Monday, May 11, 2020

The Billboard Rhythm & Blues DJ Spotlight

DJ Spotlight was a section in the Rhythm & Blues section of Billboard Magazine. Their Rhythm & Blues section itself goes back to at least July of 1952. It was a different era. Billboard still had both weekly Vaudeville and Burlesque sections.

It's original focus was on record reviews and charts as you'd expect. That same year, Bob Rolontz took over the "Rhythm & Blues Notes" column from Hal Webman. Mr. Kal Rudman was a contributing editor to the section starting in 1964. The column had been running since the middle of 1950, and addressed R&B more seriously as an industry. It was still full of record releases, and artist signings but it also covered R&B venue news, and both radio station and record label moves. Rolontz joined Billboard as a reporter in 1951, having grown up in radio. His father owned WCAU in Philadelphia. More here.

The Rhythm & Blues section fell under Music and Record news. But it didn't run in every issue. The spotlight ran irregularly. There was one spotlight it's first month, but three times in the following April. By March there was a spotlight every week. But back in the January 2nd issue there isn't a Rhythm & Blues section at all.  Because of that inconsistency I've broken out the below chart by week to indicate not just who is featured, but also if there was a DJ Spotlight at all. No DJ appeared more than once but some stations appeared multiple times. Out of 52 weeks only 37 DJs were spotlighted, and of those only one was a woman: Ruby "Lady Cool Breeze" Lewis of 890 KBYE-AM [More here].

Perhaps the most interesting discovery is that the spotlighted DJs are not all African-American. Both Charlie Brown of WLOU and the inimitable Porky Chedwick of WAMO were profiled. In a modern context it would be politically correct to see a race-agnostic chart or feature like that. I am not sure that's how it was intended or perceived way back in 1965.
Then suddenly in November, after the DJ Spotlight on Larry Daley, the feature just stopped. If it had been in December you might have expected it to re-start the following year.  But there were no Rhythm & Blues spotlights to come in January of 1966; and none ever again. It ended as abruptly as it began, without any explanation. The timing lines up with the departure of Rolontz for a VP job at Atlantic records but correlation is not causation. 

Date Issue Name Call sign City
01/02/1965 Vol. 77, No. 1 none

01/09/1965 Vol. 77, No.2 none

01/16/1965 Vol. 77, No. 3 none

01/23/1965 Vol. 77, No. 4 none

01/30/1965 Vol. 77, No. 5 Paul "Fat Daddy" Johnson WSID Baltimore, MD
02/06/1965 Vol. 77, No.6 George Hudson WNJR Newark, NJ
02/13/1965 Vol. 77, No. 7 none

02/20/1965 Vol. 77, No. 8 none

02/27/1965 Vol. 77, No. 9 E. Rodney Jones WVON Chicago, IL
03/06/1965 Vol. 77, No.10 George Woods WDAS Philadelphia, PA
03/13/1965 Vol. 77, No. 11 Jimmy Byrd WILD Boston, MA
03/20/1965 Vol. 77, No. 12 Charlie Brown WLOU Louisville, KY
03/27/1965 Vol. 77, No. 13 Porky Chedwick WAMO Pittsburgh, PA
04/03/1965 Vol. 77, No. 14 Bill Curtis WUFO Buffalo, NY
04/10/1965 Vol. 77, No. 15 Milton "Butterball" Smith WMBM Miami, FL
04/17/1965 Vol. 77, No. 16  Ruby "Lady Cool Breeze" Lewis KBYE Oklahoma, City
04/24/1965 Vol. 77, No. 17 George Truehart WDAO Dayton, OH
05/01/1965 Vol. 77, No. 18 Eugene Potts WGIV Charlotte, NC
05/08/1965 Vol. 77, No. 19 Chuck Moore KPRS Kansas City, MO
05/15/1965 Vol. 77, No. 20 Eddie Castleberry WVKO Columbus, OH
05/22/1965 Vol. 77, No. 21 Al Jefferson WWIN  Baltimore, MD
05/29/1965 Vol. 77, No. 22 Edward "Pee Wee" Harris WXKW Troy, NY
06/05/1965 Vol. 77, No. 23 Sir Walter (Raleigh) WAMO Pittsburgh, PA
06/12/1965 Vol. 77, No. 24 Jerry Thomas KNOK Dallas, TX
06/19/1965 Vol. 77, No. 25 William Johnson WUST Washington, DC
06/26/1965 Vol. 77, No. 26 Bob Hudson WCIN Cinncinatti, OH
07/03/1965 Vol. 77, No. 27 Chet McDowell KYOK Houston, TX
07/10/1965 Vol. 77, No. 28 Chuck Cunningham WLOU Louiville, KY
07/17/1965 Vol. 77, No. 29 none

07/24/1965 Vol. 77, No. 30 Tom Reed KPRS Kansas City, MO
07/31/1965 Vol. 77, No. 31 William "Boy" Brown KJET Beaumont, TX
08/07/1965 Vol. 77, No. 32 "Big" Ben Tipton KBYE Oklahoma, City
08/14/1965 Vol. 77, No. 33 Bill Williams WCHB Detroit, MI
08/21/1965 Vol. 77, No. 34 Bill Moss WVKO Columbus, OH
08/28/1965 Vol. 77, No. 35 Dr. Bop (Hoyt Locke) WAWA Milwaukee, WI
09/04/1965 Vol. 77, No. 36 none

09/11/1965 Vol. 77, No. 37 "Cousin" Herb Lance WERD Atlanta, GA
09/18/1965 Vol. 77, No. 38 "Skipper" Lee Frasier KCOH Houston, TX
09/25/1965 Vol. 77, No. 39 Larry Dean WWIN Baltimore, MD
10/02/1965 Vol. 77, No. 40 Clifton "King Bee" Smith KCOH Houston, TX
10/09/1965 Vol. 77, No. 41 Ben Miles WANT Richmond, VA
10/16/1965 Vol. 77, No. 42 Rick Darnell KPRS Kansas City, MO
10/23/1965 Vol. 77, No. 43 Ruben T. Washington KNOK Dallas, TX
10/30/1965 Vol. 77, No. 44 Kelson "Chop-Chop" Fisher WWIN  Baltimore, MD
11/06/1965 Vol. 77, No. 45 Larry Daley WCIN Cinncinatti, OH
11/13/1965 Vol. 77, No. 46 none

11/20/1965 Vol. 77, No. 47 none

11/27/1965 Vol. 77, No. 48 none

12/04/1965 Vol. 77, No. 49 none

12/11/1965 Vol. 77, No. 50 none

12/18/1965 Vol. 77, No. 51 none

12/25/1965 Vol. 77, No. 52 none

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