“Jive That Anybody Can Dig :” Lavada “Dr. Hepcat” Durst and the desegregation of radio in Central Texas, 1948-1963

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2012-08

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Weiss, Peter Okie

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Abstract

Lavada “Dr. Hepcat” Durst was the first African American popular music disc jockey in Texas. His radio program The Rosewood Ramble was broadcast on Austin station KVET-1300 AM from 1948 until 1963. KVET’s white owners, who included future Texas politicians John Connally and J. J. “Jake” Pickle, were not outspoken advocates for the rights of African Americans under Jim Crow, but they hired Durst in a concentrated effort to expand KVET’s African American listening audience. The Rosewood Ramble became a cultural, economic, and psychological resource for black radio listeners in segregated central Texas while also becoming the region’s most popular radio show among white listeners. This paper uses a mixture of oral history and archival sources to argue that Durst’s fifteen-year career at KVET was only the best-known part of a lifetime spent as an information broker to Austin’s embattled black community.

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