WVON RADIO'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY
(House of Representatives - April 17, 2013)

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[Pages H2072-H2073]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                     WVON RADIO'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Illinois (Mr. Danny K. Davis) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. DANNY K. DAVIS of Illinois. I rise to congratulate WVON Radio on 
50 years of broadcasting.
  On April 1, 1963, WVON Radio in Chicago, Illinois, was launched, and 
since that time has gone from being ``the voice of the Negro'' to ``the 
voice of the Nation.''
  WVON began when two brothers, Leonard and Phil Chess, the owners of a 
successful music business, Chess Records, with a plentiful supply of 
local music under their banner such as Muddy Waters, Lil' Howlin' Wolf, 
Jimmy Reed, and others, needed a way to express their music. Therefore, 
the brothers bought WHFC-1450 AM, a 1,000-watt station licensed in 
Cicero, Illinois.
  On April 1, 1963, WVON hit the airwaves in Chicago with a group of 
handpicked personalities: Franklin McCarthy, E. Rodney Jones, Herb 
Kent, Wesley South, and Pervis Spann. They became known as ``The Good 
Guys.'' Ric Ricardo, Bill ``Butterball'' Crane, Ed Cook, Joe Cobb, Roy 
Wood, Ed Maloney, Bill ``Doc'' Lee, Don Cornelius, Richard Pegue, 
Isabel Joseph Johnson, Cecil Hale, and McKee Fitzhugh eventually joined 
the roster.
  Under the direction of the station's general manager, Lucky Cordell, 
and its ``Ambassador of Goodwill,'' Bernadine C. Washington, The Good 
Guys held black radio listeners hostage in Chicago for a number of 
years. It became the hottest station in the market. Not only did it 
convey music, it also conveyed public information, public events, and 
what was going on. It was the voice during the civil rights movement, 
and individuals were often given the opportunity to speak. Dr. Martin 
Luther King was interviewed by Leslie South, as well as Elijah Muhammad 
and others.
  These personalities became so informational and influential that 
during the riots after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, they called 
for calm and peace. And people began to listen to them. They were very 
influential throughout what was called the civil rights movement, and 
individuals often went to them.
  They also had a relationship with Berry Gordy in Detroit, when he 
formed Motown Records; and every time a record would come out, he would 
send it to the WVON station before sending it anyplace else.
  WVON actually was instrumental in electing Harold Washington, the 
first black mayor of Chicago. Lou Palmer, who had a radio series called 
``Lou's Notebook,'' had a slogan: ``We shall see in '83.'' And that 
became the rallying cry. It was also instrumental in electing Carol 
Moseley Braun to the United States Senate, electing Barack Obama to the 
United States Senate, and ultimately electing Barack Obama President of 
the United States of America.

[[Page H2073]]

  Always more than a radio station, it belonged to the community and 
was the heart of the community. So I congratulate Melody Spann Cooper 
and all of those who have made WVON what it is today: the voice of the 
Nation.
  Congratulations to WVON Radio on fifty years of broadcasting.
  Mr. Speaker, On April 1, 1963, WVON Radio in Chicago, Illinois was 
launched and since that time has gone from being ``the voice of the 
negro'' to ``the voice of the Nation.'' WVON began when two brothers, 
Leonard and Phil Chess, the owners of Chess Records, a successful 
record company with a plentiful supply of local music talent under 
their banner, such as Muddy Waters, Lil' Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Reed and 
others, who needed an outlet for their music. Therefore, the brothers 
bought WHFC-1450 AM, a 1000 watt station licensed in Cicero, Illinois.
  On April 1, 1963, WVON hit the airwaves in Chicago with a group of 
hand-picked personalities: Franklin McCarthy, E. Rodney Jones, Herb 
Kent, Wesley South, and Pervis Spann. They became known as ``The Good 
Guys'' and Ric Ricardo, Bill ``Butterball'' Crane, Ed Cook, Joe Cobb, 
Roy Wood, Ed Maloney, Bill ``Doc'' Lee, Don Cornelius, Richard Pegue, 
Isabel Joseph Johnson, Cecil Hale, and McKee Fitghugh eventfully joined 
the roster. Under the direction of the station's general manager, Lucky 
Cordell, and its ``Ambassador of Good Will'', Bernadine C. Washington, 
The Good Guys held Black Chicago captive for more than a decade and 
ranked consistently in the top five of the most listened to stations in 
the market.
  The power of WVON went beyond the Chicago market. Berry Gordy, the 
founder of Motown Records had a special arrangement with WVON that 
every song he produced would be sent immediately to WVON before any 
other station. WVON was so powerful that it produced airplay in other 
markets, which impacted the overall sales and success of the project.
  WVON has always been more than a radio station. During a time when 
Blacks were actively involved in the civil rights movement, WVON was 
the voice of information for local and national affairs. During the 
riots that followed the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., WVON on-
air personalities were there to lift the tension that had erupted in 
neighborhoods across the city. They pleaded for calmness.
  Following the death of Chess in 1969, the family decided to sell WVON 
to George Gillette (heir to the Shaving Products Company) and to Potter 
Palmer (heir to Palmer house) who formed Globetrotter Communications.
  Their first order of business was to take WVON from 1450 frequency to 
5,000 watt 1390 signal, which would improve their coverage of Chicago. 
The 1450 frequency was left dormant.
  In 1977, Globetrotter Communications sold WVON to the Gannett 
Company, whose major holdings were in print media. Gannett had 
purchased an FM station in Chicago which became known as WGCI. In 1979, 
Wesley South and Pervis Spann formed Midway Broadcasting Corporation 
and purchased the license for the 1450 AM frequency.
  Their station WXOL premiered in August of 1979 and remains one of the 
few minority-owned stations in the market. WVON became a mixed music/
talk radio station and with Wesley South, the hotline show in the 
evening with journalist Lu Palmer doing a notebook series called 
``Lou's notebook.'' Lou spearheaded the election of Harold Washington 
as Chicago's first Black mayor with the slogan, ``We Shall See in 
'83.''
  Upon the urging of Wesley South,a radio talk show pioneer, WVON 
changed to a talk format and has never looked back. It has been 
instrumental in not only electing Harold Washington as Chicago's first 
Black mayor, but also in electing Carol Mosley Braun, U.S. Senator; 
Barack Obama, United States Senator; and Barack Obama, President of the 
United States of America.
  WVON's current line-up of hosts are some of the best in the Nation: 
Cliff Kelly, called the governor of talk radio; Matt McGill; Perry 
Small; Reverend Al Sharpton; Saleem Muwakil; Kendall Moore; Dr. Leon 
Finney; and from time to time, Pam Morris, Dr. Terry Mason, and 
countless others who buy time like Garfield Major, talking to the 
people.
  Congratulations to Melody Spann Cooper and all of those who have 
helped to make WVON Radio what it is today.

                          ____________________