Tag Archives: radio

Remembering The Mayor Of P-Town: Petey Green

10514657_10202131902970802_7641807366571926388_nIf you are a native Washingtonian and can remember the seventies; you know the hippest DJ in all the land. It was Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr. a two-time Emmy Award-winning television and radio talk-show host but the people of “Chocolate City” knew him as Petey Greene or the ruler of “Ptown” as he called DC – his town. This man of the people was significant to the community because he overcame drug addiction and a prison sentence for armed robbery to become one of the most prominent media personalities in Washington DC.

At a time of racial turbulence and unrest, he was known to tell the truth about issues concerning racism, poverty, drug usage, and current events among others. He was credited with calming the unrest as the city burned after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and endeared to city residence for his community support. Greene attended Stevens Elementary School and Cardozo Senior High School in Washington. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and enlisted in the United States Army at age 16 in 1947. He served in the Korean War as a medic and was honorably discharged from service in 1953.

In January 1960, Greene was convicted of armed robbery at a grocery store in Washington and sentenced to ten years imprisonment at Lorton Reformatory in Virginia. There he became the prison disc-jockey that made him popular and well liked by fellow prisoners. His gift for talking soon proved beneficial in other ways.

In May 1966, Greene persuaded a fellow inmate to climb to the top of the prison water tower and threaten suicide so that Greene would be able to “save his life” by talking him down. He would later say, “It took me six months to get him to go up there.” This act, combined with his generally good behavior, earned him a reduction in his prison sentence and paroled the following week.

In the summer of 1966, Greene was hired by Dewey Hughes, another notable DC figure, to work as a disc jockey at WOL/1450 AM station to host his own show. Rapping With Petey Greene aired in the Washington Metropolitan Area throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. His prominence grew, and soon he was hosting his own television show, Petey Greene’s Washington, with a six-year run from 1976 to 1982 on WDCA/20 winning two Emmy Awards. This show won two Emmy Awards.

He was invited as a guest to the White House by President Jimmy Carter where according to Petey “stole a spoon” during the evening gala for a visiting dignitary. In 1981, Greene had radio personality Howard Stern on his show for what was one of Stern’s first television appearances. Stern appeared on the show in blackface, which Greene found funny because it was radio. The audio of this interview eventually was played as part of the 2007 Sirius satellite radio documentary The History of Howard Stern, in which Stern called Greene “way ahead of his time.” Stern later called Greene a “broadcasting genius” in his 1993 book Private Parts.

Aside from being a radio personality and talk show host, Greene was also a community activist, joining the United Planning Organization and founding the Ralph Waldo Greene Community Centre and Efforts for Ex-Convicts. This organization remains devoted to helping former prisoners succeed in legitimate ways and to advocate prison reform. He rallied against poverty and racism on his shows and on the streets, participating in demonstrations during the height of his popularity. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968, and during the subsequent riots that erupted throughout the USA, Greene made statements on air that were credited with quelling the riots in Washington, D.C.

Greene was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1982. As a result of his ailing health, his career as a radio and television personality ended. Greene died on January 10, 1984, thirteen days before his 53rd birthday. He was survived by his wife, Judy C. Greene, and their four children. Approximately 10,000 mourners lined up outside Union Wesley AME Zion Church to pay their last respects.

If you want a good read, pick-up Greene’s autobiography, Laugh If You Like, Ain’t a Damn Thing Funny, was published in 2003. The book is a result of conversations recorded by him and author Lurma Rackley. Petey was a voice for the voiceless, and he will not be forgotten! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Amos ‘n’ Andy: The Mystic Nights Of The Sea

aWhen I was a child, there was a television show called “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” Considering the way thing were during that time, the only black people we saw on TV were maids, nannies, and Buffon’s; you know the subservient type of “colors” white folks liked so much. This show was a comedy, but these black folks lived like whites – professionals and owned businesses.

