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Oscar Lawton Wilkerson, Jr.

Tuskegee Airman and radio programming executive Oscar Lawton Wilkerson Jr. was born on February 9, 1926 in Chicago Heights, Illinois to Oscar L. and Elizabeth Wilkerson. After his graduation from Bloomfield Township High School in 1944, Wilkerson entered the U.S. Army Air Force’s Aviation Cadet training program in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was assigned to the 617th Bombardment Squadron, where he was trained to fly the B-25 “Billy Mitchell” bomber.

Wilkerson received his commission as a 2nd lieutenant and his “wings” as a B-25 pilot in 1946. In 1947, he graduated from the New York Institute of Photography. Wilkerson also graduated from the Midwest Broadcasting School in 1960. Wilkerson became a weekend disc jockey and community relations director at WBEE-AM in Harvey, Illinois in 1962. As an on-air personality, he was known as “Weekend Wilkie.” As community relations director, he launched a weekly radio show hosted by Chicago Alderman Charles Chew, as well as publicity campaigns for the NAACP, the Chicago Urban League, the Committee of 100 and other organizations. Wilkerson was promoted to the position of program director at WBEE in 1965. Under Wilkerson’s supervision, WBEE launched the radio career of Merri Dee, who became known as “Merri Dee, the Honey Bee.” In 1969, he oversaw the station’s switch to a more jazz-oriented format, and took on the additional responsibilities of operations manager. Wilkerson also hosted his own program, Wilk’s World, on weekday mornings. Wilkerson left WBEE in 1971 to become the public affairs director at WMAQ Radio. In that role, he was responsible for all public service material aired on the station. Wilkerson was named program director at WMAQ in 1973, and served there until his retirement in 1988. Following his retirement, Wilkerson served as president of the Multi Media Ministry at New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson, Illinois. He is one of the “Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen” (DOTAs), and is active in the Chicago “Dodo” chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Wilkerson regularly visits schools around the United States to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. He lives in Markham, Illinois.

Oscar Lawton Wilkerson Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 22, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.202

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/22/2013

Last Name

Wilkerson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Lawton

Schools

Tuskegee University

Midwest Broadcasting School

Bloom High School

New York Institute of Photography

Washington Junior High School

Lincoln Elementry School

Dr. Charles Gavin School

First Name

Oscar

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago Heights

HM ID

WIL66

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

2/9/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Tuskegee airman and radio program director Oscar Lawton Wilkerson, Jr. (1926 - ) received his commission as 2nd lieutenant with the 617th Bombardment Squadron in 1946. After his service with the U.S. Army Air Force, he had a long career in radio as a programming executive.

Employment

WMAQ Radio

WBEE Radio

South Suburban Bus Lines

Golden State Mutual Insurance Company

Hammond & Powell Funeral Home

United States Army Air Force

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:46294,555:70240,867:102181,1249:109640,1357:122100,1525:137480,1741:142998,1970:167775,2447:200545,2871:213769,3062:214164,3102:257440,3708$0,0:6624,143:6912,148:11088,239:50514,761:56969,878:73888,1141:74364,1149:80348,1258:80756,1264:122080,1891:183510,2851
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Oscar Wilkerson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Oscar Wilkerson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his parents' occupations and their move to Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Oscar Wilkerson mentions his older brother and describes the neighborhood he grew up in

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Oscar Wilkerson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses his elementary school experience

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses his junior high school and high school experience

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his interest in aviation and in joining the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Oscar Wilkerson remembers his basic training experience in Biloxi, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about attending church as a child as well as his father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses his mother's personality and his interest in photography

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Oscar Wilkerson describes how his family celebrated the holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about going on family vacations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his older brother

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses his basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his primary training in Tuskegee, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his primary training in Tuskegee, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his first flight experience

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his first solo flight

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his experience as a cadet at the Tuskegee Army Air Force Base, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his experience as a cadet at the Tuskegee Army Air Force Base, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Oscar Wilkerson describes Tuskegee's civilian environment

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses the first phase of his advanced training at Tuskegee Army Airfield

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses the additional phases of his training at Tuskegee Army Airfield

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about leaving military service

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his various civilian jobs and becoming a radio broadcaster

