Tag Archives: Media

Tapes Lost to Time: Chicago Stories


I am bothered by tapes that disappear, the same tapes that record our collective story.  The sort that get erroneously misplaced, taped over, or buried (true stories, all).  It’s happened often in Chicago to bits of media that palpably documented Chicago Cultural History.  It seems to have happened too many times for my taste.  Here’s a few times that hit especially close to home.

Our People

“Our People” (1968-1972) was Jim Tilmon’s groundbreaking public affairs television series that aired on WTTW.  For, by, and about Black Chicagoans, the show was deemed completely lost for the ages until someone at WTTW unearthed one lonely “lost episode”.

According to WTTW.com, the episode:

“features guests Harold Washington, then a young State Representative who would later become Mayor of Chicago, author James Baldwin at his outspoken best, State Senator Richard Newhouse, and music by the great jazz vocalist Johnny Hartman.”

Our People premiered the week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was a time frame remembered in Chicago as the days when the West Side went up in riotous flames (and one Darkjive informant told me of more than a few young men “enlisting” the aid of rifles from the Sears on Kostner for protection).  It should also be noted that The Loop shut down, paralyzed with fear of such riotous activity spreading downtown (it didn’t).

Each week, Our People dealt with issues the Black Community grappled with… and offered a few solutions, as well.  What a remarkable loss.

Below, a clipping from The Hyde Park Herald, Volume 87, 12 February 1969, Page  13.

Dick Gregory, 1451 E. 551h, talks with program producer John Tweedle and host Jim Tilmon on WTTW-Channel 11, Our People, a weekly program focusing on the interests and talents of the black community.

our people 3

The Infamous Paul Serrano PS Studio Tapes

paul serranoSo, Paul Serrano (left) was a hard bop trumpeter here in Chicago that ultimately became a world-renowned Engineer with his own Studio (PS Recording Studios).  He recorded some of the greatest Soul, Gospel, Blues, and Jazz music ever laid down on wax, right here in Chicago.  Built in 1966, the independent studio was on-par with Chess Records’ Ter-Mar Studios and even RCA’s massive Midwest Recording Studios.

Artists including Jerry Butler, the Emotions, Natalie Cole, Ramsey Lewis, Peabo Bryson, the Independents, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Mary Wells, Chicago Gangsters, Oscar Brown, Jr., Deniece Williams, Von Freeman, Ghanaian Highlife Bandleader Dan Boadi, and Captain Sky recorded there.

The Studio (at one time located on East 23rd Street) shut down in the early nineties, but according to the folk at Numero Group, a bounty of master tapes (some never released) were BURIED at the sight of McCormick Place.  The world may never know.

Below, a slice of funk recorded in the Near South Side at PS Studios.

“Soul Train Local”

So, most of us Chicagoans know that Soul Train got its start here in Chicago (at Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-TV), where sponsors included Joe Louis Milk and Sears.  The train moved on to L.A. (Grrrrrrrrrr) in 1971, but time has nearly erased that the local version was aired in Chicago until 1979.  Unfortunately, those episodes starring the homegrown talent of Tyrone Davis, The Dells, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, the Chi-Lites, and the Emotions were lost to time, many of them taped over by WCIU…repeatedly.  For more on this story, check out Jake Austen’s excellent Chicago Reader article here.


B.B. King on Soul Train Local

I would much rather have any one of these in my personal collection than some of the inane box sets (“Webster”?? Really??) that are being offered up for posterity.  Sigh.

Adjust Your Color….and Believe in Radio

Check this clip from the PBS Documentary called “Adjust Your Color” chronicling the life and times of Petey Greene, a seventies DC-area shock-jock/activist (who was played by Don Cheadle in the film “Talk to Me”).  Makes me believe in radio (again).  And for good measure, below darkjive proudly presents: Life imitating art, Mr. Greene in the flesh.  Wild stuff.

Is it too much to believe that media can save the world?

Dream Big.


