— I got my life from the radio. When I was a kid growing up in the 1940s and early ’50s in the little farming community of Davison, Michigan, radio was still the primary entertainment medium in America and I listened to all sorts of programs from the Green Hornet, the Fat Man, the Shadow, and the Lone Ranger to Amos & Andy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, and Our Miss Brooks.

The beautiful thing about the radio was that you had to make up the pictures in your mind while you listened to the programs. But between 1948 and 1952 popular radio programming was switched over to television and this new medium quickly replaced radio as the place where people went for their entertainment. Many of the popular radio shows were translated into the one-dimensional imagery of the square box that would become the centerpoint of American life.

The one positive result of the advent of commercial television was that radio programming became predominantly music-oriented. Record shows almost completely replaced the wide range of entertainment programming as well as the “live” music of the studio orchestras of the 1930s & ’40s, and the disc jockey began to reign supreme over the radio airwaves.

The greatest thing happened in 1948 when WDIA radio in Memphis switched to a musical format aimed at the city’s black population, utilizing African American deejays like Nat Williams, Rufus Thomas and the young B.B. King to play popular blues and R&B releases and sell black-oriented products over the air. This sparked a movement to serve black audiences in all the major cities of America and a wave of black deejays who enjoyed the freedom of selecting the songs they played on their shows.

When I was a kid of of 12 and 13 I listened religiously to the local broadcasts of the inimitable Frantic Ernie Durham on WBBC radio. The colorful deejay who rhymed everything he said and played the greatest records in the world also owned a pair of low-rent record shops in the North End of Flint: Ernie’s Record Rack #1 at 943 Leith Street near Industrial, and Ernie’s Record Rack #2 on St. John Street, corner of Easy.

My dad worked at Buick Motors in the North End, and every Friday morning when he left for work I’d hand him a list of the 10 new records I most wanted to possess. He’d go to Ernie’s #1 on his lunch hour and apply my weekly allowance of $2.00 to the purchase of a pair of sides off my list, like “I Asked For Water” by Howlin’ Wolf on Chess, or “Nip Sip” by the Clovers on Atlantic, or “Mary Lou” by Young Jessie on Modern Records.

The Frantic One and the records he played on the air literally reshaped my life and lent it the foundation the rest of my years would be built on. His opening invocation would go something like this:

The Frantic One on the scene
with his crazy playing record machine
We start at nine and don’t put the twister to the slammer
Until the clock chimes 12 times
Great googa mooga, shugga wooga!
Nothin’ but the best and later for the rest!
We got that jumpin’ jive that’s truly alive
& the musical sounds to caress your ears,
my dears

Then the parade of records would begin, as detailed in the playlist below:

The John Sinclair Foundation Presents
Great Googa Mooga with Ernie Durham—The Frantic One
WBBC-AM, Flint, Michigan, November 1958 [VV-0001]

[01] Opening: Theme Music with Voice-over Intro
[02] Jackie Wilson: Lonely Teardrops
[03] The Quintones: Down the Aisle of Love
[04] Ernie’s Record Racks commercial
[05] The Miracles: Money
[06] Kenny Martin: I’m Sorry
[07] Al Smith: Wabash Blues
[08] Little Anthony & the Imperials: Tears on My Pillow
[09] The Spaniels: Here’s Why I Love You
[10] Dale Hawkins: Cross Ties
[11] Theme Music with Outro to first segment
[12] Theme Music & voice-over Intro to second segment
[13] Jimmy Reed: Down in Virginia
[14] Chuck Berry: Vacation Time
[15] Ernie D. Movers & Groovers Club Card Promotion
[16] Bill Doggett: [Unidentified]
[17] Jackie Wilson: I’m Wondering
[18] Texas Red & The Contours: Turn Around
[19] Peggy Lee: Fever
[20] Thurston Harris: Over and Over
[21] Ernie D. Movers & Groovers Club Card Promotion
[22] Ivory Joe Hunter: Yes, I Want You
[23] Theme Music with Outro to second segment
[24] Theme Music & voice-over Intro to third segment
[25] Joe Williams & Count Basie: Hallelujah, I Love Her So
[26] Ernie D. Flint IMA Pre-Thanksgiving Dance/Concert Promo
[27] Bill Doggett: Hold It
[28] Cozy Cole: Topsy (Part 2)
[29] Ernie D. Steve’s Auto Repair Commercial
[30] Dakota Staton: Confessin’ the Blues
[31] Sam Cooke: Win Your Love for Me
[32] Ernie D. Nature Boy Wine Commercial
[33] Ivory Joe Hunter: Yes, I Want You
[34] Eugene Church: Pretty Girls Everywhere
[35] Theme Music with Outro to third & final segment

