Original telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and international star of stage and screen, Harry Belafonte, requesting WDAS General Manager Bob Klein's presence at an urgent meeting in New York. Klein told his children it was a small gathering of key allies from all over the country and Dr. King's plans for the future direction of the Movement were discussed in detail. Also noted was the impact King's protest against the Vietnam War was having on the Civil Rights Movement. You'll notice the date of the meeting is March 27, 1968 ...
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., alone in the pulpit at the Cornerstone Baptist Church and only one station is covering him: WDAS.
WDAS was not only very quick to put Dr. King on the radio, their offices became his offices.
Before the marches, before the speeches and the Nobel Peace Prize, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, before the tidal victories of political empowerment, before...
It was all very new and dangerous then--including uniformly integrated schools.
Daisy Bates spear-headed the movement to integrate Little Rock, Arkansas' Central High School, a scene which at various points had erupted into highly volatile clashes and threatened violence against black students. The Little Rock Nine were finally escorted into Central High School only after President Eisenhower sent an all-white section of the United States Army's 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock. Later he had to federalize the Arkansas National Guard, which was the only way to maintain peace and educational equality. Daisy Bates received all manner of support from WDAS Radio. At the time of the Little Rock riots, WDAS Newsman Art Peters was flown to Arkansas for immediate 'live' coverage. Upon his return, he produced numerous reports both on the air and at various church and community meetings.
This picture is from a 1958 visit to Philadelphia, where Bates was in town accepting scholarship money donated by caring Philadelphians to benefit the first nine black students attending the formerly all-white school in Little Rock. ©opyright
Rev. William H. Gray III, United States Congressman, first African-American to chair the United States House Budget Committee, Minister of Bright Hope Baptist Church with WDAS General Manager Bob Klein, Civil Rights icon Coretta Scott King, and WDAS DJ/Activist Georgie Woods. This 1979 gathering marks Woods' and Klein's last gala charity fundraiser, this one, benefiting the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change.
The evening's playbill featured 19 acts in one night, including: The Drifters, Don Covay, Kim Weston, Junior Walker and the Allstars, King Curtis, Johnny Nash, Edwin Starr, Patii La Belle and the Blue Belles, The Three Degrees, The Intruders, and The Mad Lads. But no matter how big the musical high points, WDAS News was always spotlighted. The center of this page notes WDAS News had won 17 major awards by 1966, including their third Valley Forge Freedoms Medal.
Jocko Henderson, the world acclaimed Rapper Original and WDAS DJ Extraordinaire make a public apperance at a Philadelphia high school. WDAS had a policy of promoting education through concerted school appearances and student outreach, which included the work of the radio station's Education Director, Chet Carmichael.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson, WDAS CEO Max Leon [front row, second from right] attends a Rose Garden briefing and speech to broadcasters
WDAS CEO Max Leon [front row, second from right] attends a Rose Garden press briefing and speech to broadcasters by President Lyndon Johnson.
[You'll note in these last two photos, both Jocko and Leon are using the "WDAS hand clasp" ]
Among the extraordinary number of "firsts" WDAS Radio amassed; one of the largest was the law suit against Arbitron Industries (ARB). In 1971, they were the first and only black radio station to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all black stations against (ARB), the broadcast ratings giant.
They won a judgement proving ARB was systematically undercounting minority listeners in Philadelphia and across the country. Someone once asked WDAS lead attorney Frank Williams, Esquire why he kept insisting ARB was racist. The official WDAS reply was always, "It's racist if you're not undercounting the whites..."
Also within the realm of 'firsts,' was WDAS Radio's very progressive stand where women on the air were concerned. Radio's legendary 'all boys club' status is not only still spoken of today in some places, sadly it still exists.
WDAS also led the way with the number of women it put on the air in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, when compared to other stations.
Bernice Thompson's daughter, Juanita writes: "My mother was the first African-American female disc jockey in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started at WDAS in 1952. She also held the position of Director of Women's Programs. ...Bernice was hired by Bob Klein on the recommendation of Randy Dixon, who was a very famous WDAS DJ at the time."
