10 Questions with ... Jordan Brown "The Deadly Dr. Bobby Brown"
August 18, 2015
1) How old were you when you got into radio and what attracted you?
In January 1970, I was a 16-year-old "virgin" (radio virgin, I was getting laid before radio, but not as much as I did AFTER radio) when I walked in WOOK-AM in Washington DC. Actually, United Broadcasting Company (who owned WOOK-AM) had a UHF-TV station WFAN-TV - Channel 14. I was on a TV show that dealt with community issues because I was a student activist in the DC School System. Translated: I STARTED RIOTS IN SCHOOLS TO OVERTURN "THE SYSTEM" & PISS OFF "THE MAN."
After appearing on the show with a group of student activists, the Brother who was the Assistant PD of the TV station - Omar Campbell, asked "WOULD ANY OF YOU GUYS LIKE TO COME HERE AND LEARN HOW TO RUN CAMERAS?" As it is with most groups of teenagers, they bullshitted and said "I'LL COME UP SOMETIME." I took Omar to the side and said "WHEN CAN I COME UP?" It was a Saturday afternoon, he said "COME UP TOMORROW AT 4PM."
The next day I was there at 4pm, but could not get in because the guard was not at his post at the front door. That "Goofy" Tony Harris was in the back learning how to run cameras when he should have been guarding. So, I had a choice, I could leave or bang on the door until somebody let me in. The words of an old James Brown song popped in my skull "I DON'T WANT NOBODY TO GET ME NOTHING, OPEN UP THE DOOR AND I'LL GET IT MYSELF!" I banged on the door for 15-minutes until somebody let me in at 4:15pm. By 4:30pm, I was running camera on my first TV show
2) Were there some influences while growing up in D.C and if so, tell us about it?
We had a big giant wooden radio in my living room when I was a kid in the 1950s. When I was about 3-years-old (which was about 1956), I remember getting out of my bed at night and listening to "Hound Dog" out of Buffalo, NY. When most radio was on AM, you got these fantastic "Skip Frequencies."
Since I was also once a radio engineer, I will explain: AM SIGNALS RADIATE FROM THE TOWER INTO THE ATMOSPHERE AND TRAVEL INTO OUTER SPACE. THAT MEANS SOMEONE ON ANOTHER PLANET IS LISTENING TO RADIO BROADCASTING FROM EARTH THAT WERE MADE 50-YEARS AGO. AT NIGHT, PART OF THOSE AM SIGNALS BOUNCE OFF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE AND A 50-WATT RADIO STATION IN BUFFALO, NY CAN EASILY BE HEARD IN WASHINGTON, DC.
I heard George "Hound Dog" Lorenz who was on WKBW-AM, playing Black Music and sounding Black. He was the first White dude to pull that stunt, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden had pulled the same stunt from 1928 until 1960 on radio as "Amos & Andy." Them White cats stole their act from Black Broadway performers Aubrey Lyles and Flournoy Miller. Those two Fisk University graduates starred and produced the 1920s Broadway All-Black, hit musical "Shuffle Along." I mention this because that musical will be revived on Broadway in 2016. Anywho, getting back to Black Folks getting ripped off by White Folks sounding Black on radio, Miller and Lyles were offered a radio show on WGN-AM in Chicago in 1927. This show was going to be sponsored by Log Cabin Syrup who didn't know Miller and Lyles were African-American cause they did their show in blackface makeup. When Log Cabin executives saw the Brothers without makeup, they didn't get the gig. However, they still wanted to rip off Black culture and found Correll & Gosden, who had been ripping off Miller & Lyles act for years. The White boys got the gig and started on WGN as "Sam & Henry." The show got so successful, WLS-AM offered the White dudes more money, but they couldn't take the name "Sam & Henry," so they changed it to "Amos & Andy." So, "Hound Dog" being a White dude sounding Black on the radio wasn't new in 1956. Only, my innocent 3-year-old mind didn't know that.
In DC, there was WOOK-AM to listen to and that had been on the air since 1947. While another station (that I worked for and loved) WDIA-AM in Memphis always gets that credit, WOOK-AM in DC beat them by a year. On WOOK was Cliff Holland, Al Jefferson, Tex Gathings. The legendary Hal Jackson was also there before he traveled to New York City. Richard Eaton built WOOK into the United Broadcasting Company and had a nationwide chain of Black radio stations in DC, Baltimore, Cleveland and San Francisco. He reported made a million a year with WOOK from 1947 until 1965 when Egmont Sonderling bought WOL and killed WOOK in a day. It took 3 or 4 years before WOOK was able to compete again WOL.
