Ken Webb

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Ken Webb[edit]

Ken 'Spider' Webb

Ken 'Spider' Webb is the morning radio personality for Soul Town [1] Sirius XM Channel 49 who was a very successful morning radio personality for radio stations WBLS and WRKS in New York City back in the 70's, 80's, and 90's. He was the primary reason that each station he worked for had the #1 Arbitron rated morning show during his tenure.[2] He had the pleasure of working with other well-known New York personalities including Frankie Crocker, Hal Jackson, Chuck Leonard, Carol Ford, Jeff Foxx, Vaughn Harper, Yvonne Mobley, Chris Welch, Vy Higginsen, Lamar Renee, Mary Thomas, and Wendy Williams.

Early Life[edit]

Ken Webb was born in Brooklyn, New York. He lived most of his childhood in Long Branch, New Jersey until his father moved the family to Amityville, Long Island, in New York. Ken is a graduate of Amityville High School where he excelled in track and football.

His interest in radio began in 1958 when Ken was 13 years old. He and his friend, Danny Robinson, noticed that his neighbor, Gene Browne, was doing something peculiar. “We looked in his basement and we saw a guy in front of a microphone and all sorts of crazy antennas. We decided, ‘He’s gotta be a Russian.’ At that time, 1951 or 1952, the big issue was the Rosenberg's and the McCarthy hearings… They got charged with spying and they eventually sentenced them to death and they buried them not too far from us, right out here in Pinelawn.” Ken and Danny ran and found a police officer to tell him they found a spy. “How do you know?” the officer asks them. “We saw him down there with the microphones, tapping out the code,” Webb says. “So what do you want me to do?” the officer asks. “Well, we gotta go there and arrest him,” Webb says. “He’s gotta go to jail.” The officer takes them back to the house of the neighbor, who turns out to be U.S. Army Air Corps 1st Lt. Gene Browne, a Tuskegee Airman who was awarded the Purple Heart after his P-51 was shot down over Germany during a dogfight, as he tried to protect American bombers. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war, before returning back to his native New York and settling in North Amityville. The officer already knew Browne, but the boys didn’t know that. When Browne came to the door, the officer said, “How are you? We’re here looking for Russian spies.” “I haven’t seen any,” Browne said. “I think that’s him,” Robinson said. Browne calls to his wife, “Maggie, have we seen any Russian spies today?” “No, haven’t seen any today,” she said from the kitchen. “No, that’s him,” Webb said. “Look at these antennas.” That was when everything changed for Webb. “Gene took us downstairs into his radio studios and that was it for me,” he says, smiling. “He became my mentor… He gave us our novice class license[amateur radio]. I still know Morse Code in my head. He taught us how to build radios, antennas and receivers and accessories for receivers, transmitters, power supplies. I was at Copiague High School and then I went to Amityville and became the president of the Amateur Radio Club in Amityville. All the other fellas in the club had the means to buy new factory-made equipment and I wanted one. But my father could barely put food on the table. And Gene told my father, ‘Make that kid build it. Don’t let him buy anything factory-made.’ So that’s what I did. I’d go to Gene and he’d show us how to take raw parts and build transmitters.” All that training didn’t just spark Webb’s love of radio, it gave him the experience to get a job at WBAB — selling advertising time, handling engineering tasks — and the confidence to go on the air.[2]

Career[edit]

WBAB (1967 - 1971)[edit]

Ken Webb was doing his show at WBAB one Sunday morning in 1971, when the DJ and WBLS Program Director Frankie Crocker heard him while driving out to The Hamptons in a Rolls-Royce that happened to be equipped with an FM radio, a rarity at the time. “When BLS was looking for its first morning man, Frankie called me up and said, ‘Come in, I’ve got work for you,’” Webb recalls. “I had just bought the house and I had the children. Frankie thought, ‘Well, nobody listens to FM radio in the morning anyway. So let him be there. He can read. And at least I know he’ll be there every morning because he’s got a family and a house.’ I challenged him on that. I said, ‘I’m going to make people listen to me.’” And that’s exactly what Webb did. “I was technically able and very comfortable in the studio,” he says. “But when it came to being a morning man on the air, I only had the people who had come before me and take things from them. But I realized I could make my own presentation. I tried a number of things — black history, this, that and the other.”[2]

WBLS (1971 - 1982)[edit]

Ken 'Spider' Webb

Ken Webb was the morning show host for WBLS from July 1971 to 1982. In 1979 along with Vaughn Harper, Johnny Allen, and Frankie Crocker, WBLS reached #1 in the Billboard Radio rankings as rated by Arbitron.[3]

Color of the Day[edit]

