Segregation - 1950s

Being a kid in the segregated South - (photo: Teenie Harris)

Before It Was Rock It Was Race – Segregated Radio In The 1950s – Past Daily Weekend Pop Chronicles

Segregation - 1950s
Being a kid in the segregated South – Photo: Teenie Harris.

KXLR, Little Rock – Arkansas – Al’s Jive ’til Five – December 1950 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

In 1950 radio was still the dominant entertainment medium in America – the major stations were all part of one of the several networks around at the time. It tried to be all things to all people – but in the days of segregation it was all things to some people. Black America, with rare exception, was often excluded from participating in the world of mainstream entertainment. There were Black entertainers who crossed the color barrier, but were never on equal footing with their White counterparts. There were no Black heroes, but there were a lot of Black foils.

Nowhere was the color line more evident than in the field of music. Recording sessions had two separate Musicians Union sheets; one that asked if it was a “White Session” or if is was a “Colored Session”, for the Producer to fill out.

And if it was a predominately “colored” session, chances were good that it would be issued (if it was a major label) as a subsidiary, or Race Record. Independent labels were the least affected because in most cases the avenues of distribution were different and many of the “Race Record” labels of the period where Black-owned and small record stores were everywhere in America.

But having a record out and having it get to the right audience was where Radio came in. And these small stations, which catered primarily to rural areas or cities with large African-American populations provided just the service. Often low-powered and operating on shoe-string budgets, these stations offered a rich reservoir of music you couldn’t hear on your “big city” station.

And stations like KXLR in Little Rock Arkansas were the backbone of Race Music, which eventually transformed into Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Jump-Blues, finally morphing into Rock n’ Roll.

Here is a 15 minute snippet of one of those shows; Al’s Jive ’til Five from November-December of 1951. Sadly, the disc-jockey isn’t identified – but the spirit is there and the music is timeless.

And I dare you not to look up Earl Bostic on Google.

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