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 THE DISC JOCKEYS


Maurice 'Hot Rod' Hulbert
 

The only Baltimore DJ to be enshrined in the National Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Maurice 'Hot Rod' Hulbert was one of the most influential radio personalities ever. Born in the deep South, 'Hot Rod' began to make his mark while at the legendary WDIA in Memphis. Working alongside the likes of B.B. King and Rufus Thomas, Hulbert's training in vaudeville served him well as a radio entertainer. In 1951, he became the first full-time black DJ on an all-white station when hired at WITH in Baltimore. Allegedly, when Rod went to Baltimore in '51, he spent his first day in a hotel room dialing around the radio to check out the competition. Time would quickly show that Hulbert had no competition. In the early 50's, his 8 til Midnight slot captivated Baltimore teens and adults alike by featuring 'Commander Hot Rod in his Rocket Spaceship'. We're talking pure theater of the mind, and Rod was a master. During that period, a young Baltimore lad who worked as an intern at WITH appropriated Rod's act and took it to Philly and later New York for success of his own. That was Jocko Henderson...greatly influenced by Hot Rod Hulbert. By late 1959, the payola scandal was in the news. Big time jocks throughout the country were nervous about keeping their jobs because many were recipients of money and gifts from record companies in exchange for playing certain records. Ironically, the practice was not illegal...but a Senate investigation was about to change all that. At the time, Rod published a 'tip sheet' which featured spotlighted songs. These mentions were paid for by the companies. Understandably, WITH was nervous about the connection. Therefore, WITH Manager Jake Embry arranged a deal with Philadelphia station WHAT to relocate Rod up the road in the city of brotherly love. Rod stayed in Philadelphia for a few years, and for much of that time also did a shift at WOV in New York. By 1963, it was time for Rod to come back to Baltimore. WITH's Embry hired Hulbert back full-time. In 1964, The 'Rod' switched stations in Baltimore and went to 1400 WWIN. there he joined a stellar lineup of R&B talent, including 'Long Lean' Larry Dean, Al Jefferson, Rockin' Robin, Sir Johnny O, and others. Hulbert stayed at WWIN well into the 70's. His promotions were legendary. He had a saying...VOSA...which met Voice of Sound Advice! Another 'Roddism' was 'Great Googamooga'...used in the Temptations hit, 'Ball of Confusion'. His flair for theatrics and showmanship enthralled audiences black and white at venues like Carr's Beach in Annapolis, and the Royal Theatre and Coliseum in Baltimore. Hulbert's influence with black entertainers was without question. He helped up and coming stars like Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, and others, including a very young Muhammad Ali. When it came to needs in the black community, Hulbert lent his considerable talents and fund-raising abilities to many causes...not just in Baltimore, but throughout the country. Rod spent the rest of his radio career primarily in Sales, working at 1360 WEBB and 860 WBGR. At the last-named station, Hulbert sold a million dollars worth of advertising in the mid-80's on an AM daytimer...quite an achievement indeed. Then again, Maurice was a competitor and felt he could pretty much do anything he put his mind to. Rod retired from radio in the early 90's and with wife Brenda continued to make his home in the Baltimore area. By early 1996, Maurice discovered he had cancer. On March 30, 1996...WITH held a 55th Anniversary Reunion at it's Baltimore studios. Rod was invited but station officials were advised he would likely not be able to attend. As the reunion went on the air at noon that day, WITH reunion coordinator Bob Mathers received a call from Mrs. Hulbert. The message was brief. 'Maurice is on his way. Do not let anyone leave until he gets there'. When Rod came to the studio, those on the air (including WITH alums Buddy Deane, Jack Gale, Jack Wells, Buddy MacGregor, Bill Evenson, and Jake Embry) were delighted to see Hot Rod. By this time, he carried at pad to write down his words, for the cancer had already taken his ability to speak. Hugs, tears, and dozens of phone calls from WITH listeners were all received graciously by the Rod. As Jack Gale said in the studio that day, 'Rod, you were the best!'. On December 24, 1996, the Rod departed. On December 30, 1996, WITH aired a one-hour tribute to Hot Rod. Testimonials from Baltimore Colts' great Lenny Moore, Sportscaster Chuck Thompson, and Al Jefferson were just some of the many luminaries who paid tribute to one of the all-time greats. At Rod's funeral, early WITH associate Buddy Deane told those in attendance, 'If I could say one thing about him, it would be...He was my friend'. As Rod himself said many times, 'Not the flower, not the herb, not the root...but the seed. VOSA!'. E-mail Mrs. Brenda Hulbert at brenda9813@aol.com.

  

 
     

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