(August 9, 2004) -- Hunter Hancock, a radio DJ who drew large audiences in the 1950s by playing music by Black artists on stations that included LB's former KFOX (AM), has died.
Hancock, a white man, broke a de facto taboo by playing what was then called "race music" that more mainstream outlets didn't play. He opened his shows with a blaring trumpet intro of "A hunting we will go," proclaiming "You're Huntin' with Hunter!"
Hancock, and other DJs of the era who featured what became known as "rhythm and blues" or R&B music, were often relegated to lower powered outlets (LB's 1,000 watt KFOX was one) on which they could personally buy air time and then sell commercials to local sponsors. (Some advertisers became as famous as the DJs; locals may recall "Dolphins of Hollywood," a record store actually a bit southeast of its geographic name: "20 magic steps west of Central on Vernon").
Hancock's shows on L.A.'s KFVD/KPOP and KGFJ ultimately influenced music regionally and nationally, showing that R&B's appeal crossed racial lines. "Louielouie.net" credits Hancock with being the first to air the song "Louie Louie" (in its original form by Richard Berry) in 1957.
"What Alan Freed was to r&b on the East Coast, Hunter Hancock was to r&b on the West Coast. He set a standard for a new generation of kids who were ready to embrace anything but the prevailing Pop Standards of Perry Como, Doris Day and Patti Page," wrote L.A. radio historian Don Barrett on laradio.com.
LB peninsula resident Roger Carroll recalled meeting Hancock while living near KFVD's L.A. studios on south Western Ave. in the late 1940's. "I was a teenager enthusiastic about radio and stopped by to see the station. I saw Hunter Hancock, who was very happy about a young person interested in radio. He was a very nice man and so receptive to me that we became friends for many, many years."
Mr. Carroll went on to become one of the country's youngest network radio announcers, moved to then-L.A. powerhouse KMPC/710 and landed network TV assignments including the Smothers Bros, Tony Orlando & Dawn and Andy Williams shows among many. "Every time I got a new show, Hunter Hancock would call and say, 'Hey kid, you're doing well,'" Mr. Carroll recalled.
In March 2000, the Southern California Doo-Wop Society honored Hancock with a tribute concert at LB's Petroleum Club. In an autobiographical sketch on the group's web site, Hancock wrote:
"I know many people who have contributed so much more to mankind than I have, but I hope that in my small way I was able to bring pleasure and joy to people by playing the music they wanted to hear and by saying things that helped brighten their lives, if only for a little while."
"Old H.H." was 88 at his passing.