Radio AM to FM: August 13, 2004
Hunter Hancock, who revolutionized Los Angeles radio in the 1950s and '60s through his playing of Rhythm and Blues music, died on August 2nd. He was 88.
Hancock was born in Uvalde, Texas and raised in San Antonio. After graduating in 1934, he had numerous jobs including sales, bank clerk, chauffeur, drummer, and vaudeville singer.
He came to Los Angeles in 1943, playing jazz music for an hour on Sundays and acting as a staff announcer for KFVD (now KTNQ, 1020 AM). The show was called Harlem Holiday, and it was designed to appeal to "the Negro community."
In 1947, he added a daily half hour to his broadcasting duties with a show he called Harlematinee. It too began with jazz, but a meeting with Modern Records salesman Jack Allison during the show's first week changed all that. "You're playing the wrong records," he told Hancock. Allison gave Hancock a list of "race" records -- Rhythm and Blues -- that were selling well to blacks in the South.
Hancock didn't recognize any of the songs, but he was so impressed with the meeting that he decided to play a couple of the songs that same day. The reaction was so strong that the show was 100 percent "race" records by end of the next week. Due to his popularity, in a short time his show expanded to 3-1/2 hours.
"Without realizing it, I became the first disc jockey in the Western United States to play R&B," he wrote in an autobiography posted at the Doo Wop Society of Southern California's web site (www.electricearl.com/dws/hunter.html).
In 1956, Hancock added a night shift at KGFJ (now KYPA, 1230 AM) to his duties. Management at KFVD (which by this time had changed call letters to KPOP) didn't mind as KPOP signed off at sunset, so he wasn't really competing. "Huntin' with Hunter" was the name of the new show, which broadcast from 9:00 to 11:30 nightly ... again, playing the best new R&B.
Because he was such an R&B pioneer, many people assumed he was black. When he first made appearances at sock hops and concerts, both whites and blacks were shocked to see he was white. "The black people accepted me because I was playing their music when no one else was," Hancock told Los Angeles radio historian Don Barrett (www.laradio.com) in a 1999 interview.
By the mid 1960s, things began to change. KPOP had a new owner and was playing country music; KGFJ was top-40 and the DJs were being told what to play. It was very difficult for Hancock, who was ashamed to pay some of the music he was told to play. He retired from radio in 1968.
Services will be August 28th at Claremont United Methodist Church.
KLOS's (95.5 FM) 23rd annual blood drive set a national record by collecting 6,250 units of blood during its four day run in late July. The previous record was 5,021.
Seventeen donation sites were set up throughout Southern California for the event, which has collected over 70,000 unites since it began 23 years ago.
Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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