Walker Smith

The Color Line

"I dare you to walk away from this book uninspired. Readers of all races will learn volumes from this far-reaching new book for our times"

- Hycell B. Taylor, The African-American Revolt of the Spirit

MELLO YELLO – The Life of Jack The Rapper

mello_yello_bookIn the 1920s a little boy named Jack Gibson shook hands with the great Marcus Garvey, and that meeting set the tone for his life. A pioneer in the music industry, Gibson would come to be known as “Jack The Rapper.” During his lifetime, he not only launched the careers of countless superstars, but Gibson forged enduring friendships with some of the most illustrious African American personalities of the twentieth century.


Jack the Rapper with Mr. and Mrs. James Brown

His long reaching influence began in 1949, when he and J.B. Blayton established the first black-owned radio station in the United States. As an emcee and promoter, he built enduring friendships with the early black royalty of the entertainment world, among them, Sammy Davis, Jr., Billie Holiday, Erroll Garner, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, and Ray Charles.


When he was hired by Berry Gordy to head up promotion at a fledgling record company called Motown, Gibson befriended a new crop of stars, including Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and Smokey Robinson. Moving on to the Revelot label, and then to Stax, Gibson’s uncanny timing once again positioned him to further the careers of Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas and many others.


In addition to his involvement in the music scene, Gibson gave voice to the history as he lived it—covering the Civil Rights Movement, interviewing Malcolm X, and conducting a man-on-the-street report from Detroit as it burned following Dr. King’s assassination.


With the publication of the first Black trade magazine called The Mello Yello, The Rapper established a forum for discussions and contributed to sweeping changes for African Americans in radio and the recording industry. But his most long-reaching achievement was his glittering “Family Affair”—an annual black music convention that provided a springboard for new talent. Each year, without fail, the heavy hitters of the music industry cleared their schedules to lend their talents to the Family Affair: Prince, Tina Turner, Nancy Wilson, Janet Jackson, James Brown, Whitney Houston, Eddie Murphy, Hammer, Toni Braxton, Sinbad. And the list goes on like a “Who’s Who” of entertainment superstars.


Jack the Rapper (L) with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson

After being honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, other accolades began to roll in from the United States Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and countless other organizations. But The Rapper wasn’t finished yet. With decades of stories and music still alive in his soul, he returned to his roots—radio. Nearly fifty years after his beginnings at WERD, Jack The Rapper’s voice once again crackled across the airwaves in Las Vegas, Nevada, proclaiming three simple words: “I’m still here.”


Shortly after completing his autobiographical collaboration with Walker Smith, Jack Gibson passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada. His last wish was that this book be published as his contribution to the pages of Black History.


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