Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Acey Boy's Turntable Review

Albert "Acey Boy" Wilson is another early and obscure figure in Black Radio. Multiple sources claim he was the first black DJ in Knoxville. His station 1340 WKGN-AM is almost as arcane as he is. It lacks a definitive history. I first read of him in a pdf, The History of Mechanicsville, TN. It's a long quote but I'll run all of it to credit properly how nicely the KCDC wrote him up:
"A very popular spot of the 1950s that had curb service was the Pitch-Fork Drive-in operated by Albert “Acey Boy” Wilson at the intersection of University Avenue and Maria Street. It was open all night with fast foods and attracted those who had nothing to do the next day. Wilson had become Knoxville’s first black disc jockey in 1949 with his R&B show on Radio WKGN. He called his show “The Turntable Review,” and hosted sock hops at Chilhowee Park and the Payne Avenue Center. Born in Greeneville, Tennessee April 24, 1911, he came to Knoxville and worked as a waiter at the Doggie Patch, Highlands Grill, the Southland and other places. He celebrated his first anniversary at Chilhowee Park with big band leader Erskine Hawkins and 2,000 of his fans March 26, 1950."
So Acey Boy became a DJ for the first time at the surprising age of 38! He lived on Moses Street in Mechanicsville and was the successful proprietor of a Drive-In at the corner of University Avenue and Maria Street in Knoxville. That patch of earth is now occupied by a Dept. of Labor building and a vacant lot.

WKGN-AM first signed on September 28th 1947 already signed up as a Mutual Network affiliate. The calls still reside on 1340 where they always have save a brief identity crisis in 1987 when they became an oldies outlet with the calls WLIQ. it only lasted a year and they returned to WKGN in 1988 with a new Urban Contemporary format. It was a mistake but not as big as that "all-disco" mistake in 1978. They spent most of the 1960s and 1970s with a Top-40 format, but have been running Regional Mexican since they dropped Urban Contemporary in 2006. But it was that era between 1947 and 1961 that was most interesting. It's interesting because Wilson was playing Rhythm & Blues (I.E. rock n' roll) on his Turntable Review program.

In 1947 the Station Manager was Clarence Beaman Jr. It's hard to say if he was still around when Mr. Albert C. Wilson first got a time slot. The station ran at a meager 250 watts back then, but at least it was unlimited hours of operation. The book, Knoxville's WIVK by Ed Hooper tells us that he was rated one of America's most outstanding disk jockeys by Color Magazine. But also that he later hosted a jazz program: The Acey Boy Show, which  aired in the evenings. More here.

On March 18th 2003, John J Duncan Jr. [R] read a tribute to WIVK into the record of the House of Representatives. His comments lead me to believe that either he got the wrong year and call letters for Wilson, or that Wilson left WKGN for WIVK around 1954. That would also indicate that his Jazz program noted in Hooper's book aired on WIVK not WKGN. But this is where the trail ends for now.
"The station also hired A. C. Wilson, one of the city’s first black disc jockeys in 1954. Wilson hosted ‘‘The Acey Boy Show,’’ which featured jazz and hot rhythm and blues. ‘‘He was a super guy,’’ recalled Dick. ‘‘If he hadn’t have died, he could’ve really gone places.’’