Produced by Ernie Durham for WBBC Radio, Flint MI, November 1958
Post-production, editing & annotation by John Sinclair,
Detroit, December 6, 2005
Special Thanks to Jim Shaw & Bruce Cohen


On school nights, as memory serves, the Frantic One beamed out on WBBC from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, making way for Noble Gravelin’s country music show. But on Saturday afternoons he broadcast from noon to 6:00 pm, and while my little buddies and pals would be out playing some kind of rudimentary sports, I would be in my room glued to the radio set (this was before portable transistor radios) so I wouldn’t miss a minute of what Ernie D. was putting down.

On weeknights, when the Frantic One ended his show it was time to turn the dial to the other end, from 600 to 1420 AM, where you could find WLAC blasting out from Nashville, Tennessee with 50,000 watts of clear channel power and sending forth the finest in R&B throughout the Midwest and the East Coast from 9:00 pm till 2:00 am, with a series of nightly programs hosted by Jumpin’ John R [Richbourg], Gene Nobles (and later Bill “Hoss Man” Allen), and Herman Grizzard.

Each show was sponsored by a local record shop that specialized in sending 78s and then 45s by mail order throughout the South to satisfy the recor dneeds of their mostly rural listening audience without access to local record emporia.

Ernie’s Record Mart (“179 Third Avenue, in Nashville, Tennessee”), Randy’s Record Shop (“in Gallatin—and only Gallatin, Tennessee”), and Buckley’s Record Mart could provide you with any and all of the records played by the deejays, and there were regular groupings of hot records offered as, for example, the “Blue Star Blues Special—six records, 12 big sides, for the low, low price of $2.69 plus packing, mailing, and C.O.D. Send no money, just your name and address, to Blue Star, or to me, John R, at WLAC, Nashville, Tennessee.”

I obtained my first rhythm & blues recordings by following the excellent advice of Gene Nobles and sending away to Randy’s Record Shop for one of the specials when I was 12 or 13 years old, and I can still savor the beautiful memory of tearing open the mailing package and lifting out the six big, fat, juicy, 10-inch, 78 rpm records by Ray Charles, the Moonglows, the Drifters and their ilk.

I got my first 45 player for my 14th birthday in October 1955, just in time for rhythm & blues to explode into rock & roll, but my first 45 single was a hard-core blues item by Big Walter Horton on States 154, “Hard Hearted Woman.” I got the initial rock & roll recordings by Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley as soon as they were released, and I stayed with this music all the way through high school.

I was 16 when I started playing records for people in public, spinning 45s in the high school gymnasium on Friday nights after the football and basketball games had been played. My theme song alternated between “Handclappin’” by Red Prysock on Mercury, “Walkin’ with Mr. Lee” by Lee Allen on Ember, and “The Big Wheel” by Clifton Chenier on Argo Records, but every dance ended with the Spaniels singing “Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite” from their VeeJay Records release..

Soon I started hawking my services to my friends at other high schools in the Flint area and got some gigs spinning at other venues than Davison High. When I went away to college in the fall of 1959 I lucked into a spot on the campus dorm station and got my first exposure to the other side of the microphone, playing R&B sides from 7:00 to 8:00 in the morning and kicking off every show with Chuck Berry singing “Up in the morning and off to school.”

This seminal experience with radio stirred new passions that have never cooled in the 50 years since. In the late ‘60s I did a slew of guest spots with my friend Jerry Lucin at WABX-FM in Detroit and then got my first real show at WNRZ-FM in Ann Arbor in 1972, a six-hour stint on Sunday nights from 7:00 pm to 1:00 am called “TOKE TIME: The Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festiival of the Air” and featuring “those tasty tads of rhythm & blues, soul and jazz.”

