[JPL] Memphis black radio pioneer dies at 91

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Sat Nov 25 17:48:36 EST 2006


Memphis black radio pioneer dies at 91


Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - John R. Pepper II, co-founder of the first nationwide radio
station with programming targeting a black audience, has died. He was 91.

Pepper died Monday at St. Francis Hospital after an extended illness,
according to Forest Hill Midtown Funeral Home, where services were held
Friday.

Still one of Memphis' top stations, WDIA-AM was the first in the South with
an all-black on-air staff. Clear Channel Broadcasting Inc. now owns the
station, which reaches five states.

WDIA, which Pepper founded with Bert Ferguson in the 1940s, helped launch
the careers of B.B. King and Isaac Hayes, among others, and eased the way
for blacks throughout the country to break into broadcasting.

Hayes was a member of the station's "teen-town singers," and King, whose
real name is Riley King, picked up his stage name while working as a WDIA
disc jockey from 1949 to 1955. He was known then as the "Beale Street Blues
Boy" and later as simply "B.B."

Pepper also founded what later became Pepper Tanner Advertising Agency.

Pepper is survived by his daughter, Dianne Gilliland of Memphis; two sons,
Sam Pepper of Anchorage, Alaska, and John R. Pepper III of Huntingdon,
Tenn.; and a granddaughter.        



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