Bob Klein in his Office
Edgely Road off Belmont Avenue
Bob Klein began a career of extraordinary contributions to civil rights and radio history when Broadcast Pioneers ‘Hall of Famer’ and father-in-law, Max Leon, made him general manager of Philadelphia’s WDAS Radio in 1951.
Broadcasting Magazine reported, at 25 years old, Klein was one of the youngest ever general managers at a major metropolitan station. From that unusual moment on, Bob Klein’s string of radio, music and civil rights innovations also rocked the history books.
Klein hired cutting edge disc jockeys who crafted the Rhythm & Blues, signature sound of WDAS. At the same time, he created a first class news operation to cover the blossoming, yet still highly controversial and dangerous, civil rights movement. He was general manager until 1979, a tenure spanning the some of the most crucial years of United States’ social progress.
Bob Klein’s list of hires literally became a Who’s Who of American Radio:
Jocko, Louise Williams, Jimmy Bishop, Georgie Woods, Hy Lit, John Bandy, Harvey Holiday, Porshe Perry, Ed Bradley, Butterball, Perri Johnson, Joe Rainey, and Jim Klash lead a stellar array of nationally recognized, ‘Hall of Fame’ talent.
His visionary creation of WDAS-FM’s revolutionary album oriented-R&B format became a staple in the industry. A format copied from city to city and still heard today.
He assembled an award winning news department that set a standard of excellence for Black and White radio news, amassing scores of the most prestigious awards in the country. WDAS was also the northern broadcast home to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, in their lifetimes.
WDAS staff suffered physical assaults and numerous threats of violence from both Black and White extremists. Under Bob Klein’s guidance, nothing ever stopped the WDAS quest for justice and humanity.
State Representative Louise Williams Bishop and the Pennsylvania Legislature commended him for creating jobs for African Americans in radio, when white stations would not and for elevating the status of black recording artists when ‘Jim Crow’ dominated the entertainment scene.
WDAS Charities raised hundreds of thousands of pre-1980 dollars breathing life into hundreds of social organizations and sent 13 buses to the 1963 March on Washington.
He was the first person to file and win a federal class action suit on behalf of all Black radio stations, proving the ARB ratings systematically undercounted Black listeners.
Bob Klein’s commitment to social progress, civil rights and his close association with Dr. King, prompted this written testimonial from King confidant, Ambassador Andrew Young:
“…to our knowledge, there is no station in America that has worked harder, longer and with more dedication for Black people than WDAS in Philadelphia.”
Photo courtesy of WDASHistory.org
Bio written by Bob Klein's daughter and fellow broadcaster Wynne Alexander
The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is firstname.lastname@example.org