Friday, July 02, 2010

The Interracial Goodwill Hour

I keep reading about this show.It was mentioned in both the Fats Domino biography "Blue Monday" and the history of Detroit Rock "Grit, Noise: Revolution: the Birth of Detroit Rock n' Roll." Both were fleeting references but; "The Interracial Goodwill Hour" has a certain memorably over-wordy awkwardness.

The program ran nightly Monday through Friday on 1400 WJLB-AM in Detroit, his home town. He was a high school drop-our who found a second chance in radio.  In some ways he followed in the footsteps of a  fellow DJ on WJLB named Jack-the-bellboy.  But Randle wasn't as low key as Jack.  Randle saw the airplay of black artists as political not just musical.  Allow me to quote from Blue Monday:
"The seed's of Randle's revolt were sewn in the working-class politics of his father, a union-organizer during the Depression.  In 1944 after race riots in Detroit over war jobs killed more than thirty blacks  the twenty-one year old Randle hosted the The Interracial Goodwill Hour jazz radio show.  "I did anything I could to subvert the system," says  Randle, who hung out in the black community and ran a jazz night club. "I was playing black music to say to the white establishment "Fuck You!"
Calling it a jazz show was a bit narrow.  He spun rhythm and blues music and hot jazz.  It ran for only 4 years.  In 1949 his program was canceled and he moved to 1490 WERE-AM in Cleveland. As a pioneering disc jockey at radio station WERE-AM.  Randle was a huge taste-maker in the 1950s.  He broke almost every Fat's Domino single.He was pivotal in the pop crossover of Fats.  

At WERE Randle was fired by his Program Director for playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe's version of "Silent Night."  But the station owner rehired him, he had a lot of listeners and got a lot of attention.  In 1954 Downbeat magazine called him "the single most important and powerful record-spinner in the country."  They didn't say that about Alan Freed.  that was before Freed even got his first gig on 1010 WINS. In the 1950's while rock n' roll was on the upswing Bill went back to school at Case Western Reserve University. He got his PhD in 1955, and went on to rack up nine more degrees.  He was still DJing 2-7 Monday through Friday and flying to New York to Host a Saturday afternoon show on WCBS.  Not bad for a high school drop out. He started doing freelance A&R which he continued to do well into the 1980s.He died on July 11, 2004 still on air, still in Cleveland but now on adult standards WRMR.
In January of 2000 Rep Dennis Kucinich [D] read a tribute to Bill Randle on the floor of the House of Representatives. It read in part:
"Bill Randle has been a notable figure at WRMR 850 AM since his being named Top Jock" by Time [magazine] in the 1950s. Randle helped start up such acts as Montovani, Johnny Ray, The Crewcuts, the Diamonds, and even Elvis Presley."