Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Following In Jack 'The Rapper' Gibson's Media Footsteps

If you wonder where I came up with the phrase 'tellin' it like it T-I-S is', I borrowed it from this iconic African-American radio personality and chronicler of Black radio that sadly is no longer with us.

I used to race my Dad to the mailbox to read his Mello Yello when it was delivered by my friendly neighborhood letter carrier. I prided myself back in high school days of being on the cutting edge of Black music, and reading the Rapper's newsletter gave me the edge I needed to stay ahead of my music loving classmates.

Who was Jack 'The Rapper' Gibson? He was the first voice heard on the first Black owned and operated radio station, WERD-AM in Atlanta when they started broadcasting in 1949. Gibson founded the National Association of Radio Announcers for Black DJs or NARA in 1955 to give the original 13 Black DJ's a voice in the industry.

He published for over a decade the Mello Yello tipsheet that was no holds barred in telling the truth about things that went on in the radio world along with tracking R&B music. Starting in 1977 he hosted an annual convention in Orlando, FL that became a must attend event.

The 'Family Affair' was a convention that not only many R&B music stars, radio personalities and music execs attended, but became a forum that set the stage for many of the major changes in the recording and music industry that allowed African-Americans to advance to leadership roles in it.

It was because of Gibson's work in Black radio that the voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other SCLC leaders was heard for the first time over the airwaves. He helped Motown get much of the airplay in the 1960's that was the springboard to its success, and was one of the people who gave hip hop and its artists a leg up when they were begging for airplay and attention in the early 80's.

Gibson's work didn't go unnoticed. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C and into the Nevada Broadcasting Hall of Fame when he hosted a Las Vegas radio show until his death from cancer in 2000 at age 79i.

But for me, I'm focused on the truth telling part of Gibson's life. He always told it like it T-I-S is, as he would say in the pages of the Mello Yello, and his love for our people always shone through while doing so.

Those are two lessons of his that I'm proud to carry on in these electronic pages at TransGriot.

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