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Pervis Spann

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Information about Pervis Spann

Profile image of Pervis Spann

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Broadcast Chief Executive
Radio Personality

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Good blues to you.

Birthplace

Born:
8/16/1932
Birth Location:
Itta Bena, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Broadcast Chief Executive
Radio Personality

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Good blues to you.

Birthplace

Born:
8/16/1932
Birth Location:
Itta Bena
See how Pervis Spann is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, on August 16, 1932, Pervis Spann distinguished himself as a broadcaster, exposing generations to the blues.

Spann worked hard from an early age, caring for his mother after she suffered a stroke. At age 14, he managed the Dixie Theater, a local all-black theater. In 1949, he moved with his mother and sister to Battle Creek, Michigan. However, Spann soon left to work in Gary, Indiana. Spann enlisted in the Army toward the end of the Korean War. After completing his service, he moved to Chicago and settled down. He became interested in broadcasting and attended the Midway Television Institute and the Midwestern Broadcasting School on the G.I. Bill.

In the 1950s, Spann was granted a four-hour overnight time slot on WOPA. In 1960, he organized his first concert, showcasing B.B. King and Junior Parker. In 1963, Phil and Leonard Chess bought the radio station, which became WVON, a 24-hour blues station. Spann became the "all-night blues man." He gained notoriety with an on-air 87-hour "sleepless sit-in," raising money for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spann widened his sphere of influence during the 1960s, and began managing talented performers such as B.B. King. He booked major acts, including the Jackson 5 and Aretha Franklin. Spann also owned several South Side clubs in Chicago, including the Burning Spear.

In 1975, WVON was sold and changed frequency. Forming a business syndicate with Vernon Jarrett and Wesley South, Spann bought the license to the original frequency in 1979. Listeners to the new station, WXOL, heard an all-blues format and many of the same voices from the old WVON. The station reclaimed the old call letters in 1983. In the 1980s, Spann added another station to his radio empire, WXSS in Memphis. He later sold this station. His focus then turned to building WVON, with his daughter, Melody Spann Cooper, at the helm. He continues his career promoting the blues as the co-host of the popular cable t.v. program "Blues and More."

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Pervis Spann interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann talks about his parents and siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann talks about growing up in Itta Bena, Mississippi in the 1940s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann talks about meeting entertainer Tex Ritter
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann recalls his personality as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann shares a story about being a job foreman at age sixteen
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann recalls the sights, smells and sounds of his childhood in Itta Bena, Mississippi
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Pervis Spann details influential Southern radio programs from his youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Pervis Spann offers impressions of the South of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Pervis Spann talks about his job as a youth and his move to Battle Creek, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Pervis Spann talks about his move to Gary, Indiana and his work in the steel mills with his father
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Pervis Spann recalls his military service during the Korean War
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Pervis Spann details his education at the Midway Television Institute in Chicago
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann reflects on his enduring love for his mother
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann details his early days in radio broadcasting
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann talks about Al Benson and his years at WOPA radio in Chicago
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann discusses his arrangement broadcasting on WOPA and WVON radio simultaneously
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Pervis Spann shares anecdotes about the radio business in Chicago
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann recalls his start in the concert promoting business in Chicago
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann details his falling out with concert promoter and business partner, Big Bill Hill
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann talks about his relationship with WVON-AM's radio owner, Leonard Chess
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann talks briefly about promoting singer Sam Cooke's last concert
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Pervis Spann details his learning of the concert promoting business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Pervis Spann shares stories about musicians he's promoted
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Pervis Spann recalls WVON-AM prmotions and events during the 1970s and 1980s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Pervis Spann talks about WVON-AM's promotion of 'The Good Guys'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann talks briefly about the risks of concert promotion
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann discusses briefly why he bought WVON-AM radio