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Listen to a rare recording of The Delfonics and Billy Stewart from a live concert at West Philly’s Nixon Theatre

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Music journalist and Philly native, Mr. C – the host of Mr. C’s Soul Spectacular internet radio show, as well as a historian and record crate digger – has hipped us to an amazing live recording of a show at Philly’s Nixon Theatre featuring soul singer Billy Stewart and Philly’s The Delfonics. Stewart performed his classic “Summertime” and The Delfonics sang “You’ve Been Untrue,” a side they recorded early in their career on Cameo Records.

The Nixon Theatre, built in 1910, stood tall at 52nd and Market Streets until it was demolished in 1984. Continue reading →

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Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio

fm1053_wdasuIn February, Mighty Writers, in collaboration with WXPN, presents Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio, a two hour documentary chronicling the legacy of Black radio with a focus on the legendary WDAS in Philadelphia.

Those of us who grew up listening to WDAS in the Sixties and Seventies, like myself, remember that the station served not only as a major showcase in Philly for R&B and soul music, but was very engaged with the local community on issues around social, cultural and political change. According to one of the producers, Yowei Shaw, Going Black is “the story of Black radio in Philadelphia, of a music that would have gone undiscovered, of Civil Rights and progress in the African-American community, and of how the radio medium has changed in the last century.”

The documentary is hosted by the legendary Kenny Gamble and features interviews with many of the DJ’s from WDAS, rare archival air checks from the 60s and 70s, and a soundtrack that includes classic Philly R&B, soul, and jazz.

Two of the DJ’s interviewed was Harvey Holiday, who is currently a DJ on WOGL, and Doug Henderson, Jr., who was on WDAS and followed in the footsteps of his father, Jocko Henderson, at the station. Below, listen to a couple of segments from the forthcoming show featuring Harvey talking about some of his time at WDAS and Doug talking about his dad.

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R.I.P. Stephen “Steve” Leon, host of “My Father’s Son” on WDAS (circa 1968)

Stephen “Steve” Leon, the host of the progressive-rock era radio show “My Father’s Son” on WDAS in the late 1960′s, passed away last Monday, February 13th. He was 69 years old. Leon started the progressive rock radio show in 1968. When the station began WDAS had a mix of rock and classical music. While WDAS has become well known for it’s mix of R&B and soul music it has always been one of those “fabric of life” stations in Philly that introduced a lot of great music and DJ’s to the city. Georgie Woods, Ed Bradley, Patti Jackson, Tony Brown, Jimmy Bishop, Joe “Butterball” Tamburro, Harvey Holiday are just some of the legends to have graced the airwaves at the station, which for years has been a pivotal media outlet and voice for African-Americans and local community causes and needs. Before station owner Max Leon made the decision to change to an “urban” music format, ‘DAS caught the FM progressive radio wave in 1968. Here’s the historical snapshot of ‘DAS during that time, according to the Philadelphia Radio Archives site:

In the spring of 1968, the station switched to a progressive rock format under the direction of Hy Lit, who had just left a long stint at WIBG. Known as the “Hyski Underground,” the station played mainly album cuts and included DJs Michael Tearson, Ed Sciaky, Gene Shay, Larry Magid, T. Morgan, Wayne Joel, Steve Marko, Rod Carson and the owner’s son, Steve Leon, who called himself “My Father’s Son” on the air.

Rival WMMR-FM switched to a progressive format around the same time and started pulling in listeners from WDAS. Eventually, the station’s programming was turned over to Steve Leon by his father Max with the promise of complete freedom of speech and music. The promise did not last long. On March 5, 1971, the FCC (supposedly under the influence of the Nixon administration) issued a public notice that warned broadcasters against playing songs “tending to promote or glorify the use of illegal drugs.” Max Leon and his son-in-law, GM Robert Klein ordered all “dope songs” off the station. 28 year-old Steve fought against this ruling, and in an infamous altercation was taken off the air and fired by his brother-in-law while playing Arlo Guthrie’s song about marijuana “Comin’ Into Los Angeles.” The next day, the station launched a “progressive soul” format.

Writing about Leon article in this 2001 article about “The Golden Era Of Philadelphia Radio” in the Philadelphia Weekly, Tim Whitaker – former editor of the paper and now Executive Director and founder of Mighty Writers – had this to say about Leon’s show:

Leon’s program quickly became the most surreal in Philadelphia radio history. My Father’s Son said whatever Philadelphia’s counter-culture was thinking at the time. He’d talk for 20 minutes about the evils of the war and big government. He would rail against Rizzo. He’d announce Philadelphia street prices for pot and hash. Once, during the lottery that would determine which 18-year-olds would be drafted to go to Vietnam, he read the numbers on the air with machine gunfire playing in the background. Leon was suspended from WDAS many times for crossing the line of good taste, which was part of the fun of listening to him.

While “My Father’s Son” only existed a few years on the radio it was significant in the birthing process of a classic era of Philly rock ‘n’ roll radio history.

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Listen to a 1957 aircheck from the legendary Philly DJ Jocko Henderson

The legendary Philly DJ Doug “Jocko” Henderson is best remembered for his DJ days on WDAS in Philadelphia. He was born on March 8, 1918 in Baltimore and started broadcasting in 1950 at AM daytimer, WBAL in Baltimore. About a half-year later, Jocko moved to Philadelphia, where he settled and raised a family. He started in Philly at WHAT Radio and moved to WDAS in 1953. “Jocko” Henderson was one of the great DJ’s and personalities to grace the Philadelphia airwaves. He blasted into orbit with his Rocket Ship Show with his fantastic rhyming patter referring to himself as the “Ace From Outer Space” – “Not the imitator …not the duplicator …but the ORIGINATOR!”

Yesterday, this post on WFMU’s Rock ‘n’ Soul Ichiban blog caught our attention and we were reminded once again of Jocko’s classic days on the airwaves of Philly. You can listen to an aircheck of Jocko in his prime here. Below, check out a video of Jocko from an appearance on the 1988 Grammy Awards (introduced by Billy Crystal as “the original rapper”) as well as a video of Jocko’s 1979 rare and long out of print disco single that he recorded at Philly International Records called “The Rocketship.” Jocko passed away in 2000 from cancer and diabetes at the age of 82.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ9ebdnmwAw