"One of the early influences in my mother's radio career was WDAS program director, Jerry Grove. ...After about ten years, she left WDAS in 1962. Her media presence included being a regular on The Mitch Thomas Show on Channel 12 Television and hosting The Bernice Thompson Show which aired on Channel 3 TV."
Juanita "Jet" Thompson brings up another important point: the influence WDAS had on the color of the television dial. Her reference to the Mitch Thomas Show and her mother's show is profound because in those days, things we so different. First off, there weren't even that many television stations on the air, maybe three or four in a big city market and the world they showed was white. ©opyright
There was a moment of magic when the truly sensational Hazel Scott's first ever network show was on the air.
..But that glory was cut short by the right-wing insanity of McCarthyism and the lock-steps taken by a rogue congressional committee, wasting taxpayer dollars in search of boogiemen by a senator whose alcoholism was quite well known. Perhaps ubiquitous communists took the place of the traditional 'pink elephants' where McCarthy was concerned. How ironic that just when Jim Crow was getting ready to leave-Joe McCarthy shows up. Film and stage superstar, Paul Robeson's career was fully destroyed at this time. The only other ray of light flickering through those cathode-ray tubes was the Nat King Cole Show.
But these were national shows. Local shows of color were basically non-existent. To their credit, Channel 12 Television hired WDAS air personality Mitch Thomas, no doubt noting his great warmth and humor. It is believed he had the first television show hosted by an African American in the region-meaning Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. ...Maybe Maryland for that matter. ©opyright W. Alexander
The Bernice Thompson Show, circa '62, at Channel 3-Westinghouse Broadcasting, is an exceptionally early break-through for a major network affiliated TV station.
In 1966, Kaiser Broadcasting tapped another WDAS star, the exceedingly charming John Bandy, for what is believed to be one of the first TV talk shows hosted by a Black man, but geared to attract a general market [read: white] audience. Georgie Woods also had two dance TV shows in the mid '60s on Channels 17 and 29. In the mid 60s & 70s, WDAS-FM's Program Director, Hy Lit also had a very successful music and dance show syndicated out of Philadelphia's Kaiser Broadcasting. At one point, it was seen in six markets and featured what was then the newly developed album oriented artists, made famous on revolutionary "Underground" or "Progressive Radio". WDAS-FM was one of the nation's first of those pioneering stations. WDAS Radio also gave WFIL-Channel 6 their first television and Philadelphia's first Black TV News anchor, when they took Jimmy Carter out of the WDAS newsroom. 'DAS newsmen Ed Bradley and Carl Stubbs went to CBS and Walt Sanders went to Westinghouse and Dave Colman into city government. At one point in the late 60s, the WDAS newsroom was so thoroughly raided by the general media, Joe Rainey looked up and all his senior staffers were gone. This led to the hiring of the station's first black female anchor, Sarah Moseley, along with Bob Perkins, Steve Schorr, Scotty Taylor and Clay Dillon.
After the premature death of Jim Klash, Bob Perkins became WDAS News Director and took over the editorial reins as well. Continuing the legacy, Bob amassed numerous prestigious awards for the news department.
That would have been enough-but Bob has outdone himself, becoming equally famous for his extraordinary knowledge of Jazz, hosting current radio programs in the Philadelphia area, producing a documentary and garnering recognition in the Congressional Record for his contributions to the Arts.
Armstrong and Emmy award-winning journalist Steve Schorr became a television news anchor then a Cox Communications Vice President for Governmental Affairs. He also went on to make highly impressive strides in the world of television news and humanities. But not before making extraordinary contributions in the WDAS News Department.
Clearly following in the freedom-fighting legacy of Joe Rainey and Jim Klash; battling Rizzo's Raiders among his many accomplishments, Schorr, then Assistant News Director and supervising all daily news room operations, also designed and implemented the wildly successful and multi-award winning Job Hunt program. Initiated at the height of a crippling recession, it is one of the most famous and effective examples of Heart and activism in WDAS Radio's heroic history.