WOOK lost because they had old jocks who had been in the market for years. WOL came on sounding hip, cool and calling themselves "Soul Radio." Hip jingles, great music rotation, sounding exciting which is the way radio used to sound. The original WOL staff was "Sunny" Jim Kelsey from 5am-9am, "Pal" Hal Atkins from 9am-Noon, "Jolly Jerry B" (aka my late friend and mentor, the legendary Jerry Boulding) from Noon-4pm, Rudy Reynolds "The Tall Tan Texan" from 4pm-8pm, Bob "The Nighthawk" Terry from 8pm-Midnight, Fred "Soul Finger" Corey from Midnight until 5am. Carroll "Mr. C" Henson worked weekends.
By the way, for those of you who saw the 2007 movie "Talk To Me" starring Don Cheadle about Peety Greene and WOL, IT WAS A LIE! Don't get me wrong, DON CHEADLE was excellent as "Peety," but the whole script was a lie. Peety NEVER worked mornings at WOL, HE HAD A WEEKEND TALK SHOW! Was Peety popular, yes......BUT THAT MOVIE WAS A DAMN LIE! I got upset watching Cedric The Entertainer play "Nighthawk." The best description that I ever hear of Nighthawk came from Shelia Eldridge who was in college at Howard and worked as an intern for Hawk when he was part of the original staff of WHUR-FM. Shelia said "NIGHTHAWK WAS A LOVER ON THE RADIO, HE WAS THE NUMBERS MAN WHO CAME IN THE BARBER SHOP."
While WOL-AM changed DC radio, Nighthawk was the "Superstar." He came on at 8pm sponsored by National Beer, his theme music was Ray Charles' "Let's Go Get Stoned" written by Ashford and Simpson. Hawk was obviously drinking beer while doing the show, take a few sips on the air and proclaim "THEM WHITE FOLKS SURE MAKE SOME GOOD BEER!" He would proceed to play what the hell he wanted for that hour from the Blues like Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too" to Frank Sinatra's "Strangers In The Night." I guess "Old Blues Eyes" never could figure out why his hit was selling to Black teens in Washington DC.
To show you how powerful Nighthawk was at the height of his career, he became very anti-Viet-Nam War in about 1966 or 1967. He would get on the air and say "LYNDON, GET THEM BOYS OUT OF VIET-NAM." Obviously, LBJ heard him because Jerry Boulding told me the Secret Service came to WOL looking for Nighthawk for a chat.
Obviously, the movie script written by Dewey Hughes was his guiding point, but Dewey must have thought everybody who remembered the truth was dead. I remember Jerry telling me he went to a screening of the picture and told the director, "I WAS THERE WHEN THIS HAPPENED, IT'S A LIE!" Dewey was Public Affairs Director of the station and later bought WOL with his then-wife Cathy Hughes. WOL was the foundation for Cathy to build Radio One. The story goes Dewey wanted to buy a night club in DC and Cathy pushed him to take their money and buy WOL. I was at WDIA-AM doing mornings with the legendary A.C. Williams and that was Sonderling Broadcasting's flagship station in Memphis. Egmont Sonderling had a $30 million cash deal with Viacom which was held up for a year because WOL DJs were involved in a FCC payola investigation. Cathy had Dewey reach out to Egmont who sold WOL-AM quickly, got a tax break, walked away with $30 million cash in 1980 and still kept his Chicago station WBMX- FM.
While I had WOL, I still would stay up at night and listen to radio on skip frequency. Every night, I could listen to Cousin Brucie and Chuck Leonard on WABC-AM from New York City. I could listen to WOWO-AM in Fort Wayne, IN, WLS-AM & WCFL-AM in Chicago and CKLW-AM in Windsor, Canada outside of Detroit. On Sunday nights, WINX-AM in Rockville, Md would go off the air for transmitter repairs. With their 1600-AM off the air, I could hear WWRL-AM in New York City. Not being in radio at the time, it didn't take me long to figure out that it had to be WOL's sister station because they used the same jingle package and had the same format
3) Would you name some of the stations you worked at and air-shifts you held?
