June is Black Music Month, and in celebration, it’s time to spotlight the trailblazers whose voices anchored the Black music that shifted American culture.
It was only right to start with a legend who is considered the first Black broadcaster/announcer for this tribute. Cooper was a former boxer whose journalism career dates to the 1920s, when he wrote for multiple Black newspapers in Memphis, Indianapolis, and Chicago. His The All-Negro Hour for WSBC was a combination of live humorous skits and music. Cooper’s namesake production successfully operated on four different radio stations throughout the Chicago area, creating an ownership blueprint for others to follow.
2) Mary Dee
Hailed as the first African American DJ, this Homestead, PA native Howard Bison first went on-air August 1, 1948, on WHOD. The Movin’ Around with Mary Dee show was a pioneer in blending music and news with community affairs such as segregation issues. An icon who was one of the first two Black women admitted to the Association of Americans in Radio and Television.
Not a DJ on the planet earth embraced their celebrity like Frankie Crocker in real-time. Starting his career at Buffalo’s WUFO radio station, Crocker is most famously known for his period as Program Director/On-air personality for New York city’s WBLS radio station. Although the self-proclaimed Chief Rocker was a champion for R&B Urban
Contemporary, he also broke artists such as Blondie, Madonna, and Grace Jones in his career. Crocker’s lifestyle, although controversial, gained the nickname Hollywood, not just for his appearance in movies but also because, with a personality so flamboyant, he once rode a white stallion horse at the front entrance of Studio 54. What a time.
Daniels’ career started in Jacksonville, FL, before moving to Illinois, earning The First Lady of Chicago radio title for her career span from the 19060s to 1991. Daniels worked various slots in her career that included hosting Morning Shows and Afternoon drive while being part of the first all-women radio team in 1967 for WSDM radio station. She was inducted into the Radio Hall of fame in 1995 as a tribute to her forever legacy.
5) JJ Jackson
Nicknamed Triple J, the Bronx native’s work resume begins in the 1960s in Boston and Los Angeles, but he’s most known for being one of MTV’s original 5 VJs. A pioneer, Jackson was one of the few Black DJs to cover rock music, including 1985’s Live Aid and one of Bruce Springsteen’s first televised interviews.
Williams started in 1973 at WHUR in Washington DC. A career that stretches four decades, the crowned Godmother of Black music has added journalist, writer, and community activist to her resume while also co-founding the Association of African American Music Foundation(IAAAM Foundation) to promote and preserve Black music.
Debuting as a Disco DJ in 1979 on WHBI radio station, Mr. Magic later relocated to WBLS to begin the Rap Attack show, which gave a more prominent stage for the then young street existing Hip Hop music genre. Magic’s show pioneered legendary rap battle moments such as The Bridge Wars, and along with his cohost producer, Marley Marl,
founded legendary Hip Hop collective The Juice Crew.