Sunday, September 14, 2008

He was known as "King Bee" or "The King" on WIBB radio in Macon, Georgia. His daily broadcasts reached thousands. His influence, intuition and encouragement affected music as we know it today. Not only is Hamp a noted broadcast celebrity, but he is also a musician. His band, "The Hamptones," played many clubs throughout the southeast. Richard Penniman got his start as a vocalist in Hamp's band. The "architect" of rock and roll will tell you that without Hamp Swain there would have never been a Little Richard.

In those days, D.J.'s were allowed to choose their own music. Hamp would attend disc-jockey conventions promoting and sharing the music of Macon and Georgia to fellow disc jockey's all over the country.

The "Godfather of Soul," James Brown, mentions Hamp by name as being an integral part of his career. Clint Brantley brought James to town and was responsible for getting an acetate disc made of the song "Please, Please, Please" acapella which was recorded at Macon's WIBB. That was the first version heard of the song by local radio listeners. Hamp played it on his broadcast and requests immediately told him it was a hit. An executive from King Records was traveling through Macon and heard Hamp promoting the song. He called Hamp to ask about the artists and the song and a deal was made to make the recording we all know today.

Hamp helped launch Otis Redding's career with his weekly "Teenage Party" at the Roxy Theater and later the historic Douglass Theater. It was on those broadcasts that Phil Walden first heard Otis. The list of artists goes on to read as a virtual "Who's Who" of music legends.

What Hamp Swain contributed was dedication to Georgia music. Black radio format stations were rare in those days. But, kids of all ages and races were listening. The stories are that white kids would have their transistor radio under the pillow tuned to The King Bee to hear their favorite music, despite the protests of their parents.

Hamp saw the opportunity to expose the artists and the listeners to this music. He tirelessly promoted local and state talent to other stations at radio conventions. He not only promoted them on the air, but also to other program directors and "jocks" all over the country. In turn, he kept Macon abreast of what was going on musically around the world. His radio influence covered all races and socioeconomic levels. Black and white kids loved the show. Hamp even gave air time to local white artists on a black programmed format.

Hamp had the foresight to know this was music that needed to be heard. He had the professional perception to know he had found gold, and the good personal reputation to take it to the next level. Please help celebrate his accomplishments and recent induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.


Ron Dennis Wheeler_A&R Productions said...

Hamp, You may not remember me but I'm the white kid that was always hanging around the station and all the black clubs with Don Tolan and sitting in sing blues at Two Spot and The OFF Beat Club. Roy Mathis always had me sit in with his combo also. I always thought you were the best DJ ever and still do! Your friend Dennis Wheeler- I was the house band at Grant's lounge for two years.

Mary Frances said...

Hi Hamp and congratulations on this much deserved honor.As a Maconite and graduate of Ballard-Hudson Sr.High,a majorette 1959-60 and frequent visitor to see you at the station your show was the best thing we had back in the day,we all loved it.Another stand out performance you rendered as for as i'm concerned was the outstanding job you performed as the M.C.for the funeral of homeboy Otis redding held at the Macon Auditorium,King Bee(Hamp)was also in the movie Bingo Long and the Traveling All Stars,a movie filmed @ the old Porter's Statum.Thanks and much love to you!