Friday, November 18, 2011

DJ Cuzzin Linnie

A few months ago I read an all too short obituary for Cuzzin Linnie (aka Cousin Linnie, Cousin Linny) in the Dallas Observer. His friends just called him "The Cuz." It was said that Sam Cooke gave him that nickname. It was hard to cross the color line in broadcasting in the 40s and 50s. But for each format there is a demographic, and for Top-40 the DJs were as white as wonder bread in the 60s. Linwood  "Cuzzin Linnie" Henderson broke that color barrier when he was hired at 1190 KLIF-AM. KNON's Weird Warren Harris once said that Cuzzin Linnie was the "first guy to play soul on a rock radio station..."  It's a bold claim, but Harris was there and I wasn't.  Sadly Linwood was only inducted into the Texas Radio Fall of Fame posthumously. 

In all the hullabaloo between his tragic death and his hall of fame induction November 6th, the actual story of his rise to fame and his tragic fall has been lost. So lets get on with it. He started out at 1590 KPRS-AM in Kansas City, MO in the 1950s. He was born in 1937, so it was probably around 1958. KPRS-AM was the nation's first Black radio station west of the Mississippi River. It was founded by Andrew "Skip" Carter as a as a 500-watt daytimer with a transmitter donated by former Kansas governor, Alf Landon. I have no affirmative date on when he started there but the station signed on in 1951. The following year, Carter and Ed and Psyche Pate bought the station from Johnson County Broadcasting Corporation.It may be a coincidence, but In 1969, Carter became the majority owner and that's when Cuzzin Linnie shows up as the first black DJ on KLIF-AM.

In 1974 Linwood's career took a dramatic detour. I'll just cut right to the climax and work backwards. Allow me to quote the December issue of Texas Monthly, 1974:
"The arrest of KLIF's popular disc jockey — now ex-employee — Linwood (Cousin Linny) Henderson in September proved a cheerless and unnerving event for the station. Hendersonwas charged with (and later indicted for) two counts of third degree theft involving 37 stolen televisions and other goods valued at $13,000."
Despite the hubbub, Cousin Linnnie later returned to KLIF so his all-night show had two sequential runs with a brief interruption. It complicates his resume slightly. Consider it a brief interruption. He was at KLIF from 1969 to 1974 and again from 1977 to 1979.  Where was he from 1974 to 1977?  Was it prison?  No, while I have no firm data on that, it appears he went straight to 105.3 KXXK-FM, then a pop station. In 1977 he crossed the street to 730 KKDA-AM  a station known as Soul 73.

He remained there until station politics purged the staff in 1998. The year before that Dick J. Reavis published a texas guide book that mentioned The Cuz "The king of KKDA is "Cousin" Linnie Henderson, a thin, chain-smoking elder who refuses to disclose his age..."  He let commercial radio in 1998 at 61 years old, and began DJing at the legendary non-com,  89.3 KNON-FM.