Frankie Crocker, the New York radio personality imbued the R&B format with a wide-reaching musical palette that includes music from just about every genre. Born in Buffalo, NY, Crocker began his radio career at Williamsville, NY, station WUFO, while studying Pre law. His other stints include other N.Y. radio stations WWRL and Top 40 station WMCA. Becoming a program director at WBLS-FM and WLIB-AM in the early 1970s, Crocker began to shape an innovative and influential radio format that would become known as progressive R&B while garnering the top spot in the ratings. His timing was perfect as a new kind of R&B station was beginning to spring up on the FM dial around the country.
Crocker’s format emphasized less jive talk, a cross blend of jazz, pop/rock, sophisticated soul, funk, and R&B. The sound is similar to the sound of the smooth jazz stations of the late ’90’s.
The Venus Flytrap character on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinatti bears a slight resemblance to Crocker’s sound and flamboyant style. The term urban contemporary was coined by the late New York DJ Frankie Crocker in the mid 1970s.
In addition to radio, Crocker was one of VH1’s original VJs and hosted both NBC’s Friday Night Videos and Solid Gold. As his formidable reputation grew, Crocker was offered different opportunities. He appeared in the movies Cleopatra Jones, Five on the Black Hand Side, Darktown Strutters, Jimi Hendrix, Death Drug, Taking Heat and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
He released two disco oriented albums on Casablanca Records as Frankie Crocker’s Heart and Soul Orchestra — The Heart and Soul Orchestra, Love in C Minor, and Disco Suite Symphony No. 1 in Rhythm and Excellence.
Later he hosted his own syndicated radio show, Classic Soul Countdown. The Intro on the Ike & Tina Turner Heart and Soul series was done by DJ Frankie Crocker And MC Eddie Burkes.
Frankie Crocker, Dead Road, Central Park, circa 1979
Malcolm Pinckney / New York City Parks Photo Archive
In the late 1970s, the Dead Road (located to the west of the Central Park Bandshell) became the venue for spontaneous disco roller dancing.
The legendary Frankie Crocker, WBLS disc jockey and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, is captured at this “scene.”
To this day, the locale draws large weekend crowds, including many foreign tourists eager to see the latest moves of hip New Yorkers.
Sources:FrankieCocker.net, Wikipedia, Soul Patrol, Power House Radio, You Tube.