• SWINGIN' RECORDS 2013! •
Still known as an announcer before the term "disc jockey" became popular, Hunter Hancock played jazz recordings on the new show he dubbed "Harlem Holiday" here in Los Angeles. Bandleader Chick Webb's "Holiday in Harlem" featuring Ella Fitzgerald became the theme song. By 1947, Hancock was encouraged to add a daily half-hour show he called "Harlematinee," and he soon learned that jazz was not the only music that appealed to his audience. A Modern Records salesman bluntly told him, "Hancock ... if you want to reach a huge Negro audience, you should be playing race records."
Hancock had no idea what "race records" were, but played two that the salesman offered. That attracted more record promoters, and within a week, Hancock told the Doo-Wop Society years later, "my show was 100% 'race music." He is considered to be among the first broadcast pioneers on the West Coast to openly cross the race lines in a public forum and support the musical efforts of black musicians. Nowadays, he said, "we call it rhythm and blues. Without realizing it, I became the first disc jockey in the western United States to play R&B."
By that time, though, everything was changing. Rock 'n' roll had taken over the music business. Hancock was also one of the first DJs to play rock and roll music, and landed a cameo spot in a 1957 British rock and roll film called "Rock Around the World." KPOP was sold to a new owner and turned into a country station. He remained on KGFJ well into the 1960s, but by then disc jockeys were playing a Top 40 format and being told what records to play. Hunter had to go by their playlist and say only what they wanted him to say, which was very difficult for a guy like H.H. Also, he had to spin a lot of records that he was frankly ashamed to play. Hancock remained at KGFJ but left radio in 1968 to work PR for Western Outdoor News. Hunter Hancock passed away on August 4, 2004.
McNeely was credited with being the most flamboyant performer. He wore bright banana- and lime-colored suits, played under blacklights that made his horn glow in the dark, used strobe lights as early as 1952 to create an "old-time-movie" effect, and sometimes walked off the stage and out the door, usually with the club patrons following along behind. At one point, in San Diego, police arrested him on the sidewalk and hauled him off to jail, while his band kept playing on the bandstand, waiting for him to return. The honking style was fading somewhat by the early 1950s, but the honkers themselves suddenly found themselves providing rousing solos for doo wop groups; an example was Sam "The Man" Taylor's eight-bar romp on The Chords' 1954 "Sh-Boom." Bill Haley also used honking sax men Joey D'Ambrosio and Rudy Pompilli on his rock and roll records, including "Rock Around the Clock."
These days Big Jay McNeely spends a good deal of time playing in Europe, Australia and Japan, but he has also had time to honk and shout at several Doo-Wop Society concerts, blues and jazz festivals, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Festival, and the Rockin’ 50s fest in Green Bay. He has also recently appeared in several of Art LaBoe’s variety concerts. Big Jay is still tearing it up and knows how to delight and entertain an audience of any size, from small clubs to stadium crowds. One of the last true old school entertainers, Big Jay is still available for booking at select concerts, festivals and clubs.
VISIT BIG JAY MCNEELY'S WEBSITE