Al Benson: The Godfather of Chicago Black Radio

Brief video documentary of the life and death of Al Benson. Several interviews are highlighted but all the video is of photographs.

0:00Copy video clip URL Color bars.

0:46Copy video clip URL Title screen fades into black and white photograph. A man introduces Al Benson as the “Godfather of Black Radio.” A woman then talks about other Black DJs before Al Benson namely Jack L. Cooper and Eddie Honesty. She then talks about how Al Benson was the one who actually caused the explosion of Black ethnic radio.

2:30Copy video clip URL Interview with Ernie Leaner. There are advertisements, photos, and newspaper clippings overlaid with the audio of Leaner’s voice.

3:50Copy video clip URL Sid McCoy talks about how he met Al Benson.

4:23Copy video clip URL A woman talks about a book called “The Death of Rhythm and Blues,” written by George Nelson and how radio was color blind.

6:28Copy video clip URL Photographs with overlay of Al Benson talking about how he identified himself as Black.

7:25Copy video clip URL Al Raglin talks about Al Benson and how he was distinctly a Black personality.

8:21 The man and woman narrators talk about how he expanded his holdings and brought to the DJ spotlight such people as Vivian Carter, Sam Evans, McGee Fitzhue, Lucky Cordell, Herb Kent, Rick Ricardo, and Roy Wood. They also talk about how Benson highlighted certain bands within his show and thus changed the topography of Chicago music. Some of the artists that Benson promoted were Muddy Waters, Andrew Tibbs, Howling Wolf, Little Walter, Big Maybelle, Willie Maybon, Willie Dixon, Charles Brown, The Temptations, and the Supremes.

9:20Copy video clip URL Photographs with overlay of Al Benson’s voice. He talks about how he introduced new musical groups to Chicago.

11:23Copy video clip URL Cut to title screen and then the credits roll.

12:35Copy video clip URL Video ends.



  1. Randy Poole says:

    It was 1977, shortly before Al Benson’s passing, and he, with his daughter Arleta, attended a Teen Night Dance Party at Pebblewood Disco in Bridgman, MI, where I began my club DJ career, those many years ago. Pebblewood was red hot in those days, crowded to the max with young people who wanted their very own ‘Saturday Night Fever’ experience. I was acquainted with Arleta, a student at River Valley HS, as she was one of the regulars at our Teen Night soirees. I must confess that I did not know of her father’s fame on Chicago radio, but at some point in the evening of Mr. Leaner’s stopping by to check out the Pebblewood dance scene, I received a note sent up to the DJ booth…I assumed that the note was a song request/dedication from one of the dancers, and immediately opened it, as it was my habit to accommodate as many music requests as I possibly could. Surprised I was when I read the note, which said that I was one of the best club DJ’s that he (the great Al Benson) had ever heard. Arleta had brought the note up to the DJ booth, and when I had an 8-minute dance cut playing, there was a little time for me to step out of the booth to meet Arleta’s famous father. He was very nice, complimenting me on my music selections and the pacing of the rhythms during the evening. I was thrilled to receive his very kind words, as I was just a novice club DJ at that time, and his praise for my effort put me on Cloud 9, and enhanced my belief and passion for providing music entertainment for those who love to dance. God bless Arthur Leaner’s congenial soul, and I am STILL swingin’ that beat, with the Ol’ Swingmaster’s benediction spurring me on all through these many years.

  2. Jaxkie says:

    Mr. Benson often visited a neighbor of mine in the 1950s at 833 east 65th Street in Chicago. I wonder what happened to her son “Tuffy”, a blue eyed, blond boy in a rapidly racial changing neighborhood.

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