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Revolutions per minute and due bills

Revolutions per minute and due bills

My friendship with Hal Benson continued through 1954. As my mentor he taught me broadcasting tips on editing and reading news coming over the Associated Press teletype 24/7, doing remote broadcasts, cueing, handling and playing records which were the main commodity and product of KTIB, the “Voice Of The Golden Delta.”

(FYI: In 1954 records were still 10-inch, 78 revolutions per minute (RPM) hard plastic discs which were very breakable.)

Ernest Tubb had started a mail order record shop in Nashville, which nearly went broke when most arrived broken. He was saved by the introduction of the 45-RPM 7-inch and the 33-RPM long playing (LP) vinyl disc which became the standards by 1957.

The 45-RPM had a big hole in the middle into which an adapter called a spider with a small hole had to be inserted.

From 1953 to 1956, all records, including Lafourche Parish’s Vin Bruce, were issued as both 45’s and 78’s. By 1958 the 78 had joined the Edison Cylinder in the phonograph museum. No, I don’t remember the cylinder but the first one palyed “Mary had a little lamb”.

These changes proved expensive to collectors like me because by 1964 I had bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, (that is … borrowed and not returned), over 3,000 78-RPM records. In 1964 Hurricane Hilda fused them together into one giant round block.

My Bob Wills, Jimmy Davis, Jimmie Rodgers and Rex Griffin 78 collections were gone but I bought them again when they were issued on 33 LP, then cassette, then 8-Track and finally, I hope, CD (compact disc).

Back at KTIB my part time job became busy as Hal brought me to the remote broadcasts of high school football games as his color announcer, a sidekick who would comment between plays about the band, cheerleaders, the crowds and little dogs loose on the field.

I was terrible, and I gave it up because in my youth my nights and weekends were filled playing music, not sports. All I knew was that for my team, a touchdown was good, an interception was bad and in baseball, a home run was good, a strike out, bad. That was the extent of my sports knowledge. Hal acquisitioned.

Every Friday after work I would dutifully pick up 2 quarts of beer or sometimes a half-pint of vodka and join him at the station playing guitar with Hal on the bongo drum, sometimes until his fingers bled as we sang, sipped and talked. Hal often talked about his brother, George and I believed I might have been his surrogate. Hal was only 3 years older than me.

He also talked about his father Albert Bensebat, who died very young and how that would probably be his fate.

At the time my job, my band and my radio program were all successful and I was too full of the “joie de vivre” to have such thoughts, but I failed to notice a dark cloud hovering above,

I often wondered why Hosea Hill never charged me for the bar tab. I never asked, but Hal would often phone Mr. Hill racing results from the AP teletype and would announce on the air the bands playing at the Sugar Bowl Lounge that night. That’s when I learned about “Due Bills”.

Trading by an exchange of commodities is called bartering and values of those exchanges are kept in statements called “Due Bills”. It was so common in radio that it was sometimes negotiated between an owner and manager as part of the salary. Example: $100 worth of radio commercials was exchanged for motel rooms or a bar or grocery tab.

I never knew or asked if that was the case but knowing both Mr. Block and Mr. Benson as fair businessmen, I assumed it was.

Next week I’ll tell you how, with the help of Hosea Hill, Hal and I skirted segregation laws to listen and watch, in comfort from the kitchen, acts that would become nationally famous, including Ray Charles, Lloyd Price,

Little Richard, Fats Domino and especially Mr. Hill’s protégé Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones.

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