Who was JC?
Larry Hayes, "The Boss" The leader of a group of young radio men which he formed from different places around the country to join him in the take over of a small Black Own AM radio station in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1978. Larry's vision was to take control of a radio station in southern New Jersey before the 1st casino opened. Become part of the community. Cater to the local people. Dedicate our selves to being a public servant to all the people of Atlantic County. That way when the casino industry start booming. We would have established our selves as "The Peoples Station". So when the media money began to flow we would be smack dab in the middle. How could we miss? In a couple years we were one of the top three most listened to radio stations in Atlantic City. Automatically number one in the black community. WUSS never became the money cow we had hope it would be, but you're about to hear one helluva story about how the take over took place in the middle of the night in March 1978.
There was a man that made all the connections to get the ball rolling to get The Bosses crew to come from Birmingham, Ala. to Atlantic City and help save a dying radio station that was barely hanging on by thin threads. Owned by a group of men known only as ABCD. They got in touch with a man known to us as JC. Trust me it wasn't Jesus Christ, but he would show up in places anywhere on the East Coast on any given day or night. It was said that he owned property from New York all the way down to Miami. Including Atlantic City and Atlantic County, N.J. He traveled by car. A Benz, 300 series, gangster grey. His beautiful movie star looking wife (Rayna) would always be by his side. JC was a real tycoon. He knew any and everybody who was somebody. With most of his businesses doing well. In a desperate plea they (ABCD) struck a deal with JC to operate this sinking radio station. Of course they needed money to operate and hoped that would come from him. We'll come back to this part later in the story.
Someone pointed JC toward Birmingham, Ala. They told him there was a man there that could take any radio station from worst to first. His name was Larry Hayes "The Boss".
There' a man in Birmingham, Ala. that can turn any radio station into a winner. His name,
LARRY HAYES "THE BOSS"
The Boss was only 15 when he began reaching for the stars in radio broadcast. After becoming a high school reporter at a radio station in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He desided he wanted to be on the radio. In the 1950s there were no such thing as, black staff announcers at radio stations. So he became a free lance reporter. The Boss became the 1st black staff announcer on a radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. WFOX. Making about $65.00 a week, he was well on his way to making his dream come true of owning a radio station. Of course nothing comes easy. No sooner than he began to work on getting the experience needed to go further into the business, he was drafted into the United States Army in 1957. The good thing was he went directly to radio station KFIW on post at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was discharged in 1959 and immediately went to work for WGPR in Detroit, Michigan. Later he found out his old boss had bought a radio station in Milwaukee the famous WAWA. He didn’t stay there very long before taking a job as program director at KALO in Little Rock, Arkansas. From there he went to KOKY also in Little Rock. It was at these stations that he began making a name for himself. After becoming Vice President/General Manager, KALO was the fist station in the country to broadcast ‘DISCO’ 24hrs a day. KALO became number one in the market.
Lou Rawls / Larry Hayes
Top Notch Acoustics
Micky Cade (Me)
Brown Sugar Lee Sherman
Larry Hayes "THE BOSS"
"RA The DJ"
Larry later moved to Birmingham, Ala in 1970 to become the first black to program a previously all white radio station. WERC. From there he went over to WJLD where he became the voice of the Birmingham “A’s” baseball team. It was at WJLD that he met his later to be “right hand man”. Bob Shivers. Shivers, and entertainer in his own right. Coming off of a split up with his old group The Spellbinders in Jersey City, N.J. The Spellbinders only LP, recorded in 1966 was entitled "THE MAGIC OF THE SPELLBINDERS" produced by Van McCoy with Bob Shivers sharing the lead on the LP. A record label in England bought the rights to the album, remastered it and changed the title in 2007 to “CHAIN REACTION”. Plus he sat in from time to time with the world renowned Manhattans. He had an incredible voice, just right for radio. Bob somehow wound up in Birmingham. One day while riding in his car and listening to the news on the radio, WJLD, he heard what he thought to be the worst newscast he had ever heard. Naturally with a voice like his he thought, “I can do better than that” besides I need a job. So he went by the WJLD studio to apply for a job. He met with a guy named Willie McKinstry who asked him if he’d ever been in radio before. He said no, but listening to the news cast I just heard, there’s no way I can do worst than that guy. That guy was Willie McKinstry. By that time The Boss walk into the room and intervened and told McKinstry to take him into the production room and let him do a mock news cast. He got the job.
