The City of Brotherly Love is invited to join air personality Patty Jackson of WDAS-FM as she celebrates 30 years in radio. The musical salute, starring Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gladys Knight, takes place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19 at the Dell Music Center.
Joining the party will be Breakwater, Enchantment, Glenn Jones, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes and The Delfonics, along with the seductive and soulful Freddie Jackson.
“She has a great radio personality — she knows music,” said Freddie Jackson, who was speaking to me from Harlem. I am very fortunate to be in this industry for so long and have people like Patty Jackson to spin Freddie Jackson records. So Patty is a great person ‘cause she learned from the best — Butter. What an incredible person. He kept me alive on radio. He [played] quality music on radio. And Patty is doing the same thing.”
“I have enjoyed every day of the past 30 years on the radio and I am truly honored,” said Patty Jackson, who first stepped up to the microphone on Jan. 24, 1982, when she joined the staff of WSSJ in Camden. “I love what I do, and appreciate my mentors over the years, including WDAS’ Joe ‘Butterball’ Tamburro, who I will never forget for all that he taught me.”
Music icon Kenny Gamble, who plans to join the celebration on Sunday, had high praise and appreciation for the “The Midday Queen of Philly.”
“I remember the first time I heard her voice,” said Gamble. “I said, ‘Boy, what a voice for radio!’ I hadn’t met her, but I think she was on Power 99 when she first came here. I used to say to Butterball, ‘Butter! That’s the best voice in radio — Patty Jackson!’ Some people have just got voices like that.
“I’d just like to congratulate her. She’s for Philly,” Gamble continued. “She’s really there for everybody, and you don’t have many live local deejays anymore, like you used to. Everybody’s syndicated, so it’s not that personal touch anymore. In fact, Black radio has been almost dismantled because of its power. Black radio is responsible for civil rights, it’s responsible for leadership in our community — for everything!
Gamble said Jackson is following the tradition of radio icons like Philadelphia’s Georgie Woods, New York’s Frankie Crocker and Chicago’s Rodney Jones.
“You had all these different personalities that were in the community. And so Patty is still keeping up that tradition. She’s still in the community — and she plays our music, which I really like! She plays our music all the time, so we love Patty!”
To celebrate 30 years with Philly’s favorite daytime diva, call the Dell box office at (215) 685-9560 or visit www.mydelleast.com. Tickets are also available at www.wdasfm.com.
Venue to become Georgie Woods Entertainment Center in 2015
City Council on Thursday, March 15 voted to rename the Robin Hood Dell East. Effective in January 2015, the venue in North Philadelphia will be known as the Georgie Woods Entertainment Center.
Council unanimously supported the name change, which came over the objection of one man, Joey Temple, who urged Council to rewrite the bill renaming the entertainment venue so the name change would take place immediately.
“Why wait until 2015?” Temple asked Council during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I think Georgie Woods’ name should go up immediately.”
Temple, an ex-gang member, credited Woods with turning his life around and said Woods didn’t get the public recognition he deserved.
“Not a lot was done in his favor,” said Temple.
The bill’s sponsor, Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr., explained that city custom mandates a 10-year waiting period between the death of a notable Philadelphian and the naming of a public facility after him or her. Woods died in 2005.
“He would have been proud of the renaming of the Dell,” said Jones.
Jones also introduced legislation that would make the Police Advisory Commission permanent and expand its authority through a change to the city charter. He also called for an investigation into the commission, which has a backlog of 400 complaints.
“Maybe it needs a referendum for greater independence, or maybe the current structure needs to be tweaked,” Jones told the Tribune earlier this week. “Either way, people need to have confidence that their complaints will be heard — and if they’re legitimate, that some fair action will be taken. Police officers should also be confident that false allegations will be dealt with swiftly too.”
The proposal was referred to committee.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell took Mayor Michael Nutter to task for a ban on feeding the homeless outdoors in city parks.
“What if Jesus were around at this time, trying to spread some fishes and some loaves of bread? I guess he’d be in trouble,” Blackwell fumed. “It amazes me that we have to give, but the giving that one makes out of one’s own reserves is being regulated.”
Blackwell, well known for her advocacy for the homeless, chastised the mayor in a blistering seven-minute speech before council. She condemned the ban and related policies that would fine violators up to $150 after two warnings.
“It is unconscionable that we have decided that we’re not allowed to feed the hungry,” she said.