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Oscar Wilkerson recalls his flight training and the flying accidents that occurred

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Oscar Wilkerson describes those officers in charge during his flight training and his various jobs after leaving the military

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about going into radio broadcasting and his interest in music

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about the first radio station he worked for

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his colleagues and responsibilities at WBEE Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about the entertainers and radio personalities he knew at WBEE Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses competing radio station, WVON

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses going to work for WMAQ Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about former State Senator, Charles Chew, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his colleagues at the radio station, WBEE

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about becoming Manager of Community Affairs at WMAQ

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his experience as Manager of Community Affairs at WMAQ

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about other blacks in Chicago broadcasting

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Oscar Wilkerson compares his jobs at radio stations, WMAQ and WBEE

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about WMAQ Radio's shift into country music

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Oscar Wilkerson describes WMAQ under Charlie Warner's leadership

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Oscar Wilkerson explains what radio taught him and why he was successful

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about the community leaders he met during his radio career and his work with NBACA

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Oscar Wilkerson discusses positive highlights from his career in radio

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about his participation in local organizations and his retirement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about pilot, Jim Tillman and the differences between Chicago Heights and Chicago in Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Oscar Wilkerson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Oscar Wilkerson describes his military emblems

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Oscar Wilkerson describes what it feels like to fly a plane

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Oscar Wilkerson talks about performing a prohibited plane maneuver in his hometown of Chicago Heights

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Oscar Wilkerson recalls his flight training and the flying accidents that occurred
Oscar Wilkerson describes his experience as Manager of Community Affairs at WMAQ
Transcript
Now you said 9,000 were trained to fly?$$Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety two.$$Were flo--were trained to fly.$$Yeah.$$Okay. And so how many people were on the ground then?$$Ten times that, plus.$$Ten, okay. So you're saying the whole, whole contention of, of Tuskegee Airmen is about--that would be almost 50,000.$$Yeah, whatever the math comes to be, yes.$$Okay.$$This, this is support people that keep that plane in the air.$$And for each--so what, what did it take one to fly and how often were you flying when you were flying? Even the, the practice drills. How--what, what was that regiment like?$$Flew virtually every day. And when you're early in training, your instructor every day. Then you'd go out after you've soloed and you'd fly and practice those things that you were taught by the instructor. So you flew every day. And for most of the time you also had ground school courses to take every day. Learning flight, learning about the aircraft you were flying, and the many facets of keeping you in the air so that emergencies come along, you'll be able to take care of 'em and all of that is bound together to make one pilot.$$And so during the time that--were there any accidents that happened?$$Yeah.$$Okay and do you remember like the worse accident that happened?$$I remember there were in--not in my advanced class, but in some advanced class the cadets were flying T6's, the aircraft that I mentioned that was the first one with the retractable gear. Flying formation and somebody got too close and they clipped wings. The--one of the pilots was able to get out and ejected and I don't, I don't mean eject like in the jet when you pull a handle and you get shot out. You had to put the canopy back, get your harness off and get out of the plane. He didn't manage to do so and he went down with the aircraft. I don't recall who that was or what class it was, but that did happen, may have happened more than once. I, I know about that one. There have been other lesser accidents and people weren't killed. I was involved in one myself, but obviously I was not killed.$$You mean when you say you were involved in one, you were involved an accident and you came, and you came down with the plane.$$We were flying in advanced training and I was, we were doing night landings. Part of the training involved flying at night and they put you in the air and they would give you a segment to fly in until it was your time to come back to the field and land. So you'd circle in that quadrant and they would call you in to land. Well there was somebody--when they finally called me in to land, there was somebody ahead of me as there always is. You land and you do what they call touch and goes. You make a--what would be a perfect landing except you don't stop. You just pull the coat on and you take off and you go around again in order to save time; you're not taxiing on the ground. The guy ahead of me landed and was supposed to have taken off to go ahead and he didn't. And then the--I believe the tower told him to clear the runway, but he also didn't do that. And in the meantime they had cleared me to land and I didn't know that he was still on the runway. And when I landed, I see this guy ahead of me and I attempted to pull up to get a--away from hitting him. My landing gear clipped his--part of his canopy and both planes went over upside down. But I--both of us survived that. He got a big bump on his head and they had to shave part of his hair off, which was his major injury. And nothing happened to me. That was the crash I was involved in. But I'm sure there were others. I was about to say many, but probably not many; there were others.$What was your, what were--what did they say they wanted you to do and what did they want you to accomplish?$$Well I was responsible for making sure that we met all the federal requirements for a broadcasting station to stay on. You don't just come on the air and stay on the air cause you want to, you got to fulfill certain obligations so far as responding to community needs, determining what they are, programming toward response to those needs, and prove that you did. And the percentage has to be whatever is required at the time, eighteen percent or whatever it was, of programming that responded to those needs. And my responsibility was to make sure we're doing that; keep record of it so that when it came time to apply for license, you could prove that in paper and you did so, in sheaves of paper. That was my primary responsibility at that point.$$Well that's a good job for a black person to have at network station.$$Yeah, it was a good job.$$I mean, I mean a, a very good job. And so the question I have: Were they under any heat at that point that they hired you? Was [W]MAQ--were there any challenges about not doing certain things for the community or not?$$Not--I don't think so, no.$$Okay, so what you then do with the--with your, your, your job then? What are, what are the programs you put on, and--$$Well we did a number of discussion types of programs, specific ones I can't remember. And we were involved in the various community activities. I was like the face for the station at various banquets and stuff. I ate royally and attended a lot of things I would not have gotten a chance to see on my own. Went a lot of places that I would not have been able to go to on my own because I was in D.C. [District of Columbia].$$What were some of those places?$$Oh well New York City, the home headquarters, went there a number of times and we were located and still are as far as I know, located in the Rockefeller Center Building there. Had lunch in the Rainbow Room like the big dogs did and things such as that. I became the Treasurer for the National Association of Broadcast--$$National Association of Broadcasters?$$No, no, no.$$NABJ [National Association of Black Journalists]?$$NABA [North American Broadcasters Association] I think it was. Anyway the org--national organization of those who were in my kind of job and across the nation. And we had a couple of--$$You became what?$$The Treasurer.$$You were the Treasurer.$$Yeah, and NBACA [National Broadcast Association for Community Affairs] maybe, National Broadcast Association of--I've forgotten the rest of that title, but it was people who were in, in public affairs at stations across the nation. And we had several meetings in, in Vail, Colorado and that was nice. And all kinds of stuff like that, that I would not have been able to do on my own.

