Monday, December 14, 2009
Soul on the Air #14 - "Ugly" Al Dixon, 1975
I am thrilled to get back to business with Get on Down ... after a too-long hiatus! Honestly, between a lack of time and some personal doldrums I was about to toss in the towel on the blog, but I've found some new inspiration, my energy is rebuilding and I am ready to get back to sharing this great music! Let's start with an aircheck, shall we?
Today's feature is an awesome 37 minutes from February 24, 1975 from Rev. Alvin (aka "Ugly Al") Dixon on Montgomery, Alabama's WAPX. The aircheck is sheer fun, as discussed later, but research about the man proved to be quite interesting.
I was able to find out more online about Dixon that many other soul jocks, because in 1969 he became the national president of the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers, an organization of black disc jockeys and television personalities, after serving as a regional president. Dixon headed NATRA for two years before forming a splinter group, Broadcast and Musical Arts, whose "BAMA" acronym reflected the sentiment of its members that the concerns of southern disc jockeys were not taken seriously by the northern jocks in NATRA. (See this Jet article from 1972 about the split, archived at Google Books.) I'm not sure what happened to BAMA, but I know that Dixon became a minister in the early '80s and later founded the Montgomery-Tuskeegee Times newspaper.
It is clear that Dixon considered himself a "race man" first and foremost. An opinion piece he wrote for a Billboard Magazine's "World of Soul" feature in 1970 pulls no punches:
Soul music has been adulterated, castigated, renovated, analyzed, televised, utilized, used, abused, confused, directed, reflected, selected, collected, protected, affected, taken and foresaken ... [t]he destiny of soul music depends upon the Black broadcaster ... who is black enough to continue to program the real Black soul music and restore the music formats, the jazz that ethnic-appeal station owners and managers have systematically taken from the ears of Black people. (Emphasis in the original; read the entire article at Google Books and scroll through to see the entire issue, which is very fascinating.)
And here's Al commenting on why he started a newspaper:
Starting the newspaper developed out of a need for a source of information for us by us, written by black folks, controlled by black folks, seeing what the interest of black folks and doing it from a first hand perspective because I am black.
The politics of Al Dixon, however, are nowhere to be seen in this funny aircheck. Dixon holds court over some fine soul and funk from Al Green, Barry White, Bobby Byrd, Willie Hutch and others, spinning solid patter for the platters. "Here's my namesake, his name is Al, too," Dixon says as Al Green's "L-O-V-E" begins. "Oh, I don't know whether they call him 'ugly' or not ... he's one of the Green boys ... well, he may be Jolly Green Giant's brother! Or cousin or something." That's just a taste of the fun on this aircheck - his discussion later in the aircheck about being a "cocky disc jockey" and how WAPX dominates the competition is fantastic.