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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Aug 14, 2023

There have been many great voices on the airwaves of St. Louis over the years. One of those voices was Bernie Hayes. After developing an interest in radio while serving in the military, he would find his way to St. Louis, and becoming an influential voice, and a pioneer of Black radio. Just press play to hear the whole story. ———

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Cicely Hunter, Public Historian from the Missouri Historical Society, and here’s history, on eighty-eight-one, KDHX. ——— 

Black radio listeners who tuned in to KATZ in 1965 would hear the smooth captivating voice of Bernie Hayes, a new disc jockey who had just arrived from the West Coast. Born to John and Alberta Burns in Florida in 1935 and raised in Chicago, Hayes graduated from the University of Illinois and served in the US Air Forces. It was during his time in the military that he developed an interest in radio and began announcing with the Armed Forces Radio Services. Before landing in St. Louis, he was a radio broadcaster in other locations around the U.S. ———

Honing his skill to meet the needs of the Black community, Hayes crafted his segments to stimulate the minds of his viewers with music and knowledge. His style was so dynamic that listeners believed there were two Bernie Hayeses’ because of the two completely different sounds that graced the airwaves, with R&B and rock ’n’ roll in the afternoon and jazz during the midnight segment. ———
In his book “The Death of Black Radio, Hayes explores the power of Black music and culture, which led to a rapid change that has since dominated the market and made significant gains for non-Black radio professionals. As different Black radio personalities emerged and dedicated themselves to entertaining, educating, and enlightening their audience, there was direct resistance to authentic Black voices. In 1972 and 1977, Hayes and a few of his colleagues led protests that paved the way for many local Black-owned radio stations and their Black employees. With this picket, Hayes declares, “we changed the culture of radio for African American disc jockeys and announcers at KKSS, KWK, KATZ, and Magic 108.” ———

For more information about St. Louis Black history, please visit our website Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri Historical Society and KDHX. I’m Cicely Hunter and this is eighty-eight-one, KDHX, St. Louis. ———