Hunter Hancock
KGFJ, Los Angeles
Increase Records INCM 2004
Released June, 1970

KFVD, 1947-51
KFOX, 1951-54
KFVD/KPOP, 1954-57
KGFJ, 1957-66.
Hunter Hancock passed away in 2004.
Click Here to read an article by Hunter Hancock from the Doo-Wop Society Webpage.
Notes: Mentioned in satirist Stan Freberg's 1957 single, "Rock Around Stephen Foster":
Freberg (to vocal group): "C'mon, c'mon, where you guys gettin' your arrangements from, Abbey Rents? You know what Confucious said, 'If they can't bop to it, bombsville!' You want me to tear up your autographed pictures of Hunter Hancock?"
Vocal Group: "NO!!!"

SIDE ONE (23:17): Hunter Hancock Theme (Baby) Hully Gully - The Olympics (2:03) Jordan High School Record Hop There Is Something On Your Mind - Big Jay McNeely (3:10) Chuck Berry Bit Almost Grown - Chuck Berry (2:16) Saturday Evening Post Commercial What A Difference A Day Makes - Dinah Washington (2:35) Champion Spark Plug Commercial Say Man - Bo Diddley (3:04) KGFJ Station I.D. SIDE TWO (20:35): Sixteen Candles - The Crests (2:50) Personality - Lloyd Price (2:35) Dolphin's of Hollywood Commercial It's Just A Matter Of Time - Brook Benton (2:26) Sea Of Love - Phil Phillips (2:30) Robert Hall Commercial Kansas City - Wilbert Harrison (2:18) Hunter Hancock Theme

In the last year of the decade which saw the sound of popular music change, 1959, Hunter Hancock was beginning his seventeenth year in radio. He was, then, the glib, excitable, and often corny host of the "Harlematinee" on KGFJ in Los Angeles, a program perhaps better known as "Huntin' with Hunter." Each afternoon, his medium-to-high-pitched voice came booming across all Southern California, introducing records "from beebop to ballad...swing to sweet...and blues to boogie...some of the very best in rhythm and blues records featuring some of th greatest and most popular Negro singers, musicians and entertainers in the world!" The odd thing about it was Hunter Hancock was not just white, but a white Texan; he never said he was black, of course, but no one ever suspected he wasn't. So he was the most popular radio personality in the local black community, and because he had a reputation for launching new artists and hits, he also appealed to a wide segment of the youthful white community. So adept was he at picking talent, in fact, that Mercury Records had given him a gold record for helping the Platters sell a million copies of Only You in 1955, and many other artists had included his name in the lyrics of their songs.

Like others in the CRUISIN' series, this record included much of the social, cultural and commercial driftwood of the year - the theme songs, information about upcoming sock hops, the fast deejay patter - as well as many of the hits.

Despite the generally exceptional quality of the songs included here, 1959 was a tragic year for pop radio. The Congressional payola probe in Washington provided juicy reading over morning coffee and toast as dozens of popular disc jockeys across the country quit under pressure or were fired. (Alan Freed, the man who coined the phrase "rock 'n' roll," was charged with accepting $30,000 in bribes from six record firms and resigned on the air, sobbing, then playing Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop by Little Anthony and the Imperials.) And three of the leading record artists - Buddy Holly, J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Ritchie Valens - died in a plane crash en route to a concert in Fargo, North Dakota.

Even so, rock and roll did make some significant and sometimes amusing gains in 1959. A total of eighty-eight different record companies managed to land one or more singles in the top fifty slots of Billboard's Hot 100 during the year, a demonstration of the good health and strength of independent production. The American Society of Composers, Author and Publishers, the grand old man of music licensing organizations, announced it was reconsidering its rule to keep rock writers out of its membership. And Snooky Lanson, Dorothy Collins and all the "Hit Parade" gang finally hung it up for Lucky Strike, after failing so miserably to sing the week's top songs with any conviction, promise or beat.

Historically, it was considerably more exciting, more hopeful in 1959, as on the year's first day Cuba's dictator-president Fulgencio Bautista caught a fast plane for somewhere and the bearded, cigar-chewing People's Hero, Fidel Castro, rose into Havana on the shoulders of his countrymen. Charles DeGaulle took office as President of France. Congress voted admission of Hawaii as the fiftieth state. Nkita Kruschev, speaking to the U.N., asked the disarmament of all nation within four years.

One of the staples of popular music always has been the song tailored to, or creating, a dance. One of these was Hully Gully by the Olympics, a rhythm and blues group from Los Angeles that had been modelled after another successful California group, the Coasters. The Olympics had recorded one of the real classics of rock a year earlier, Western Movies.

