Monday, September 29, 2014

Sepia Serenade

Her obituary gives her name as Carolyn Blunt Easter Jenkins. Married names complicate history, and she was married at least twice. Her on-air name was Terri Lynn making things that much more messy.  Under that name she became Mississippi’s first black female radio announcer. She owed it to an obscure but progressive radio station manager, Zane Roden.
Carolyn Shaw was hired at WOKJ-AM in the 1950’s. Her first program was “Karolyn’s Kitchen Club”, a ladies radio program about home-making which featured recipes, and other tips. Some references refer to the program as "Kitchen Time."  But how did she go from newbie to Mississippi’s first black female radio announcer?

She learned her radio chops under Zane's watchful eye. By the 1980s Zane owned WBOP/WTKX in Pensacola, Fla., WOKJ/WJMI in Jackson, WTUP/WESE in Tupelo, WGCM/ WTAM in Gulfport,  WBIP-AM & FM in Booneville and a couple cable companies. He started at E.O. Roden & Associates, his fathers company, and eventually inherited the crown. He was from the tiny town of French Camp, MS but graduated form Harvard.. he was no hick. Her obit pays homage to his assistance:
"Carolyn became employed by WOKJ in the 50’s. It was the determination of owner, Zane Roden and his management staff that Carolyn would be trained in every aspect of radio; from sales to announcing, she learned it all,"

She later hosted a late night music program called the Sepia Serenade which was targeted at African Americans . There were a similar programs with the same name on KWBR, WAAA, WTJS, and KBIS. Carolyn was on none of those stations. Carolyn's own history went on to include time at 1400 WOKJ-AM, 99.7 WJMI and 1400 WKXI-AM in Jackson, MS in the 1970s. She also worked at 1130 WQFX-AM Gulfsport, MS; the daytimer 1390 WQIC-AM in Meridian, MS; 790 WTUG-AM, Tuscaloosa, AL; 1230 WBOK-AM, New Orleans, LA; and 1550 WYOU-AM in Tampa, FL.

Her radio career ran for over two decades. It's sad that the best source I have on her history is her obituary. A short thread at Radio mentions that she was at different times married to different DJs: Al "Luv" Jenkins and Brock Easter.  She was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1935. Bring born in that particular place at that time makes her radio career nearly miraculous. Her later civil rights work for the Mississippi Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs is equally impressive. But the lack of press on her career is pretty appalling.