For the last 15 years Cal Hackett has been one of the city's most popular gospel anchors at WUST-AM (1120), but his career parallels several trends in Washington radio.
In the early l960s he was music director at WWDC-AM, the first station in the country to play the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." A few years later he was a familiar sight in the window of the old Waxie Maxie's record store on U Street, where the jocks from the old WOOK used to broadcast in full view of the passing promenade.
Hackett, now 42, a native Washingtonian and a graduate of Cardozo High ('59), never wanted to do anything but radio. "Even when I was at Cardozo, my dream was to work for WUST," he recalls. "The station seemed involved with the people. I used to watch the deejays go to the hole-in-the-wall places. And you would have thought they were making $10,000, but they were making nothing."
In addition to his on-air shift, he works as program director, organizing the station's public services, such as legal counsel for the elderly and job listings, and its special features, such as the programs of City Council Chairman David Clarke and Dorothy Fauntroy.
Besides gospel music, part of WUST and Hackett's mandate has been to serve as a clearinghouse for emergency appeals for food, clothing and money. Five months ago Peggy Davis, a retired government worker and a singer with the Gospel Warriors, formed the Hackett National Fan Club to help follow up on some of these community drives. "Through Cal, we want to help people," she said. This Sunday the club is planning a fundraiser and salute to Hackett at the First Congregational Church, 10th and G streets NW, at 7:30 p.m.
Already they have one success story: Hardie Clifton, a former gospel singer, needed a heart transplant but his family could not afford the $30,000 deposit required by the hospital. Clifton's wife, Sherry Clifton, spent one morning on the air at WUST and Davis helped the family successfully lobby the White House and Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes' office for financial support. Clifton had the operation last month, and is recuperating in a Richmond hospital. "For a radio station to preempt the programming and talk about Hardie's case -- to do that -- I was shocked. They have been a family to us," said Clifton's wife, Sherry. Listeners raised more than $15,000, according to the station.
This week WUST shifted its daytime-only schedule: Ed Brooks is on from 7:15 to noon, Hackett follows until 5:30 and then the Way of the Cross Church of Christ airs until sign-off. With the new arrangement, 30 to 40 percent of the weekday programming is made up of ministries and remote broadcasts from 32 churches; on weekends it's 80 to 90 percent. The station has also introduced "Gospelcize," an aerobics show by Candida Mobley every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:05 to 10:15 a.m.