The Friday 5×2: WERD (860 AM Atlanta GA), 4/16/55

I stumbled onto a piece of radio history when I found today’s survey. WERD (which is now WAEC, “Love 860,” broadcasting a Christian format) was the first radio station owned and programmed by African Americans. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say…

Jesse B. Blayton Sr., an accountant, bank president, and Atlanta University professor, purchased WERD in 1949 for $50,000. He changed the station format to “black appeal” and hired his son Jesse Jr. as station manager. “Jockey” Jack Gibson was hired and by 1951 he was the most popular DJ in Atlanta.

The station was housed in the Prince Hall Masonic Temple building on Auburn Avenue, then one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the United States. Located in that same building was the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formed in 1957, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and staffed by Ella Baker. According to Gibson, King would tap the ceiling of SCLC office (just below WERD) with a broomstick to signal he had an announcement to make. Gibson would then lower a microphone from the studio window to King at the window below.

I was surprised that the music on the survey was as diverse as it was. Have a listen.

I wasn’t able to find much information on any of the records in this week’s survey, so I’ll just list them and let you judge for yourself.

  1. Perez Prado, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”
  2. Crazy Otto, “Smiles”
  3. Mahalia Jackson, “A Rusty Old Halo”
  4. Louis Armstrong, “Sincerely”
  5. Sarah Vaughan, “How Important Can It Be”
  6. Perry Como, “Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So”
  7. Bill Hayes, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”
  8. Frank Chacksfield, “Blue Mirage”
  9. Nat King Cole, “Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup”
  10. Al Hibbler, “Unchained Melody”

And that’s The Friday 5×2 for April 17, 2020.

7 thoughts on “The Friday 5×2: WERD (860 AM Atlanta GA), 4/16/55

  1. These were so much fun to listen to and I thought Sincerely and Unchained Melody would be good BOTB. Probably done before but I bet many artists have done these

    Like

    1. A lot of it probably was music your mother (and mine and many others) would listen to. And the thing is, WERD called its format “black appeal,” but it really appealed to a big chunk of society, not just Black people. I wonder how many people back then realized it?

      Liked by 1 person

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