Sunday, September 05, 2010

Hunter Hancock - KGFJ Los Angeles 1959

"Rock and roll's been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died."
John Milner

That may have been in 1959 but as this radio show contests, music was alive and well. Hunter Hancock, who was thought to be black by many listeners, was a big booster of rhythm & blues and help break down the race barrier on the radio air waves. He loved music and he could sure pick the hits. Enjoy.

LP liner notes by Jerry Hopkins - In the last year of the decade which saw the sound of popular music change, 1959, Hunter Hancock was beginning his seventeenth year in radio. He was, then, the glib, excitable and often corny host of the "Harlematinee" on KGFJ in Los Angeles, a program perhaps better known as "Huntln' with Hunter." Each afternoon, his medium-to-high-pitched voice came booming across all Southern California, introducing records "from bebop to ballad . . . swing to sweet . . . and blues to boogie . . . some of the very best in rhythm and blues records featuring some of the greatest and most popular Negro singers, musicians and entertainers in the world!" The odd thing about it was Hunter Hancock was not just white, but a white Texan; he never said he was black, of course, but no one ever suspected he wasn't. So he was the most popular radio personality in the local black community, and because he had a reputation for launching new artists and hits, he also appealed to a wide segment of the youthful white community. So adept was he at picking talent, in fact, that Mercury Records had given him a gold record for helping the Platters sell a million copies of Only You in 1955, and many other artists had included his name in the lyrics of their songs.

Like others in the CRUISIN' series, this record includes much of the social, cultural and commercial driftwood of the year — the theme songs, informatlon about upcoming sock hops, the fast deejay patter — as well as many of the hits.

Despite the generally exceptional quality of the songs included here, 1959 was a tragic year for pop radio. The Congressional payola probe in Washington provided juicy reading over morning coffee and toast as dozens of popular disc jockeys across the country quit under pressure or were fired. (Alan Freed, the man who coined the phrase "rock 'n' roll," was charged with accepting $30,000 in bribes from six record firms and resigned on the air, sobbing, then playing Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop by Little Anthony and the Imperials.) And three of the leadlng record artists — Buddy Holly, J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Ritchie Valens — died In a plane crash en route to a concert in Fargo, North Dakota.

Even so, rock and roll did make some significant and sometimes amusing gains in 1959. A total of eighty-eight different record companies managed to land one or more singles in the top fifty slots of Billboard's Hot 100 during the year, a demonstration of the good health and strength of independent production. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the grand old man of music licensing organizations, announced it was reconsidering its rule to keep rock writers out of its membership. And Snooky Lanson, Dorothy Collins and all the "Hit Parade" gang finally hung it up for Lucky Strike, after failing so miserably to sing the week's top songs with any conviction, promise or beat.

Historically, it was considerably more exciting, more hopeful in 1959, as on the year's first day Cuba's dictator-president Fulgencio Bautista caught a fast plane for somewhere and the bearded, clgar-chewlng People's Hero, Fidel Castro, rode Into Havana on the shoulders of his countrymen. Charles DeGaulle took office as President of France. Congress voted admission of Hawaii as the fiftieth state. Nlkita Khrushchev, speaking to the U.N., asked the disarmament of all nations within four years.

KGFJ Los Angeles 1959 - Hunter Hancock