Thursday, July 17, 2008

Calling Doctor Hep Cat

Jive talk wasn't born on the radio, but it was disseminated through the radio. Young people heard it on the radio, emulated it and spread forth a cultural phenomena. There were DJs that used jive talk and DJs that invented it. Dr. Hepcat was an innovator.

When jive talk began is unknowable. But Cab Calloway wrote his Hepsters Dictionary, a guide to jive talk , in 1938. He even distributed copies to some libraries personally. It cemented jive talk as a convention. Durst published his own jive-talk tome in 1953, The Jives of Dr. Hepcat. [I want this book so bad] When white DJs began adopting black slang, writer Nelson George called it "broadcast blackface."

Dr. Hepcat was a popular KVET-AM DJ. He played records that would later be called Rhythm and Blues, bebop, and even rock n' roll. Also known as Albert Lavada Durst, he was based around Austin and used a fast-paced brand that probably was influenced by his time announcing baseball games for the "colored leagues. He had a slang all his own as a sports announcer. For example he called a Left-handed pitcher a "sand man." No particular reason... he just did. His version of the lords prayer was classic:
"I stash me down to cop a nod. If I am lame I'm not to blame - the stem is hard. If I am skull orchard bound don't clip my wings no matter how I sound. If I should cop a drear before the early bright - when Gabe makes his toot - I'll chill my chat, fall out like mad with everything allroot."
1300 KVET was founded by a group of ten WWII veterans in 1946. They were much more interested in commerce than race. Austin is a very liberal city, the tradition stretches back a ways. As was common in the 40s and 50s, KVET was a full service radio station. They offered a little of everything: music, Mutual Network news, talk, etc. But KVET also offered uncommon programming: Spanish language news and music programming for the African-American community on "The Elmer Akins Gospel Train".

He retired in the 1970s to become a minister at a church in Austin. In 1978, the Warner Brothers trade magazine Wax gave Durst credit for being among the inventors of rock radio. Reverend Albert Lavada Durst died October 31, 1995 in Austin at the age of 82.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a copy of "The Jives of Dr. Hepcat" for sale, at only a x1000 markup!