When WNRZ abruptly switched to a country music format I moved to the University of Michigan’s student station, WCBN-FM, where I produced a series of programs between 1973-1981 called variously “Ancestor Worship,” “RE:VISIONS—Another Look at Modern Music,” and “The Sound of Detroit.” I was off the air for a few years after I moved back to Detroit and then found a place on public Radio, WDET-FM, producing and hosting “Blue Sensations” every Saturday night at midnight, at the time (1989-91) the city’s only genuine rhythm & blues radio broadcast.

The John Sinclair Foundation Presents
Blue Sensations 67 with John Sinclair: Red Prysock at the Mardi Gras
WDET-FM, Detroit, February 1991 [VV-0019]

This special edition of the Blue Sensations program with John Sinclair was produced as the sequel to a show broadcast as part of the Spring 1990 Fund Drive at WDET-FM in Detroit with Martin Gross riding shotgun which advanced the theme RED PRYSOCK INVADES NEW ORLEANS, pitting the great rock & roll tenor saxophonist against an all-star Crescent City line-up in a simulated free-for-all boxing match at the Superdome in New Orleans that results in an inevitable victory for the John Coltrane of Rock & Roll—Red Prysock! In this episode Red Prysock goes to the Mardi Gras and encounters the Mardi Gras Indians, the Dixie Cups, Irma Thomas, Barbara George, Professor Longhair, Champion Jack Dupree, Roy Brown, and Smiley Lewis.

[01] Yusef Lateef: Happyology with John Sinclair WDET ID & Intro
[04] Professor Longhair: Go to the Mardi Gras
[05] Red Prysock: Blow Your Horn
[06] John Sinclair Comments
[07] Golden Eagles: Two-Way Pak-E-Way
[08] Wild Magnolias: Fire Water
[09] Wild Tchoupitoulas: Golden Crown
[10] Red Prysock: Happy Feet
[11] John Sinclair Comments
[12] James Brown Live at the Apollo: I’ll Go Crazy
[13] John Sinclair Comments
[14] Dixie Cups: Iko Iko
[15] Irma Thomas: Don’t Mess With My Man
[16] Barbara George: I Know
[17] Red Prysock: Zonked
[18] John Sinclair Comments
[19] Professor Longhair: Big Chief
[20] Champion Jack Dupree: When I’m Drinking
[21] Roy Brown: Let the Four Winds Blow
[23] Red Prysock: Red Speaks
[24] John Sinclair Comments
[25] Smiley Lewis: Rootin’ & Tootin’
[26] Red Prysock: Rock & Roll
[27] John Sinclair Closing Comments & Outro

Hosted by John Sinclair for Radio Free Amsterdam
Produced & recorded to cassettes by John Sinclair at WDET-FM, Detroit
Digitally transferred from cassettes, edited & assembled by John Sinclair
at the Headpress Bunker, London, June 13, 2010
Posted by Larry Hayden
Executive Producer: Larry Hayden
Special thanks to Martin Gross & Celia Sinclair
© 1991, 2010 The John Sinclair Foundation


I moved from Detroit to New Orleans in July 1991 and got my first show at WWOZ-FM in February 1992, playing jazz on Tuesday nights. Soon I established my “Blues & Roots” program on Saturday nights at midnight to 2:00 am (later, when the station initiated its 24-hour service, from 2:00–5:00 am) and then added my “New Orleans Music Show” on Wednesday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

My adventures at WWOZ from 1992 till May 2003 must be explored in a subsequent writing, but suffice it to say that I had the time of my radio life in New Orleans on a station that every music-lover in town listened to at all times. My New Orleans show became wildly popular and I was voted New Orleans’ favorite radio personality for the last five years I was on the air there, but the series ended when I moved to Amsterdam in 2003.

I missed doing radio like crazy but otherwise life in Amsterdam agreed with me beyond measure. One evening in September 2004 I was sitting in the Coffeeshop Amnesia having a coffee and a smoke with a new acquaintance named Larry Hayden and lamenting my absence from the airwaves. A little guy who turned out to be called Henk Botwinik was passing our booth and stuck his head in to say, “We could do that right here.”

