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Bobby Bennett

Radio DJ Bobby Bennett was born on July 20, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From a young age, Bennett knew that he wanted to be a radio DJ. Following high school, he enrolled in a broadcasting school in Pittsburgh.

In 1967, Bennett worked as a news reporter for Pittsburgh's WAMO-AM and WZUM radio stations. One year later, in 1968, he moved to WOL-AM in Washington, D.C., where he became known to radio fans as “The Mighty Burner” and hosted a show until 1980. Bennett then hosted a sports talk show on WTOP in the early 1980s, and served as program director for WHUR-FM from 1987 to 1992. After his time at WHUR, Bennett was hired as a morning talk show host at WXTR; and, in 1997, he became the host of an R&B radio show on WPFW-FM. In 2000, Bennett created the “Soul Street” channel for XM Satellite Radio, and served as its program director until 2010. During his career, he also was employed as a record executive and as a voice over narrator.

Bennett was the co-author of The Ultimate Soul Music Trivia Book: 501 Questions and Answers About Motown, Rhythym & Blues, and More, which was published in 1997. In 1988, Bennett was presented with several awards from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Pennsylvania. In 1972, he was named Billboard magazine’s R&B Disc Jockey of the Year, and, in 1973, was recognized as Disc Jockey of the Year by the Gavin Report.

Bennett passed away on September 8, 2015 at age 72.

Accession Number

A2014.188

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/10/2014

Last Name

Bennett

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Dilworth Elementary School

Westinghouse Academy

Gladstone High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Bobby

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

BEN07

Favorite Season

May

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cancun, Mexico

Favorite Quote

Man Don’t Pay No Overtime And I Don’t Do None.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

7/20/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Punta Gorda

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Rib Eye Steak

Death Date

9/8/2015

Short Description

Radio dj Bobby Bennett (1943 - 2015 ) worked at several radio stations in Washington, D.C. from the 1960s to the 1990s. He also created the 'Soul Street' channel for XM Satellite Radio, and served as its program director for seven years.

Employment

WAMO-AM

WZUM

WOL-AM

WTOP

WHUR-FM

WXTR

WPFW-FM

Sirius XM Radio, Inc.

Capitol Records, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bobby Bennett's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bobby Bennett lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bobby Bennett describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bobby Bennett recalls his relationship with his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bobby Bennett describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bobby Bennett recalls his mother's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bobby Bennett describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bobby Bennett describes his father's personality and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bobby Bennett recalls how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bobby Bennett talks about his father's military service

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bobby Bennett recalls his father's duty in the Korean War

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bobby Bennett describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bobby Bennett recalls his family's reaction to his aspirations of becoming a disc jockey

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bobby Bennett describes his brothers, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bobby Bennett describes his brothers, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bobby Bennett describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bobby Bennett recalls living in a housing project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bobby Bennett remembers his early encounters with segregation

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bobby Bennett remembers his favorite high school teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Bobby Bennett recalls the fashionable clothing of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Bobby Bennett describes his maternal great uncle

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Bobby Bennett recalls his early interest in baseball, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bobby Bennett remembers being scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bobby Bennett recalls the high schools he attended in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bobby Bennett remembers playing basketball

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bobby Bennett recalls his early interest in becoming a disc jockey

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bobby Bennett talks about the music scene in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bobby Bennett talks about the influence of the Pittsburgh Courier

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bobby Bennett remembers his challenges at Gladstone High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bobby Bennett recalls his high school activities

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Bobby Bennett describes WAMO Radio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Bobby Bennett remembers his early work in the radio industry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bobby Bennett remembers working at WZUM Radio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bobby Bennett talks about the movie 'Get on Up'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bobby Bennett talks about movies about the African American music industry

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bobby Bennett remembers transitioning to WOL Radio in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bobby Bennett recalls Al Germany's guidance and advice

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bobby Bennett remembers receiving a draft deferment

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bobby Bennett talks about Petey Greene

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bobby Bennett recalls his disc jockey contemporaries

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bobby Bennett remembers being given the nickname The Mighty Burner

