His long reaching influence began in 1949, when he and J.B. Blayton established the first black-owned radio station in the United States. As an emcee and promoter, he built enduring friendships with the early black royalty of the entertainment world, among them, Sammy Davis, Jr., Billie Holiday, Erroll Garner, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, and Ray Charles.
When he was hired by Berry Gordy to head up promotion at a fledgling record company called Motown, Gibson befriended a new crop of stars, including Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and Smokey Robinson. Moving on to the Revelot label, and then to Stax, Gibson’s uncanny timing once again positioned him to further the careers of Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas and many others.
In addition to his involvement in the music scene, Gibson gave voice to the history as he lived it—covering the Civil Rights Movement, interviewing Malcolm X, and conducting a man-on-the-street report from Detroit as it burned following Dr. King’s assassination.
With the publication of his influential Black trade magazine called The Mello Yello, The Rapper established a forum for discussions and contributed to sweeping changes for African Americans in radio and the recording industry. But his most long-reaching achievement was his glittering “Family Affair”—an annual black music convention that provided a springboard for new talent. Each year, without fail, the heavy hitters of the music industry cleared their schedules to lend their talents to the Family Affair: Prince, Tina Turner, Nancy Wilson, Janet Jackson, James Brown, Whitney Houston, Eddie Murphy, Hammer, Toni Braxton, Sinbad, L.L. Cool J. And the list goes on like a “Who’s Who” of entertainment superstars.
After being honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, other accolades began to roll in from the United States Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and countless other organizations. But The Rapper wasn’t finished yet. With decades of stories and music still alive in his soul, he returned to his roots—radio. Nearly fifty years after his beginnings at WERD, Jack The Rapper’s voice once again crackled across the airwaves in Las Vegas, Nevada, proclaiming three simple words: “I’m still here.”
About the author
Walker Smith writes in a unique blend of history, drama, and suspense, delivering the most unknown details of our history through the eyes of unforgettable characters. Her novels include: The Color Line, a Harlem Renaissance/World War I epic; Letters from Rome, a Sankofa journey from ancient Africa to Vietnam; and Bluestone Rondo, a racial Cain and Abel story set to modern jazz. Smith also collaborated with music industry giant Jack the Rapper Gibson on his biography Mello Yello.