It was at that point that I entered the brave new world of internet broadcasting, and by November we were on the net with our first 16 episodes of the John Sinclair Radio Show from the 2004 Cannabis Cup, producing every show on location in coffeeshops, dancehalls and cultural installations and mixing great music from the African-American cultural tradition with interviews and commentary from a host of characters in the Dam. We expanded to Radio Free Amsterdam on January 1, 2005 and made our first podcast with our 38th program—podcasting was brand new then—and we’ve posted a show every Monday at 4:20 ever since.

There’s a lot more to tell about Radio Free Amsterdam and our affiliated station in Detroit called Detroit Life Radio, but I’m entirely out of time now and I’ll have to leave you with the latest episode of my show, #338, from Café The Zen in Amsterdam last Friday night. Thanks for listening.

John Sinclair,
Detroit, July 28 > Amsterdam, August 23 > Rochefort, France, August 26-27, 2010

The John Sinclair Foundation Presents
Café The Zen, Amsterdam
Saturday, August 22, 2010 @ 2:00-3:00 am [20-1034]

Our program this week emanates from Café The Zen in Amsterdam where we’ve been based all week with the New Orleans action painter called Frenchy and 101 Runners pianist Tom Worrell plus guitarist Vincent Pino (from Venezuela), drummer Steve Fly (UK) and bassist-engineer Leslie Lopez (Puerto Rico)—the International Blues Scholars. We’re listening to music we made here at Studio Zen on Monday night (16) and at the 420 Café on Wednesday (18), where we were joined by Chris Jones (New Orleans) on bongos during his brief visit to Amsterdam, and we’ve got a few records to add by Alberta Adams & the Planet D Nonet, Kermit Ruffins, Lenny Bruce on airplane glue, and Brother Jack McDuff. Ras Dan makes a brief recorded announcement from Café The Zen while he presently languishes in a Dutch jail waiting to be deported back to Surinam for lack of proper paperwork. Free Ras Dan!

[01] Opening Music: Tom Worrell & the International Blues Scholars: Tipitina
[02] John Sinclair Intro Comments with Larry Hayden & Steve Fly
[03] Ras Dan: Pasa Ding De Café Zen
[04] John Sinclair & His International Blues Scholars: Louisiana Blues
[05] John Sinclair & His International Blues Scholars: The Delta Sound
[06] John Sinclair Comments & Conversation with Larry Hayden & Steve Fly
[07] Alberta Adams & Planet D Nonet: Say Baby Say
[08] Kermit Ruffins: I Got a Treme Woman
[09] Lenny Bruce: Airplane Glue
[10] Brother Jack McDuff: Smut
[11] John Sinclair Comments & Conversation with Larry Hayden & Steve Fly
[12] Closing Music: John Sinclair & His International Blues Scholars: Friday the 13th > Monk in Orbit > My Buddy

Hosted by John Sinclair for Radio Free Amsterdam
Produced, recorded, edited & assembled by John Sinclair
Posted by Larry Hayden
Executive Producer: Larry Hayden
Special thanks to Celia Sinclair, Frenchy, Tom Worrell, Vincent Pino, Steve Fly & Leslie Lopez—Leslie Lopez, The Man
© 2010 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

Author, poet and activist John Sinclair was born in 1941, in Flint, Michigan. He mutated from small-town rock’n’roll fanatic and teenage disc jockey to cultural revolutionary, pioneer of marijuana activism, radical leader and political prisoner by the end of the 1960s. Between 1966-67 he founded the DETROIT ARTIST WORKSHOP and joined the front ranks of the hippie revolution; managing the ‘avant-rock’ MC5 and organizing countless free concerts in the parks, which included White Panther rallies and radical benefits. He has since published several collections of his poetry along with the major work in verse, FATTENING FROGS FOR SNAKES: DELTA SOUND SUITE. In 1998 he first visited Amsterdam as High Priest of the CANNABIS CUP and relocated to The Netherlands in the fall of 2003. One of the pioneers of podcasting, his weekly internet program, THE JOHN SINCLAIR RADIO SHOW, is the flagship of Radio Free Amsterdam.