It’s easy to feel disheartened in these staunch economic times, but consider a chair with a dozen layers of paint.  It’s full potential is only evident once that paint is stripped away, allowing pure possibility.

That said, one of my favorite television shows right now is nextTV, a local program produced by the Chicago Urban League (and hosted by Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson.    According to their website:

“nextTV is a fast-paced lifestyle program focusing on the urban community. [They] take a closer look at people changing their lives through entrepreneurship, their careers and day to day living.”

What I love is that it lifts the gilded curtain to show the meat and bones of a number of businesses (and career paths) in our community that don’t get a lot of exposure (especially to younger people).

Two examples include profiles of Quentin Love (a young man who owns the Quench Restaurants peppered across the South and West Sides) and a chemist by the name of Linda McGill Boasmond, who is President and General Manager of Cedar Concepts Corporation.  We follow their struggles to grow and flourish with the help of the Urban League’s nextONE business acceleration program.   It may sound like a bad time to do such a thing, but a business is everything you put into it.  It’s successes and failures rely on a few.  Why not make that person you?  Besides, there are a number of incentives (many spurred by the Stimulus Package) to get us growing in more entreprenural directions.

Economic Enpowerment is a theme I’ve mentioned a few times here at Darkjive.  I believe it’s a sure route to social change.  And the paint has been stripped.  What else is there to wait for?

It feels to me that now is the moment to move. To dream.  Big.

nextTV airs 8:00am and 12:30pm, Sundays on My50 WPWR-TV

(above photo by Mario Sorrenti)Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “chicagourbanleague’s Channel“, posted with vodpod

i miss van hunt


…I do.  I don’t think I’m alone… am I?  Blue Note has the Masters to album, Popular Machine, and he claims he can’t afford to buy them back.  Wow.  Sounds like some Frankie Lymon-like wackness**.  Meanwhile, Popular Machine, originally slated for release in January 2008, has become more of a Popular Myth.

I like his music because it’s a harmonic metaphor for why there is no homogeneous “black experience”.  Black music is not some shuck-n-jive formula, it’s influenced by (and daily influences) a million things.  What’s sad is that time and time again, record labels and media outlets have no idea how to market black people who aren’t glossy formulaic urban archetypes.  Dude had two Grammy nods:

  • 2005 Grammy Award nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for “Dust.”
  • 2006 Grammy Award win for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for “Family Affair

…and still got little to no airplay.  He lamented in a December 2007 statement, “Every day, somebody in the business wants me to change something about who I am so they can have an easier time dealing with me.”

But I bring to you the lead single and a leaked track from that perhaps-never-to-be-heard album, and a link to his site…. He’s got some new stuff in the works, I hear.  Godspeed.

**urban myth proclaims that Frankie Lymon sold the songwriting credits to had smash hit “Why Do Fools fall in Love” for a hot dog from a street vendor.


WBEZ Creates Tee Envy

tee1This weekend, there’s an interesting experiment in media consumption going on.  Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ 91.5FM) is checking for their listeners who don’t touch their dials at all…but, rather, click their mouse.

From the good Folks at Chicago Public Radio:

Do you listen to public radio podcasts and streaming more than you listen on the actual radio? Buy a shirt to support it! We want to see how many t-shirts we can sell in support of WBEZ online radio – without saying a word about it on our actual airwaves. We are only talking about this online. If you have an extra $20, please buy a shirt – and definitely pass this around to your friends! Let’s see how far we can take this! Check it out…

NOTE: this push is for a limited time.  And I am VERY tempted….

update: This promotion is officially over… and it’s unclear whether the shirt will ever be sold in their regular online store.

Matériel Magazine and Pr Launch Party in Bridgeport


from the local folks who bring us the mags Lumpen and Proximity…….

Matériel Magazine and Pr Launch Party and fundraiser for Version Festival

Please come and help us raise funds to pay for Version>09 Immodest Proposals. We will be giving to everyone who attends a complementary copy of our new publishing projects, Matériel and the new Pr poster/newsletter.