Richard Pegue

Richard Pegue was born on July 29, 1943, in Chicago to a beautician and a policeman. His father died in the line of duty when he was only two years old. Pegue would go on to develop a strong career in radio.

This career began at age eleven, when Pegue's grandmother gave him a reel-to-reel tape recorder for his birthday. By sixteen, he was using his recorder to D.J. at dances at South Side schools. He even formed a doo-wop group, the Belvederes, at Hirsch High School. After graduating in 1961, Pegue worked bagging groceries at Del Farm Foods and selling records at Met Music. While working both jobs, Pegue still found time to attend radio broadcasting classes at Columbia College.

Pegue continued performing doo-wop with a group called the Norvells. In 1965, Pegue wrote and produced “I’m Not Ready to Settle Down.” Performed by the Cheers, the song still enjoys radio airplay today. In 1968, he became the music director at WVON Radio. When WVON was sold in 1975, Pegue found work at various radio stations in Chicago and Northwest Indiana, including WOPA and WGCI, where he worked as a program director and fill-in disc jockey. In 1987, he returned to WGCI and facilitated a popular format change to urban oldies, or dusties. He stayed with the station for thirteen years. Then in 1993, Pegue began appearing every friday at a Chicago dance club called Taste Entertainment, where he developed a following. In 1996, Pegue attended a movie theater with his wife, Sevina, and suffered a stroke. He spent six months recovering before recovering enough to work. In 2000, Pegue returned to WVON to spin his favorite tunes.

Pegue passed away on March 3, 2009 at the age of 66.

