'Rockin' Ray Gooding

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MARK WASHBURN
TV/Radio Writer

Rockin' Ray Gooding, among the first to break the color barrier on white radio in the South and whose silky voice introduced a generation into the beat of rock `n' roll, died Monday.

Gooding had been in ill health in recent years, but was able to attend ceremonies on April 10 for the 85th anniversary of WBT-AM, one of his former employers.

"He was given a standing ovation," recalled Rick Jackson, WBT general manager. "He will always be remembered here as much for his community work as well his on-air work, which is a good way to be remembered.

In addition to his popular "Sunday Night Hall of Fame" show, Gooding served as public affairs director for WBT for more than a decade and was instrumental in the station's "Penny-Pitch" charity, which raised money -- a penny at a time -- for children in unfortunate circumstances. The charity gave thousands of dollars annually to local hospitals.

Gooding's break came on the old WGIV-AM as a warm-up announcer to Eugene "Genial Gene" Potts, one of the first full-time black announcers in the South. Beginning in 1960, Gooding warmed up Potts' audience from 5 to 6 a.m. with a show called "Musical Ray."

"At Gene's advice, I came on the air as strong as I could," Gooding, 68, said in a February interview with The Observer.

"I said, `Move over, molasses, and make way for your soul-rocking daddy. Rockin' Ray is my name; taking care of business is my claim to fame.'"

In 1968, Gooding moved to Charlotte's WRPL, then to WBT in 1971.

There he launched the city's longest-running program, "Sunday Night Hall of Fame." It rocked for 24 years before being canceled as the station moved away from music and into talk programming.

The last show was June 28, 1995 and featured two of the most-requested songs, the "big ones," Gooding called them: "It's Just a Matter of Time," by Brook Benton, and "Unchained Melody," by Roy Hamilton and Al Hibbler in the `50s and the Righteous Brothers in the `60s.

Gooding went on to host a local talk show on WBT and later "Sunday Night Hall of Fame" was revived on the old WMMG-FM, "Magic."

Published in Charlotte Observer on May 14, 2007
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