We will be hosting an evening of performances and displaying pages from Matériel on the gallery walls. Musical performances by Casual Encounter , Caw! Caw! (not cawcaw) and a few secret super special guest stars.
Pr is Proximity’s in-between issues newsletter and art poster featuring articles interviews reviews a calendar and art work.

Matériel is an oversized broadside newsprint publication that’s a collection of the best/brightest designers/illustrators/photographers work we can find – creating a showcase for their submitted work.”

Friday, March 21, 2009, 8pm
Co-Prosperity Sphere
3219 S Morgan St

$10 Suggested Donation.

for more on Proximity, click here

for more on Version Fest, click here


New (Hip-Hop) America at the MCA


Coming this Saturday, a conversation about how hip-hop is influencing media and culture on every level, and whether that’s always a good thing…

New America: Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Jeff Chang in conversation

Saturday, February 28, 2009, 2 pm

MCA Theater
$10, $8 members, $6 students
$6 with performance ticket for the break/s – the break/s ticket-holders must reserve tickets in advance for the talk.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, leading poet and performer, and renowned writer Jeff Chang, come together for a public conversation about their own creative trajectories and the power of hip-hop to reshape the American and global cultural landscape at this historic moment in US politics. Drawing from their own experiences working for change through youth and community organizing, media justice, culture, the arts, and hip-hop activism, they discuss how a new understanding of American culture is both possible and necessary. Stephanie Shonekan, Black World Studies Director at Columbia College, facilitates this dialogue.

The MCA is presenting Bamuthi’s multimedia performance the break/s: a mixtape for the stage from March 26-28, 2009. This highly personal multimedia excursion across planet hip-hop draws inspiration from Bamuthi’s artistic coming-of-age at the time of hip-hop globalization, and from Chang’s seminal book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2643

Box Office Telephone: 312.397.4010

Bridgeport WPA: Alphabet Soup for Modern Times

version07Version Fest 09 (which will feature “An art parade, temporary housing structures, independent contemporary art space networking, one day only exhibition formats, video sweat lodges, an artist run art fair, a reincarnation of the depression era Public Works of Art Project, a social networked free public school, impressive musical performances, boring theoretical nonsense, the revamping of a local community center, mapping projects, a design agency for social movements, and korean polish bar-b-queing….”)  is the pride and joy of Bridgeport’s own Lumpen Magazine (an independent, locally-based, critical arts and culture publication, published six times a year).  One of the phenomena they will attempt this year is the Bridgeport WPA (FDR-style Alphabet Soup for modern times), and its Public Works of Art Project.

Below is an audio interview with Emily Clayton from Version Fest on how art can heal our wounded economy…and feed our soul (and the lasting legacy of the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression). Originally on Vocalo.org (interview conducted by Steve Walsh and myself).

the I-only-have-a-minute-or-so, but-this-interests-me version

the this-is-a-near-and-dear-topic-I’ll-make-fifteen-minutes-of-time-for version

NOTE: I love the WPA.  The historical version built up our infrastructure and kept our painters, ethnographers, dancers,  sculptors, and writers (like Zora Neale Hurston [below]) working and on government salary.  Amazing.


To thumb through an online version of Lumpen, click

here or here

also, to hear a Slave Narrative (or first hand account of plantation days) recorded by John & Ruby T. Lomax as part of a WPA initiative during the Great Depression, click here.

if you are an artist, and/or would like to involve yourself with Version Fest ‘o9, click here.

Broadcasting Out of Africa

….Do Charities Hand Out Warped Perceptions?

In this Era of Service, dissing charities (especially those that aid Africa) is taboo.  I will be taboo, then.  In an audio clip calledOut of Africa,originally broadcast on Vocalo.org, Steve Walsh and I talk about why one particular ad for the One Laptop For Child Organization (below), in which a small African girl claims she’s from a place “you’ve never heard of”, “a continent You’d rather forget”….. ruffles my feathers.  ¿Y tú?