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bobby Bennett talks about his time as an afternoon radio host

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bobby Bennett recalls singers that he enjoyed working with, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bobby Bennett recalls singers that he enjoyed working with, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bobby Bennett remembers the decline of Sly Stone, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bobby Bennett remembers the decline of Sly Stone, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bobby Bennett talks about maintaining his integrity in the radio industry

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bobby Bennett describes WOL Radio's place in the changing radio industry

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Bobby Bennett recalls his coworkers at WHUR Radio in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Bobby Bennett remembers his friendship with Chuck Brown

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Bobby Bennett describes his work experiences after leaving WOL Radio

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Bobby Bennett recalls working at Capitol Records in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Bobby Bennett remembers joining WXTR Radio in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Bobby Bennett describes his experiences at WXTR Radio

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Bobby Bennett remembers hosting cruise concerts

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Bobby Bennett talks about go-go music

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Bobby Bennett remembers working at XM Satellite Radio, Inc.

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Bobby Bennett talks about the future of radio

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Bobby Bennett recalls moving from Washington, D.C. to Punta Gorda, Florida

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Bobby Bennett reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Bobby Bennett describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Bobby Bennett talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Bobby Bennett reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Bobby Bennett describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

4$9

DATitle
Bobby Bennett remembers transitioning to WOL Radio in Washington, D.C.
Bobby Bennett remembers working at XM Satellite Radio, Inc.
Transcript
Tell me how you got to WOL [WOL Radio, Washington, D.C.]. What, what happened, now you're at ZUM [WZUM Radio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania], you're twenty years old. What happens?$$Well they had a program director by the name of Bill Sherard, and Bill Sherard, his mother and father lived somewhere in Pennsylvania. And I'm not sure, it was northern Pennsylvania. But he heard me, he was on his way home 4th of July for the 4th of July holiday and he heard me on the air on a Saturday afternoon. So soon as he got back to D.C. [Washington, D.C.] that Tuesday, 'cause I think the holiday was Monday. He got back on Tuesday, he called me up and I had heard, I had been to Dc and I had heard WOL and I said oh may I would love to work there, them guys are smoking. Well at, WZUM we had people that were really good, I mean we had two guys that left there and went to New York [New York], but, and I had an opportunity to go New York. But I'm saying well if Al's going to New York, this guy that started me in radio, Al Gee he went to New York and Jeff Troy who's another one and Frankie Crocker. Frankie went to New York also. So I said well I'm going to D.C., so anyway make, get back to the original. He heard me on the air, he called me said would I be interested in coming to D.C., "Are you kidding," (laughter), "yeah definitely." Said, "Well I might have an opening in a couple of months to do the a- the overnight show." Now overnight was midnight 'til five in the morning, I didn't wanna do overnights, but I'm a kid. I'm just starting in this business and I'll do whatever you want. So I go on the air and I said okay, and I didn't expect to hear from again, him again, I thought it was you know possibly a joke or what. He called me two weeks later, said, "All right, I'm ready, come on down." So me and my brother, Gary [Gary Payne], Gary was about ten years old I think, twelve years old, we get in the car and go down to D.C. And, and he told me what they were gonna pay me and I almost died, I almost, I fainted.$$How much more was it than?$$Well it was I was making seventy dollars a week, and I went from seventy-five to 250 [dollars], so you do the math, that's about 175 difference.$$Just for playing records (laughter)?$$Just for playing records (laughter).$$That's what your father [Marshall Payne, Jr.] said.$$And my show was sponsored by Ben's Chili Bowl [Washington, D.C.].$$The famous Ben's Chili Bowl?$$The famous Jim- well wasn't fam- it wasn't that famous then.$$Okay.$$They were sponsored, they sponsored the first two hours, so they would, every night they would call me and see what I'm, how many hot dogs or half smokes I wanted. And they would bring them up to the station, and I was so full, I mean that was my diet for about six months I guess. And I got the job, and in D.C. and I was doing overnights and it was, it was a great experience. So then I got drafted, Vietnam [Vietnam War] was smoking by then.$$So how, how long were you there before you were drafted?$$What six months, eight months.$Okay so I thought I'd ask you about it before we moved on to XM radio. This is, so XM's in 2001, right, you go to XM is that?$$No we went in 2000.$$Two thousand [2000]?$$Yeah we didn't go on the air 'til 2001.$$Okay all right, all right.$$Yeah.$$So well XM now this is satellite ra- radio?$$Right.$$And well, well tell us about how, how you got the opportunity and what you were trying to do.$$Well I was doing the show on, on PFW [WPFW Radio, Washington, D.C.], and Hugh Panero who became the general manager of XM Satellite Radio [XM Satellite Radio, Inc.; Sirius XM Radio, Inc.], Hugh used to listen to us every Saturday he would listen. 'Cause he'd be off and, he would le- he loved hearing the old R and B music and so forth. And I got a call one day, I'd just put a book out what was it, 501 Ways the R- to Listen to R and B Radio [sic. 'The Ultimate Soul Music Trivia Book: 501 Questions and Answers About Motown, Rhythm and Blues and More,' Bobby Bennett and Sarah Smith]. I'd just put, but he bought the book (laughter) and then he read, he went through the book and he cal- I had, they had me down for an interview. So I came in, at that point they had hired like three people, and I spoke to Lee Abrams, Lee was the guy that in charge of programming period, all 100 stations. And I convinced him that I knew more about R and B radio and R and B records than anybody else. So they, they said okay and you know this is what we want, this, "Now you're gonna have to be with this radio station until it, it," you know, "you're going have to build it from scratch," which is what I did. I, at that time I hired two other, two other jocks and what we would do would record, we do one show live, and then we would record another show. Say like you would be on twenty-four hours well twelve of them would be live, and twelve would be recorded. So that's what we did, did that for ten years, had a ball. It was, it was tough because this came along in two- in the year 2000 and all of the new technology was just coming about at this point. And I mean you're talking about me, I was a fifty year old jock, you know at that time, and you're trying to teach me new ti- all this new technology. And I'm like oh wow, so I remember one day riding down New Hampshire Avenue which I had to come on, do New Hampshire Avenue to get to work. And I'm like I'm quitting today 'cause I can't do this, I just can't do this, this is crazy. Something happened that day, I don't know what happened, and I still don't know what happened. All of a sudden all of this information that we had been de- being taught for the last four months, all of a sudden it all came together. And (laughter) all of a sudden I became the guy doing all this new technology, it was really, really wild. But after I got it, you know, I finally had it by now, and after I got it and build my station and the whole nine yards, then I really had a good time. Until the end at the end, they started hiring people that were really not ra- radio people, they were people, they were money people. And it, it didn't make no difference how you sounded as long as your station was making money. And as long, mean they would, they would play the same records like you know five times a day you know it was just crazy. So I remember Charlie Logan, Charlie Logan saying back in 2000, you know, "Those of us who build these radio stations won't be here ten years from now." And he was absolutely right, but it's funny how things happen. The, we had a new general manager 'cause our old guy he had left and his name was Jim Davis [ph.] and he came aboard and he said, "I'm a take care of all the people that helped to build this, this whole network." So what he did all of us are program directors, they offered us a year's salary, we got a year you know for not being there (laughter) that was great. Plus another year of here's a, another year, boom. So you know nobody was mad, we walked out, we said okay that's fine, they hired all new guys, they're out of New York [New York] now basically doing most of the shows out of New York. At that time they were doing everything in D.C. [Washington, D.C.], but it worked out very well and you know we were happy, and that's. That was ten years of my life that you know I really had a good time, and it was, it was fun to see something that had, didn't have legs before, all of a sudden it does now. That was fun; it was your baby it was you know. For the first year that this, this happened in two, two o-elev- '11 [2011] I believe. And I couldn't listen for the first year, I couldn't listen to my station, you know I just didn't wanna hear it. I didn't wanna hear what somebody else was doing with my station.$$I know they changed the name of the show from 'Soul Street' to 'Soul Town' (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yeah it became 'Soul Town,' well 'Soul Town' that was the name of, what they you know when I left, they just changed it around. Instead of the street 'cause we had a patent on the street, 'Soul Street,' they changed it to soul, 'Soul Town' so they wouldn't be sued (laughter), so.

Roshell "Mike" Anderson

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, television news reporter Roshell “Mike” Anderson was born on September 16, 1952 in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and raised in New Orleans. His mother, Mellenese Magee Anderson moved to New Orleans where she was a cook at The Court of Two Sisters Restaurant. His father, Robert Anderson, was a sergeant in the Korean War. Anderson was raised in the Algiers Church of God in Christ, where he first gained experience in public speaking and singing for an audience. In 1968, he developed a popular impression of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Graduating from Clarke High School in New Orleans in 1970, Anderson, known as “Cool Breeze,” patterned himself after Dr. Daddyo, a local radio personality, and CBS-TV news anchor, Walter Cronkite. Anderson attended Louisiana State University and the Career Academy School of Broadcast Journalism in Atlanta, Georgia, graduating in 1971.

Anderson earned his first class license in Atlanta in 1970 and worked at a number of southern radio stations, including WXNS, WKLS, WAOK, as announcer and disc jockey. He has been known as Roshell Magee and General Frank Magee. Anderson developed a singing and song writing career before getting involved with television. His 1972 record, “Snake out of Green Grass” made the Billboard charts followed by “Grapevine Will Lie Sometimes” in 1974. Anderson then took to the concert circuit. He joined WLWI-FM in Montgomery, Alabama in 1978 and switched to rival WXVI-FM in 1979. That same year, Anderson got his start in television at WAPI-TV in Birmingham, Alabama. As a news reporter, “Mike” Anderson covered the tense case of a black woman shot nine times by Birmingham police.

Before joining WISN-TV 12 News in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Anderson worked as a news anchor and reporter at KIRO-TV in Seattle, Washington. During his tenure at WISN, Anderson has been the recipient of many awards, including his work on the award-winning documentaries Children in the Line of Fire and Solutions to Violence. He has interviewed four American presidents: Richard M. Nixon, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He is a current member of the Wisconsin Black Media Association.

Anderson lives in Brown Deer, Wisconsin and has three children: Nicole, Mellenese and Michael. When not reporting the news, he is still a professional recording artist; cutting the album, Sweet and Sour Soul in 1988 and Rolling Over in 2006.

Accession Number

A2007.331

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/27/2007

Last Name

Anderson

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School

Career Academy

Andrew J. Bell Junior High School

McDonogh No. 32 Literacy Charter School

Washington Parish Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Roshell "Mike"

Birth City, State, Country

Bogalusa

HM ID

AND09

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Good Lord Willing.Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Wisconsin

Birth Date

9/16/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Milwaukee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Collard Greens, Neckbones, Okra

Short Description

Television news reporter, musician and singer, and radio dj Roshell "Mike" Anderson (1952 - ) was an anchor and reporter for WISN-TV Channel 12 News in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He had an extensive career as a radio personality, singer and songwriter before starting his television career.

Employment

WGOV Radio

WERD Radio

WLWI Radio

WAPI-TV

KIRO-TV

WISN-TV

Nashboro Records

Sunburst Records, Ltd.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roshell "Mike" Anderson's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Roshell "Mike" Anderson's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roshell "Mike" Anderson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roshell "Mike" Anderson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roshell "Mike" Anderson remembers his maternal grandfather's stories

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roshell "Mike" Anderson describes his great aunt and great uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roshell "Mike" Anderson describes his upbringing in Franklinton, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roshell "Mike" Anderson describes his mother's employment