However, the NAACP and others decried the show, protested and had it removed from the airways. It is worth mentioning that at the time white folk still dressed in black face until the 1950s, yet the NAACP had no problem with those performances and images! I have spoken about the NAACP and consider them not much better than Messy Jessie and Brother Al. I have asked, and nobody can answer the question; what significant thing has the group done for black people? Other than keep black people passive and quiet!

Moving on: here is the back story of the show that might surprise you:

It was on this day in 1926 that a two-man blackface comedy series “Sam ‘n’ Henry” debuted on Chicago’s WGN radio station. Two years later, after changing its name to “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” the show became one of the most popular radio programs in American history. The show later became one of the first television series to depict black people as something other than maids and servants.

Though the creators and the stars of the radio show, Freeman Gosden, and Charles Carrell, were both white, the characters they played were two black men from the Deep South who moved to Chicago to seek their fortunes. Blackface performances by whites were normal for the time. This was the result of the famous Jim Crow character popular around the Civil War that white actors performed in the “blackface” tradition. Gosden and Carrell, both vaudeville performers, were doing a Chicago comedy act in blackface when an employee at the Chicago Tribune suggested they create a radio show.

When “Sam ‘n’ Henry” debuted, it became an immediate hit. In 1928, Gosden and Carrell took their act to a rival station, the Chicago Daily News’ WMAQ. When they discovered WGN owned the rights to their characters’ names, they simply changed the name. As their new contract gave Gosden and Carrell the right to syndicate the program, the popularity of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” soon exploded. Over the next 22 years, the show would become the highest-rated comedy in radio history, attracting more than 40 million listeners.

By 1951, when “Amos ‘n’ Andy” came to television, changing attitudes about race and concerns about racism had virtually wiped out the practice of blackface. With Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams took over for Gosden and Carrell, the show was the first TV series to feature an all-black cast and the only one of its kind for the next 20 years. This did not stop African American advocacy groups, and eventually the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, from criticizing both the radio and TV versions of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” for promoting racial stereotypes. These protests led to the TV show’s cancellation in 1953.

The final radio broadcast of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” aired on November 25, 1960. Fast forward to the trash we see depicting African Americans in television shows today. Was Amos ‘n’ Andy really a negative upon society? Imagery is very important and, in my opinion, the show should have been praised for showing a people long denied the spotlight represented as professionals in a time of segregation, i.e., separate but equal. The truth of the matter is that this show in large part contributed greatly to removing the horrible practice of “blackface”.

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Could it have been that the society at large did not want the black people to think they could live the American dream? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Mr. David Ruffin

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I’ve been blessed to have lived during a time when the music of our culture reached center stage and changed the world. I have heard the voices of many great singers, but none has ever been greater the David Eli Ruffin. I know the Temptation story and not just from the movie.

To tell you the truth I’ve blessed to have had my life enhanced by their music sung by Mr. Ruffin. I have also been blessed to have met several of the group’s members over the years, and one of its lead singers was a good friend, whom I admired and miss dearly. I hear his voice almost daily in song. I wish that friend was Mr. Ruffin, but I am too young to have had that good fortune.

I simply want to pay homage to this man whose music was a huge influence upon my life, particularly my young life, to which I am grateful. I once watched a documentary where his son was interviewed and something he said struck in a profound way. He said, “My daddy wanted love, but he got fame”. We know from the many talented artists who have left us of late that there is a line between triumph and tragedy. That line is often thin and frequently ends sadly.

David Ruffin walked that line with tragic consequences. Ruffin will always be remembered as the mightiest of all the Temptations lead singers. He was one of “the voices” that made the Temptations a legacy and will live on in the depths of our souls. We will always remember that sexy, gritty voice, those trademark glasses, and that stage charisma that sums up the one and only David Ruffin, and even that little crack in his voice was ok, well it wasn’t ok, but that was David Ruffin.

