“Ee-tiddly-ock, this is the Jock, and I’m back on the scene with my record machine!”
That’s how legendary deejay Douglas “Jocko” Henderson, the godfather of rap, would launch his Philadelphia radio shows on WHAT and WDAS in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. (Listen below!) And when he did, kids all over the city would snap on their radios to hear the Jock lay down his pounds of sound from his tower of power. Who was this man? And this music, my goodness!
Jocko may have been the first big soul radio disc jockey on Philadelphia radio, but he was hardly the last. A litany of talented and dynamic broadcasters quickly followed—Georgie Woods, Louise Williams, Jimmy Bishop, Kae Williams, Sonny Hopson, Jerry Blavat and Butterball, just to name a mere handful.
But in the beginning there was the Jock.
“Using a rocket ship blast-off to open proceedings, and introducing records with more rocket engines and ‘Higher, higher, higher…’ Jocko conducted his whole show as if he was a good-rocking rhythmonaut. ‘Great gugga mugga shooga booga’ he’d exclaim, along with plenty of ‘Daddios.’
“From way up here in the stratosphere, we gonna holler mighty loud and clear ee-tiddy-o and a bo, and I’m back on the scene with the record machine, saying oo-pappa-do and how do you do?
“Jocko… showed that the radio DJ could be … a vocalist, a poet.”
“When Yuri Gagarian completed the world’s first manned space flight in 1961, Jocko sent him a telegram. This now resides in the Museum of the Soviet Armed Forces in the Kremlin. It reads: ‘Congratulations. I’m glad you made it. Now it’s not so lonely up here.’
“Jocko… showed that the radio DJ could be a creative artist in his own right, not just a comedian or a companion but a vocalist, a poet.”