Big Jay McNeely was another artist from L.A., who as one of the giants of rhythm and blues had been an influential pioneer of rock. Jay had a series of bands in the 1940s and 1950s and when he recorded Is There Something On Your Mind (on the local Swingin' label) his band singer was Little Sonny Warner, who was the house vocalist in a Forrestville, Maryland rib joint when McNeely found and hired him.

The Skyliners were from Pittsburgh and their hit of the year, Since I Don't Have You, demonstrated the rich sound that came from the same mix most R&B groups had, four guys and a gal - in this case, Jimmy, Jan, Jackie, Joe and Wally.

The next artist, introduced on earlier volumes of the CRUISIN' series, already had made a greater impact on popular music than the Olympics, McNeely, Warner and the Skyliners ever would and in 1959 Chuck Berry merely did what he'd always done: play honest, energetic rock that openly courted, and won, youth. The style never changed and onlt the words changed slightly. Almost Grown is about what its title says it's about.

Dinah Washington is generally regarded as a jazz singer, having fronted the Lionel Hampton band when she was nineteen, working as a soloist in jazz clubs thereafter. But she adapted her gutty blues style to pop quite easily for What A Difference A Day Makes, establishing her as something even more than what her nickname said she was, "The Queen of the Blues."

Like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley continued a string of hits in '59, with Say Man being the most peculiar. But Bo Diddley was Bo Diddley (also Elias McDaniel, his real name) and there seldom was any challenge made. All his hit records were recognized easily - by the simple, sassy lyric and the shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits rhythm - and this one had the added feature of being a musical dialog straight from vaudeville. The other voice is Jerome Green, then Bo's maracas player.

The Crests, on the other hand, had only one million seller, Sixteen Candles, a record that came under attack. It was charged (in Congress) that Dick Clark had played the song only four times in ten weeks and it went nowhere, bu then once he owned it, he played it twenty-seven times in less than three months and "it took off like a rocket." It is one of the nearly countless "sixteen" songs of the period.

Lloyd Price was one of the writers of Personality, his fourth million-selling single since he had recorded Lawdy, Miss Clawdy in 1952. (A song which started as a radio commercial, by the way.) Personality, like most of Price's songs, was a bouncy dance sound.

Sometimes it seems as if every R&B singer once spent Sunday mornings in church or Saturdays at all-night gospel sings and Brook Benton is no exception. Benton was born in South Carolina, delivered milk when he was twelve, pushed a hand truck in New York's garment district, and learned to sing with a gospel group. It's Just A Matter Of Time was his first million-selling song and was written by him and his professional guide, Clyde Otis.

The way the story goes, Phil Phillips wrote Sea of Love to show a girlfriend precisely how much he loved her. In truth, the lovesick young man (then twenty-six) had help in composing the ballad from George Khoury, who owned a record shop in Phil's hometown, Lake Charles, Louisiana. Prior to that Phil had been a bellhop, a sailor and a member of the Gateway Quarter, a local group that sang spirituals.

The Flamingos were one of the dozens of "bird groups" of the 1950s and like most R&B groups, they changed personnel often. But the harmony remained as tight as it was when Zeke and Jake Carey and their friend Paul Wilson got together in 1952 and went looking for their first lead singer. I Only Have Eyes For You shows clearly the smooth style the group had throughout its career.

No anthology of popular songs from the Fifties seems complete without at least one written by Mike Stoller and Jerry Lieber, the composers of so many rock classics (Hound Dog, Poison Ivy, Black Denim Trousers, Yakety Yak to name a few) it fairly boggles the mind. Kansas City, recorded in 1959 by Wilbert Harrison, was another in the list. It was the only million-seller for Harrison, but one of the all-time pop and R&B classics.
-Jerry Hopkins

CRUISIN' THE FIFTIES & SIXTIES: A History of Rock and Roll Radio. Conceived and recreated by: Ron Jacobs/Production and Research: Ellen Johnson and Jere Alan Brian/Engineering: John Horton/Art Direction: Paul Gruwell/Cover Art: Mike Royer/All selections are the original performances as released on the following labels: ABC Paramount: Lloyd Price/Arvee: The Olympics/Calico: The Skyliners/Checker: Bo Diddley/Chess: Chuck Berry/Co-Ed: The Crests/Fury: Wilbert Harrison/Mercury: Phil Phillips, Brook Benton, Dinah Washington/Roulette: The Flamingos/Swingin': Big Jay McNeely/Special thanks to: Arnold Schorr, KGFJ Radio. Produced by Increase Records, a division of Watermark, Inc., Los Angeles, California. ©1970 Increase Records.

Back to the