Nutter, citing health and safety concerns, announced on Wednesday that he had instructed parks commissioner to begin enforcing a ban on feeding the homeless in public parks within the next 30 days, as part of a new administration policy.
He pitched the policy as one centered on public health and safety concerns, and as way to assist people needing food and shelter.
“Aside from the dignity provided by sitting down at a given time in a given place for a nutritious meal, an indoor location enables the city and its partners to offer health, mental health, housing, a place to receive mail and other needed services to this very vulnerable population,” he said.
The mayor added that until the many groups that feed the homeless outside and those that have indoor facilities can coordinate their activities, the outdoor groups can feed people on the apron at City Hall.
They “will be required to sign up with the Department of Public Property and reserve the days and times for their activity,” said Nutter. “Those who wish to provide safe food will be welcome to do so, and we will try to coordinate their feeding to assure a more balanced, predictable schedule for the hungry.”
Finally, as council begins to dig into Nutter’s budget proposal, members voiced their opinions of the administration’s plan to change the way property values are assessed, switching the basis of taxes to full market value.
The administration plans to enact full valuation assessment later this year. Councilman Bill Green has urged the administration to delay a year to implement its plan in the name of bolstering confidence in city government.
However, the administration’s plan seems to have growing support among council members as they study revenue options. Full valuation would net about $90 million more dollars in revenue for the school district. The city would not receive any more than it does now, approximately $458 million.
“The administration is conflating two issues,” Green said this week. The “move to full value, which is required under state law, and revenue. They are separate and distinct issues. As we move to [full valuation] we should have that debate and make sure we have as much information as possible. As we talk about additional revenue … we should have a discussion about whether or not it is needed.”
Though the mayor’s budget does not include a formal tax increase, the city expects to collect about 8 percent more in property taxes next year as it moves to a tax system based on market values.
Administration officials are loathe to call that added revenue a tax hike.
“That would be a tax increase,” Green said.
Bells were rung, posters were waved and City Council people sang as emotions were laid bare during a special Monday hearing to rename the Robin Hood Dell East open-air music venue in honor of Philadelphia radio legend, music promoter and civil rights activist Georgie Woods. Dozens of speakers told the council committee that Woods, who died in 2005, fought for the African-American community in Philadelphia.
Woods came to the region in 1953 and began broadcasting from AM stations WDAS and WHAT. During the 1960s, Woods used the airwaves to talk about the American Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, Woods helped charter buses to take people down to the March on Washington, D.C., (subsequently famous for its “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) and had asked a young Ed Bradley, who later went on to become a well-known CBS correspondent, to be a bus captain.
It was the threat of Woods’ storied legacy fading into the annals of history that spurred Councilman Curtis Jones to action. Recently, Jones asked several interns, as they passed a mural of Woods, if they knew who was on the wall — none of them could answer the question.
“That, in the city of Philadelphia, to which he gave his professional life, was unacceptable. We owed him more than that. But for Georgie Woods, there wouldn't be many of the broadcasters that I see out in the audience today, but his guidance and mentorship created news departments that actually gave real information in real time to real people in real communities. He was a little bit Don Cornelius, John Shaft, a little bit Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medger Evers. He was not perfect, but he was perfect for us at that time. It is my hope that people will talk about him, not just as an entertainer where he had his roots, but as an agent for change in the greatest city in America — Philadelphia.”
Gary Shepard, Jerry Wells and Terry Lee Barrett were among the recognized voices from Philadelphia’s radio community that credited Woods for their careers. Radio personality E. Steven Collins, whose early career including working as Woods’ radio producer, remembered he was shushed as a child when his father insisted on the family listening to Woods as he introduced Martin Luther King to his radio audience. “At the time, MLK wasn’t welcomed here — he was considered a rabble-rouser — but Georgie Woods introduced him to our family.” It was a moment, Collins testified, that still vividly resonates with his 91-year-old mother, who recently mentioned the episode to him. “Georgie Woods went to the old Civic Center and confronted Frank Rizzo, and demanded dignity for Black people in this city. He did it over and over and over again.”
Political consultant Donald “Ducky” Birts looked around the hearing room and declared he was the only one left who had worked with Woods from the beginning of his Philly days until the end. “Georgie did a lot of things behind the scenes that a lot of people didn't see,” recalled Birts. “In 1968, we started Progress Plaza with Rev. Leon Sullivan. Georgie was a part of that. And also, Georgie was involved with Dr. King raising money at the Uptown Theater.”
