that style. Super-cool, confident, fun-loving and serious - simultaneously. I first heard Mojo on WAAM, but he came on strong with his WGPR format.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Anyone know the title of the song that's playing at the beginning of Coachman's show at the wmfu link in the initial post?
    I was just gonna ask that myself, Mike. I've been wanting to know that for years.

    Anyone remember when Mojo had the B-52s in the studio? They did the whole "Mesopotamia" EP live, acapella. They named their "Whammy" album after him. I think Fred Schneider used to be pals with the people who ran Penny Pincher's vintage shop in Southgate.

    How about when Mojo had Sly Stone on? They kept right on talking over the old Family Stone records, and Sly shouted "There's my sister Rose!" when her part came on.

    It was always funny when Mojo would get fixated on one song and play it 7 or 8 times during his show. Just because he felt like it. One night, when he was on in Toledo, he kept playing Stevie's "All in Love is Fair" and people called in, talking about what the song meant to them.

    Where else could you hear Funkadelic, the Human League, and "The Rollin' Stones" one after the other? I miss those days.

  14. #14
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    Bumping this thread, because I found more audio from Frantic Ernie and Famous Coachman.

    The website Radio Free Amsterdam has two recorded Frantic Ernie shows. You can listen to the first one for free, but the second one costs 99ยข. To listen to the first one, click the top link, and then scroll down to the "Mp3" buttons at the bottom of the playlist. Click those, and you should get an audio player

    http://www.radiofreeamsterdam.com/ca...-ernie-durham/


    You can hear Famous Coachman talking over a song on this page. You can find it on the player, titled "I May Be Down." The music player is in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

    http://www.myspace.com/davidahowick

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Anyone know the title of the song that's playing at the beginning of Coachman's show at the wmfu link in the initial post?
    Erskine Hawkins - After Hours

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CYQ6YZHMEE

  16. #16
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    My favorite DJ was "Frantic" Ernie Durham when WJLB was 1400 AM.

  17. #17
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    I spent many wee hours of the morning listening to the Famous Coachman morph from the blues into gospel music. The smoothest transition ever heard. He talked to me.

  18. #18
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    In the '60s we used to listen to WJLB and WCHB at night. The DJs and the music on those stations were energizing and really caught the listener up in the flow of the times. Even mainstream stations in Detroit were amazing in those days, and continued to be amazing for 25 or 30 years. We had fantastic radio talent in this town.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by blksoul_x View Post
    Good Stuff HM....thanx for sharing.

    LONG LIVE BLACK RADIO! Another extension of the Black experience...The brilliance of something being born out of necessity!

    My favorite station growing up was 107.5 WGPR. They jammed me through many days of boredom. I remember meeting MOJO at the studio when me and my crew decided to stop by the studio as we were riding on bikes back from our trip to the Isle. He gave us MFA (Midnight Funk Association) buttons, cards and T-shirts (wish I still had the shirt), and promised to give us a shout out over the radio waves.

    Here is a list of Black radio DJs that shaped my view of Detroit Radio.

    JC, James Cage (WGPR weekday mornings)
    Rock'n Reg Brown (WGPR Saturday mornings)
    Marvelous Marv (Your Midday DJ)
    Tiger Dan (Your Drive Time DJ)
    Reubin The Bukka (1440 am)
    Tony 'T Square' Anthony (WGPR after drive time)
    The Rose (WJZZ)
    Buzz Gorie (WGPR 'Deep Space Six' broadcast)


    .....and even though he wasn't an on air DJ, Jeff Mills ought to be mentioned when one speaks of great Black Detroit DJs. Jeff Mills, aka 'The Wizard', revolutionized Detroit radio with his unique style of mixing. He brought the Club to Detroit radio. I believe MOJO first introduced the Wizard on the MFA.


    HM, you mentioned that MOJO's broadcast is currently on air at 105.9 WDMK on Friday nights? If so, WHAT a pleasant surprise!

    blksoul_atcha!
    The BJL, the color you love to hate!

    X, you been laying rather low round here for a while.

    Buzz Gorie's Deep Space Radio rarely gets any mention, probably because it was so damn short lived (one full summer maybe), and came on Saturdays late nite, where you could drive to the club and hear it but never finish the show. But man, he could blow your mind out with that Detroit sound often identified as "techno" but it was so much deeper and industrial. While Derrick May and KMS are often identified with the genre, Juan's raw style, post Cybotron and Model 500, reminded you of driving by the Packard Plant, drivin' down Jefferson, and influenced the guests that Gorie would have in the studio.


    Interesting now how half the poppy radio these days has the foundation of that sound we grew up with 25 years ago, except they've bastardized it with the voice box, the trance, and the soullessness.

    We were lucky, and we knew it then. We miss it now.

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