Friday, November 15, 2013

WDAS Original Soul Sounds

If you are from Philly, or have lived in Philly, or near Philly, or even took a long-ish visit to Philly you probably know the call letters WDAS. The station sighed on in Ocean City, NJ in 1922 as 1200 WIAD-AM. The station was privately owned by Howard Miller. Yes, the Philly heritage station is secretly from New Jersey. They didn't move to Philadelphia until late in 1923. In 1929, calls changed to WELK, and in 1934 after Miller sold the station, the new owners Dannenbaum & Steppacher, adopted the WDAS call sign for their initials. Fast forward 80 years and the term "heritage call sign" is a bit of an understatement. More here and here.  Above you can see a list of their big name staff from the peak of the soul era from the 1960s. Below are some short notes on each of the names.

Jimmy Bishop
Not just on air talent but also the Program Director and later VP of programming. He came from KATZ-AM in St Louis and in Philly he started the “The Jimmy Bishop Go Show”and sometimes called himself the "Bishop of Soul." He did a short spin on WHAT before hitting WDAS.

Larry Daley (Robert Whitfield)
In 1969 and 1970 he had the 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM slot. He was also called "The Cincinnati Kid." He was also the Production Manager.

Lord Fauntelroy (John Bandy)
He left WUST in 1960 to join WDAS first a DJ, the "Lord of Rhyme" with a bogus a fake British accent and later the Assistant General Manager. In 1966 Kaiser Broadcasting recruited Bandy to host for a short-lived program which might have been the first TV talk show hosted by a black man.

Bill Adams
He has an unfortunately common name. I know he was on WDAS from about 1959 through 1964.  The rest is a mystery. Radiomen with the same name appears on dozens of stations before and after that time window.

Carl Helm
Carl worked at WDAS from the early 1960s to the mid 1990s, longer than anyone else on this list. In 1970 he was still doing overnights, even 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM Sundays. By the late 1970s he was the Operations Manager. More here.

Jocko Henderson 
Jocko was on WDAS from 1953 to 1959. his inclusion on the list almost looks accidental among the 60s DJs. but his style and presence was a part of the ear even if he was ahead of the curve. More here.

Donny Brooks
In 1967 Brooks was rated the #4 R&B DJ by Billboard beating out even Jocko himself. Also called "Agent 00-Soul,"and "Gold-finger" he also came from KATZ-A, and WBBR-AM in St. Louis following Jimmy Bishop but with a long stopover at WCHB-AM in Detroit. In 1968 he went back to St. Louis, to become music director and program director at KATZ and later DJ'd at KKSS.

Louise Williams
Also known as the Gospel Queen, Williams had a 25 year career in radio and became an ordained Baptist minister. She quit radio only after she was elected to the state legislature.

Mitch Thomas
Before WDAS he was on WILM, and was reputed to be the first black DJ in the state. He joined WDAS in 1955. Mitch was not a Philly boy, he took the train up from Wilmington to do his program. Which makes sense that he had a second job hosting a TV show on WPFH-TV also in Wilmington. In 1961 he went back to WDAS to replace the departing Hal Jackson.

Joseph H. Rainey
Not just the executive director, Joe also broadcast a political talk show at night called The Listening Post. He interviewed contenporaries like Malcolm X, MLK, and Jesse Jackson.