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Updated: John Richbourg, 1510 WLAC Nashville | Program 10, Sometime, 1970s

Its impossible to nail down the date of this classic original broadcast. Not sure when ‘Program 10’ aired, nor are we sure of how the numbering scheme worked. Perhaps someone out there knows. We’re re-releasing this post with a few enhancements.

Here’s one of the most unique shows ever aired on AM radio. John Richbourg’s Rhythm & Blues show on WLAC was something most fans of R&B remember, although outside of the south, I’m not sure what the ratings were… or even if ratings were available for ‘clear channel’ (frequency, not the company) stations with popular shows after dark.

At the time of this recording, WLAC was not your run-of-the-mill radio station. It ran lots of network programming and middle-of-the-road fare during the day and only at NIGHT did the station turn to a format which intentionally captured a predominantly minority audience. For the benefit of those not old enough to remember John R., or Hoss Allen, their programs on WLAC literally shaped an entire generation of black entertainers and listeners, and according to wikipedia, is partly responsible for the evolution of rock and roll’s emergence out of the blues from poverty stricken areas of the South. History does not adequately acknowledge the enormous contribution to modern R&B radio that this one nightly program lent to radio. One thing is certain: WLAC was to R&B what WSM was to Country Music.

Thanks to site friend Jack Parnell for this excellent recording. It’s a slice of history of great importance, and one you’ll find nowhere else. Thanks Jack!


Steve West

Heard on great radio stations like WGKX "Kix 106" and WMC-FM Memphis, online at HitOldies.com (and once upon a time at RadioMaxMusic.com), loosely contributed to some yearly countdowns at MusicRadio77.com, and most importantly, Webmaster of this great Radio Historical site, Airchexx.comLook for me on the Ham bands. Perhaps one day you'll have a QSO with K1FRC. Happy DX and Happy Listening!

140 Responses

  1. ciclo says:

    If I may please quote John Richbourg, he was John R ah. Listening to John Lee Hooker tonight puts it all back into me, into my soul.

  2. ciclo says:

    Reading through the comments here, everyone heard the “Hossman, Bill Allen” then “John R ah.”
    And, almost all of is listened on little transistor radios. I went to sleep in Knoxville with their wonderful shows.

  3. john walker says:

    back in the 70,s best that I can remember on randy,s show some talk lyrics im a master lover baby the best under the sun I love them and leave them cause I hit and run. that’s all I can remember

  4. Charles Freeman jr. says:

    Randy’s Record Mart……Gallatin, Tennesse….The “Hoss Man…John R….Spiderman Harris….These were the names of “Fame” imprinted on my young mind, during my familiy’s travel, during the late..late night hours, between Illinois to Alabama….West Virginia to North Carolina. They were the “ONLY” touches of R&B in some sparse sections of america during the 60’s-70’s. Thank you for being there.

  5. john walker says:

    what did you find out

  6. Marty Jourard says:

    Oh yeah. I only realized many years later that these DJs were white…the playlist and their voices made be believe this was a black R&B station. We musicians in North Central Florida (Gainesville) listened to this station at night, it would drift in and out of signal, making it even more exotic. Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King…what a great radio station and what great music…hugely influential on the music scene in Gainesville…

  7. Karl Phillips says:

    I was born in Nashville in 1950 and lived there until I reached the age of 16. I would bump into WLAC at 1510 going down to 1240 to listen to WKDA but I would stop sometimes to listen to John R. He was BIG throughout the nation as 1510’s signal would carry at night. There is no telling how many people he influenced into radio !!!

  8. TraceTheAce says:

    John plays ‘the new one by Eddie Floyd-The Best Years Of My Life” which was released in 1970. It hit 118 on the U.S. Pop charts and 29 on the U.S. R&B charts.

  9. The Mystery Man says:

    I have the original STAX 45rpm Eddie Floyd – “The Best Years of My Life” written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper.
    The date on the 45 is September 1970. John R. sez “it’s brand new” so that gets the date of this aircheck pretty close.

  10. Lou P. says:

    Great find — this was before my time but an interesting listen to WLAC prior to its change to its current incarnation as a news/talker. Always great to hear vintage Nashville radio recordings.

  11. John says:

    Thanks to you & Jack for a great slice of history. Program 10 was all the times when John R was not broadcasting for Ernie’s Record Mart. Nobody knows of the origin for him calling it that, but he used it for years. During Program 10 time he would do spots selling everything from Bibles & baby chicks to corn remedy for those “aching feet”. John R was the best !

