WHEELIN' ON BEALE: The Story of the Nation's First All-Black Radio Station by Louis Cantor

WHEELIN' ON BEALE: The Story of the Nation's First All-Black Radio Station

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A light and lively history of WDIA, the country's first all-black radio station. Located in Memphis, WDIA is where blues greats B.B. King and Rufus Thomas got their starts. Cantor, who is white, worked on the control-board of WDIA during the 1950's; here, he records the shifts that took place at the station from 1948, the year in which it broke the color barrier, through the 70's and 80's, when it lost its unique voice in an increasingly integrated society. He writes of Nat D. Williams, the station's first disc jockey, an erudite high-school teacher and newspaper columnist who was also a natural comedian, and of Theo ""Bless My Bones"" Wade, a gospel deejay who got his name after accidentally spilling his coffee on the air. Cantor also describes B.B. King's arrival at WDIA (he came ""in out of the rain one day with his guitar wrapped in a newspaper to protect it"") and the Saturday night ""Hallelujah Jubilee,"" a live show that attracted so many local gospel groups eager to perform that it was impossible to get into the station. WDIA was always white-owned and made few political waves, but, as Cantor persuasively argues, it played an important role in the black community not only by giving African-Americans airtime, but also by performing extensive public service. WDIA made thousands of announcements regarding everything from lost false teeth to missing persons, built low-income housing, and established the city's first black Little League. Also included here is background on the evolving racial climate of the South, and information on WDIA's influence on radio stations across the country. A welcome addition to the little-explored field of African-American radio.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Pharos--dist. by St. Martin's