Reginald “Reggie” Nelson Lavong, son of the late Honey Nelson, was born on April 5, 1933 in Gainesville, Florida. Reggie’s beloved mother died when he was two years old. He was adopted at four years old by his cousin Mae Lavong and her husband Walter. They resided in the New York borough of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Reggie was an only child. He was educated in the Archdiocese of New York and graduated from Boys High in Brooklyn, in 1949, which included Lenny Wilkins and Otis Blackwell.
He attended City College in N.Y.C. and after two years transferred to Temple University as a journalism major. While at Temple, he worked as a radio announcer for the college radio station, WRTI and also interned at Philadelphia’s WCAU.
He was hired to work at a small commercial radio station in Vineland, New Jersey during his junior year. While attending college, Reggie met and fell in love with Joyce Hightower of Philadelphia. Reggie and Joyce were married at Little Flower Church on September 18, 1954. Joyce gave birth to four children Reginald II, Daryl, April and Jocelyn.
Reggie’s talent for broadcasting and his growing fan base made it possible for him to work at Norfolk, Virginia’s WRAP, Wilmington, Delaware’s WAMS and as the night time broadcaster for WHAT in Philadelphia. He developed a close relationship and association with saxophone player Gene “Daddy G” Barge, who went on to play with Chuck Willis, Gary U.S. Bonds, The Five Keys, the Dells, Dee Clark, the Flamingos, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, and Gene Chandler.
Reggie’s popularity and skill took him to Chicago’s WHFC. During his stay in Chicago, he began doing radio commercials and marketing for Al Abrams Pontiac, local department stores, and Bell Telephone. Reggie relocated from Chicago to New York’s WWRL in 1960.
His New York fan base will remember him best as the legendary “Dr. Jive” while with WWRL. Reggie was invited to join the prestigious network of NBC as a personality on their KNBC radio station in the mid 1960’s.
He presented live stage shows at The World Famous Apollo Theater and The Brevordt Theater in Brooklyn, featuring such up and coming talents as The O Jays, The Spinners, Ike and Tina Turner, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Joe Hinton and set The Apollo Theater attendance records with a show starring Jackie Wilson, Etta James and The Vibrations. He was the first to present The Four Seasons at The Apollo Theater in New York and did a one nighter at Rockland Palace in New York with James Brown. He changed his on air name to “Just John” and developed an even larger fan base.
In 1964, Reggie along with Georgie Woods became the first black men in the United States to be part owners of a TV Station. Reggie and Georgie in partnership with Leonard Stevens and Aaron Katz purchased WPHL Channel 17 in Philadelphia.
In 1969, Capitol Records hired Reggie to take on the prestigious role of Vice President of their International Rhythm & Blues department. He was headquartered at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood where he coordinated R&B production, promotion, distribution and sales for both Capitol Records and smaller up and coming independent record labels. He would return to New York to serve as host of the “Monitor” program on the NBC network radio and worked at WNEW.
In the late 1960’s and 70’s, Reggie was deeply involved in the civil rights movement working alongside and communicating with Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. He became known as an advocate for civil rights; he recorded Skin Deep, a powerful poetic message for black people in the United States and across the diaspora.
In 1972, Reggie returned to the east coast to promote the R&B and jazz departments of Island Records. He was instrumental in introducing the American music scene to Reggae music’s unique sound with artist such as Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals.
In 1976, Reggie became executive Vice President of Rollers Production Company, a subsidiary of MCA Records. In 1986 Reggie and Miller Parker, owners of Maine Line Communications, purchased Philadelphia’s local radio station WHAT from Independence Broadcasting. The station changed to an African American-orientated talk and Nostalgia format.
Throughout his life Reggie had diverse interest and was an entrepreneur in his own right. He owned and operated a community candy store with his beloved wife, Peggy-Joyce, owned and operated Douglass Taxi and Limousine service with his business partner Richard Horsham. When Reggie retired from the music and broadcasting world he studied and became a Stock Broker at Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc. Reggie Lavong was a member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. He passed away on September 19, 2017.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Bio supplied by Reggie's son, Daryl Lavong
Edited by Member Tara Levy
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