  12. As a kid traveling at night in a smoke filled panel truck I recall listening to John R. In the early morning hours his gravelly, thick voice ruled the radio airways in north Georgia, Tennessee, western North Carolina and northern Alabama. The wolf-man (Wolf-man Jack) or The Grande Ole Opry would also sometimes sneak in. Our AM radio, usually tuned to John R. and a perpetual poker game kept us all entertained. Before midnight we listened to Tommy Jet’s “Jet Fly” program out of Chattanooga. But it seemed that John R. was with us most of the time in that old panel truck. Somehow radio waves from his station, WLAC in Nashville, reached every twisted country road no matter how buried we were in the folds of those quiet majestic mountains. We were all chicken catchers and I was the youngest and John R. was our listening pleasure of choice.

    John R. pronounced his name as “John Arrah”. We assumed he was a black DJ. The lead-in jingle to songs he played went…

    “Hey John Arrah,
    What’s you gonna do?
    Come on John Arrah,
    Play us some… rhythm and blues”.

    Lyrics heard in the songs played by John R. were slow and clear and usually repetitious but they spoke to the hearts of my chicken catcher buddies, a rough crowd of ex-cons, drunks, troubled youths, and other misfits. I was too young to understand fully the meaning of the lyrics but I sure dug the beat. Later in the sixties I learned the genre was called soul music. The ones who preferred country music despised it and called it N***** Music. I was also shocked later to learn that John R. was actually a white man. Back then, like most white southerners from “whites only” towns we were willfully ignorant of black people. We listened to John R’s songs in the early morning hours of the late 50′s and forgot about our destiny. We were made to feel better about our dirty, smelly job of loading a chicken truck with squawking chickens before sun-up. Thank you John Arrah, WLAC and Randy’s Record Shop of Gallatin, Tennessee for telling us with your music what our closed culture and words failed to!

    Joe Cobb Crawford- Author, The Poetry Company: Memoirs of a Chicken Catcher.
    Chicken Catcher Name: “Little Joe”

  13. Saul Schildhorn says:

    WLAC did not beam north and it was difficult to pick up the signal in Philadelphia until late at night, but sometimes with a south wind, I could get the signal and John R’s show. In the winter at 5 p.m. it was CBS news on the hour and standards or talk until 8 p.m. when the format switched to R&B. i remember John R doing the news with his intro: This is John R your star reporter.

  14. Mike H says:

    John R had the best voice. Wish there was a soul station that good on the air today!

  15. Gman says:

    I’m not REALLY sure – but as an old radio guy myself, I believe Program 10 came from the way it was listed on the station log as the 10th program of the day. Also, when John R would say he’d be “back in 20” he meant 20 hours til his program time the next day.

  16. moody scott says:

    i am so proud to have known this iconic American broadcast legend john who help to shape my recording career in early soul music he produced my record busting out of the ghetto which was released in 1969 on his monument sound stage seven record lable i recorded a total of 12 songs with john r some of which today is considered as rare collector soul music items sort after world wide by die hard avid soul music collectors.john r was truly an awesome person may he rest in peace his early contribution to r&b music will linger for many years to come in historical soul music during this classic era of r&b soul music

    • Mike H says:

      Moody, thank you so much for reminding us about those great soul songs of yours! I particularly like “A Man In Need” and of course “Out of the Ghetto.” I had not realized John R produced those cuts. Anyone reading this who’d like to hear some of Moody’s great songs, simply Google his name, click on the links, sit back & enjoy!

  17. I am 65 and talk about John R all the times with my friends. So glad I looked him up. I am listening to the recording now. Loved the jingled that always played when introducing him. I live in Aliceville, Al. couple hundred miles from Nashville. I always thought he was a Black man, but boy did I get fooled later on in life. lol Loved the music he played!! RIP John R!!!!!!

  18. B D Kirby says:

    Program 10 was so named because the show featured the 10 records John was “pushing” on that particular program. How do I know this – John raised me. Look for the upcoming documentary of his life and times at WLAC.

    • Mike H says:

      Thanks for the info, BD. Do you have any further info about the documentary you mention. I would certainly want to see it.

  19. W. J. says:

    I listened to John R.’s show in the ’60s and have been looking for a site like this that played the shows. I was in Indiana and could pick up WLAC late at night. I didn’t get much sleep in my high school years! Being a guitar player, I was influenced by the guitarists I heard on his show, like B.B. King. This brings back fond memories.

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