The rhythm of life. Listen to the music and dance along the way.
Everyday after school I ran home to listen to the radio. Sure I played ball and hung with the guys, but radio was a constant. In the mid 1950’s rock and roll was just making the scene and artists like Little Richard, Mickey and Sylvia, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and The Platters ruled the airwaves.
Every afternoon I listened to Jocko Henderson on WDAS radio. “EEEE-tiddlie-ock. This-is-the-Jock. And-I’m-back-on-the-scene-with-the-record-machine.” And spun a 45rpm record into the history book. Whatever songs Jocko Henderson played, I ran to the record store to buy it.
Jocko was my music hero.
Every afternoon he made a show out of the music. His patter (talk) in between the records was just as melodic as the records. Jocko was the master, and I was the fan.
Thirty years later I had the honor of meeting Jocko – we were both in the education business at the time, and a mutual friend suggested we meet. “You should get together with Jocko Henderson” my friend said. “THE Jocko Henderson – the disc jockey Jocko Henderson. Every record he ever played I bought Jocko Henderson?” I asked. “The same. Here’s his number, he’d love to talk with you.”
And love it he did. We became instant friends. He was as cool in person as my fantasy of him. Not just a total gentleman, but as genuine a human being as I’ve ever met. I showed him a computer printout of my record collection – he was impressed. “Man, you have a better collection than I do!” He exclaimed. “I just bought what you played.” I reminded him.
“Hey, man – they asked me to do a four hour oldies show at my old station this new years day – how’d you like to be my programmer?” asked Jocko. “Really? Me? COOL! – I’m there!” I screamed.
That new years day we rocked. From the opening kicker by the Temptations “The Way You Do The Things You Do” to the last song by the Shirrells “Met Him on Sunday,” we had the studio rockin’ and the phones ringing off the hook. I was in fantasy land.
Jocko Henderson wasn’t just a disc jockey – he was the king of disc jockey patter. The grandfather of rhyming rap – he had a phrase and line for everything and everyone.
In the 50’s and 60’s Jocko promoted than 100 rock and roll shows at the legendary Apollo theater in Brooklyn. The Coasters, the Cleftones, Sam Cooke, Lloyd Price, Jackie Wilson – Jocko had them all. The first stage appearance of people and groups like the Shirrells, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. And here I was handing him my records to play. I am certain on that day, God decided to give me a glimpse of heaven – because I never felt so good.
Later that month Jocko called me and informed me that the “oldie” station, WOGL had offered him a two hour Sunday evening show. “Great Jocko, that’s great – I can’t wait to listen.” I said. “Yeah, man I told them I wasn’t going to do the show unless you programmed it.” He said. “How much do I have to pay you?” I asked. “Nothing man – come on will you do it?” “COUNT ME IN, BABY! I AM THERE”
We agreed to tape the show every Thursday night in the studio. Jocko had some jingles made, and some really cool intro (walk-up) and exit (trailer) pieces. (You can hear them all in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland) Neither of us could work the sound console very well, but that sort of added to the fun and adventure. The two hour show never took less than four hours to record. But we rocked to the oldies every minute. And I loved every second.
After a few weeks passed, Jocko noticed I was always making funny remarks, so he decided to nickname me “Jukebox Jeff” and let me on the air. It was a hit. I was a hit. Wow — I was on the same show as Jocko. A thrill beyond words and thanks.
Every Thursday night I was treated to stories about the roots of rock and roll. The night Sam Cooke died and the Coasters did the show in his honor, the time the Jackson Five played eight shows at the Apollo Theater in one night. And hundreds more.
One night I handed him (the late) Clyde McPhatter’s “Treasure of Love.” As the song played I saw Jocko reach for a Kleenex. “You OK?” I asked. “He was my friend and I sure do miss him.” The show took a different tone that night. Deeper. More personal. I felt I was in a special, almost sacred place.
One night, as a record was playing, I said, “Jocko, I have your secret figured out.” “What’s that, man?” he smiled. “You don’t talk the words, you sing the words.” I said. He smiled.
Week after week I showed up ever faithful. Ever ready to help.
One night, about a year into the show’s run, around 1am after we had made several screw-ups on the board and had to do a few retakes and play a few commercials again., he looked at me and said, “Hey man, why are you doing this?” “Well” I said. “Years ago I used to run home and listen to my favorite disc jockey in the world play music that got into my soul — I loved it. It inspired rhythm within me. You gave me the love of music – I’m just here every week saying, ‘thanks’.” “Oh..” He said. We looked at each other and smiled.
I can write about it, but you have no idea how fulfilling that moment was.
Douglas Jocko Henderson was one of the finest disc jockeys who ever spun a record. And he did it with style and class. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jocko was very flattered. Everyone imitated him.
He wanted to smile on everyone, and help everyone. And he did.
A piece of rock and roll has passed to heaven – Jocko died this year, and I wanted to thank him for the gifts and the treasures I will hold in my heart until my passing. And I will sing to myself or out loud every day until I do.
During his life Jocko dedicated thousands of records to loyal listener’s. In his own immortal words — Ooh-poo-pa-doo, Jocko – this one’s for you. This one’s for you.
If you ever heard Jocko, and you’d like to email me a memory, I’ll be happy to forward them on to his family. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts internet training programs on selling and customer service at www.trainone.com. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to email@example.com