In 1973 Billboard Magazine nominated The Boss as Program Director of the year. Before the end of that year The Boss had put together his own Broadcast Consulting Firm. Where he programmed stations in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Besides being the voice of the Birmingham “A’s” baseball team, he did Alabama State football. Plus, he became the voice of Arkansas, The Diamond Continental Football League. He was also the voice of Alcorn State Football. He established The Grambling Football Network with 40 stations on it. The Doug Williams years.
The Boss was asked to come back to Little Rock and manage KALO. This time he would be accompanied by his right hand man Bob Shivers and made him his program director. KALO became number one again. This time around in Little Rock The Boss introduced Shivers to a young man who was an intern at KALO the last time he was there by the name of Mickey Cade. Well Mickey ended up being drafted into the Army. By the time he was discharged, The Boss was long gone. Fortunately they where reunited again in Little Rock. The Boss made sure that Mickey learned everything there was to know about running a radio stations operations while he was also attending school. So now The Boss has a very good programmer, and operations director, and a pretty good on air staff in guys like, John Darry, Jim Love, Rocky C, night man John Cain, Mickey Cade, Bob Shivers and himself. “Mama Hayes Little Boy Larry” in morning drive. The Arkansas Broadcasters Association selected Larry Hayes as the Broadcaster of the year in 1975, The city of Little Rock declared June 3rd, his birthday, as Larry Hayes Day for all of Little Rock.
The Boss Returned to Birmingham in 1976. That's when I met TheBoss. At the time The Boss was manager of a power house radio station with the stick on a mountain pushing 100,000 watts and the 3 millivolt signal could be heard clear within a 150 mile radius. WENN 107.7 Owned by the richest black man in Alabama. The ledgendary A.G Gaston. It was Larry's 3rd stent in the Birmingham market. This time he brought his entire network of radio stations with him where he and his color commentator, Bob Shivers, broadcast on The Grambling Football Network. I was doing afternoon drive at a rival station across town, WBUL "THE BULL a day timer. A job a buddy of mine, Ron Allen "RA The DJ" from Columbus, GA turned me on to. One night I went to a function being held by WENN at the A.G. Gaston lounge, The place was packed, WENN DJs was rocking the house. Someone pointed out Larry's right hand man who was program director among other things. He wore a lot of hats. Bob Shivers. "Baby Brother". The DJs called him crazy Bob. A no nonsence kind of guy. I went over and introduced myself. "Hi I'm Lee Sherman aka "Brown Sugar Lee" SWEET, Bob said "Brown Sugar Lee" with a smile. Something he didn't do much of for strangers. He said I have someone I want you to meet. The Boss had just walked into the lounge to do a cameo because he had to go right back out and go home to prepare his broadcast for the morning drive. Bob introduced us. We shook hands and he said I like what you doing across town over at the BULL. WBUL radio. I said thanks, I like what you guys are doing over here at WENN. Larry says, "how would you like to join us" at WENN. Trying to keep my cool because inside my brain was going like, oh hell yes. I said to him, "i would like that". He looked at Bob, winked and walked away. The next day I was on the air at THE BULL doing my regular midday slot. That night I made my debut on WENN from 7 to midnight. My very 1st caller asked, "Didn't I hear you this morning on the BULL"? I said yep. "Will I hear you there in the morning"? I answered, nope. In my mind I was saying, thanks BOSS, This is Sweeeeet.
Larry Hicks & George Clinton
WENN was a very unique state of the art studio. Plush offices, four recording studios with engineers on duty 24/7. An auditorium that seated over 300 where we would broadcast live gospel bands over the air on Sunday, A lounge across the street that was wired into the studio just like the auditorium was. Part of a Community College that Dr. Gaston owned upstairs full of pretty young women. Needless to say how the DJs loved that. Some of the notable DJs to come through there while we were there, Jim Love, Stan Granger, Rocky C, John Cain, Jim Lawson, Dave Donnell, Dean Reynolds, Ron Allen, Roe Bonner, Bennie Miles Tyrone Robinson, maybe a few more. On Sunday afternoon Bob Shivers produced an award winning Jazz Show that was second to none. Things were going pretty smooth then. Until some of Dr. Gaston’s heads downtown were disturb by all the attention we were getting at the radio station. So some of them started doing things to under mine what The Boss was doing. Opposing ideas, trying to inject some things not pertaining to radio. It got real crazy until The Boss decided to resign. Not before asking the team about making a move to Atlantic City, N.J. with a big chance of having part ownership in a sinking radio station that he felt we could turn around.