(left to right)
Mal Goode, Mary Dee, Bernice Thompson (in hat)
First, apropos the discussion of 'television firsts': the man on the left is Mal Goode, the first-ever black reporter on network TV - ABC News to be exact,1962, covering the United Nations. Then, WDAS listeners heard him regularly in the 1970s and '80s as the U-N correspondent for NBN News. He is also the brother of the lady standing next to him. Mary Dee, a Pittsburgh-to-Philadelphia [WHAT-AM] gospel radio pioneer who is the mother of Bonnie Dee, [not shown] who worked gospel and traffic at WDAS Radio and Buddy Dee, known to music aficionados as record promotions man par excellence with Universal Distributors and Atlantic Records. And the lady in the hat is WDAS's Bernice Thompson, who was a friend of Mary Dee. [and we hope you got all those connections because there will be a quiz...]
Photo-shoot out-take from December 1970, for a newspaper ad: Bob Klein [with cigar] and WDAS-AM jocks Larry Daley, 'Mr. Freeze,' Georgie Woods, Butterball, Johnny-O and Program Director, Jimmy Bishop.
1950 - 1979
Bob Klein began a career of extraordinary contributions to civil rights and broadcasting history when musician, entrepreneur and father-in-law, Max M. Leon, made him general manager of Philadelphia’s WDAS Radio in 1951. Klein had been working there in the sales department, writing advertising and promotional copy. He was also attending Temple University where he would graduate with a master's degree in History.
In its October-1957 issue, Broadcasting Magazine reported that at 25 years old, Klein became one of the youngest general managers ever to lead a major metropolitan station. From that unusual moment on, Bob Klein’s string of radio, civil rights and music innovations also rocked the history books.
He hired cutting edge disc jockeys who helped craft the Rhythm & Blues, signature sound of WDAS. At the same time, he created a first class news operation to cover the blossoming, yet still highly controversial and dangerous, civil rights movement. The comprehensive news operation he forged, created a new section in the nation's broadcasting lexicon. He was general manager and executive vice president until 1979, a tenure spanning some of the most crucial years of United States’ social progress.
Klein’s list of hires literally became a Who’s Who in American Radio History: ‘Jocko’ Henderson, Jimmy Bishop, Louise Williams, Georgie Woods, Hy Lit, Hal Jackson, John 'Lord Fauntleroy' Bandy, Bernice Thompson, Portia Perry, Joe Rainey, Jim Klash, Joe Pyne, Ed Bradley, Harvey Holiday, 'Sir Lancelot'-George Johnson, Jr., Joe ‘Butterball’ Tamburro, Dr. Perri Johnson, Wayne Joell, Ed Sciaky, Larry Daley, Steve Schorr, Mimi, Tony Brown and Michael Tierson lead a stellar array of nationally recognized talent.
Klein's ground-breaking, visionary creation of WDAS-FM’s album-oriented, multi-racial, R&B format became a staple in the industry. The press release marking the format change to ‘Music for the People was drafted March 25, 1971. Though initially so-called radio experts predicted a flop, the revolutionary "Progressive Soul" format he and Harvey Holiday pioneered was a huge success, copied from city to city and is still heard today from the conventional radio dial to satellites and shopping mall music systems everywhere.
Klein assembled an award-winning news department that set a standard of excellence for Black and White radio news, amassing scores of the most prestigious awards in the country and helped invent civil rights news coverage.
(continued on next page)
WDAS was also the broadcast home to both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, during their lifetimes. Very few stations Nationwide can claim that kind of foresight and fairness. Klein not only put Dr. King on the air in Philadelphia, he devoted much of the station's financial and marketing resources to King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] and was the initial producer of the radio program, "Dr. Martin Luther King Speaks" and helped it attain nationwide distribution. The months of compilation work took place at the WDAS studios, on behalf of SCLC.