Accession Number

A2002.011

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/24/2002

Last Name

Pegue

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Frank L. Gillespie Technology Magnet Cluster School

Paul Cornell Elementary School

Hirsch Metropolitan High School

Kennedy–King College

Columbia College Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Richard

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

PEG01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Negril, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

The best music of your life.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/29/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grits, Oatmeal

Death Date

3/3/2009

Short Description

Radio personality and radio program director Richard Pegue (1943 - 2009 ) became the music director at WVON Radio in 1968. When WVON was sold in 1975, Pegue went to WGCI, where he worked as a program director and fill-in disc jockey. In 1993, Pegue began appearing every Friday at a Chicago dance club called Taste Entertainment, where he developed a following. Pegue also wrote and produced “I’m Not Ready to Settle Down” which still enjoys regular air play.

Employment

Belvederes, The

Delete

Del Farm Grocery Store

Met Music record store

WVON Radio

WOPA

WJPC Radio

WGCI Radio

WBEE Radio

REPCOM Advertising (his own company)

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1089,11:1485,16:2970,34:6237,134:6633,139:7326,148:11781,245:12276,252:17070,265:19176,321:19488,326:21984,361:22452,368:26410,391:31130,407:31922,417:33594,438:34034,444:36024,455:37730,463:38731,479:39193,486:41395,552:41821,560:42318,569:45240,597:47590,617:48080,625:48430,631:49340,647:50320,663:50810,671:51090,676:54232,702:56068,721:56842,732:57530,742:65659,800:66535,821:66827,826:67192,832:69163,856:74880,889:76980,907:80660,951:81129,959:83232,980:85832,997:86248,1002:87600,1020:90770,1091:91510,1132:91880,1138:93138,1163:93730,1173:94322,1183:95062,1195:95802,1208:96172,1214:97874,1249:98170,1254:98688,1263:99724,1278:100168,1285:100464,1291:101352,1306:102092,1318:102388,1323:102906,1331:109830,1347:110230,1352:112915,1383:113295,1388:114245,1400:123890,1511:124520,1519:124970,1526:126050,1542:128035,1551:128560,1560:129310,1575:129685,1581:144290,1628:148088,1662:152372,1718:159706,1781:160014,1786:160784,1800:161169,1806:161477,1813:162478,1836:169793,1993:170255,2001:172026,2030:172411,2036:172873,2044:180155,2077:180915,2087:182340,2106:185004,2120:185276,2125:185684,2132:186024,2138:186500,2146:186772,2151:187620,2156:190020,2170:194121,2226:194386,2232:196482,2246:200480,2262:200800,2267:201680,2280:203200,2317:203520,2322:206410,2329:206986,2337:208714,2358:209194,2364:210058,2375:210538,2381:213978,2425:214986,2436:215910,2448:216582,2469:218178,2491:219690,2516:220026,2521:224562,2609:225066,2637:225654,2646:226410,2658:228594,2781:232626,2940:239261,2963:242865,2974:243765,2989:244290,2997:244590,3002:247152,3022:247740,3029:249504,3059:249896,3064:252100,3069:252541,3078:252919,3085:253297,3093:253612,3099:253927,3110:257000,3127:259185,3155:262063,3174:263179,3187:263830,3195:264760,3206:267380,3234:268920,3246:269760,3254:270460,3260:272043,3270$0,0:3286,14:3558,19:5462,67:8254,80:8961,90:9365,96:10173,107:14052,119:19290,182:19635,188:22257,236:22602,242:23430,292:24258,305:24879,316:25224,324:25638,331:32006,342:32710,352:33326,361:49894,474:53734,503:54182,508:54966,517:55414,522:59742,546:66655,596:68041,621:73656,683:78400,714:80033,738:82040,746:83600,767:84640,780:85160,786:92505,829:93455,840:94595,858:95545,870:98666,902:99126,908:99586,914:100414,932:100874,938:101702,950:102162,956:102990,968:108002,1000:108392,1006:110108,1035:111278,1055:111590,1060:112682,1079:112994,1084:113618,1094:114086,1101:117300,1114:117568,1119:117836,1124:118305,1133:118573,1138:118908,1144:122915,1192:125447,1216:125888,1225:126140,1232:126896,1247:128520,1253:129444,1265:135000,1302:135680,1320:136105,1326:136700,1334:137040,1339:138145,1350:138485,1355:138825,1360:146832,1380:148990,1393:149700,1399:150552,1407:151688,1416:152554,1431:153622,1448:154245,1456:155046,1468:155402,1473:158246,1497:159560,1508:160105,1514:161086,1525:161849,1533:163750,1541:164317,1550:164965,1560:165937,1575:167881,1654:170200,1663:170452,1668:171397,1685:172090,1699:172657,1710:174562,1723:175138,1734:177500,1744:177940,1750:178644,1760:180044,1765
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Richard Pegue interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Richard Pegue's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Richard Pegue remembers his parents and family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Richard Pegue recalls early childhood memories of the South Side of Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Richard Pegue remembers listening to radio as a child, including Chicago disc jockey Al Benson