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

4$4

DATitle
Roshell "Mike" Anderson remembers the death of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Roshell "Mike" Anderson recalls joining WAPI-TV in Birmingham, Alabama
Transcript
Now tell us something about J.S. Clark [Joseph S. Clark High School; Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, New Orleans, Louisiana]. Now, what, was this--this is an all-black high school in--?$$We had one or two white students at Clark--$$Okay.$$--when I was there. One of 'em I think played on the football team. But, it was primar- predominantly black school, Clark was, yeah.$$Okay. All right. And, so, you went there all four years?$$In a black neighborhood, yeah.$$And, did you, did you run for class office or anything like that, or (unclear)?$$Didn't run for any class office.$$Okay.$$I participated in, I did a couple of talent shows. A couple in particular where I recited Dr. Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] speech, after he died in '68 [1968]. At a talent show after that and I did his, I did his I Have a Dream speech.$$Now, were you, in high school when he was--$$Yes.$$Killed?$$Yeah.$$Okay. Can you remember how it affected you and the other students at the time?$$It affect--it had a tremendous impact on me and the other students. And, I had, in the talent show, I, as I said, I did Dr. King's speech. And, I had it down so pat, I could sound just like him. And, deliver it just like him. And, the kids, a lot of 'em thought that when Dr. King died, he was passing, you know, his, his role in life on down to me 'cause I could sound just--'cause I could deliver just like him. And, I became so--and they would call me, people would call me to come to whatever event to do that speech. And, I got so into it that my mom [Mellenese Magee Anderson] started to worry about me. To think that, you know, "No, son, I mean, Dr. King is gone, you're not gonna be Dr. King. You're not Dr. King." And, I had to catch myself too, to realize that no, I'm not the second coming of Dr. King. And, but, it was amazing how I could, without a whole lot of effort, just stand there, and if you didn't know he wasn't in the room, you'd think it was him. And, we were all--because Dr. King, at that time, he was, he was the inspiration that guided us all, you know. We had James Brown of course, 'Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud' those kinds of things. But, Dr. King being the, being the--he was the Moses of, of our time. And, even as young people, you know, we saw that and understood that. So, yeah, when he died it was a tremendous--$$Now, were there riots in New Orleans [Louisiana] when he, when he died?$$I don't recall that there were riots in New Orleans. Not like there were at some other places, no.$And, that was a good time in my life. And, then my news director at WLWI [WLWI Radio, Montgomery, Alabama] left that station and went to Birmingham [Alabama] as a producer. His name was Jimmy Carter [ph.]. Not to be confused with the President Jimmy Carter [President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.] at the time. But, his name was Jimmy Carter. And, he went to work for WAPI [WAPI-TV] at the time, it's now WVTM [WVTM-TV], Channel 13 in Birmingham, and--as a producer. And, they were looking for more reporters to add on to their staff, so he recommend me. This is a TV station. I'd never done television before. But, I'm thinking, wow, you know, this might be a shot. So, I went up to WAPI and the news director--I made a resume tape of my voice work, gave that to 'em. But, they wanted to see what I could do on camera. So, I went up, they liked my resume, they sent me out on a story and--with another reporter who was gonna report for that day. But, they wanted me to do the same story so they could view it behind the scenes to see how I present it. I asked the guy, the reporter I was with, I said, "What's the hardest thing to do--?" About putting together a story. And, the reporter told me it was a stand up. He said his hardest thing for him to do is to stand in front of that camera and deliver a stand up. And, so, I thought to myself, okay, if that's the hardest thing to do, that's what I'm gonna do. So, I did my whole story straight stand up, wrote it, rememorized it, and did the whole thing stand up. And, then the editor, the photographer who was with us, he says, "Don't you wanna put some B-roll over that?" I said, "B-ro- ?" I didn't know what B-roll was. That meant cover shots, okay. Then I says, "Well, I suppose you could, yeah." Threw a little cover shots over there, put a sound bite in there, and then the news director said that's what he was impressed with. The fact that I was able to stand in front of the camera, with cars passing behind me, and I wasn't distracted, did the whole thing. Took me like two takes, but I did it. So, I got the job. And, I became a reporter there at W- WAPI, Channel 13.$$Okay. This is nineteen seventy--$$Seventy-nine [1979].$$--nine [1979]. Okay.