His songs were like windows into his soul, exposing his greatest fears as a lover and a man. Even “happy” songs like “My Girl” brought out vulnerability in his voice. His relationship with the Temptations was a stormy one, but the marriage produced defining moments in 1960’s soul music explosion. His voice inspired just about every singer who sung to include the likes of Rod Stewart, George Michael, Daryl Hall, and Bruce Springsteen, just to name a few – his influence is everlasting. We’ll never know how good he might have been, but we can rejoice in what he left behind.

Born Davis Eli Ruffin, on January 18, 1941 in Whynot, Mississippi. A sickly child, inflicted with both rheumatic fever and asthma. His mother died in childbirth, and he was raised by his father, a Baptist Minister. He was a complex man and master vocalist with a gospel trained voice that would gain him the affection of several generations of listeners, but Ruffin had more than a voice – he had a persona.

In the best of his music, there was a dark, terrible, tragic, and a personal beauty. A good example would be in his self-penned composition “Statue of a Fool”, written when he was just 18 years old, in which he sees himself as a “man who lets love slip through his hands.”

My favorite line in that tune was “On his face, a gold tear should be placed to honor every tear he shed. And I think it would show, and everyone would know, concealed inside is a broken heart.” This was a powerful statement that spoke to the depth of his soul. However, as history would record he would share his most private pain in the Temptations’ biggest hits. Songs like “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and the chilling “I Wish It Would Rain.

All of these songs were rooted in gospel where David first began singing in The Ruffin Family and The Spiritual Trying Four with his father, his sister Rita Mae, older brothers Jimmy and Quincy. David left home at 13 following his father’s footsteps to practice the ministry, but was sidetracked, singing in Memphis talent shows where he met a young Elvis Presley. He later sang with the gospel group The Dixie Nightingales out of Memphis, Tennessee, and toured with likes of The Womack Brothers, The Swan Silvertones, The Staple Singers, and the Dixie Hummingbirds.

It was with these gospel groups that Ruffin would develop his stage personality, dropping to his knees and doing splits, just like the late Jackie Wilson before him, and David’s show stopping performances within the group would be enough to get him noticed on the secular side.

Then in 1964, when problems arose between the Temptations and group member Elbridge Bryant, David would be invited to join the group. Shortly after David’s arrival, the group would record “The Way You Do The Things You Do”, a Smokey Robinson number with Eddie Kendricks on lead. Gone for a three-week gig in Saginaw, Michigan, the group would return home to find themselves with their first hit. It is said that when David saw the chart standings, he sat down on the long chaise lounge in the Motown lobby, took off his glasses, and cried like a baby.

Ruffin would turn out be an electrifying and dynamic force, when soon after he would bring them their first universal #1 hit, “My Girl”, recorded just before Christmas in 1964, a tune that would turn the group into a household word and legends. The group began turning out one hit after another, and when David took such up-tempo hits as “(I know), I’m Losing You”, to the stage, he became a magnetic field of charisma. His greatness would then shine, and his permanent mark on the pages of history was sealed.

It is reported that Pop Star Michael Jackson paid for his funeral, and numerous celebrities were in attendance at his home going service, including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, members of the Temptations, the Four Tops, and the Miracles. At the service, Stevie Wonder told the audience: “We’re confronted with a problem that touches every one of us. We’re confronted with the most devastating slave owner of all times.” Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, who spoke told the mournful audience, “In David there is a lesson. We should not clap our hands and mourn, for he is out of trouble now. You are still in it.”

It is not my intent to rewrite history or to re-tell a story that we all know. Rather to simply say, thank you Mr. Ruffin and to say you are gone – but not forgotten? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

 DAVID RUFFIN GETS PERSONAL


                                           

“Just a Season”

http://johntwills.com


Tis’ The Season

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I have re-posted this piece every year for the past ten years to share my pain for the loss of my son. I know we are born to die but as each Christmas comes and goes I miss his presence. During this season, we rejoice with great celebration for Christmas is the day Christ our savior was born. Rarely do I share much of my personal being but in this post I want to pour my heart out because this is neither my favorite season nor one that I look forward to anymore. It is not due to a lack of faith or my strong conviction and belief in someone greater than I; whom I call chose to call God. Rather, it is due to this event that will forever pain my heart.

