Hunter Hancock

(1916 – 2004)

Generally recognized as the first West Coast disc jockey to play Rhythm and Blues on the radio, as well as one of the first to spin Rock and Roll, Hunter Hancock was an early white hipster whose affinity for the music and impish sense of humor captured Los Angeles-area listeners from 1947 until 1966. 

Hancock got his first radio experience in his home state of Texas, but held numerous other jobs early in life, including a stint touring as a singer in a vaudeville troupe. He settled in Los Angeles in the early 40s, landing a part-time job as weekend announcer on the small daytime-only station KFVD.  When a sponsor bought an hour of time on Sunday with the intention of reaching black listeners, Hancock launched “Harlem Holiday,” filling the hour with Jazz and Big Band records until a salesman from the local label Modern suggested he play R&B and Blues discs (known at the time as "race records"). In 1947, Hancock launched a daily R&B show, “Harlematinee,” which became so popular that it quickly expanded from its original 30-minute slot to three and a half hours daily. In 1955, he briefly hosted a TV show, Rhythm and Bluesville, which featured such performers as Fats Domino, Little Richard and the Platters. 

By 1956, Hancock was also broadcasting a nighttime show, “Huntin' with Hunter,” on rival station KGFJ, as well as hosting a series of "Midnight Matinee" live concerts at the Olympic Auditorium and the Orpheum Theatre, which attracted a mix of black, white and Latino fans — some of whom were no doubt surprised to learn that Hancock was white. In 1957, Hancock added yet another radio show, the Gospel-oriented "Songs of Soul and Spirit," on a third local station, KGER.

In addition to introducing African-American music to numerous young white listeners, Hancock was the top-rated DJ among African-American audiences for several years.  Although he was convicted and sentenced to probation in 1962 failing to report $18,000 in payola income, Hancock continued to broadcast on KGFJ until 1966. By 1968, he'd quit the radio business altogether and taken a job in public relations, frustrated by increasingly rigid formatting that contrasted the freewheeling approach that had originally made him popular. Hancock died in 2004 at the age of 88.