Two Macon radio personalities nominated for hall of fame

Two well-known Macon radio personalities have been announced as nominees for the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame’s 2009 class.

Don King, a former broadcaster with WBML-AM and WMAZ-FM from the mid-1950s to the mid-’80s, is a nominee for the hall’s Career Achievement group. He is one of 19 radio contributors to be nominated in that group.

The late Thomas Maxwell, who put WIBB-AM on the air in 1948, is one of 18 nominees in the hall’s Legacy category. The Legacy selections for the Hall will be announced in August, while the Career Achievement winners will be announced during the Hall’s Oct. 17 banquet in Atlanta.

King said he was pleased with the news but isn’t getting his hopes up about being selected.

“That’s going to be tough to do, (to get inducted) against all those big guys out of Atlanta,” he said. “But it’s an honor to be on the list.”

King, who grew up in Savannah and came to Macon as a student at Mercer University, became well-known as a newscaster for WBML. He later became one of Macon’s first rock ’n’ roll deejays with his program “The Hitch-hiker.”

King later became a popular TV personality with WMGT, hosting a kids program as the character “Wild Bill Peacock.” One of the signature moments on that show was a daily gerbil race that would decide what afternoon program would be broadcast.

“No one took it too seriously,” King said with a chuckle. “I was worried that a parents’ group might think we were teaching kids to gamble, but no one ever complained.”

King also hosted a weekly broadcast of pro wrestling during the 1970s.

“We treated it as real during those days,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen or who was going to win.”

King got to interview a wide range of celebrities and personalities during his long broadcasting career, ranging from actor Bob Denver to New York Yankees great Elston Howard.

Maxwell, the other Macon nominee, was responsible for turning WIBB into the city’s first station aimed at blacks, featuring the popular deejays Hamp “King Bee” Swain, Charles “Big Saul” Green and Ray “Satellite Papa” Brown — collectively known as “The Three Horsemen.”

One of WIBB’s most significant contributions in the 1950s was bringing singer James Brown, who recorded his first hit, “Please Please Please,” at the station.

WIBB also broadcast live the “Teenage Party Talent Contest” from the Douglass Theatre, which helped launch the career of Otis Redding.

Maxwell sold WIBB in 1972.

When Maxwell died in 1998, Brown suspended a road tour to come to Macon and pay his respects.

King noted how much radio has changed since the days when he and Maxwell were a part of the scene.

“Radio stations were all locally owned then,” he said. “Each station had its own niche. You didn’t program against the others. ... Radio was a lot of fun back then, but it didn’t pay squat.”

King said he’s looking forward to the awards ceremony in October.

“All you can do is hope,” he said. “It will be fun for the grandkids.”

Previous Macon personalities inducted into the hall include Helen Farmer Popejoy in 2007, and Bill Powell and Del Ward Leslie last year.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.