Friday, January 08, 2010

Three Poppa Stoppas

There were at least three disc jockeys who used the name "Poppa Stoppa" in New Orleans on 990 WJMR-AM. If you believe in the popular theory that rock n' roll came from New Orleans, the scene that produced Fats Domino, then Poppa Stoppa was the first Rock n' Roll Disc Jockey.

Our tale begins in 1947. The name was actually made up by Mr. Vernon Winslow, who later became known as "Doctor Daddy-O." The reason his airtime came later is that Winslow wasn't white. In 1947 being black and on air just wasn't something that happened in Louisiana. So Vernon coached the white disc jockeys on talking jive. It was a lesson on how to sound black and at least in terms of the new music that was bubbling up, it was a lesson in hipness.

The Book "Blue Monday" explains it like this:

"The idea for the first black radio program in New Orleans began that summer then Vernon Winslow, an art instructor at the all-black Dillard University had written local radio stations proposing a "colored" show. Winslow boldly walked in the front door of the segregated Jung Hotel and took the elevator up to the offices of WJMR-AM, the one station that had expressed interest in the program."
Station manager Stanley Ray was certainly interested in the advertising dollars of black businesses. But it was 1947. Stanley was still a bigot. He wouldn't let Vernon Winslow announce the program because he was black. Now let me remind you that Vernon Winslow was fair skinned, but he was creole, and part-black. In the south at that time, even one-drop of "black blood" was enough to make him black. That meant Vernon had to tack some white DJ to talk jive. Vernon was actually a fair skinned creole.. but that is black enough if you're a bigot in 1947.

Poppa Stoppa was a slang term for condoms. Vernon was actually born in Chicago to a well-to-do family. He came to Louisiana as an art professor. So Poppa Stoppa became the on-air name of whatever host was reading Vernon's scripts on the program Clarence Hayman "Jam Jive and Gumbo." Some Poppa Stoppa were Dillard University students. Henry "Duke" Thiele was another early Poppa Stoppa voice. Clarence Hayman (a.k.a. Hamann) replaced Thiele in 1956. Some sources list the year at 1953, this is incorrect.

But the legend lived on. You don't have to leave radio just because you're not Poppa Stoppa anymore. Vernon became Dr. Daddy-O on WEZZ-AM. In 1956 Hayman moved to WBOK-AM, then WSDL-AM in 1978. Thiele died in 1966. Their success led first to the creation of Rhythm & Blues are a industry term, and then the successive creation of rock n' roll itself.