Thursday, June 03, 2010

Interview with CHS Students got him fired!



The Night WBT Signed Off Early


Without a doubt the king of the Disc Jockeys when we were at Central was Jimmy Kilgo. Who can forget Kilgo’s Korner…with his engineer Francis Nockamuro…spinning OUR songs on WIST on “Big Ole Friday Date Nights’ as we par….uh…drove around town in our parent’s car.

As I recall, Kilgo’s Korner ended around 11:30, so if we were still out after that, we tuned in to WBT for “Raiford at Random.” Bob Raiford was the host and In my opinion the smoothest and most sophisticated DJ Charlotte ever had.

But, he made one “mistake” that WBT never forgave him for…..and in fact, fired him for.

On the air.

This happened a year or so after we graduated, but I remember hearing the broadcast that night.
He played an interview he recorded with a bunch of Central High School students.

It all seems so insignificant and “much ado about nothing” now, but in the early 50’s radio stations were just beginning to stretch their legs as far as local programming was concerned, after 40 years of mostly re-broadcasting network programming, i.e., soap operas, comedy shows and dramas.

Plus, this was the era of the “Fairness Doctrine,” and radio stations went out of their way to NEVER say or DO anything that was the least bit controversial. Otherwise, they would be inundated with people from “the other side” demanding “equal time.”

The controversy had to do with the singer Nat Cole, who had been attacked on stage by some racist rednecks in Alabama. Raiford, who was very aware that WBT…with its 50,000 watts….beamed all the way up the Eastern Seaboard, felt compelled to let his audience know that what happened in Alabama could and would not happen in Charlotte NC.

 He taped an interview with the Charlotte chief of police Frank Littlejohn…who denounced the Alabama attack and vowed that he would never let such a thing happen in Charlotte. Also on the tape were several CHS students who all denounced the perpetrators of the Alabama incident.

Raiford was proud of the interviews and told WBT’s management about it and that he planned to broadcast the tape on his show that night. He told me years later that he thought he might win some kind of award for a major southern radio station to take such a stand.

Instead, the WBT suits decided that it would be TOO CONTROVERSIAL…….and directed Raiford NOT to play the tape on his program.

Raiford ignored their order…….and told his listeners about the tape and that the station managers had
Ordered him NOT to broadcast it on his show, but that he was going to anyway.

He did.

A few moments after the last interview with the CHS student, Raiford got a phone call from WBT’s management…….firing him and ordering the engineer to sign the station off the air immediately.

With the strains of the song “For All We Know” in the background, Raiford was truly “at Random.”

-Ed