New York radio personality Frankie Crocker imbued the R&B format with a wide-reaching musical palette that includes music from just about every genre. Born in Buffalo, NY, Crocker began his radio career at Williamsville, NY, station WUFO, while studying pre-law.His other stints include other N.Y. radio stations WWRL and Top 40 station WMCA. Becoming a program director at WBLS-FM and WLIB-AM in the early '70s, Crocker began to shape an innovative and influential radio format that would become known as progressive R&B while garnering the top spot in the ratings. His timing was perfect as a new kind of R&B station was beginning to spring up on the FM dial around the country. Their formats emphasized less (if any) jive talk, a cross blend of jazz, pop/rock, sophisticated soul, funk, and R&B. The sound is similar to the sound of the smooth jazz stations of the late '90s. The Venus Flytrap character on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinatti bears a slight resemblance to Crocker's sound and flamboyant style.
As his formidable reputation grew, Crocker was offered different opportunites. He appeared in the movies Cleopatra Jones and Five on the Black Hand Side. He released two disco-oriented albums on Casablanca Records as Frankie Crocker's Heart and Soul Orchestra -- The Heart and Soul Orchestra, Love in C Minor, and Disco Suite Symphony No. 1 in Rhythm and Excellence. Later he hosted NBC TV's Friday Night Videos, was one of the first video DJs on cable channel VH1, had his own syndicated radio show, Classic Soul Countdown, and worked at WRKS-New York. His skills led to him programming and/or working at KUTE, Los Angeles, WGCI and WNUA, Chicago, and WKKS, St. Louis.The DJ/programmer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the age of 63, Frankie Crocker died from pancreatic cancer in Miami, FL, on October 21, 2000. ~ Ed Hogan