John Heidelberg

Broadcasting entrepreneur, John Henry Heidelberg was born on February 19, 1944, in Shubuta, Mississippi, to Lillian Bounds and K.P. Heidelberg. He attended his family’s Spring Hill Church School, Shibuta School, McGill Junior High School, and Riverview High School in Waynesboro, Mississippi. Joining the United States Air Force in 1962, Heidelberg was stationed in Saigon, Vietnam.

Returning home in 1965, Heidelberg enrolled in Jackson County Junior College while working at Ingalls Shipbuilding. Heidelberg attended the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters on the G.I. Bill and later entered Tennessee State University; he was hired by Nashville’s WVOL-AM as a part-time disc jockey in 1969. Six months later, Heidelberg earned a full-time job; working daily, he played urban music. In 1970, as acting program director, he gave some air time to East High School student, Oprah Winfrey, whom he eventually hired to read news broadcasts for the station.

In 1983, Heidelberg joined Nashville’s 50,000 watt WSM-AM, a station famous as the voice of country music; there, he became one of the first African American country disc jockeys. In April of 2000, Heidelberg purchased WVOL-AM stereo from Dickie Brothers Broadcasting. Under Heidelberg Broadcasting, the format of “The Mighty 147” became urban contemporary gospel and talk shows during the day and jazz at night. In 2002, Heidelberg opened John Henry’s Restaurant and Showcase on historic Jefferson Street in North Nashville; the restaurant, no longer in business, featured fine dining with a taste of soul and southern jazz with a full size bar and a dance floor.

Accession Number

A2007.091

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/15/2007

Last Name

Heidelberg

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Riverview High School

Spring Hill Church School

Shubuta School

McGill School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Shubta

HM ID

HEI03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

2/19/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak, Fish

Short Description

Broadcast entrepreneur and radio dj John Heidelberg (1944 - ) owned WVOL-AM in Nashville, Tennessee, and was credited with giving Oprah Winfrey her first job in broadcasting.

Employment

WVOL-AM

WSM-AM

John Henry's Restaurant and Showcase

Ingal's Shipyard

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John Heidelberg's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg remembers meeting his paternal great-great-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg describes his father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg describes his paternal great-grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg describes his likeness to his parents and great-grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - John Heidelberg describes his work on his great-grandparents' farm

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - John Heidelberg remembers his early interest in radio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg remembers listening to John Richbourg on WLAC Radio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg recalls his paternal great-grandmother's commitment to education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg remembers the racial violence in Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg remembers a white neighbor's interference with his mail

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg describes the culture of the segregated South

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg remembers McGill Junior High School and Riverview High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg describes his interest in history

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg explains his reasons for joining the U.S. military, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes his early political views

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg remembers the pastimes of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg explains his reasons for joining the U.S. military, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg recalls his service in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg remembers his decision to become a disc jockey

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Heidelburg recalls attending a radio school in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg remembers his early interest in elocution

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg recalls confusion over his dialect

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg remembers becoming a disc jockey at WVOL Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg describes his show on WVOL Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg recalls his colleagues at WVOL Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes his style as a radio disc jockey

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg describes his roles at WVOL Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg remembers hiring Oprah Winfrey at WVOL Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg talks about the female employees of WVOL Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg recalls Oprah Winfrey's hiring as a newscaster on WLAC-TV

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg recalls the changes in the southern culture

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg talks about his contributions to black radio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg remembers being hired by WSM Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg describes his career at WSM Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg talks about the African American origins of country music

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg describes his experiences at WSM Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg describes the misperceptions about radio personalities

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg talks about his ineptitude at dancing

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg remembers his experiences in sports broadcasting

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg remembers purchasing the WVOL Radio station

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg describes his vision for WVOL Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg talks about the Arbitron rating system for radio stations

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg describes his advertising partners

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg talks about the changes in the broadcasting industry

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg describes his accomplishments at WVOL Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg talks about the importance of independent radio stations

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg remembers opening a restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - John Heidelberg describes his plans for his restaurant

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - John Heidelberg recalls the celebrity patrons of his restaurant

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his career in the radio industry, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his restaurant business

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his career in the radio industry, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his impact on the radio industry

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg talks about the challenges facing small radio station owners

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg talks about the trends in political talk radio