I started out working weekends at WOOK-AM, my first full-time job was at WLOK-AM in Memphis. From there, WAMO-AM & FM in Pittsburgh. WEBB-AM in Baltimore, then unemployment for a while. Then, back to WOOK-AM working part-time, when Lee Bailey left to go to Los Angeles and KDAY-AM, I took over afternoon drive from 1975 until 1977. WOOK-AM flipped formats with their Spanish FM station and became OK-100 FM. I didn't stay long after that, left on a good book where we finally beat WOL-AM. I tried to stay away from radio cause I didn't want to be trapped in it. Moved to New York City to try my hand at comedy, but liked eating more than starving. Applied for a morning job at WWRL-AM and their sister Jazz station WRVR-FM, which were owned by Sonderling Broadcasting. My good buddy from WOOK-AM, Mike Frisby was programming WDIA-AM so I knew the company's National PD Mac Allen heard my aircheck. Sonderling Broadcasting wanted to hire me, filled the jobs in NYC that I wanted, but ask would I be interested in any other openings that might happen in the chain. I said "OK," but thought it was just a blow-off. A month later, there was an opening at WDIA-AM in Memphis, Mike asked me to come down. I had broken up with my girlfriend in NYC, so I said "WHAT DA F***!" In those days in radio, they put you in a hotel for a month, moved your furniture and your car, so a single dude could see America for free on somebody else's dime.
4) You have worked with some radio legends and replaced a few, could you share some of that with us?
I would say the first staff at WOOK-AM that I worked with was magical. I was a 16-year-old kid and these guys were like my big brothers and mentors. WOOK-AM was great because Richard Eaton was such a cheap owner, we had to fight on our own to beat WOL-AM. Sonderling Broadcasting was "The Mercedes of Black Radio" and United Broadcasting was "The Yugo of Black Radio." Do they still make Yugos??? Anyway, that staff was Ernie Fields, who was the Program Director, who taught me the genius of promoting yourself with no damn money. Steve "Soul Poppa" Campbell, who taught me production and mentored me on being a DJ. Charlie Neal (Yeah, the Black College Sports Legend) who taught me it was always good to have more than one job while doing radio. Charlie drove a Trailways Bus, worked as a cop and did sports on the weekend at the local NBC-owned TV station WRC. Dave "King Bee" Beasley, who taught me how to do a smooth voiceover delivery for commercials. Mike "Youngblood" Frisby, who taught me that being a young DJ can get you laid quicker than be an NBA player. And last but not least, John "Terrible Turk" Edwards who taught me, a DC raised DJ knew the city better than outsiders.
In Memphis, I was blessed to work at WDIA-AM with the legendary A.C. Williams, but I was lucky to be there to work with other legends. When I was there from 1978-1981, Gospel DJ Theo "Bless My Bones" Wade, Robert "Honey Boy" Thomas, Rufus Thomas and Ford Nelson were there sharing knowledge to me about the history of WDIA and Memphis music.
In 1982, Jerry Boulding picked me to replaced Tom Joyner at WJPC-AM in Chicago after he conducted a nationwide search. If Jerry thought you were a great jock to join his staff, that meant something. "The Doctor" never gave out props unless he meant them. It didn't hurt that I also won Billboard's "Black Radio DJ of the Year" for Medium Markets for WDIA-AM. I think Donnie Simpson won that same year for Major Markets.
5) You love music and can address history of music in a way most don't, would you give your twist on yesteryear and music of today?
I hate to sound like "an old fart" and never thought I'd become an "old fart," but I rarely listen to music today. Don't get me wrong, if I hear a hit, I KNOW IT's HIT! The only current artist I enjoy or would go to his concert is BRUNO MARS!
I really don't fault today's artists because art is just a reflection of the times we live in. For example, there are some who think Bruce Jenner is courageous for changing his sex. To me, he's a coward and trying to hustle a buck. Now, when he won those Olympic medals, if he got up and proclaimed "I'M A WOMAN INSIDE AND GOING TO CHANGE MY SEX," that would have been courageous. Someone was trying to tell me that he couldn't have done that then, to which I say "BULLSh*T!" In the 1970s, Billie Jean King played a match against Dr. Renee Richards, who was transgender then. Richards, who is still alive, lived 40-years as a man and over 40-years as a woman. That's took balls and when you're balls are taken away and got Dr. Richards' courage, that proofs there are more to balls than meets the eye.