Ken Webb was well know for features like the “Color of the Day” — an idea inspired by WABC DJ Harry Harrison that Webb tucked away from when he was young. “I lived on Long Island — New York radio? I could never even dream,” he says. “But I thought if I ever got the chance, I would do that.” The thought came back to him when WBLS was sharing a building on Second Avenue with Monsanto, which made textiles among many other things then. “They gave me a swatch board and it had 60 or 70 different colors,” Webb says. “So I stood this up in my studio and would call out colors like ‘Gaslight gray.’ It started working. One day I called purple, and I was walking across town after work, and there I saw a black brother walking down the street in his platform shoes and his jheri curl with a purple hat with a purple feather, wearing a darker purple shirt, and a purple suit and he was walking around looking like Sly Stone. I had to sit down on a fire hydrant and laugh. ”Webb liked that “Color of the Day” brought people together. “They felt like they were in the club,” he says. “They were included.” He was surprised that there was another side to that, though. “I went to a school in Brooklyn and a woman on the staff said, ‘Ken, you should stop calling out the colors. We have girls here in school who do not come to school because they don’t have the color of the day,’” Webb recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I backed off. What would you do if you heard that? It took the feet out from underneath me. I sent a gift back to the school — some cloth and needles and things so they could sew. I got girls. I raised them. I know how they feel.”[2]

Sure Shots[edit]

Ken Webb and his Sure Shots

While at WBLS, Ken Webb put together a charity basketball team called the WBLS Sure Shots. Why? “I don’t get into politics at all,” he says. “I’m too vicious at it. I had an altercation once about it. It really touched my bones… My father said, ‘Why don’t you get out of the radio station when it comes to politics?’ My father told me to get out and get a basketball team going — The WBLS Sure Shots. We were on-air people and off-air sales people and former college athletes. We raised money. We went into the prisons. We played everywhere. We played games against other radio stations. Kiss and BLS got together and we packed out Madison Square Garden twice. Through that, I became the self-proclaimed community relations director. I can’t deal with politics …. You wouldn’t want to know me if I get going.”[2] While at WBLS, fellow DJ and former NBA prospect Vaughn Harper lent his basketball talents to the team.[4]

The Twins[edit]

The day Webb announced the birth of his twins, Keith and Kevin, in 1974 will always stand out for him. Sure, they were a surprise, since these were pre-sonogram days and the X-rays had only shown one mass since one twin was on top of the other. But it was also the one day where Webb went on the air a little drunk. After the twins were born and they and his wife were asleep, around 2:30 a.m., Webb called his father to let him know what happened. “The doctor says, ‘You can go home and come back later,’ so I go went to my father’s house,” he says, adding that they celebrated with a bit of Chivas Regal. “Then it dawned on me that I still had to go to work.” He called Crocker and told him about the twins and that he needed the day off. “Who had the baby?” Crocker asked him. “My wife had the baby,” Webb said. “What do you mean?” “Well you didn’t have it,” Crocker told him. “You’re going to work. I’m not coming in. You are.” “So I came in and to be honest with you, I was a little tipsy,” Webb says, laughing, adding that he realized during a conversation with the subway reporter that they didn’t have names yet. “I said, ‘I don’t even know what to call them. Lefty or Righty? Horse and Carriage? This and That?’ It was obvious that I was twisted.” The connection that Webb forged with his listeners became contagious. In 1981, his WBLS morning show became the No. 1 show in New York, though what followed was even more impressive.[2]

Jackie Kennedy[edit]

Ken Webb remembers one night he was hosting a charity event with former WNBC/4 anchor Sue Simmons at Carnegie Hall and he learned that Jackie Kennedy was in attendance and he asked a mutual friend if he could be introduced to her. Webb waited backstage for his friend and was shocked when he saw the former first lady. “She walks right up to me and says, ‘Hi Ken, how are you?’” Webb says, laughing. “Then she asked, ‘How’re those twins doing?’ I said, ‘How did you know I have twins?’ Then she poked me in the stomach and said, ‘You work on the radio, Ken.’ I was finished.” [2]

WRKS (1982 - 1984)[edit]

