By 1954 teenagers of all racial denominations were beginning to listen to a genre of music relatively unknown among the white population. The music industry listed it as “race” but a new name was soon attached -- “Rhythm and Blues”.
At KTIB, and most radio stations in the South, those records were placed on the shelf and ignored,
Meanwhile in Memphis a white musician was creating an exciting brand of music called “Rock and Roll” and soon both names were interchangeable. Early crossover hits were Sam and Dave’s “Cherry Pie”, Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight”, and the Charms’ “Hearts of Stone”.
The requests became too great to ignore.
My country/Cajun show, (swamp pop was not yet born), was Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. KTIB was a daylight only station and when days grew longer so did the broadcast. A gap appeared between the end of my show and the end of the broadcast day.
Enter Jim Michie, a new teenage announcer from Labadieville. We bonded and as co-conspirators planned, devised and created a program that was so politically incorrect that it would not be allowed today, “The Marty and Mitch Show”.
Please accept the following in the historic context intended.
Relying on terrible imitations of Amos and Andy dialogue like: “Howdy Mitch, heard you fried up a bunch of catfish yesterday.” “Yassah, boss, they were dancing in the frying pan and I done ‘et me a bunch of ‘em. But rat now, let’s play “Earth Angel” by the Penguins.”
As the sun went down later and later, extra time necessitated repeating the few “Rhythm and Blues” platters we had. The kids loved it.
When sundown came at 5 p.m. the gap disappeared so we announced a winter break for the “Marty and Mitch Show” and told our audience what a future movie star would say: “We’ll be back!”
Jimmy, a musician and lead singer joined a band named the “Rhythm Kings” and they broadcast live on “The Leroy Martin Show” a half hour every week. Since my show still had the highest ratings, manager Hal Benson let me continue to do what I was doing, whatever it was, because I wasn’t sure myself what I was doing. We were breaking new ground.
Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll survived, (and how!), but “Marty and Mitch” did not.
Why? I really don’t remember but in 1956 Jimmy joined the Air Force and we lost touch. But sometime later he showed up on my TV set as a news reporter for WDSU where he covered the Jim Garrison JFK assassination investigation and the unsuccessful trial of Clay Shaw. He was later hired by Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy as a committee investigator. He retired from federal service in 2005 and lives in Bethesta, Maryland with Edie, his wife of 58 years. His four children have grown up successfully and left the nest years ago.
In 2011 Jim Michie organized a 50-year reunion of the Rhythm Kings and I was invited to serve as Master Of Ceremonies. Over 300 fans from the 1950’s showed up. Couples who had danced to the Rhythm King’s music in the 50’s danced and remembered. It was nostalgia personified.
My voice was weaker and I needed glasses to read the script, but as the old Indian said in the Clint Eastwood movie “Josie Wales” we “endeavored and persevered”.
That was my last public appearance.
Every Friday after work I still picked up two one-quart bottles of Jax at Hosea Hill for KTIB manager Hal Benson and I. Hosea always hired for his “Sugar Bowl” club the artist who were just starting out but would become national stars, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price and his own protégé, Jimmy “Guitar Slim” Jones who he managed.
Segregation was the law and we could not attend those shows.
I told him, “Mr. Hill, you don’t know how Hal and I would like to see those guys.”
He said, “Tell Hal to come see me, I have a plan.”
I’ll tell you all about it and the sad story of “Guitar Slim” next week.
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Posted on Tue, October 20, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer