Georgie Woods, 1927-2005
-- The Guy With the Goods
Born in Georgia on Friday, May 11, 1927, George
Woods (known to everyone as Georgie) was a top R&B jock and became a true
legend in every sense of the word. Georgie passed away June 18, 2005.
At 25, Woods received his first broadcast job (12 midnight to 1 am) at WWRL
(1600 on AM) in New York, New York. As Georgie would say, “so nice, they had
to name it twice.” That job lasted only a short time. “Maybe three months,”
Georgie Woods laughed. “I went to WHAT (Philadelphia) on January 7, 1953.”
WHAT Radio, at that time, was owned by Billy & Dolly Banks. The City of
Brotherly Love would be his broadcast home for the rest of his half-century
In 1955, Georgie Woods moved to the station that most would remember as his
broadcast home, WDAS, owned by the late Max M. Leon. In 1957, Woods led the
nation by breaking a new record by former gospel singer (The Soul Stirrers)
Sam Cooke. The song was “You Send Me.”
A few years later, George nicknamed Jerry Butler “The Ice Man” because he was
“so cool on stage.” In 1962, Georgie Woods started playing on WDAS a “new”
group called “The Beatles.” The song was “Please, Please Me” on the
African-American owned label, Vee-Jay (the same label Butler recorded for).
Two years down the road, in 1964, Woods coined the phrase “blue-eyed soul”
referring to The Righteous Brothers. Six years later, the term got heavy use
for the Osmond Brothers’ hit, “One Bad Apple,” when the group sounded very
similar to the Jackson 5.
George at that time was known as “Georgie Woods, the man with the goods.”
Later, when “the man” took on a different meaning, he became “the guy with
One day in 964, Georgie and WDAS management had a dispute, and the next day
he was back on the aire at WHAT Radio. The Banks family welcomed Georgie
Woods, a superstar in the Philly market, back with open arms. Woods recalled,
“I stayed there for several years until just after the assassination of Dr.
Martin Luther King.” In the spring of 1968, Georgie Woods returned to WDAS
where he would stay until the fall of 1990 when he again returned to WHAT.
Former Operations Manager for WDAS, Gerry
Wilkinson thinks back to 1978 -- “It was about this time that George’s show
turned from music to a talk show. George comes across as your average Joe,
but he’s brilliant. He can talk with you about anything and he always did his
Woods (center, in light-colored
suit) taking part in a civil-rights
demonstration during the 1960s.
At that time, in the late
seventies, the ratings for music stations switched from AM to FM. While WDAS-FM
numbers were climbing (the number one music station, general market, in
Philadelphia by 1980), WDAS AM’s ratings were tumbling. “Management thought
that a talk format for George would do the trick,” said Wilkinson, and it
did. Georgie Woods saw his talk-show ARB numbers double. Before leaving WDAS,
Woods would end up the AM station’s Program Director.
In the fall of 1979, the WDAS
stations were sold to Unity Broadcasting of Pennsylvania (owners of the
“National Black Network”). Bob Klein, WDAS’ General Manager for 3 decades
retired and his assistant, W. Cody Anderson, took over the reigns as GM. Ten
years later, Cody purchased WHAT (Bob Klein was a consultant for Anderson)
and Georgie Woods moved back to radio 1340, WHAT on Monday, September 10,
George was on 10 am to 1 pm following Mary Mason who returned to WHAT just
the week before from WCAU. He left WHAT in 1994 and started playing music
again on WPGR, Geator Gold radio when Jerry Blavat owned the station. But
Woods wasn’t just a radio personality; he also hosted his own dance party TV
show for several stations in town, first starting with Channel 17, WPHL-TV in
1966. A couple years later, the program moved over to WIBF-TV, Channel 29. It
lasted for another several years after Taft Broadcasting took over, re-naming
the call letters, WTAF-TV.
During the late sixties, Georgie Woods ran for Philadelphia City Council and
won, only to have it taken away from him in a recount. However, it wasn’t
just a run for political office; it also meant no radio income for the best
part of a year. He had to go off the air because if he remained, the radio
station would have been required to give free equal time to his political
opponent even though George was just playing music.
