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Forum » Retro Music » New talent sometimes fails to catch on
I want to share a story from my high school years.

During the 1970's black-owned radio stations were fundamental in launching the careers of new musical talent. In ways that are difficult to describe, black-owned radio stations formed a sort of unofficial vetting panel where music promoters and record labels came together to sort through the many young hopefuls who dreamed of striking it Big in the world of music.

A young woman named Barbara Mason made quite a splash in the Mid-Atlantic music scene of the early 70's and some of her demo-recordings got air time on WRAP in Norfolk, Va. - my hometown. One of her early songs did well enough that Barbara Mason signed on with Buddah Records, (the home of Gladys Knight and the Pips), famous for taking chances with new talent.

As I'm sure you've guessed by now Barbara Mason didn't sell outside the east coast. Her career stalled as many listeners commented on her limited vocal range. Also the quality of Barbara's voice made song selection equally limited.

Well you can listen for yourself. Here's a cut from Barbara Mason's first album from late 1972.

Brace Yourselves! 

This is Not what you guys may have in mind when it comes to 70's black music. 

shakin steak
Oh, I don't know. Maybe I am missing something here but this sounds like something that would be right at home on the soundtrack of a blaxploitation flick.
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You can say that again!

This is the part of growing up in the 1970's that few people believe. I could listen to my favorite radio station for 2-hours, and not hear the same song twice. WRAP-Norfolk had the "Traveling DJ" who would sample local talent on Fridays and would air church choirs, live on Sundays.

This was all a long time ago. And yet I still find all this a point of pride, there was a time when local radio stations were the "voice" of the community. Much of America's local charm was enhanced by independent stations serving the people who lived within the broadcast area.

Barbara Mason had her shot at stardom. Her untrained voice was evident and the selection of songs didn't help either. But at least Barbara had her chance! 

Imagine me and my friends as high school freshmen in 1973 with our pocket radios tuned to WRAP-AM. Barbara Mason comes on singing, "You Can Be With The One You Don't Love", loud enough for all the white kids to hear.

My white friend, Chip Nowinski, yells over at us black kids: "WTF is That - did someone just Die?
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shakin steak
Good times. I wish radio stations were still like that. Payola and labels might have messed a lot of people up, but nowadays you have either Megacorp Autotune Popstars Revue, or 87,000,000 podcasts and music blogs to sift through. I can't stand the former or navigate the latter. It's like the worst of both worlds.
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One thing that still amazes me after all these years is the numbers of solo artists and bands I heard during my high school years. If you could carry a tune you could probably get an audition.

Here's a group from my middle school years, "Brenda and the Tabulations". While their first album sold well, each subsequent album bombed. By album number six the record label threw in the towel. 

Again, lead singer Brenda Payne has a weak vocal range that's easily drowned out by the orchestra and background singers. I'm wondering how Brenda made it to album six. 

Just like Barbara Mason, Listen at your own Risk! 

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