Copyright 2017 James Hooker
When I was 14 years old (1962) my dad would drive me to what we called the "Black Bottom" section of town at 9:00 PM a couple of nights a week. He dropped me off in front of radio Station WOIC. Inside was "Charlie".
Charles Derrick was a coal black man with a loud, but smooth voice, who came in over my transistor radio - every night, and talked to me, and many other people in Columbia, but to me, it was a personal link-up. I discovered Charlie after becoming ill at the thought of listening to Pat Boone sing another note. I found him after I started, what we called then, 'fanning the band', which is the act of desperately searching for anything other than Pat Boone. Charlie caught my ear late one night, and I locked on to the static emitted by that strange AM Shangri-La. It wasn't Pat Boone. It wasn't Annette and Paul. I had discovered Race Music! His show was broadcast, if memory serves, from 8 to 11 PM, and then, the whole station went off the air until the next morning.
Race Music! That, kiddies, was a real term.
I would sit there in that cramped control booth while my dad waited (probably asleep) in the car - just me and Charlie, and the sounds of quite the mixture of Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, soul, gospel - if Charlie liked it, Charlie played it. I don't recall him liking Pat Boone. Poor Pat, maybe I should lighten up.
Charlie taught me a lot about life in that booth. During commercials, we would discuss many things, one of which was the subject of race. I was taught, by my elders, to listen to my elders, and learn from my elders. Charlie taught me a lot, and it stood me in good stead later in my carrier as I found myself playing Hammond B3 and electric piano with many of the artists I first heard in that control booth.
Charlie's gone now, but I think of him often when, even on a rotten day, his memory can fetch a smile to my face. Thank you Charlie Derrick, b.1923 d.2006. You inspired this song.