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Walkin' Talkin' Bill Hawkins

In 1948, Bill Hawkins became Cleveland’s first black disc jockey. He had a jiving, rhyming style. People gathered on the street to watch him broadcast from a glass booth at the front of his record store. His popularity grew rapidly. Over the next decade Hawkins was heard on up to four different stations on the same day. He had plenty of imitators and influenced a whole generation of DJs. Hawkins also had something else – a son he never knew.

William Allen Taylor didn’t find out Hawkins was his father until he graduated from college. The two met once when Taylor was a teenager. At the time, Hawkins never hinted at who he was. And Taylor had no idea that he had met his father. Hawkins died before his son every got to know him.

There are no known tapes of Hawkins. Taylor became an actor and playwright. He lives in San Francisco. But he’s always wished he had a recording of his father’s radio program or even just a snippet of his voice. Lost and Found Sound sent Taylor to Cleveland to find out about his father.

Special Thanks to: David Isay; Ethan Derner; Andrew Roth; Wieslaw Pogorzelski; Kathryn Washington; Sandra Wong; Nick Spitzer of American Routes; Emmet Powell; Carolyn Travis; Tom Kennish of Royal Garden Records; Jacquie Gales Webb of Smithsonian Productions; David Yewdall; Jennifer Ware; George Nettleton; Ed Brouder of Man from Mars; Judy Freed; Portia Maultsby of Indiana University; Chris Strachwizt of Arhoolie Records; Opal Nations; Down Home Music; Dave Billeci; Art Vuolo; David Barnett, Dave Knezig, Dan Bindert, Anabelle Singh, Richard Wangle and Jim Gould of WCPN, Cleveland; Mike Olszewski of WZJM, Cleveland; Carl Reese of WRMR, Clevelands, Genial Johny Simmons of KUSP, Santa Cruz; Charlie Lang of KUSP, Andrea Murray of WETA, Washington, DC; Jim Lawless of The Cleveland Plain Dealer; Ron Ocker of WAER, Syracuse; John Buttitta; Stephen Kostrubanic; Eli Rosenblum; William Barlow of Howard University and; Rick Wright of Syracuse University.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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