The artists of today suffer from the times they live in, it ain't their fault. In the 1920s, Louis Armstrong was part of the Jazz Age and his music reflected that energy. Hell, Louis changed how singers sing even today because he didn't sing in a traditional style, he sang improv like he played trumpet. Even an old White dude like Bing Crosby said listening to Louis changed his life.
Today's artists live in an age where you can proclaim yourself "a genius" and you can fire anybody who might tell you "YOU'RE FULL OF CRAP." Kanye West proclaims himself "A GENIUS" and nobody says, YOU'VE DONE LOST YOUR MIND."
I did morning for Stevie Wonder at KJLH-FM from 1983-1984 and never heard him say "I'M A GENIUS." As egotistical as Prince was in the past, I can't think of an interview where he ever said "I'M A GENIUS!" Genius is when you go and do the work and your work speaks for itself.
The unfortunate thing about the times we live in is that artists are so busy making themselves "A BRAND" that they aren't in the studio creating art. Tupac lived in the damn studio which is why Jay-Z just bought his entire catalog for over $300 million dollars.
If you think about a time like the 1960s, everybody was influenced by the creative energy around them. Sam Cooke wrote "A Change Is Gonna Come" because Bob Dylan wrote "Blowing In The Wind." Sam didn't feel comfortable that this White Jewish kid could write about Civil Rights and he's singing "Having A Party." The Beatles were listening to Motown, the Beach Boys were listening to the Beatles and got their harmonies from Doo Wop.
When you look at history, I think something is going to shake up this society from all forms of art including music. If you think about the era before the 1960s, the 1950s America was pretty boring except for the music.
6) Weren't you one of the first editors of a huge prep service?
Yes, I created "The ABC 411" for the ABC Radio Networks. I was at ABC from 1993 until 2001 when I was laid-off with 10% of the ABC/Disney workforce. ABC was already doing show prep services for Top-40 and Country before they decided to do Urban. As always, when I trying to mind my business and be an actor, something always comes and pulls me in another direction.
I feel like Michael Corleone in "The Godfather": "JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS OUT, THEY PULL ME BACK IN!"
7) Since you left radio or should I say radio left you, what have you been doing?
I've always been an actor, I mean REALLY AN ACTOR! I'm a member of SAG-AFTRA and ACTOR'S EQUITY, so I'm really a trained actor. However, every time, I just try to do my craft, something else happens. After I was laid off at ABC, I went to work for Fox News Channel as their "War Wire Editor." Yeah, it sounds scary, but my beat was covering "The War on Terror" and writing "The Crawl" at the bottom of the TV screen. However, working at Fox was like working for the Nazi because they wanted news slanted a certain way. I left there and went to Black Enterprise Magazine as their "Business Radio Producer." However, I forgot the curse of my career: "EVERYTIME I WORK FOR 'NEGROES,' I GET FIRED FOR BS!"
I've NEVER been fired for NOT doing my job, but when you work for "NEGROES," logic doesn't mean job security.
The only Brother who I ever had a positive work experience with was PHILIP McALPIN who ran a TV production company out of Greensboro NC called "Focus Marketing." We started producing a syndicated TV show called "THE MEAC TODAY" which dealt with Division One Sports at Historically Black Colleges. Later, the show moved to ESPN and became "BLACK COLLEGE SPORTS TODAY." Philip and I got along and are still friends today because we both have problems dealing with "NEGROES!"
8) Would you share with us some of those who had an influence on your career?
I have to narrow it down to three guys:
STEVE "SOUL POPPA" CAMPBELL: This was a cat who I listened to on the air and I LOVED. When I first started working at WFAN-TV, "Pop" would let me hang with him in radio. He taught me how to splice (edit), encouraged and mentored me. "Pop" was gunned down in 1976 and his killers were never found. Hence, I always wanted to do what he was never able to do; Work in Chicago or LA and hope he was somewhere looking down on me and proud.
A.C. "MOOHA" WILLIAMS: How a dude born in 1916 and a dude born in 1953 could become best friends is unbelievable. The wisdom that he gave me when we worked mornings at WDIA-AM from 1979 until 1981 as "The Morning Maniacs" always lives with me. Most people don't realize "Mooha" and stayed friends until he died. In fact, I was one of the last people he talked to before he died.