In 1981, his WBLS morning show became the No. 1 show in New York, though what followed was even more impressive. Because of his success, other stations were interested in wooing him away. “BLS had caught wind that I was looking around,” Webb recalls. “But they said, ‘He’s not going to leave here. He’s loyal.’ I had a cold conversation with a young general manager on loyalty.” “Can you pay me loyalty?” Webb asked him. “I’m sure you’re here for a salary. Sometimes people don’t want to leave, but they leave because it’s good for their family. You can get me to stay by giving me more money. I can’t pay Sunrise Federal Savings & Loan out there in Suffolk County their $866 a month with loyalty.” And soon, Webb was on his way to rival WRKS, KISS-FM. “I became The Ping-Pong Jock,” he says, laughing. “I went from Kiss to BLS, whoever would pay me the best money.” DJs switching stations wasn’t unusual, but it generally came with a cost, as some listeners never make the switch. But Webb was different. “He was at BLS for so long, he was part of people’s lives,” Porter says. “When he moved (to KISS) people went with him. I don’t think it could happen today with the way radio is. But he had 10 years of equity built up.” When Webb’s show at KISS became No. 1, that station thought he wouldn’t risk moving again. Well, they were wrong too. BLS won him back and soon there was an ad campaign of “Where’s Ken Webb? Well, he’s back home.” “It’s a different time,” Porter says. “I wish I could do what Ken Webb did. It was just so thoughtful. He had a lot of great ideas.[2]

WBLS (1984 - 1985)[edit]

In 1984, Ken Webb was hired back at WBLS where he once again brought their morning show's ratings back to #1.

Jazz from the City (1985 - present)[edit]

Though Ken “Spider” Webb will always treasure R&B classics like Barbara Lewis’ “Hello, Stranger” and The Fifth Dimension’s “One Less Bell to Answer,” he has also always loved jazz. “My mother and father were musical people,” he says. “They didn’t play, but they liked to listen to music. My mother and I would listen to music and see if we could distinguish the various instruments. Can you separate the violin in this piece here? Or the bass in this piece here? You start that and you begin to appreciate it.” But Webb’s love of jazz went beyond that. “Jazz, in the days when I grew to appreciate it, you dressed well,” he says. “You had to walk around with your wingtip cordovan shoes and horn-rimmed glasses. You had to be about something. You had to be somebody. You had to be going to school. You had to have a nice car. You couldn’t be like a hood or the girls wouldn’t want to talk to you. You couldn’t get to first base on a bunt.” It was that love of jazz that made Webb start his own company in 1985 to bring the music around the world with his show “Jazz from the City,” which he still occasionally records and archives on his website, kenwebb.com. “I started a global syndication company from studio in Wheatley Heights,” he says, “At one time, we had 136 stations in United States, Japan, the Philippines.” “And I don’t want to say it too loud,” he jokes. “But I sold my jazz to the Russians.[2]

WRKS (1985 - 1995)[edit]

In 1985, Ken Webb was brought back to WRKS and once again brought their morning show ratings to #1.[5]

WBLS (1995 - 1997)[edit]

In the fall of 1995, Ken Webb was brought back to WBLS by his old boss Frankie Crocker for the 'BLS morning show. Only this time there was a twist. His main co-host would be his daughter Teri Webb. The show is called "Webb and Company,"[6]

SIRIUS XM (2005 - present)[edit]

Ken Webb was hired by Sirius in 2005 to host their Soul Town morning program. In July of 2008, Sirius merged with XM to become Sirius XM Radio. He has been employed with Sirius XM for well over fifteen years!

Brushes with Greatness[edit]

As a morning radio personality, Ken Webb has been privileged to meet and even know many musical artists and groups over the years. These include, but are not limited to: Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, George Benson, The Jackson 5, Natalie Cole, Sade, Earth Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, Minnie Ripperton, and Larry Graham just to name a few. Ken Webb is portrayed by actor Kheon Clarke in the Wendy Williams film "Wendy Williams: The Movie".[7]

Personal Life[edit]

Ken Webb has been happily married since 1964 and has been a father to 7 children (including his twins). He raised his family in Wheatley Heights, NY for over forty years. He is also one of Jehovah's Witnesses. He recently moved to Wilmington, Delaware with his wife, Theresa in 2020; they now live with their daughter Felicia (Teri Webb) and their son-in-law Bill.

References[edit]

This article "Ken Webb" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical and/or the page Edithistory:Ken Webb. Articles copied from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be seen on the Draft Namespace of Wikipedia and not main one.

  1. "Soul Town: Classic Soul & Motown Music". SiriusXM. Retrieved 2021-07-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 "LI's Ken 'Spider' Webb on his lifetime in radio". Newsday. Retrieved 2021-07-19.
  3. "Vaughn Harper", Wikipedia, 2021-05-21, retrieved 2021-07-19
  4. "Vaughn Harper", Wikipedia, 2021-05-21, retrieved 2021-07-19
  5. "REDIRECT Special editions". worldradiohistory.com. Retrieved 2021-07-20.
  6. Hinckley, David. "DAD & I WAKE UP N.Y." nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2021-07-19.
  7. "Wendy Williams: The Movie", Wikipedia, 2021-07-01, retrieved 2021-07-20