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Richard Pegue talks about his family's move to a majority-white neighborhood in Chicago in 1951

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Richard Pegue talks about his passion for science fiction

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Richard Pegue looks back on getting a tape recorder at age eleven as an important life event

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Richard Pegue recalls his band "The Belvederes" in grammar and high school

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Richard Pegue reminisces about the popularity of doo-wop music

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Richard Pegue comments on the explosion of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers in 1955

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Richard Pegue talks about changes in pop music and recalls music of the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Richard Pegue unravels the changes in WVON's radio dial numbers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Richard Pegue recalls popular WGES radio DJs and his band's performances at parties and school events

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Richard Pegue remembers DJing at parties as a teen and describes how street DJs emulated radio DJs

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Richard Pegue analyzes the relationship between disc jockey and audience

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Richard Pegue remembers working at Maurie Alpert's Met Music store and Penny Record label

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Richard Pegue talks about attending Columbia College in Chicago during the early 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Richard Pegue recalls helping at WBEE radio station on weekends as a teenager

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Richard Pegue talks about his favorite music groups in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Richard Pegue remembers meeting Leonard Chess and Herb Kent in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Richard Pegue compares the Chicago sound with other distinctive regional R&B styles

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Richard Pegue praises Sam Cooke's business acumen and discusses music publishing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Richard Pegue lists fellow members of the Belvederes and Norvells and recalls the wild dance moves of The Vibrations

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Richard Pegue praises Berry Gordy's mass-merchandising concept and wishes Chicago label owners had had his ability

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Richard Pegue discusses how WVON and Chess Records handled the conflict of interest issue over having the same owner

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Richard Pegue analyzes how WVON's black, "down home" image made it the number one radio station in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Richard Pegue talks about crazy promotions at WVON radio, Chicago, in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Richard Pegue talks about his relationship with Herb Kent and others at WVON

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Richard Pegue recalls Leonard Chess and his relationship with black employees and artists

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Richard Pegue talks about Pervis Spann's entrepreneurship in concert booking and clubs

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Richard Pegue sums up the ups and downs of WVON

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Richard Pegue tells about commercial jingles he produced

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Richard Pegue explains his 1981 move from WJPC to Program Director at WGCI

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Richard Pegue talks about Taste Entertainment's dance parties

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Richard Pegue defines "dusties" and talks about his love for older music

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Richard Pegue recalls his experience as a performer and arranger and the influence of Johnny Pate

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Richard Pegue regrets the loss of the personal element in black radio