The Boss put together the crew that was willing to relocate to New Jersey. After a few weeks Larry and Bob went to Little Rock on the way to Atlantic City. Mainly to see family and friends for a minute. While in Little Rock, Bob ran across one of his partners he used to sing with. Larry “Skip” Hicks. Aka “Dapper Dan”. At this time Skip was in the middle of trying to decide what he really wanted to do with his life at that point. He had been working for the Legal Aid Bureau in Little Rock as a paralegal representing people with SSI and unemployment benefit hearings helping them to acquire their benefits. While doing this type work he realized the importance of communicating, and how the lack of information significantly reduced people’s ability to compete at any level. Especially in the black community. Being on the radio would solve that problem for him. When he found out that Bob Shivers and The Boss was headed to Atlantic City he was like, C I G. Can I Go? Bob said to him why not. You can't sing but you got a pretty good rap. The Boss recognizes talent when he sees it. He always said Skip would make a hell of a talk show host. With his law background and community service experience he would be the perfect part of this puzzle. Known for his fine attire and neatness. Yes, he’ll fit right in. We nicked named him “Dapper Dan the Dappin Man”
JC showed up in Birmingham to tell The Boss he had made arraigments for his crew to stay at one of his hotels in Atlantic City when they arrived. The Boss, Skip, and Bob left Little Rock headed for Atlantic City, New Jersey along with Harold Boggerty and The Profit. Profit was just going alone for the ride and to serve as a spiritual guide until we were established. You see he could see things according to him. He ran one of those palm reading rooms with the store front in downtown Birmingham with the neon Tarot Cards in the window. One day I had to save him from being badly beating in Atlantic City by a woman who thought he was trying to hit on her girl friend. I showed up in the nick of time to rush him to the hospital to get nine stitches in his head. I don’t think he saw it coming. Right away we had no choice but to send Profit packing. The first part of the crew arrived in AC and went straight to the Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn on the corner of Pennsylvania and Pacific Ave. One block away from the Boardwalk and the site where Resorts International Hotel and Casino was scheduled to be the 1st Casino Hotel to open in about a month. They were greeted by Chuck, a tall slender guy who managed most of JCs businesses and properties in and around Atlantic County. I didn’t get to AC until about a week after they arrived. I decided to stop in Ohio to visit my family first. I didn’t have any idea when I would be coming back. I had never been to southern New Jersey before. I remember traveling down the Atlantic City Expressway for the first time in the middle of the night. I thought I was headed to a ghost town. For 40 miles I didn’t see a car in either direction. You see that resort area didn’t crank up until after Memorial Day. It was March. The Expressway dumps you right into the middle of the city, the same way it does now. Only difference is there are cars coming and going 24/7. Plus there’s a tunnel at the end of the expressway now. Quiet impressive.
For days all we did was sit in that motel and play cards or joke around or something while monitoring the radio station. In the mornings we would go to the boardwalk just to breath the ocean air and run a few miles. We’d watch as merchants were preparing their shops and seaside grills to open for the tourist season. Of course this season would be different. A Casino Hotel would be in the mix. This would be the biggest attraction in Atlantic City since the Diving Horse on the steel pier. Everybody was excited about that. So were we. Most of the people here were used to just having seasonal work and being laid off until the next season. The tourist seasoned only lasted for a little over 3 months. For nine months it was every man or woman for himself.
While staying at the Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn we met a guy named Darrel who appeared to be in his early 50s he looked even younger. He told us that the tourist season was the only time you could make money in this city. So he and his ladies stayed there for the entire summer.
One night we were all in the motel room, watching TV and playing cards and just chillin’ with our shorts or bath robe’s on and cracking jokes, the phone rang. Someone said “Lee” telephone. I’m like, who could that be no one knows where I am. It was a young lady I knew down in Birmingham name Carol Wynbush. She worked as a telephone operator for South Central Bell. Back then you needed an operator to sometime put a long distance call through among other things. We didn’t have smart phones at that time. I said hi Carol how did you find me. She said she didn’t know where I went and that she was putting a call through from the police chief in Birmingham to the police chief in Atlantic City and happen to hear the name Larry Hayes mentioned. “I knew that was the man you worked for so I stayed plugged in to listen to the conversation between the two chiefs.” The Atlantic City Chief wanted to know about some guys who had been seen riding around in the City with Alabama Tags on their cars plus they were staying at a motel known for drug dealers, pimps and hoe’s. We did not know that until then. So when she heard my named called, she decided to call back and ask for me, to warn us that we where under surveillance. Naturally we made sure our act was clean after that. Thanks Carol.