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$9

DATitle
John Heidelberg remembers hiring Oprah Winfrey at WVOL Radio
John Heidelberg describes his accomplishments at WVOL Radio
Transcript
Now, you mentioned a strange name, Oprah Winfrey; what kind of name is that for a person, and where did--$$Oprah said that they spelled it wrong.$$Okay.$$(Laughter) They were meant to say it some other way, but they spelled it wrong.$$Okay.$$Yeah.$$So you met her?$$I discovered her (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Now, she was a student at what, Tennessee State [Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee]?$$No, she was a--she was a student in East High School [East Nashville High School; East Nashville Magnet High School, Nashville, Tennessee] when I first met her.$$East High School? Okay.$$I, I gave Oprah her start.$$All right.$$Yeah.$$Well, tell us about it; what happened?$$Are we on now?$$Yes.$$Well, what first happened was Oprah came here [WVOL Radio, Berry Hill, Tennessee], I believe it was in 1971, and she and a couple of other people, and she was looking for someone to sponsor her in the March of Dimes walkathon. And I had been out. I don't know if I was--had gone to lunch or whatever, but I came back and she was just getting ready to leave when the receptionist says, "Here's the guy. Here's [HistoryMaker] John Heidelberg, and he'll help you." And so and I spoke with her and she says, "Well, look, here's what I want, and if you will help me. I'm, I'm--I've entered into the March of Dimes walkathon. And, and we pay--," I don't know how many cents it was, maybe a dime a mile or whatever it was. "And however many miles I walk, you pay me a dime a mile for that and this goes to the March of Dimes." And I says, "Okay. I'll do that." And so I was getting ready for my shift, afternoon shift and so she left and a few--about a month or so later she came back and said I owed her about eighteen, nineteen dollars or whatever it was. (Laughter) And I was married making about a hundred dollars a week, so eighteen dollars, that was a lot of money for me, you know, but I had promised to give it to her, so I gave it to her. So while she was here, I started talking with her and she said--and, and she was very articulate. I mean, this, this young lady's just, just talented, just--and, and her, and her dad [Vernon Winfrey] had done a wonderful job of molding her and, and her stepmom [Barbara Winfrey] and, and, and they made her read books and so you could, you could tell that she was well read. And I was very impressed with her, and I started asking her about herself. And she said she was from Mississippi. And I says, "Well, so am I." And so talking to her further, I says--I asked her had she ever been interested in getting into radio and she says no. And her favorite thing was at home watching 'Leave It to Beaver.' And so I said, "You know what, I think you'd be very good in radio, and I think you'd make a very good newsperson." And her father was a very strict man, so she told me I'd have to ask her father to let her do that. And so I came in and, and spoke with Noble Blackwell, who was the general manager at the time, and I asked--I told him that we've got a very talented young lady out here and I think she'd make a very good newsperson. And like I said, I blaze trails, I knocked down doors that weren't open. And he says--and Noble, in his own gentle way said, "Well, you handle it. You take care of it." So I went into the newsroom and, and some had followed me and, and, and we had UP--what is it, UPI [United Press International]? Whatever was teletype, and I got some copy and asked her to read the stuff. And then I asked some other people, you know, "Hey, listen to this young lady. This--she is so talented." Everybody came in just to hear her read, and she did very well. And so I started talking to Noble, I started talking to Mr. Blackwell's secretary [Ollie Pearson (ph.)]. She was a sweet white lady in the back and she said, "Well, John, you know, let's just get in touch and, and talk with her dad and see if we can get her out here." And so after about a couple weeks, we talked him into letting her come out and she would, you know, after school 'cause she was a senior in high school. And she would come out and fill in and, and do stories and whatnot; and then eventually, she got to be the, the anchor. She started doing newscasts, and she was very good and we would work with her, I would work with her a lot. And, and during that--$$This is while she was still in school?$$Um-hm.$$Okay.