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
Richard Pegue remembers meeting Leonard Chess and Herb Kent in the 1960s
Richard Pegue analyzes how WVON's black, "down home" image made it the number one radio station in Chicago
Transcript
Okay let's talk about how you got introduced to Leonard Chess [originally Lezjor Czyz, of Chess Records, Chicago, Illinois]. And you said that you know, the owner of--Maurie Alpert--$$(Simultaneously) Um-hmm.$$Actually introduced you. And was that a case of--Did that have--I know that's been--Well anyway how did that come about? What--Did he come into the record shop?$$Oh no. I would sometimes go to Leonard's base of operation at Chess Records to pick up records for the record shop [Maurie Alpert's Met Music, where Pegue worked]. So I would pick up from the manufacturer, bypassing the distributor and the records going directly to our retail outlet. Because they were friends. Now you get that picture? And during the course of events, I met Leonard. And I said, "Maurie why don't you talk to him? He got this radio station WVON. I can do that." And he did. And I did. That's how we got started. Now, on the way I met Herb Kent. Because Herb was playing our record in 1965. That same hit 'I'm Not Ready to Settle Down' [written and produced by Pegue] So I brought the group [Little Ben and the Cheers] by the radio station. I'm a big-time promoter, right? I brought the group by the radio station and I had met Herb. And a year later he stopped at the record shop, because he was looking for some records that we had. A year later [1967], Herb asked me to come work at his record shop [and dance party hall] at 'Times Square' on 49th [Street] and Wabash [Avenue]. And so I did. Not knowing that a year and-a-half later, I would be working at the radio station. And so I did. The irony is in 1981, early '82 [1982], I hired Herb to work at WGCI [FM radio, Chicago, Illinois], where I was program director. So I worked for him, he worked for me.$$Now talk about Herb in those days. What, you know--'Cause that was--he was, he was, he--had sort of created the characters, 'The Wahoo Man' and--$$(Simultaneously) 'The Wahoo', 'The Gym Shoe Creeper' and all of his cast of characters and the 'Electric Crazy People' totally amusing--amusing to us. There was nothing on the air like it. And even though there weren't that many installments, they did a lot. It wasn't a new one everyday. But you could hear them and always crack up with whatever was funny. I mean even if you heard the same script twenty, thirty times, it was still funny. It never wore out. He was a genius at putting that, that stuff together at that time.$$And talk about the sock hops. Because people--a lot of kids came out to those sock hops right? Were they just--they weren't mainly ki--right? They were--$$(Simultaneously) We were all grown up at eighteen and nineteen.$$(Simultaneously) Okay. So okay (laughing).$$At seventeen and--$$(Simultaneously) Okay (Laughing).$$Sixteen.$$(Simultaneously) (Laughing).$$Weren't you? Yes you were.$$(Simultaneously) (Laughing) I'm sorry.$$All right?$$(Laughing) Okay.$$(Simultaneously) So there we were--and you know? When people weren't killing each other, it was a far better time for us. Everybody had a good time when you didn't have to worry about your safety. And the music was so vibrant at the time. It was--the same way the younger generation reacts to rap [music] now. That was us thirty, forty years ago.$Now I want to talk about the WVON [AM radio, Chicago, Illinois] of that day and what, you know, made it so unique. And that's what I'll ask. What made it so unique? I mean you had these personalities. It was twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, right? That was--$$(Simultaneously) That was the number one thing. Always there. We never had with the exception of WYNR [AM radio, Chicago, Illinois], here we go back to 1390 again. WYNR was a full-staffed 24-hour operation as I remember. So they were one step ahead of WVON. But the composition of WYNR was not "down home." This is Chicago. This is "Upper Mississippi" and Leonard Chess [owner of WVON] knew it. 'VON came up in competition to WYNR with good old down home radio. Polished and glossed with the Top Forty format of the time. And 'VON won. It was definitely black. It was no pretense of being gray. It was, "This is a black radio station. Here is Muddy Waters, not Clear Waters, but Muddy Waters." Clear Waters, a great artist too. Okay but it was really black and we were going to say--they were because I wasn't there then. They were going to save black folks. And they did. [Moses Lindberg] 'Lucky' Cordell has more of the story on that. Because he was there almost upon creation of that product. I came in later [1968]. The whole station only existed in that form from 1963-64 [1964] until 1975. About twelve, thirteen years, for the life of that one station that had as much impact to get to be the number one radio station in Chicago overall with the other top forties at the time, WCFL [AM radio, Chicago, Illinois] and WLS [AM radio, Chicago, Illinois] battling each other. But 'VON coming up the middle and becoming the number one station. Short lived but true.

Barry A. Mayo

A passionate music lover, Barry Mayo’s early inspirations were the jazz and R&B albums his father played each evening on the family record player. Mayo has taken this love for African American music and shaped it into a broadcasting career of unprecedented success. His first exposure to the industry came during the 1970s while attending the School of Communications at Howard University. Mayo became the first general manager of WHBC, a position that rocketed him into a radio industry career.

Over a span of twenty years, Mayo served as program director in numerous markets across the nation, including Nashville, Tennessee; Norfolk, Virginia; and Little Rock, Arkansas. During this time, he exhibited a passion for music and marketing skill, which earned him several awards. More important, Mayo created a mix of musical genres and styles that has since become an industry standard because of its upbeat blend of jazz, R&B, funk and soul. In doing so, Mayo continued to reengineer the formats of stations in Chicago, New York and Detroit, bringing them and others to number one in their markets.

