Kae Williams – Pioneer African American Broadcaster

dad_yugoKnown as one of the earliest local disc jockeys of the blues, Kae Williams broke into radio in 1943. Two years later, he went to WHAT Radio. At the same time, he also wrote for the Philadelphia Tribune (1945 to 1948) as Theatrical and Night Club critic. Six and a half years later, in 1951, he went to WDAS Radio, recently purchased by former Broadcast Pioneers’ Vice-President Max M. Leon. Shortly after taking over the broadcast outlet, Leon instituted an African-American music format for the station.

During his time at WDAS, he also worked with their news department. He once said, “While I was at WDAS, I covered along with one of our news staff all news-worthy incidents, including gang warfare, riots and community rallies and disturbances. and I prepared and broadcast (them) …on regular or special newscasts.”

In 1968, Williams became “Coordinator” of the station. By Spring of 1970, Kae Williams was no longer with the station. Kae was the second African-American to be hired in Philadelphia radio. He worked for numerous area radio stations, including, WDAS, WHAT, WCAM, WSSJ, WIBG and WVCH.

In early 1954, an R&B group with gospel roots called “The Dreamers” met Kae at the studios of WHAT Radio. Dolly and Billy Banks, owners of the station, allowed Kae to invite area teenagers into a studio next to him. There, the teens could dance to the music Williams was playing. Once in a while, Kae would wander next door and talk with the kids. It was one of these times he met a quintet. They were the Dreamers. Kae auditioned them and liked what he heard. A couple months later, Kae took them to Reco Art Studios and recorded two sides.

After they were done, they found out that their was another group called “The Dreamers.” Baritone singer Jimmy McCalister saw a box of candy on a secretary’s desk, shaped like a heart. Since the sides featured lead singer Arthur Thompson, the name “Arthur Thompson and the Hearts” was suggested. The group and Kae started playing with names when someone said that Arthur had two middle names, Lee & Andrew. Thus, Lee Andrews and the Hearts were born.

In 1957, Kae received an award from BMI. It was for the record, “Get a Job” for selling one million copies. In 1964, Kae had a local television show which lasted for one year. In 1978, he received the Mary Dee Award for outstanding community service. It was the first time the honor was ever presented. In 1989, Kae, Jr. accepted on behalf of his dad, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Music Foundation.

During his life, Williams loved dance. He had won several awards for tap and ballroom dancing. He appeared with Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins. Williams mentioned one time, “I studied music and dramatics at Al Berkman’s School of Dramatic Arts, Philadelphia. I have also produced weekly variety shows at the Liberty and Uptown Theaters in North Philadelphia.”

If there is a pioneer of the Blues as far as radio is concerned, it is Philadelphia’s own , Daddy Kae (Loudmouth) Williams.” He passed away on December 23, 1987.