Rock 'n' Roll Radio


The Mighty DJs

"Well, I'm a write a little letter,  I'm gonna mail it to my local DJ.
  Yet, it's a jumpin' little record I want my jockey to play."

Chuck Berry, 1956  

With those words, Chuck Berry penned the first and finest ever musical tribute to the mighty, mighty rock 'n' roll radio DJs of the time as he began our generation's own declaration of independence Roll Over, Beethoven.

In the 1930s and '40s, radio was the no. 1 entertainment medium. But by the early '50s, with the introduction and rapid growth of television, radio was badly in need of a booster shot in the arm. Then came rock 'n' roll, along with its endless supply of 45-rpm records being released at a frantic pace and its focus on the new, teenage market. Suddenly, it was the age of rock 'n' roll radio, and the mighty DJs soon became its powerful pied pipers. We listened to them as they entertained us and brought us our music in our bedrooms, in our basements, at the beach and on the dashboards of our cars. And they were a big part of our lives every single day!

Alan Freed was clearly the most seminal figure in the popularization of rock 'n' roll, not just in New York, but everywhere in the nation, and not just on the radio, but on TV and in movies. He was, and is, the undisputed father of rock 'n' roll. But although he was the first to bring the "Big Beat in popular music" to most of us, soon he had many imitators also dishing up daily doses of rock 'n' roll on New York AM radio in the mid-late 1950s. 

Among them was Freed’s primary New York rival since 1955, Peter Tripp (the "Curly-Headed Kid in the Third Row"). When you didn't like the song playing on WINS, you moved your dial just a curly hair to the right on the AM dial (only fora few minutes, of course) from 1010 WINS to 1050 WMGM, where you found Tripp, pioneering Top 40 radio on "Your Hits of the Week." And, of course, in addition to some of the most popular radio DJs who were sometimes also on TV, there was the king of the television dance show DJs, Dick Clark, and his nationally broadcast "American Bandstand" every afternoon and later (in the New York City area only), Clay Cole.

But AM radio ruled rock 'n' roll, and WINS definitely ruled the New York City rock 'n' roll radio airwaves. By the time Alan Freed was fired in 1958 and went briefly to WABC before being fired again in 1959 in connection with the congressional payola hearings, he had been joined at WINS by Paul Sherman (the "Crown Prince" of rock 'n' roll), fast-talking "Cousin Brucie" Morrow (later, the top jock at WABC), Jack Lacy ("Listen to Lacy") and hands-down, the most popular and distinctive of the Freed successors, Murray the K.

Murray Kaufman (also known as "Me-us-urray Ke-us-aufman" and the "Grand Kook"), with his "Swingin' Soiree" ("a-a-ah-bey, a-a-ah-bey, cooma sahwah sahwa-a-a-ah"), was the creative inventor of "submarine race watching" and the "blast from the past."  Until 1965 (when WINS was sold, and it switched to the all news format it still has today), Murray the K was the undisputed king of New York City rock 'n' roll radio. 

Also among the earliest rock 'n' roll DJs, however, was a fellow by the name of Douglas Henderson. Never heard of him, right? Well, (if you are a guy) you probably knew him but only as "JOCKO, The Ace from Outer Space." (If you are are a gal, you probably didn't.)

Until 1958, when Murray the K's "Swingin' Soiree" took over the all night timespot after Alan Freed, if you went searching on your radio for more rock 'n' roll music every weekday night following  the 11 p.m. signoffs of both Freed and Tripp, you probably ended up closer to the top of the dial at 1280 WOV where you heard Jocko blasting off on his "Rocket Ship Show," broadcasting in his own brand of rhyming jive patter (for which he is now widely acknowledged as the father of rap music). Later, beginning in 1959, WOV became "WADO Radio," where Jocko could still be found after 11 p.m.

Visit these special pages to hear, once again, selected highlights of rare sample broadcast recordings (audio clips called "radio airchecks") featuring the voices of the three biggest stars among your favorite NY DJs of the 1950s. They are all gone, now, but let us help you remember because they do not deserve to be forgotten.

Click on one of the old radios at the left and below:

Alan Freed, the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll," and his "Rock 'n' Roll Party"

Murray "the K" Kaufman and his "Swingin' Soiree"


Jocko  and his "Rocket Ship Show ," "the hottest show on the radio"

Click here to read "Cousin Brucie" Morrow''s reaction to this website received in November 2007.

Click here to read about the likely origin of the "Mee-us-surry" language.



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