Every year as the holiday season comes upon us I have to relive a dreadful horror. So I ask that you please forgive any tears that may stain the pages as I write. If you have experienced the greatest love of all and lost it. I know you feel my pain. Therefore, I will use this writing to express my feelings and pay homage to my late son – who I miss very much. I am blessed in that he left me a wonderful grandson who I cherish more than life itself.

It’s been some time since God called my only son home to be with him, and the pain of his absence does not go away. No parent should have to bury a child, let alone the only child they’ve been blessed to have. It just doesn’t seem right for a child to go before a parent, but this is not something that is unique to me. I know from scripture that others have endured such pain since time began. Able died before Adam and Eve and John the Baptist died preceding his parents. We also know for certain that Jesus died before Mary because she witnessed his crucifixion, and how painful that must have been.

It was a dreadful dreary cold day about ten years ago, early in the morning, when I lost my Rashad due to a tragic automobile accident. It was without question the worst thing imaginable and most certainly my darkest hour. This pain never seems to subside, and I will tell you during each Christmas season it is still painful. Adding to the sadness of this situation his death occurred on New Year’s Eve and on the morning of his son’s first birthday as we were preparing a birthday party for my grandson.

This brings to mind words from scripture. Actually, it is a question I was asked a long time ago. “Why Jesus wept?” As the story goes, Jesus was so moved as he witnessed the pain of Mary and Martha weeping for the loss of his dear friend, Lazarus, that he also wept. Today, I understand that emotion because I have felt such pain. I wrote a few books which might very well explain why I was chosen as the vehicle to share such a powerful story within those pages that will surely live far beyond the season I’ve been given.

From this nightmare, I have come to understand that adversity can either destroy or develop you. Unless and until you have suffered enough pain, then and only then, will you reach deep inside and feel the breath that God has breathed into your soul coming eye to eye with your destiny. Now, having said that, my salvation was to take this lemon (for lack of a better word) and make lemonade. What I have learned from this tragedy is that there is a definition of service that is not written in Webster’s Dictionary that says “I can heal by giving of myself to the benefit of others.”

In spite of this never before known pain that resides permanently within my soul I am very grateful God saw fit to bless me with a wonderful grandson whose name is Elijah. So as each year passes and Elijah resembles my son more and more the pain eases and the season becomes more bearable. I pray that my son is rejoicing in the bosom of our Lord knowing that I am here for his son in his stead. I am looking forward to the day when I see him again so we can walk around haven all day reveling in wonders of God’s kingdom.

The tears are flowing uncontrollably now. So I will close by saying to anyone experiencing adversity whether it is from health, financial issues or the pain of missing a loved one. I offer my deepest sympathy to you, particularly those who have joined this unwelcomed fraternity of losing a child. The Christmas holiday season and welcoming the New Year will never be the same.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever… believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

And that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…

 R.I.P.

“RASHAD ALI WILLS”

Make these books the gift that keeps on giving.

Legacy – A New Season 

AMAZON

Just a Season


The Day Innocence Died – Secrets

Friday November 22, 2013 will mark one of, if not, the most monumental event of modern history – the assassination of an American president. From that day, America changed, which was I suppose was the purpose of the day innocence died. Those involved in perpetrating the crime and some say cover-up, may well have gotten away with the crime of the century.

In the attached video, the author asks a very basic question – after fifty years, why not release the more that fifty-thousand secret documents on the matter so that the truth can be revealed?

