Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Soul on the Air #6: Jim Gates and Lou Thimes, 1968

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Today's "Soul on the Air" feature is a great hour of soul from St. Louis' KATZ from September 1968. I'll make my technical disclaimer at the outset this time: the volume level on this one is pretty low, so make sure to turn it up so you can enjoy (although, unfortunately, "Stay in my Corner" ends up very bass-heavy - maybe turn it down then); and Part Two starts off with a fragment of the ad from Part One, followed by a brief gap before Part Two begins in earnest.

KATZ, along with KWK, was St. Louis' leading soul station and its roster included DJ/producer/singer/radio exec/media professor/newspaper columnist Bernie Hayes, the awesomely-named Robert B.Q. (think about it for a second and you'll get it), the mononymous Gabriel and today's featured jocks, Jim Gates and Lou "Fatha" Thimes, Sr. KATZ flipped its R&B format to its FM branch in the 1980s and now exists as a gospel station on the AM band and as a hip-hop station on the FM band.

"Gentleman" Jim Gates' long career in the radio business continues today, with Gates doing a Saturday show on St. Louis' adult urban contemporary station WFUN-FM ("Foxy 95.5"). Gates was early evening jock on KATZ until some point in the early '70s, when he moved to East St. Louis, Illinois' WESL-AM, where in addition to becoming a vice president, program director and part-owner of the station, he would go on to figure into the history of hip-hop, as he was one of the first R&B disc jockeys in the nation to give "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang any significant airplay. (Interestingly enough, one of Gates' sons is hip-hop artist DJ Needles, who at one time had radio shows on KATZ and WFUN!) I'm not sure whether Gates' tenure with WESL was continuous from the '70s through to the notorious, unceremonious firing of the WESL staff in 2007 to make way for the station to change to a sports format under the calls WFFX; any information would be welcomed. I don't know as much about Lou Thimes, Sr., except that he had a long tenure on St. Louis radio and that his son, Lou, Jr., would follow him into the radio business (Lou, Jr. was also one of the R&B and gospel jocks fired by WESL last year).

Incomplete and confusing history aside, today's aircheck finds Gates rolling into the final 45 minutes or so of his show and then handing off to "Fatha" Thimes, who's doing a live remote at Gil's (sp?) Drive-In Lounge. There's a lot of good stuff here, including the Dells' "Stay In My Corner" in its 6-minute glory, good Smokey Robinson & The Miracles sides, James Brown's "Prisoner of Love" from Live at the Apollo, Vol. 2 (over which Gates provides great patter), a commercial for Muddy Waters' Electric Mud LP and some chatter between Gates and some high school girls ("fine, fast foxes," he calls them, amending it shortly thereafter to "fine, fast, foxy heifers") who were visiting in the studio. Thimes' segment includes a plug for the black-focused newspaper, The Sentinel, Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin's then-hit duet "From the Teacher to the Preacher" and Alvin Cash's "Keep on Dancing." (I heard this classic funky 45 for the first time when I first heard this aircheck!)


Unknown said...

Yes.....Jim Gates was a part of that team doing mornings when then entire staff was put out to pasture for the new ESPN format. Lou Thimes, Jr. was either the Program Director or General Manager at the time. Jim Gates holds down the Saturday 2p-6p slot at Foxy 95.5 (WFUN).

Lou Thimes, Sr. (Tha Father as he was known throughout his career) kept Blues alive with a Saturday morning blues show on KATZ-FM (Kiss 100.3) until the station's adult format was moved to sister-station Majic 104.9 in I believe 1999. Lou is still living in St. Louis.

Another mention among these great legends of radio in St. Louis.... Rod King, known throughout the industry as Dr. Jockenstein, a name given to him by George Clinton because of his white-rimmed big square glasses when he toured with Parliament to bring the group on at its many concerts. We gotta come up with an aircheck of him doing the popular "Roll Call" to the beat of the Tom Tom Club at Z-100 (KATZ-FM) and WESL-AM. Rod King passed away in 2007 due to medical complications he experienced two years prior.

Brian Anthony

Kerry said...

Jim Gates, the "Brown-Eyed Scorpio" was at KATZ until around 1969 when he became one of the jocks on KWK 1380, which was reconstituted as an R&B/Soul station after protracted legal battles. Other names in the biz that worked at KWK were Bernie Hayes (PD) Donn Johnson, Tom Joiner and Decater Agnew. This was the top Soul station in St. Louis for several years until ownership problems caused them to go bankrupt in '72.

In 1970 Jim got a gig along with Bernie hosting KDNL-TV30's "Black Circle Hour", which was a local Soul dance program. KDNL became one of the flagship stations for the new syndicated "Soul Train" the next year, and "The Black Circle Hour" was gone.

In '74 Jim was the driving force in starting up WESL. There had been no real competition for KATZ since the demise of KXLW and KWK, so the time was right. I believe he stayed at WESL from that time until the end.

Lou Thimes Sr had a program on KDHX, and his son, "The Real JR" is still in the biz.

Mama-T said...

WOW.....this History reeeeeeeally brings back GOOD Memories :-) !! The Brown Eyed Scorpio in that Rolls Royce or Excaliber..dont really remember which....but it & HIM was TRULY a Babe magnet :-) !!

Dr Joc (RIP),Doug Eason,Bernie,Earl the Pearl....maaaaannnn....those were the days!!

I was in St.Lou a couple of weeks ago & ran into "Chico the Man".....I bout fainted.....LOL !!

My Dad owned several Taverens(Is what they was calld in "THOSE" days :-)
...The Moonlight,Do Drop Inn and the Hahvana Club & my Uncle owned Dance Land....so,we was able to get in EVERYTHING,....FREE :-) !!

RIP ....to all who are Gone and THANK-YOU JESUS....for allowing us....the Remnants....to Remember the Olde & PRAZZZN GOD ....for the NEW :-) !!

BLESINGS upon the Bloggers...that..Keep those Memories...ALIVE !!