Vernon "Boogie Child" Robbins
It was around the end of April when The Boss ordered Bob Shivers to go in and shut down the radio station. “Be careful because we heard there may be some resistance from employees.” Bob gathered us all together and we planned to go in at midnight that Friday. Most of the employees had not been paid in a month. They were just there to work when ever they felt like working. Some were very loyal to the cause. That night five of us prepared to go to the station around 11:30pm. Three of us were licensed to carry a conceal weapon, others were licensed to carry baseball bats. When we arrived at the station there was a taxi parked outside the studio with parking lights on. The driver obviously was inside also. We sat in a van waiting to hear the DJ (Vernon Robbins) sign off the air. He must have known something because he signed off by saying something like “I’m not sure when we’ll meet again. Vernon “Boogie Child” Robbins said that when he signed off that night he was sad. Even had a tear in his eye not knowing what the future would hold for him. The last song he played that night was one he personally chose by Steely Dan called Black Cow. One of the hook lines in the song goes: “It’s So Very Clear That It’s Over Now” Then of course the mandatory station ID then the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. WUSS went DARK. Bob Shivers, a war veteran and Larry Hicks were the 1st to enter the studio with a key. They went up and surprised everyone. There was the DJ, a couple young ladies and the taxi driver who immediately left. Mickey, Harold and I were standing downstairs as he exited the building leaving his passengers behind. He was so shocked to see us there until he began speaking in another language. Actually he was just mumbling. Talking fast and explaining to us that he was just the cab driver. We never said a word. Just standing there listening to him. Later “Bo Tripp” became a regular supporter of WUSS. Vernon said the 1st person he saw was Larry Hicks standing in the other studio looking like a body guard. Then Bob appeared out of nowhere and walked into the control room and switched off the transmitter. Finally the two unidentified young ladies came down and we asked them if any more people were up there. They said no, just Vernon. WUSS stayed dark for about two weeks
WUSS Studio A
The next day the Atlantic City Press had an article that said WUSS has gone dark from a take over of the “Black Mob”. A term none of us had ever heard before. Finally we moved from the Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn into the 5 empty rooms on the 1st level of the radio station. The water in the building had been turned off for some time now. We had to correct that problem immediately. JC had a nice piece of property about 12 miles west of Atlantic City on The White Horse Pike he called the farm. It had guest houses, swimming pool, The Big House, the whole nine yards. We had access to it when ever we wanted to as long as it was not in use by some of JC’s guest. We met some real important people at The Farm from time to time. I remember meeting Drew Bondini there. Mohammad Ali’s corner man for years. Lloyd Price, Billy Packer, Larry Holmes, you name them. There was always some body famous at The Farm. Most of the time The Farm was empty. We went there to take a swim or to just hang out or to cook dinner for the crew. The Boss had one of his cousins from Milwaukee to drive his Winnebago over to Atlantic City and leave it with us at the radio station so we would have a place to watch TV and cook every day.
Right away the crew started to remodel the studio the best we could with what little money we had to work with. We met an unemployed carpenter, Mr Green. All he needed was a half pint and a hammer. A very good carpenter though. The building was in very bad condition. We managed to bring it up to par with the help of Mr Green and engineer Harold Hill in about two weeks. Bob Shivers and The Boss created a quick format for the DJs to follow before handing the programming over to me. Bob had to over see the operations of the station because Mickey had to return to Birmingham for personal reasons. The Boss went on to hire a sales manager plus he sent for his cousin in Indiana (Jonetta Hill) to manage the office. She is the only one of us that still live there. We had a skeleton crew to work as announcers. We mainly took turns working different shifts for 24hr programming. We decided to keep some of the DJs that was already there like Vernon “Boogie Child” Robbins, Curtis “Midday And” Grey. The Boss hired a security officer from Philadelphia to play early morning gospel. Jim “Bulldog” Dixon. He was kind of like a preacher and a bouncer wrap up in one. He’d save you then put you in jail in one breath. Bob held down a couple of shifts including his award winning Jazz Show. We had to have him do that because nobody does it better. WUSS went back on the air about two weeks before Resorts International Hotel Casino opened for the 1st time.
