Upstate Radio Legend Dies

  In the 50’s 60’s when radio stations wanted to attract African-American listeners they typically hired white guys to pose as black while spinning R & B records. One of the first Black men to break that pattern was Cornell Blakely. The Greenville native had been to Detroit and recorded R & B songs that were produced by Barry Gordy, Jr, creator of Motown, which later dominated the charts with R & B hits. After having modest success with some of this recordings and touring the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” Cornell Blakely returned home and became one of our region’s first African-American radio personalities. He was heard on Greenville’s Top-40 station, WQOK and at the state’s first 50,000 watt AM station, WHYZ. Later, Blakely syndicated himself before the days of satellite distribution, driving from Union to Newberry to Bishopville to do live, local radio shows featuring his own unique chatter. He also appeared as an afternoon DJ on WLBG in the 1990s. He went on to purchase WKMG radio in Newberry, where he played the R & B and Gospel music he loved into his 80’s, until his health forced retirement.  Blakely died Monday in his native Greenville. Funeral Services are scheduled for Noon this Saturday at Watkins, Garrett and Woods Mortuary with burial in Resthaven Memorial Gardens.