However, Woods was an activist much earlier, and was very much involved in
the civil rights movement. George was one of the first broadcasters to have
the controversial Malcolm X appear on his program. During the hectic sixties,
he led 21 buses of area residents southward to March with Dr. Martin Luther
King in Alabama and later Washington, DC.
One of the bus captains on that
trip was a young 23-year old college student from Cheney State College, Ed
Bradley (of 60 Minutes fame). Bradley had previously met Woods when Georgie
visited the mostly black school. Georgie Woods allowed Bradley to “hang
around” the station and run errands. Later, Bradley was doing news for WDAS
until 1967 when he moved to New York City.
A few years ago, Bradley said, “I remember the first time I heard Georgie
Woods on the air as a teenager…. I heard him say same time tomorrow and I set
up the radio the next day at the same time and waited to listen to Georgie
Woods…. Many years later I went to work there…. It was my first experience in
broadcasting. I cut my eyeteeth as a journalist at WDAS and I think in many
ways if WDAS hadn't been there for me, I wouldn't be on 60 Minutes today.”
Georgie also hosted so-called “Freedom Shows” at Philadelphia’s Uptown and
Nixon Theaters to raise money for civil rights activities. George became well
known hosting great shows at the Uptown -- on one show one could see: Stevie
Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, Deon Jackson, the Monitors, Tammi Terrell,
The Artistics, The Poets and more.
On Wednesday, July 21, 1993,
the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network dedicated a mural featuring Georgie
Woods. It’s located at 5531 Germantown Avenue (at the corner of Germantown
and School House Lane). Just a few months before, on Friday, May 14 th, the
City of Philadelphia proclaimed “Georgie Woods Day” to honor the broadcast
Georgie Woods was also very supportive to the Philadelphia community. For
decades, every year WDAS and their air personalities would collect donations
of thousands of turkeys for the city’s poor at Thanksgiving and Christmas
time. George was part of the WDAS Charities organization, which put on
charity shows to aid the area.
'The Guy With the Goods'
Many people in the city have
credited Georgie Woods and WDAS with directly being responsible for
preventing rioting in the streets of our city after the assassination of Dr.
Martin Luther King. Woods and WDAS constantly reminded our residents of Dr.
King's non-violent philosophy and aired his speeches. In 1969, George and
WDAS urged the population of the area to turn in their guns. Many hundreds
did so and Woods was credited with making Philadelphia a safer place to live.
Gerry Wilkinson said, “I vividly remember George’s morning drive program. He
had his signature cowbells (long before Dr. Don Rose) and just acted crazy.”
Jerry Wells, Production Manager for WDAS, thinks back to his early days at
the station a quarter century ago. He says: “George once told me, you gotta
do whatever you have to so that at the end of the day, people remember you,
even if it means acting like a nut.”
“George loved to sing the old spiritual, Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep every
morning. It was always done differently, sometimes in harmony, depending on
who was around the studio at the time. It was the best part of the show for
George was the star, not the records” Wilkinson remembers.
In the 1960s, he would sometimes stop the music for hours on WDAS to talk
about the civil-rights movement and the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr., recalled Joe "Butterball" Tamburro, the station's former general
"He had the ear of the African-American community. Whenever there was an
injustice, we would talk about the issues rather than play music," Tamburro
Gerry also recalls: “I remember the era and ‘solid’ was in common usage. One
morning, George said ‘salad’ instead of solid. He immediately came back with
‘potato salad.’ Somehow, it stuck and became part of the show. I was in the
air studio one morning when Broadway Eddie (of Broadway Eddie’s in Camden)
was there. He said to George that Woods should make a recording called
‘Potato Salad.’ He did and it became a top ten record at the station. Eddie
produced it and writing credits were given to both Eddie and George and
arranged by Vince Montana (of Philadelphia International fame). I clearly
remember one of the rap lines, ‘don’t eat chicken on Sunday! It'll put a hole
in your soul!’”
Almost two decades later, in 1988, Georgie Woods marketed his own line of
Potato Chips through a South Philly company, C & S, Inc., which claimed to
sell over 3 million bags a year. Whether there is any connection to the
“Potato Salad” craze of two decades before is subject to debate.
Georgie Woods, The Guy With the Goods, died in the early morning of Saturday,
June 18th, in Boynton Beach, Fla., where he had lived since 1996.