$$And so eventually, you know, when she got of age, I think they let her come--they--she was eighteen at the time when they had to hire--when they hired her. And so there was some times that people didn't want her doing that because people felt like they had paid their dues. I've been in this business a long time and it's a male, you know, bastion, it's a male field and we just don't let women come off the street and get a job in here; we don't do that, you know. And so she would come to me sometimes and I'd tell her, "Don't worry about it. I'll take the heat; you just do the job." And I did it, I took the heat. And there was always something said or somebody's doing something or maybe a memo was written or something and I says, "Don't you worry about it, I'll take the heat," and I took the heat.$What's your most popular show right now?$$We've got some good shows. We have what we call 'The BLUES Cafe' that we run on Saturdays and we, we try to do blues all day from si- we were doing it from six A.M. 'til seven P.M. and people love blues. Believe it or not, they love the blues and as long as you do traditional blues, not the contemporary stuff 'cause a lot of that is--doesn't sound very good, to be honest with you. But the, you know, Bobby Bland and John Lee Hooker and Johnnie Taylor and all those guys, Z.Z. Hill, those kind of songs and even Ray Charles and all of that, that's good blues. But some of the other stuff, it's so so, a few songs, good songs, but for the most part, it's, it's not like the old style and I'm a stickler for the old style.$$So you've got a niche there?$$Yeah, you got a niche. So we do the blues things on Saturday and then we have a talk show, as I say, we call it 'Open Forum' from twelve A.M. 'til three P.M. Monday through Friday and we just let the callers call in. We don't even ask them their name or anything else, you know. And we make sure that they know, hey, we want you to talk, but you got to keep it clean, you got to protect my license, you got to do all this other stuff, and they call in and talk about different things. And then, and then this is very popular because we get not only black listeners, but we get white listeners as well, and we even get white males. Believe it or not, a lot of white males listen and call and so we know we're getting a lot more people that are listening that do not call. And a lot of people tell us, "I would call, but I--somebody may recognize my voice, so I'd, I'd rather not do that." And they'll listen. And sometimes we, we got this, this sound effect where we flush people, yeah. Oh, yeah, what you're saying is--let's flush that and so he does little things, you know. And sometimes he'll raise his voice and say something when somebody gets on there and starts talking crazy or whatnot and then--and sometimes he has fun with it and then we have--we get very serious or we may have the, the mayor or anybody else on some serious issue. And we've been talking about immigration, illegal immigration, those type things. We talk about politics and, and this is the buckle of the Bible Belt, so you're naturally gonna get religion and everybody's got an opinion about religion in this town. So we talk about those things. And the guy [T.J. Graham] that does the show is a minister, he's an ordained minister, so he gets to talk about it and people don't agree and they don't agree with each other, but they listen to the show every day. That's why we know we should be doing well in the ratings but, you know, it doesn't show, but, but if you were to listen to these people, then we know we got people listening. And then when we go out and, and when we get a new client, they can play three commercials and they get results. Those people toll out, our listening audience said, "If we hear your commercial on VOL [WVOL Radio, Berry Hill, Tennessee], we will patronize your business," and they do. We've had businesses that weren't doing very well, now they're doing well. It's just convincing people that--to come to AM. They just don't believe that AM's gonna reach out there, but we do, you know, we do a good job of getting customers into these businesses, and it's just--well, maybe we just got to do a better job of telling him about it.$$Yeah, I think the power of--$$Yeah.$$--black talk radio is really growing and growing--$$Yeah. Yeah.$$--the last twenty years or so.$$Yeah.$$Loyal audience.$$Yeah.$$I mean, every city's got a--$$We, we, we got people that turn on VOL and don't turn it off. And we were streaming and people couldn't get on. You have to pay for all the amount of people that stream. You know, you're going all over the world, but people are leaving their computers on, so we don't have the computer that kicks them off after a while, they just leave it on all the time. They go back the next day, people downtown in offices keep it on, you know. Just about the water company, the electric company, all these places, we know that these people are listening and we're thinking why aren't they getting diaries, you know. Why aren't they getting diaries? And you ask them, "Do you ever get a diary? No." Well, where are the diaries going is my question.$$It's a good question.$$Um-hm. Yeah, where are they going?