Passions were on full display when the mayor’s recreation commissioner, Sue Slawson, suggested patience in renaming the Dell East, in Fairmount Park, in honor of Woods: “Such caution is warranted, because we wish to retain the Dell’s successful marketing and community familiarity,” Slawson said. In addition to mentioning marketing concerns, she cited a city regulation which states no city property can be named in someone’s honor until they have been dead for 10 years. “There are some things money can't buy!” yelled a supporter, who was visibly outraged at the commissioner’s suggestion.
The committee unanimously approved a revised name change: “The Georgie Woods Entertainment Center at the Robin Hood Dell” to take effect in 2015. The plan now goes to the full Council for a vote.
Aretha Franklin, one of the most successful musical entertainers of all time, will be performing in the Arena at Trump Taj Mahal, in Atlantic City, N.J., on Saturday Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. “The Queen of Soul” recalls fond memories returning to the Philadelphia area, a place that helped jettison her career.
Commenting about her upcoming concert at the Trump Taj Mahal, Franklin said “I’m absolutely looking forward to it, I haven’t been on for about a month or so, and I just came out to do the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz [in Washington, D.C.]. I had an appearance there, but I didn’t do a full concert.”
Franklin has superstar status as an entertainer but she’s also a very active philanthropist.
During the September 25, 2012, Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz, the theme celebrated “Women, Music and Diplomacy” — the gala honored the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with the Institute’s 2012 Maria Fisher Founder’s Award. Joining Franklin at the gala event were A-list celebrity guests Herbie Hancock, Helen Mirren, Thelonious Monk Jr. and Billy Dee Williams. The event was hosted by Tipper Gore.
“[On Sept. 30] I sung out in Liberty, N.J., for the Cancer Foundation, and there were 4,000 survivors there,” Franklin said. “We had some kind of good time … we were rocking and socking and a little shouting [was] going on, we went to church 3 or 4 times.”
Franklin has earned numerous musical accolades and awards that many musical entertainers strive a lifetime to earn. In August 2012, Franklin was inducted into the Gospel Music Associations’ Hall of Fame. A few of her other awards include: being voted #1 Vocalist of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine (2009); Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005); National Medal of Arts (1999); recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor; 18 Grammy Awards, including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for eight consecutive years; five American Music Awards and four NAACP Image Awards. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987), and in 1979, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was the recipient of TV Land Music Icon Award. Franklin has received 12 honorary doctorate degrees.
Franklin’s musical career had its genesis in gospel music.
“I wasn’t a mega gospel star, but I was known in the world of gospel because of my dad,” she said.
Her father, the late Rev. Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, was a Baptist preacher and a civil rights activist in Detroit, Mich.
“And whenever I would go out on tours with him, he would have services in different arenas, and city auditoriums across the country, from Detroit to Los Angeles, I would precede him singing one or two things,” she recalled. “So, I was known to a Gospel audience but I was not a mega star.”
Franklin credits her father for keeping her grounded with all the super stardom and success she has enjoyed.
Remarking about how she has handled the enormous notoriety and international favor she’s received over the decades of entertaining millions, she said, “I receive it in a very appreciative way because people don’t have to say or give you anything. I am very much appreciative of that, but I don’t let [fame] or awards, or things like that go to my head. My feet are very firmly planted on the ground, my dad took care of that many years ago; that I would not be carried away with the [music] business or any of the things that might be given to me.”
Franklin hosts an annual revival in Detroit, and the Clark Sisters are frequent guest performers.
“I have a Gospel celebration, year to year, and I have different gospel artists there,” Franklin said. “All of the gospel artists have come to my events annually, and we really have a great time.”
Franklin’s life is being pegged for a bio pic.
“Speaking of the Clark Sisters, Karen is going to be playing a character, the part of Kitty Parham, who came out of Philadelphia, who was one of the world famous Ward Singers,” Franklin said. She added that the Ward Singers will play a major role in her film “as Clara Ward was one of my mentors.”
A production date or release date hasn’t been scheduled yet, but the written treatment for her film is in its final stage of development. She has Taylor Hackford, a Hollywood producer/writer/director, is working on the project.
“We are fine tuning it now,” she said. “We are re-working some of the different scenes that are going to be in it.”
Hackford has directed Oscar-nominated actors such as Louis Gossett Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Some of Hackford’s notable film credits includes the blockbuster hit movies “Ray” and “Dream Girls.”