The Boss recorded a statement for the listeners when we went on the air for the first time:
“It is the purpose of this station to fulfill a needed void in this community and
Its listening area, by doing this we promise to express the opinions of the ordinary
citizen and raise social consciousness . It is our belief that our first responsibility
Is to inform, second to educate, and third to entertain. We believe that any station
who listens to its listeners should have no problem in the fulfillment of its community
responsibility. We also feel that a radio station should never outgrow its listening
audience. In accomplishing our goals, we have only scratched the surface and there
is still so much more to be done. It has been and still is a fact that the radio must be
one of the strongest forces in a changing society. We pledge our whole-hearted
support to this concept. In a sagging economy such as we are experiencing today,
WUSS pledges to never charge our advertisers who are seeking people for work.
it is our belief that a station should have no political ties, so we are neither Democratic
Or Republican. Instead we would like to look at ourselves as statesmen who practice
A high moralistic value and offer social and religious assistance to all responsible
Groups. This is our pledge to you our listening audience."
ROLLING THE DICE
on A New Beginning
With the radio station up and running, we had to have a sales team to go out and beat the street for advertisers. Larry Hayes hired a couple of sales managers that didn’t work out. Finally he decided to be GM and SM until he was satisfied with the people we had. He sent for three beautiful young women from Birmingham to join the sales team. They became WUSS Diva’s so to speak. They were pretty good sales people too. Together they began to bill about 10 to $20,000 a month among three of them which wasn’t nearly enough to run the station on. The stations credibility and popularity was extremely low. Not to mention we inherited a $300,000 debt from the IRS from the very beginning. We had to find a way to make money until the station could stand on its own. Larry introduced us to an guy who was the manager of a dealers school in Atlantic City. Frank Francesto was his name. Frankie knew a few important people around town, so The Boss decided to let him be a part of the sales team too just to help boost sales. 1978 was the first time Atlantic City broadcasters went through a ratings period. WUSS didn’t fair to well in that first rating book. We still had to try and convince merchants that we had enough listeners to sell their product. Meanwhile, the DJs weren’t making much money either, so we decided to have an introduction party outside AC at a club call FOXY’S on Delilah Rd. in Pleasantville. Our first public appearance. The place was packed. We knew then that somebody was listening. After that we went on to line up a few more introduction parties. Linda’s Room, The Wonder Garden, Arthur’s to name a few. After the station didn’t show to well in the ratings The Boss wanted to go ahead and broadcast a local talk show to let the people be a part of what’s happening now in and around Atlantic City. A lot of public servants began to come around mainly because the people was calling them out about the job they were doing in City Hall under a Commission form of government. The talk show started to become popular with good ratings hosted by Larry Hayes and Larry Hicks. The two of them became very popular in the political circles. Things were beginning to come together. The Boss had another idea. He thought this would be a good time to lease a few limousines and join in on the ever popular transportation companies that were all over AC. He joined partnership with a woman named Dewilda Barkley who had one limousine to go with the three we already had. Together they formed a company called D & L Limousine Service The only problem was getting a license to operate the cars. The city announced that there was only one more omnibus license left for the city of Atlantic City. The city called a press conference and announced that the license would go to the first company who paid for it. $28,000.
The Boss introduced his talk show audience to a ordnance that said that the last omnibus license could not be sold legally. It would have to go for free to the next company in line to receive that type of license as long as they had the proper insurance. D & L was the next company up for the license. Larry filed for the free license. Legally, they had to give it to us. Of course that didn’t sit to well with the city Finance and Luxury Tax Commissioner Horace Bryant. He held on to the license as long as he could. After 90 days he would have to give up the omnibus license if our company cleared all the necessary requirements. On the very last day Larry asked me to come go with him to City Hall to see Mr. Horace Bryant and pick up the Limousine license. We arrived at the plush office of Finance and Luxury Tax Commissioner Horace Bryant. The secretary ask that we wait until Mr. Bryant was ready to see us. We waited about 45 minutes. Finally she told us to go into the office. When we went inside that dark office, the only light was coming from the window. Mr. Bryant was sitting behind his desk with his back to us looking out of the window. There was silence for a few seconds. Then he swerved the chair around and looked up at Larry, we were still standing, and said “boy, we run niggers in this town”. He was just as much nigger as we were. Only hi yellow and very ugly. He looked like an English Bulldog in the face. He went on to say, “if you think you’re going to come here from Alabama and run things you better think again. Like I said we run niggers in this town. Do you understand that boy? Larry nodded yes and looked at me because he knew I was ready to kick his old ugly ass and push him out the window. We needed that license. So we said nothing. He signed the license, we took it and left. Mr Bryant was highly respected among his peers. Plus, he was the 1st black to hold a position that high in Atlantic City government. That's why we couldn't understand why he would talk to us or address us the way he did. One black man to another. He labled us as outsiders. A lable we were never able to relinquish.