Disclaimer: The information contained in this series is that of the presenters and does not necessarily reflect the views of the author. It is information that is in the public domain provided for the reader to form an opinion. Whereas, it is the author’s position that the most profound sin is a tragedy unremembered and the absence of truth. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Follow the series “The Day The Dream Died”…


The Day Innocence Died – Kennedy and Race

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Race relations in American history have been disgraceful and more horrific treatment imposed upon African America’s than any other people ever to walk the earth. People of African descent have been enslaved, segregated, and maligned for all of America’s history, yet have remained supremely devoted and loyal. I can now understand what it must have been like when President Lincoln fought to end slavery and then was assassinated. It must have felt like their last hope was gone. Respectively, when President Kennedy was killed most African America’s relived the pain of their ancestors.  

In the 1960s one would surely find three portraits hung in just about every African American home; Jesus represented unconditional hope, strength and love; Dr. King personified the moral crusade that ended legal segregation, and there was President John F. Kennedy, who holds an important, but complicated place in black history when we look back the time in which he lived.

It’s been fifty-years since the death of Kennedy and as time has passes we’re still trying to figure it out what he might have done for civil rights had he not been killed. For sure, African American’s placed hope in this man akin to that invested in Abraham Lincoln in terms of our obtaining the long awaited equality, as they both sympathized with the black struggle like no other president before them.

During Kennedy’s time in office, he did speak eloquently against segregation despite resistance from Southern racists in his own Democratic party. Some even feel that his support for civil rights was one reason he was killed, even though racial motives seldom featured prominently among the many theories about Kennedy’s death.

The impact of his death in many African American homes at the time was like that of losing a family member. Its effect was like a big cloud over the whole black community, an aura of hopelessness. Just look back at the pictures of the funeral, you see so many black people out there crying. Mind you, this was at a time when African Americans were barred from most, if not all, public accommodations.

In a speech soon after meeting Dr. King, Kennedy spoke of the “moving examples of moral courage” shown by civil rights protesters. Their peaceful demonstrations, he said, were not “to be lamented, but a great sign of responsibility, of good citizenship, of the American spirit.” He went on to reference the growing “sit-in” movement, in which black customers demanded service at white-only restaurants, Kennedy said: “It is in the American tradition to stand up for one’s rights even if the new way to stand up for one’s rights is to sit down.”

Let’s be clear; he was a white man and wanted to steer clear of the issue of race for political reasons. However, he endeared himself to the African American community when Dr. King was in jail. Over the objections of his brother and campaign manager, Robert Kennedy, an aide managed to convince the candidate to place a sympathetic call to King’s pregnant wife, Coretta. Soon thereafter, Robert Kennedy called the judge. Suddenly, bail was granted, and King was freed.

The story of the Kennedys’ involvement made headlines in black newspapers nationwide. King issued a statement saying he was “deeply indebted to then Senator Kennedy,” although he remained nonpartisan. The Kennedy campaign printed tens of thousands of pamphlets describing the episode and distributed them in black churches across the country on the Sunday before the presidential election. He would get 78 percent of the black vote, won the election by one of the narrowest margins in U.S. history.

When Kennedy became president, his top priority was foreign policy. There were enormous Cold War challenges, from the Soviet Union and Vietnam to Cuba the site of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and of the crisis over Soviet missiles that threatened to trigger a nuclear war. At the same time, the civil rights movement was boiling and could not be ignored. “Freedom Riders” seeking to integrate Southern bus lines were mercilessly beaten. Whites rioted to prevent the black student James Meredith from enrolling at the University of Mississippi; two people were killed after Kennedy sent in troops to ensure Meredith’s admission.

In Birmingham, Ala., police loosed clubs, dogs and fire hoses on peaceful protesters, and a church bombing killed four black girls. Images of the violence shamed America before the world and as African American blood flowed, Kennedy moved cautiously toward civil rights legislation. Publicly, the Kennedy administration was reluctant to intervene in the Southern violence unless federal law was being flouted. Privately, Kennedy’s men urged protest leaders to slow down and avoid confrontation.

In light of foreign policy issues, civil rights simply was not a top priority. It could be said that he allowed J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, to deal with the Negro problem, which was a bad idea. Hoover believed the growing civil rights movement was under Communist influence and a threat to national security. He closely monitored King and others in the movement with surveillance, informants and wiretaps. He went so far as to refuse to warn King as it routinely warned other potential targets. In spite of Kennedy publically working with King, even as his FBI tried to tear King down, he paid both sides of the issue.