WDAS staff suffered physical assaults and numerous threats of violence from both black and white extremists. Under Klein’s guidance, nothing ever stopped the WDAS quest for justice and humanity.
The Pennsylvania Legislature commended him for creating jobs for African Americans in radio, when white stations would not. He was also applauded for elevating the status of Black recording artists when 'Jim Crow' dominated the entertainment scene in the United States of America.
The Congressional Record noted WDAS Charities and Klein’s innovative Freedom Shows raised hundreds of thousands of pre-1980 dollars, breathing life into hundreds of social organizations and sent thirteen buses to the 1963 March on Washington.
In 1971, WDAS Radio was the first station to file and win a federal class action suit on behalf of all Black radio stations, proving the Arbitron [ARB] ratings system was racist and systematically undercounting Black listeners.
Bob Klein’s commitment to social progress, civil rights and his close association with Dr. King, prompted this written testimonial from King confidante and co-drafter of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Ambassador Andrew Young:“…to our knowledge, there is no station in America that has worked harder, longer and with more dedication for Black people than WDAS in Philadelphia.”
©opyright W. Alexander View Bio PDF
The tag line on the spine of this earlier rendition, circa 1962 was:
"WDAS - Your Freedom Station in Philadelphia"
The WDAS commitment to education was paramount and way ahead of it's time. No one needed to ask WDAS to 'adopt-a-school.' They adopted an entire school system.
First of all, WDAS management was extremely concerned and aware of General Media hype and misinformation about the 'evil's' of Rock & Roll. And there was a legitimate concern about young people remaining in school. Drop-out rates were becoming a problem and WDAS launched numerous programs in the Philadelphia school system and surrounding school districts encouraging students to 'Learn Baby Learn.' Disc jockeys and WDAS News personnel began a decades' long tradition of visiting the schools whether for music programs, history lectures, career days, or special assemblies. The station's immensely popular book cover program went on for years, distributing hundreds of thousands of the highly coveted WDAS touchstones. They later launched a campaign, distributing lapel buttons, where the call letters were eventually redesigned and read: We Do Attend School.
1966 Basketball team
WDAS had two ball teams both named the WDAS ALLSTARS: one basketball team, one softball team. [ two-no waiting. ] Their outreach took them on a decades-long, three-state tour of any playground, school, social club, organization or ball field.
Over the years, the roster of players really was comprised of all-stars, between the air personnel and celebrities who played or coached. This picture is possibly the first or second generation basketball team. It seems the guys had just finished playing when this was taken January 6, 1966.
Left to right, back row: WDAS DJ Mitch Thomas and WDAS Newsman Ed Bradley, two as yet unidentified gentlemen and that's Weldon McDougal of Motown and Philadelphia International, on the end. (Seated left to right-in uniforms) Renny Roker-Stax and Columbia Records promotions man, Billy Jackson-producer Cameo Parkway Records, WDAS Program Director Jimmy Bishop and DJ Carl Helm.
WDAS Radio also had an Education Director.
Mr. Chet Carmichael was a Philadelphia educator and liaison between the station and the Philadelphia school system. He had a weekly program, Teen Talks, where student-guests joined the broadcast world bringing news and events of interest to the community. This is a photo with its original 1960 caption, from a program featuring students conducting a medical and human interest interview.
From that educational broadcast to Brown vs the Board of Education
From the jailings and funerals, to Montgomery and SelmaFrom 'Bombingham' to Girard College
From the Freedom Riders to the Freedom Shows
From that amazing mix of music and personalities changing the color and landscape of American radio, to the busloads of Philadelphians and 'DAS staffers in the 1963 'March on Washington'--
the WDAS volume of innovation and caring stands alone.
©opyright 2007-2015 WYNNE ALEXANDER All Rights Reserved
Photos Copyright Bob Klein Archive unless otherwise specified
©opyright 2007-2015 Wynne Alexander All Rights Reserved
Photos Copyright Bob Klein Archive unless otherwise specified