Franklin said Denzel Washington is being targeted to portray her father in the film but she admits Billy Dee Williams was her first choice.
Aretha has a strong affinity for Philadelphia and its fan base.
“I’m right at home with Philadelphia,” she said. “Philadelphia is very much, largely where I started, [with] many of my interviews at WDAS [radio station].”
She credits local radio personalities Mary Mason, [the late] Georgie Woods, and Jimmy Bishop, for giving her great promotion locally “and Dale Shields, which really goes all the way back in the beginning,” Franklin said. “I use to work the Showboat Theatre, right off Broad Street there. And I worked Peps, which was right on Broad Street, and then I worked, finally, the Cadillac Club which was on Broad Street. So, I’m right at home in Philadelphia, and with Philadelphia. I love it.”
Tickets for Franklin’s Atlantic City performance can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-736-1420 or on line at www.ticketmaster.com.
It was on the eve of the Great Depression that the Uptown Theater opened in 1929. The lavish venue featured stained glass, terracotta and high ceilings built to enhance the sound of the new talkie movies of the era. As the Industrial Age peaked, the population of the area surrounding the theater shifted as white flight befell North Philadelphia. Soon, Black doctors, lawyers, politicians and preachers took over the grand mansions along Diamond Street, while middle and lower class African Americans moved into the rowhomes that were once predominately white.
In 1951, the Uptown Theatre was bought by Sam Stiefel, who also owned Washington’s Howard Theatre and Baltimore’s Royal Theatre, and became part of the “chitlin circuit,” hosting live music shows that were primarily rhythm and blues, soul and gospel directed towards an African-American audience. The performances at the Uptown Theater came to rival those at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. In 1957, WDAS DJ Georgie Woods started to produce and host shows at the Uptown Theater and those events would go on to mark the Golden Age of the legacy venue.
“Joy Ride! The Stars and Stories of Philly’s Famous Uptown Theater” (Xlibris Corporation, $29.99) is the inside story of iconic disc jockey Georgie Woods’ spectacular R&B shows at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater, and how the controlled creative chaos at the majestic movie house inspired “The Philly Sound.” Written by The Philadelphia Tribune’s entertainment reporter Kimberly C. Roberts, “Joy Ride” is the first comprehensive history on the Uptown, which was once a mandatory stop on the legendary “chitlin’ circuit.”
“I first wrote about the Uptown in 1998 when I decided to do a story about it for Black Music Month and I interviewed Georgie Woods,” recalled Roberts. “Since I grew up going to the Uptown, I always wondered how that actually all fell into place, so I had an opportunity to ask him and he told me from beginning to end how he started giving shows there, so that was really the foundation of the book.”
As told by the people who actually lived it, all agree that like Woods’ soulful theme song that opened his R&B extravaganzas, every show at the Uptown Theater was, as the book’s title suggests, a “Joy Ride.”
“I was around nine or 10 years old, and every time Georgie announced a new show my friends and I would get together — there were about 12 of us — and we would get on the ‘S’ bus after we asked our parents for three dollars: It was a dollar for transportation, a dollar to get into the show and a dollar for candy, soda and stuff … It was absolutely a part of me growing up and having the knowledge of classic R&B that I have now.”
Since 1997, Roberts has shared her vast knowledge of Philadelphia’s historic Uptown Theater and the Sound of Philadelphia with The Philadelphia Tribune’s readership. Her journalistic contributions to the region’s musical legacy have been recognized by the Pennsylvania State Senate, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation.
“Joy Ride!” features the intimate, amusing, outrageous and sometimes scandalous stories of dozens of decorated entertainers, including 11 Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.
“I started interviews with the (Uptown) house band because they were the guys that were there all the time. So, I talked to Sam Reed, of course, the bandleaders; Leon Mitchell, who says he’s the bandleader — but there was a dispute between the two of them, which you’ll read about in the book. I spoke with Earl Young, the legendary drummer who was on so many of the records in Philadelphia and Jimmy Heath, who was actually a jazz musician who played with the orchestra for one year. And, whenever I would do an interview I would ask for Uptown memories. When I spoke with, say Smokey Robinson, I’d say, ‘Hey, I saw you at the Uptown,’ and he would tell me this great story.”
The “Joy Ride! The Stars and Stories of Philly’s Famous Uptown Theater” book signing will take place on Thursday, May 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, 738 South Broad Street (at Fitzwater Street). The book can also be ordered online at www.xlibris.com, www.amazon.com and www.bn.com.