JERRY BOULDING: If you are a radio man of a certain generation, Jerry was your "OBI WAN KENOBI" or as I called him "OBI WAN BOULDING" (which he loved). The guys of my era, late 1960s and early 1970s, who listened to Top 40 Radio and improved our execution of our craft. We prided ourselves on having a tight board, being able to be funny, witty or nasty on a 15-second intro of a song. While Jedi Knights used "The Force," Jerry taught us "THE MATH" or "THE MATHEMATICS OF RADIO!" The Then-Young Cats got it because we listen to Top 40 and wanted to improve our game by our execution. Jerry's quest started when he was trying to figure out how Top 40 Radio was getting better numbers than Black Radio. This wasn't too much of a stretch for Jerry because he'd worked Top 40 before in Kansas after he got out of the Army. Also, WOL-AM was programmed by Ted Atkins when they first went on the air in 1965. That same Ted Atkins went on to programmed CKLW-AM in Windsor, Canada which explained why they jumped on Black Music early. When Jerry got into radio, White Men were program directors, general managers and sales managers. GOD BLESS, THE LATE EGMONT SONDERLING because EGMONT ALLOWED HIS BLACK DJS TO BECOME PROGRAM DIRECTORS, GENERAL MANAGERS AND SALE MANAGERS! Jerry was made National Program Director of Sonderling Broadcasting because of his success at WWRL-AM.
Jerry was "The Gold Standard" because he truly loved radio. When he said "BOBBY, YOU'RE GOOD," you knew he wasn't blowing smoke up you're a**.
You always wanted to get better at your craft because THERE WAS NO GREATER JOY THAN JERRY RUNNING IN THE STUDIO WHEN YOU DID A KILLER BREAK.
9) By the way, what are you doing currently doing, you never said?
Currently, I am the Executive Assistant for Head Coach Lionel Hollins of the Brooklyn Nets. Some seem to find it strange that I could make that kind of career change, but you don't get to be "THE DEADLY DOCTOR" by being a sissy!
Actually, a professional sports team is setup like a radio station. The coach would be the PD, the team is like an air staff (with egos and like DJs), there is a general manager, a sales staff and PR. In radio, the job is getting good ratings and an audience. In sports, it's putting together a winning team to get asses in the seats at the Barclays Center.
10) You have a lot of funny radio stories, would you share some of them?
Most of the cats I know are still alive, so I won't give out any. I will say when I was at WJPC-AM in Chicago, and jock who shall remain nameless (He is still in the business) was my roommate. Now, I didn't want a roommate, he just showed up one day with no place to stay and was supposed to be looking for an apartment and just never left. Come to think of it, I don't remember him ever giving me any rent money.
One morning when I got off the air, Jerry Boulding called me into his office. Now, I was trying to think of what I did that morning to piss him off, but I couldn't think of a damn thing.
I go in Jerry's office and with his baritone voice, he's says "BOBBY, SHUT THE DOOR!"
Now, I know I've done some f**ed up sh*t, but I can't imagine what the hell I've done, then Jerry says:
"BOBBY, I NEED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT L###! YOU KNOW, I BOUGHT L#### HERE AND I'M PAYING HIM GOOD MONEY, LIKE I'M PAYING YOU. NOW, I FOUND OUT, HE IS LIVING IN YOUR PENTHOUSE APARTMENT RENT FREE! NOW, WE BOTH LOVE L###, BUT WE BOTH KNOW HE IS CHEAP AND IF YOU DON'T PUT HIM OUT, HE GONNA STAY. HE IS A CAPRICORN AND DON'T LIKE TO SPEND NO MONEY. I KNOW CAUSE I'M A CAPRICORN TOO. BOBBY, YOU GOT TO GET HIM OUTTA YOUR HOUSE! YOU MIGHT INVITE A GIRL OVER AND WANT TO RUN AROUND YOUR HOUSE BONE-BUTT- NAKED AND THERE HE IS SITTING THERE!
What have you done that would surprise others?
Been a Vegetarian since I was 19 and will be 62 in November. If you're interested in eating healthier, find and like my page on Facebook, "BLACK VEGETARIANS OF THE WORLD UNITE!" I like to share interesting articles, recipes and it's for free.