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Radio Legend, The Late Frankie Crocker (824 hits)

My View From Harlem - Remember Frankie Crocker. (December 18, 1937, Buffalo, New York – October 21, 2000)

I knew the late Frankie “Hollywood” Crocker and knew he was going to be a star, the minute he joined WWRL-AM, it’s sister station in D.C. WOL-AM were both a Sonderling Broadcasting.

Frankie had good “pipes” in other words he had a voice made for radio.

Frankie on the radio referred to himself as the “Chief Rocker” and
Frankie had a career which spanned radio, TV and the movies.

From the beginning, Frankie lived the “High Life”, but it wasn’t without controversy.

When Studio 54 was at the height of its popularity, Frankie rode in through the front entrance on a white stallion.

In the studio, before he left for the day, Frankie would light a candle and invite female listeners to enjoy a candlelight bath with him.

He signed off the air each night to the tune "Moody's Mood For Love" by vocalese crooner King Pleasure and coined the phrase "urban contemporary" in the 1970s, a label for the eclectic mix of songs that he played.

He’d been the program director at WWRL-AM and felt held back by what he considered to be the narrow perspective of the station.

Back then New York political and media don, Percy Sutton, had control of two R&B stations on the dial, WLIB-AM, and WLIB-FM.

The latter eventually became WBLS-FM 107.5, the call letters where Frankie changed the way people listened to the music played by black artists forever.

He was not just breaking records but educating and breaking movements. WBLS was first to play all the R&B music coming out of England. First station to play Soul II Soul, Loose Ends, Five Star, Level 42, Junior, Heaven 17, and Mica Paris to name a few.

There were Friday afternoons in the city when the weather was warm and you could hear Frankie coming from every car, cab, UPS truck, or any boom-box that urbanites had set up while they worked getting pumped up for the weekend activities.

If it was a cookout or in just the park, ‘BLS and Frankie Crocker would set you straight. It was Urban Contemporary and it was the vibe of the city.

Frankie was the master of ceremonies of shows at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and was one of the first VJs on VH-1, the cable music video channel, in addition to hosting the TV series Solid Gold and NBC's Friday Night Videos.

As an actor, Frankie appeared in five films, including Cleopatra Jones (1973), Five on the Black Hand Side (1973), and Darktown Strutters (Get Down and Boogie) (1975).

Frankie’s high life style wasn’t without controversy.

Frankie was indicted in a 1976 payola investigation; he was convicted of lying about taking cash and drugs.

BLS dropped him, and he moved to L.A., returning to school. The conviction was later overturned, but his notoriety and high life at his mansion had its downturns.

He was charged in 1983 with hitting a girlfriend, Penthouse Pet Carmela Pope, but the charges were later dropped. He also was mentioned as a paramour of, and suspect in the murder of, young Hollywood starlet Christa Helm.

He suggested in the mid-'90s that his profile often made him a target. But, he said, he never lost confidence in himself, even when others called it arrogance.

"If you mean do I know how good I am," he said in 1995, "I do. I know my value."

After the payola charges were overturned he returned to New York radio in 1979, at the end of the disco era.

In October 2000, Frankie went into a Miami area hospital for several weeks. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and kept the illness a secret from his friends and even from his mother.

It must have been a bitter pill to be Frankie laying in that hospital bed dying.

He was just 62 which for a guy who still looked like a million dollars, was not old at all.

He could still pull the hottest women around. Women still sent him piles of frantic love letters from all around the globe, and there he was dying from pancreatic cancer.

He died on Saturday, October 21, 2000. His friend and former boss Bob Law, a onetime program director of WWRL, said Frankie understood how radio could go beyond music to reflect listeners' lives and culture.

"He encompassed all of the urban sophistication," Bob Law said in a NY Daily News article: "He appreciated the culture, the whole urban experience, and he wove it together.

Although I disagree with Bob Laws, especially when it came to WHUR-FM, Bob Laws said “That's missing now, even in black radio."

I personally knew that the late Vaughn Harper (Vaughn was also a friend), then at BLS, came to D.C. just to study WHUR’s format and the impact of the Original Quiet Storm, hosted by the late great Melvin Lindsay.

Whereas I won’t take away from Frankie, he had his impact, however, Melvin also encompassed all of the urban sophistication and well knew urban culture, the whole urban experience, and he wove it together.

Case and point, the Quiet Storm endure to this day not only in D.C. but also in many cities throughout the country.

Still, Frankie was a force to be reckoned with and who he was still has it’s impact to this day.

From back in the day,

Finally when Frankie signed off he said,

"May you live to be 100, and me 100, but minus a day. So I never knew nice people like you passed away..."

and for all of us in the Tri-state region,

"If Frankie Crocker isn't on your radio, your radio isn't on,"

Happy Birthday Frankie, see you later..
Posted By: Victorio Loubriel
Monday, December 19th 2016 at 1:06PM
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