Rob Grayson

Host - Morning Edition

My heroes have always been disc jockeys. I especially admired the ones who could take the canvas of the fourteen-second intro of a teeny-bopper song and paint a masterpiece.  From my youth, I strove to emulate them.  I had the good fortune to walk in some of their footsteps, albeit a respectful pace behind. 

The Mississippi Delta in the 70's was a great place to begin a career in radio.  My first after-school job was doing the afternoon shift at an easy-listening FM in my hometown of Greenville at age 14. 

George Klein brought me to Memphis, and WHBQ, in 1976.  Most of the ensuing time has been spent in the general Memphis radio community, and producing and engineering at Wilkerson Sound Studios. 

I landed on the WKNO doorstep in 2001, and am tickled that they continue to let me show up here every morning. 

Ways to Connect

You could probably fill the Mid-South Coliseum with the folks who say they saw Jimi Hendrix play the Ellis Auditorium in April, 1969. The spectacle of the left-handed guitarist who played an upside-down right-handed guitar did not disappoint the folks who plunked down their 3, 4, 5, or 6 dollars for a seat in one of the two

Elvis Presley spent September of 1962 in Seattle, working on his 12th movie, It Happened At The World’s Fair. Probably the most memorable scene from this movie involved Presley’s character bribing a kid to kick him in the shins.

Folk music enjoyed a revival of sorts in the mid 20th century.  Springing from the Greenwich Village epicenter of the movement in the late 40‘s, The Weavers were among the first to gain acclaim by making socially conscious statements with their original compositions, and breathing new life into older songs from diverse sources. 

There’s an old adage that runs through the thread of rock-and-roll lore. Whatever feat of fame or infamy some latter day rock star performs, someone will trot out the maxim “Elvis did it first, did it best, and looked better doing it!” But for all the firsts and ‘greatests‘, it actually took Elvis a while to finally do something many artists who followed took for granted. It took Presley almost seven years to get around to recording a song he actually wrote. There were two of them.

From early on Memphis musicians have had no problem making a statement without the encumbrance of words. As a young  man, W.C. Handy found music in the wordless sounds of the tapping of shovels, as his co-workers wove complicated rhythms to pass the time on the shovel brigade at a Florence, Alabama iron furnace. His musical genius allowed him to distil the sounds he discovered while touring the rural south. The essence he extracted enabled Handy to refine the music he described as “not really annoying or unpleasant…” but “perhaps haunting,” into a palatable form which found appeal to new audiences. If not the actual birth of the blues, it was at least the assignment of a birth certificate.

As Luck Would Have It

Jan 24, 2012

It’s easy to say Elvis Presley had a career run of good luck as he headed into the sixties. From his first Sun Records single, he created a stir, and fostered a following that would set records and inspire a new youthful direction in the whole sphere of entertainment. But any carny worth his salt can read people like a book, and Presley’s manager Col. Tom Parker was perhaps the greatest since Barnum. In the new decade, he set new course was based on making movies that made money, fulfilling the RCA Records contract, and keeping Elvis off the TV and tour bus.

In the summer of 1993, the vocal group SWV was cruising along at number one with their song “Weak,” when a reggae band from England bumped them out of the top spot with a remake of a 60‘s classic. UB40 hit the top with a noted tune from a movie featuring a big name singer set in Hawaii from 31 years earlier. In turn, that movie drew its title and theme song from another movie featuring a big name singer which was also set in Hawaii, filmed 25 years before that.

Flush with the success of their first top-ten single, “Gee Whiz” by Carla Thomas, the focus of Jim Stewart and the folks at Satellite Records was on cashing in with a follow-up album. Carla was off attending Tennessee State, so there was much back-and-forth between Memphis and Nashville as Carla learned to juggle Freshman English 1010 with a non-credit hands-on lab in applied pop star studies. In the background of this flurry of activity lurked the single which would not only set the direction of the emerging label’s sound, but also force it to change its name.

Winning By Surrender

Jan 3, 2012

As 1961 dawned, It was back to the ballads for Elvis Presley. Since his return from the Army, Elvis had topped the charts with a song based on the late 19th century melody “O Sole Mio,” transliterated into “It’s Now Or Never.” The same session revived a 1920’s love song, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” So when Presley went to RCA’s Nashville studio in late October, 1960, along with the gospel tunes lined up for his first religious-themed album, His Hand In Mine, he brought a new treatment of another Italian classic.

In 1960, after three years of trying, Satellite Records finally launched a release that hit the charts, the single “Cause I Love You.“ Everyone was giddy with success. The world’s oldest teenager, Rufus Thomas, was back on the charts again, wailing the smash tune as a duet with his daughter Carla. Satellite owner Jim Stewart’s wild idea of running a recording studio and starting a record label seemed to be paying off. Jim’s sister, Estelle Axton, was happy because there was cash to make those second-mortgage payments for the loan she took out to put her bank-teller brother in business.