1280 Macon
WIBB > WIHB

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Personality Profile:
Hamp Swain 
(December 3, 1929–May 9, 2018)

The staff of Macon's WIBB was loaded with bigger than life personalities, starting with "King Bee" Hamp Swain.  

 

In 1954, Hamp became the city's first black DJ when he began working for WBML AM 1240. He was nicknamed "King Bee" after the Slim Harpo song "I'm a King Bee," and moved to WIBB AM 1280 starting in 1957, where he became one of Macon’s best known and best loved radio personalities.

Hamp was born in Macon, and attended college for a short time before working as an insurance agent for Atlanta Life and playing saxophone in his own band, the Hamptones, which occasionally featured high school friend Little Richard on vocals. The Hamptones performed at the famed Cavalcade of Jazz concert held in Los Angeles at Wrigley Field on July 10, 1949 and in San Diego's Lane Field on September 3, 1949. Swain helped give James Brown his big break by being the first DJ to play "Please, Please, Please" on the radio in 1956. He also hosted "The Teenage Party," a talent competition won by local singer Otis Redding several times.

Swain started his own record label in Macon in the late '60s, Jar-Val, named after two of his children, Jarvis and Valencia.

Swain was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on September 13, 2008.

His death in 2018 of natural causes at the age of 88, inspired the following Facebook post from long-time Macon radio veteran, radio historian, and podcast producer Ben Sandifer:

My heart is very heavy after learning of the passing of one of Macon's radio legends, Hamp Swain, last night. He was an inductee in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2008, and the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2012. For all he did and for everyone he mentored in Macon radio, he was one of the most humble people I ever met. But when the "architect of rock 'n roll" Little Richard says, "If it had not been for Hamp Swain, there wouldn't have been a Little Richard," that says it all. May "The King" rest in peace. The three horsemen (Big Saul, Satellite Papa, the King) are back together again.

Ben's post included the following photo montage:

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When Swain died, Ben Sandifer, then doing mornings at Fox 94.7/95.1 in Macon, produced an audio tribute to the life and career of Hamp Swain. (Below) 
Hamp Swain tributeProduced by Ben Sandifer for Fox 94.7/95.1, Macon
00:00 / 03:31
Photo montage and audio courtesy of Ben Sandifer from May  2018.  You can hear Ben's podcasts at middlegapodcasts.podbean.com.
WIBB in photos and memories
Courtesy of Ben Sandifer

The Roxy Theatre. This is where the WIBB Teenage Party Talent Contest started.  Notice on the marquee, the radio station wasn’t even mentioned just the two personalities: the King (Hamp Swain) and Satellite Papa (Ray Brown).

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(Below) Crowd inside the Teenage Party Talent Contest at the Roxy.  The old Quonset Hut building that housed this theatre is very rusty, but still standing.

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When the crowds outgrew the Roxy, the Teenage Party was moved to the larger Douglass Theatre.  It was in this venue that Otis Redding’s band won the contest for so many weeks in a row, the station finally told him he couldn’t compete anymore. But right about that time, Phil Walden started managing Otis and his career took off.

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When Hamp was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, many of his fans wanted to go to the induction at the Georgia World Congress Center but couldn’t afford the tickets. So, an event was put together for local fans called “Hamp’s Hop and Old School Reunion” at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. All of the old WIBB jocks were invited to come out and each one took a turn on-stage introducing songs for the crowd’s dancing pleasure. Back in the day, these guys made more money on-the-side doing record hops than they did working at WIBB. Hamp was reluctant to do this because he thought no one would come since it had been over 30 years since these guys were on the radio. Hamp was wrong. The event drew such a crowd they finally had to turn people away just in case the fire marshall stopped by. “Hamp’s Hop” continued as an annual event for the next two years, but was moved to the Macon Convention Center to accommodate the larger crowds. All proceeds went to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and each year it was their biggest fundraiser.

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Some of the WIBB jocks at the first “Hamp’s Hop” in 2008.  (L-to-R) Hamp “King Bee” Swain, Robert “Mighty Rock” Roberts, Ray “Satellite Papa” Brown, Frank Dean Martin, and Big George Threatt.

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WIBB jock “Laughing” Lafayette Haines at a later Hamp's Hop.

The legendary Hamp “King Bee” Swain and Ray “Satellite Papa” Brown, Hamp's Hop. (Year unknown)

All photos and recollections, with thanks to Ben Sandifer, Macon radio veteran and radio historian.

History  (Edited from Wikipedia)

The station went on the air as WIBB on November 14, 1948.

 

On March 1, 1993, the call sign was changed to WKXK but was changed back to WIBB on November 29, 1994. Then on December 8, 1995, the call sign was changed to WQTK and then on March 31, 1997, to WLCG. On January 17, 2008, the call sign was changed back to WIBB for the third time. The station had been broadcasting a Rhythmic oldies format until it changed to a Talk radio format on October 13, 2008, and then it later on took on a gospel format with the "Halleluah" branding, followed by comedy as "Comedy 1280" and Spanish adult hits as "La Preciosa 1280".

 

On June 1, 2015, it flipped to a classic country format as "97.3 The Bull Icons" (simulcast on FM translator W247BW 97.3 FM Macon); coincident with the format change, the station's call sign was changed to WIHB. The WIBB call letters are now attached to 97.9 in Ft. Valley.