Mayo’s reputation as an innovative radio programmer spread quickly throughout the industry and he was offered a position at one of the largest urban stations in the country, WRKS-FM (KISS-FM) in New York. Three years after joining the programming staff at KISS-FM, Mayo became vice president and general manager of this station. His place in the radio industry firmly set, Mayo decided to leave the station and become an entrepreneur. In 1988, he and a group of partners founded Broadcast Partners. Originally a five-station network, Broadcast Partners grew under Mayo’s guidance into a twelve-station, publicly traded company with stations in Dallas, New York, Chicago and Charlotte. In 1995, Mayo sold his share of Broadcast Partners and founded Mayomedia, a media consulting firm specializing in urban markets.

In 1995, Mayo received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the National Black Programmers’ Coalition and in 1996 received the Martin Luther King Legacy Award from the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago. Mayo is currently exploring a career as a photographer while spearheading the creation of the National Jazz Museum.

Accession Number

A1999.002

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

12/7/1999

Last Name

Mayo

Maker Category
Middle Name

A.

Organizations
Schools

Queens College, City University of New York

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Barry

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MAY01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/30/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Stone Ridge

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Broadcast entrepreneur and radio program director Barry A. Mayo (1952 - ) is a broadcasting management pioneer. Mayo was a radio programmer throughout the United States before he got his big break being hired by one the largest urban stations in the country, WRKS-FM (KISS-FM) in New York. Mayo is known for mixing musical genres including jazz, R&B, funk and soul, which has since become an industry standard.

Employment

WHBC Radio

WRKS Radio

Broadcast Partners

Mayo Media

Favorite Color

Black

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barry Mayo interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barry Mayo's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barry Mayo recounts his earliest memory

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barry Mayo recalls his early affinity for music

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barry Mayo details his love of jazz music

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barry Mayo discusses his interest in a Chicago jazz museum project

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barry Mayo considers the impact of jazz music

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barry Mayo describes his childhood in the Bronx, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barry Mayo details school life in the midst of desegregation

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Barry Mayo shares the importance of friendship

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Barry Mayo describes his family structure, part I

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barry Mayo describes his family structure, part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barry Mayo recalls his time at the City College of New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barry Mayo describes the challenges he faced early in his career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barry Mayo recalls his time at Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barry Mayo recalls his role in developing WHBC radio station

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barry Mayo relates how he left college for a radio job in Little Rock, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barry Mayo describes other students' reactions to his management of their college radio station

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barry Mayo decodes his decision to leave college to start a career

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barry Mayo offers his views on education

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barry Mayo remembers influential mentors

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barry Mayo reveals how he avoided drug addiction

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barry Mayo discusses his first jobs in radio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barry Mayo discusses his strategy for success in radio broadcasting

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barry Mayo remembers influential co-workers

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barry Mayo evaluates his career path

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barry Mayo describes his experience working in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Barry Mayo recalls his move from Chicago, Illinois to New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barry Mayo discusses his career successes at 98.7 KISS-FM, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Barry Mayo reveals his unexpected ride to become the top black radio mogul

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Barry Mayo details the price his family paid for his professional success

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Barry Mayo emphasizes the role of radio research

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Barry Mayo describes his instinct for radio programming

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Barry Mayo weighs the effect of changes in the radio industry

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Barry Mayo considers the future of African Americans in the radio industry

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Barry Mayo discusses his love for hip hop music

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Barry Mayo considers the evolution of rap music, part 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Barry Mayo discusses the evolution of rap/hip-hop music, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Barry Mayo considers hip-hop music's staying power

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Barry Mayo comments on holding rap artists as role models

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Barry Mayo considers the Internet's impact on the music industry

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Barry Mayo considers his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Barry Mayo describes his interest in photography and race

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Barry Mayo discusses the influential 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Barry Mayo gives advice on faith and determination

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Barry Mayo discusses the influence of Minister Louis Farrakhan

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Barry Mayo reflects on his accomplishments so far