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Music

KWKH & W. K. Henderson, Jr.

In May of 1922 Shreveport was introduced to its first broadcasting radio station, WAAB, which was broadcast from 1513 Laurel Street, the home of W. E. Anthony. John D. Ewing, W. G. Patterson, Jack Tullos, and W. K. Henderson, Jr. established station WDAN in 1922. The ten-watt station was relicensed under the call letters WGAQ. 1 Henderson, who bought the station in 1925, operated one of the first clear-channel stations in the nation at his country home, Kennonwood, near Shreveport.2  Once there he changed the call letters to KWKH for Kennonwood William Kennon Henderson. On September 25, 1925 KWKH went on the air. He obtained a license for Station KWKH and built a studio, power plant, and transmitter at Kennonwood for $10,000. He sold the station to Patterson in 1926 and returned it to Shreveport under the call letters KSBA.3

Text Box: W.K. Henderson 
            He was determined to have a wide range station and changed the wave length from the bottom of the dial to about 850.4 Henderson’s disputes with the Department of Commerce over air wave regulation was influential in establishing the Federal Radio Commission in 1927.5


          W. K. Henderson, Jr., one of radio’s most famous personalities, was known throughout the world, receiving over fifty letters a day from Europe in addition to the thousands he received from listeners throughout the
nation. Over the next seven years, radio listeners were welcomed with the phrase, “Hello, World, Doggone Ya!"
6 Henderson advocated various causes of his choice and solicited his own brand of coffee over the air waves.7 He opposed chain stores: he organized the Minute Men, a group of independent merchants, who paid twelve dollars in dues to have their stores advertised on the radio.8 In 1930 Radio Digest reported that KWKH was the most powerful station in the South.9 Once KWKH was incorporated as Hello World Broadcasting Corporation, the station was given power of 10,000-watts in 1930.10 He sold his interest in the station two years later.11

N. S. Allen

Nathaniel Sykes Allen, born in 1829 in Maryland, was visiting his sister in Marshall, Texas at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted, becoming captain of Company A, Clark’s 14th Texas Infantry and being promoted to major in 1864. His passion was his violin, which he played as he walked in the evening. Union soldiers, who appreciated the music after their day on the battlefield, gathered to listen to this Confederate violinist. When Martha Allen, Nathaniel’s wife, became seriously ill, the Union soldiers contributed much-needed supplies in thanksgiving for the music Nathaniel had played.  At the end of the Civil War he moved to Shreveport, where he worked as an architect. While in Shreveport, he organized a brass band, buying instruments for those who were willing to play but could not afford to purchase their own. Family tradition holds that he could play nearly any instrument. His orchestra was mainly a dance band, playing the typical dance music of the time.12

  

Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter

        Huddie Ledbetter was born in Mooringsport on Jeter Plantation in about 1899.13 His most important musical influence was Blind Lemon Jefferson, whom he met in August of 1915. Jefferson was known for his    blues music and introduced Ledbetter to the style. Shortly afterward Ledbetter learned to play the twelve-string guitar.14

He served a thirty-five year sentence at Huntsville prison for assault to commit murder. There he met Captain Jack Franklin, who encouraged his musical ability. He was ordered transferred to a prison in Sugar Land.  Hearing the legend that if the beam of light from the Midnight Special train fell on a prisoner, he would surely be pardoned, Ledbetter composed “Midnight Special.”15

In 1924 Texas Governor Pat Neff visited the prison and Ledbetter performed a special song he had written for Neff. The song, which begged for his freedom, is said to be the reason why he was released from jail ten months later.16

While serving another sentence at Angola prison, he met John and Alan Lomax, who were traveling to prisons to collect folk music for the Library of Congress.17 Ledbetter wrote another song for a governor, asking for freedom; this time it was Louisiana Governor O. K. Allen.18 John helped Ledbetter get his freedom and then set up tour dates for him in the North.19

In November of 1949 he entered the hospital for an increasing pain, which was diagnosed as amyotropic lateral sclerosis, a form of poliomyelitis.  With no cure or treatment, Ledbetter died on December 6, 1949. Six months later his song, “Goodnight, Irene” sold two million copies.20

 

Shreveport Ethiopian Band

Free man of color, Norman Davis, was part of this band. The members had permission to gather for practice beyond the city curfew.  Slaves were not allowed to remain in the city away from their homes after 9 p.m. without a pass from their masters, but the band could stay out until 11 p.m., as long as one of the town constables had been notified.21

 

Shreveport Italian Band

Shreveport’s Allendale and West End sections were known as Little Italy for the numerous Italian families
living in the area in the 1920’s. S. Vitale led the Shreveport Italian Band in parades and represented the Italian community.
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