Kennedy also opposed to the March on Washington using the argument that he wanted success in the Congress for any civil rights legislation. In the end, the peaceful mass march made headlines around the world. Kennedy watched it on television. Immediately afterward, he met with march leaders in the White House, where they discussed civil rights legislation that was finally inching through Congress. The leaders pressed Kennedy to strengthen the legislation; the president listed many obstacles.

During a speech at San Diego State College in June 1963 Kennedy said, “Our goal must be an educational system in the spirit of the declaration of independence — a system in which all are created equal,” Kennedy said. “A system in which every child, whether born a banker’s son in a Long Island mansion, or a Negro sharecropper’s son in an Alabama cotton field, has every opportunity for an education that his abilities and character deserve.” This was dangerous for the time and not acceptable language by the dominant culture. This put him on the enemy list not only for political retribution, but for death.

If it were not for the 50th anniversary of his death few African Americans would mention his name. Young people barely remember him; there are no aging portraits on the walls, and certainly he is not remembered as a civil rights icon. It was his successor, President Johnson, who receives credit for hammering through the monumental Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, which ensured full citizenship for African-Americans.

Whether Kennedy might have achieved anything substantial on civil rights or for black people, we will never know but he was a breath of fresh air, youthful, dynamic, and in my view a new visionary type of leader full of optimism and hope.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this series is that of the presenters and does not necessarily reflect the views of the author. It is information that is in the public domain provided for the reader to form an opinion. Whereas, it is the author’s position that the most profound sin is a tragedy unremembered and the absence of truth. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


The Day Innocence Died – Oswald Is Shot

4Every murder story has its mystery’s and in the case of the JFK assassination the plot continued to thicken. A major development in the case occurred two days after the assassination when the man arrested and charged with the crime was murdered himself on live television – Case Closed.

The man who killed Oswald was Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby known to his gangster friends as “Sparky” had been seen in the hallways of the Dallas Police Headquarters on several occasions after the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963.

Ruby was actually captured on newsreel footage impersonating a newspaper reporter during a press conference at Dallas Police Headquarters on the night of the assassination. He even spoke that night correcting Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade. Some have speculated that Ruby may have hoped to kill Oswald that night at the press conference.

On this Sunday morning, two days after the assassination, at 11:21 am CST, while authorities were escorting Oswald through the police basement to a private car that was to take him to the nearby county jail Ruby stepped out from a crowd of reporters and fired his .38 revolver into Oswald’s abdomen, fatally wounding him. The shooting was broadcast live nationally, and millions of television viewers witnessed it.

When Ruby was arrested immediately after the shooting, he told several witnesses that he helped the city of Dallas “redeem” itself in the eyes of the public, and that Oswald’s death would spare “…Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial.” Ruby’s explanation for killing Oswald would be “exposed … as a fabricated legal ploy”, according to the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Another motive was put forth by Frank Sheeran, allegedly a hitman for the Mafia, in a conversation he had with the then-former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. During the conversation, Hoffa claimed that Ruby was assigned the task of coordinating police officers who were loyal to Ruby to murder Oswald while he was in their custody. As Ruby evidently mismanaged the operation, he was given a choice to either finish the job himself or forfeit his life.

However, as a matter of record told by the Warren Commission they found no evidence linking Ruby’s killing of Oswald to be part of a broader conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. Journalist Seth Kantor published a book Who Was Jack Ruby? In it he wrote: The mob was Ruby’s “friend.” And Ruby could well have been paying off an IOU the day he was used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this series is that of the presenters and does not necessarily reflect the views of the author. It is information that is in the public domain provided for the reader to form an opinion. Whereas, it is the author’s position that the most profound sin is a tragedy unremembered and the absence of truth. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Follow the series “The Day The Dream Died”…


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