As a part of the Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast Celebration at 7 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, at the Sheraton Imperial, RTP, special recognition will be given to a Raleigh radio icon, Ray “Dr. Jocko” Henderson. A dynamic personality with a broad following during the 1960’s, Dr. Jocko was huge on WLLE 570 am. He is credited by many observers of that tense time of civil right activities with promoting calm on the streets throughout the total community, black and white.
Mr. Henderson was very involved with local schools at a time when the Capital City had just one black and one white public high school. He visited the campuses, held dances, served as master of ceremonies at many functions involving students at Needham Broughton and J.W. Ligon High Schools. He stressed conversation and not confrontation. He was a measurable calming force at a time when, all across the nation, nerves were on edge and many communities were tinder boxes of potential overreaction to the news of the day. Ray Henderson built bridges between the races and helped Raleigh set a more positive tone and example for the rest of the country.
“Dr. Jocko” was on the air at WLLE (WiLLiE Radio) when other popular disc jockeys called that radio station their on air home. They included Daddy O on the Radio; Big Bill Haywood; Brother James Thomas; Prince Ike Behind the Mike; Jimmy Johnson of JJ’s House Party; and Sweet Bob Rogers. The station’s signal reached to Wallace - Rose Hill in the east and to Walkertown in the west.
Ray Henderson modeled “Dr. Jocko” after Jocko Henderson, a popular DJ in Philadelphia and “Dr. Jive” from WSRC radio in Durham. Henderson was an outstanding athlete as a student at J. W. Ligon High School and carried those talents forward as a college student at St. Augustine College.
Later in his career, he was an executive with Motown Records in Detroit. He hosted a television program in that city, The Scene, which was much like Teenage Frolics on WRAL-TV in Raleigh featuring J.D. Lewis. He was on a first-name basis with every music industry star of that era. He traveled with James Brown as master of ceremonies and toured the nation and world when the Godfather of Soul was at the height of his illustrious career.
Throughout it all, Ray Henderson never forgot his roots and proudly promoted, at every opportunity, his lifelong love of his hometown, Raleigh (third stop on the Night Train). The music of the sixties has its stars, known to all. Just as bright and shining in the firmament is Ray Henderson… the man behind the music.