One of the Washington area's major rock and soul music promoters testified yesterday that he was forced to pay $14,000 to disc jockeys at soul radio station WOL to keep them from sabotaging a 1974 concert he ran here.
The music promoter, William E. (Bill) Washington, told a Federal Communications Commission hearing that the disc jockeys had threatened to hurt sales to the concert, which featured the populars singing group Earth, Wind and Fire, by not playing the group's records on their radio shows in the days immediately preceding the performance.
After the payment was made, Washington testified the WOL disc jockeys "ensured the success of the concert" by "playing the hell out of (Earth, Wind and Fire's) records."
The FCC began hearings yesterday in an investigation of allegations that some disc jockeys at WOL, Washington's most popular soul radio station, took payola from concert promoters here.
In addition, sources said the FCC is also investigating charges that some WOL disc jockeys plugged performers appearing at concerts stage here by D.J. Productions, a firm owned and operated by some WOL disc jockeys for about 2 1/2 years.
After the hearing yesterday, attorney's for DJ Productions denied the allegations.
In his day-lond testimony yesterday Washington, the president of promotion company Dimensions Unlimited Productions Inc., detailed his version of bitter battles between his group and DJ Productions for booking for the area's multimillion concert promotion business.
Washington testified that DJ Production had engaged in "threats" and "coercion" to draw acts away from Dimensions Unlimited and the Washington area's other major promoter, Cellar Door Concerts, Inc., which is run by Jack Boyle.
Washington told the hearing that he and his staff had monitored WOL periodically and found that disc jockeys freely "plugged" groups that it sponsored and interviewed artists it was promoting just before concerts.
"Our records show that when we have concerts, we don't get the much air time with WOL," Washington testified. "But when Natalie Cole and Brass Construction (two groups sponsored by DJ Productions) were coming, the amount of play was ridiculous."
Attorneys for DJ Productions said after the hearing that they had also monitored tapes of WOL radio broadcasts and had found no irregularities. They noted that such charges could lead to the revocation of WOL's license and that Boyle and Washington had attempted to buy the station.
Saying he was sensitive to what he called "the power of black radio," Washington testified that the managers of Earth, Winds and Fire decided to go along with the alleged threat by DJ Productions.
Washington testified that members of Earth, Wind and Fire, world-famous rock group, were in Washington just before their concert to inspect RFK stadium as a possible concert site. Washington said the group members were approached by Mel Edwards, a WOL disc jockey and the president of DJ Productions, who allegedly told them that if they did not sign contract with DJ Productions, WOL would not play their songs.
That got them upset," Washington told the hearing. He testified that when the group's manager contacted Washington about the alleged threat by Edwards, the manager "told me 'We've got to take care of them. We've got to do something,'" Washington testified.
Washington said that a meeting was held with DJ Production members and himself and the amount of money everyone would receive was decided.
Earth, Wind and Fire had de-two-day concert, Washington testified, manded a $100,000 guarantee for the plus 70 per cent of the gross gate receipts after Washington and Boyle recouped $285,000 to cover expenses and a $40,000 profits. The $14,000 to the disc jockeys was calculated into the $285,000, Washington said.
"During the second performance I gave Mel Edwards a check for $14,000," Washington testified, "He took it and cashed it at the Capital Centre. Then he asked for more money, not for all th disc jockeys, but for himself. He said he thought he should get more because he had spearheaded this whole thing.
"Jack (Boyle) said he didn't like paying him in the first place - but, again, that was the power of black radio."
Washington said during questioning by the FCC lawyers, that he did not complain to the WOL management about the deal. "I told the sales department," Washington testified, "I just told them I gave some of their DJs $14,000 and that was money they lost.
However, Washington testified that after the payment was made, the WOL disc jockeys so "saturated" their broadcasts with Earth, Wind and Fire songs that it was unnecessary to buy all the advertising that had been planned.
"Usually we spend about $6,00 to $7,000 for ads at WOL alone advertiseing a concert. But this time we didn't have to spend but about $3,600. they kept their promise. They played the records," Washington told the hearing.
Since its formation in 1971, Dimensions Unlimited has promoted about 500 concerts, 70 per cent of which have been in the Washington area. That group and Cellar Door, Boyle's firm, held a virtual monopoly on area concerts before DJ Productions was created in 1974.
Washington said Dimensions Unlimited had sponsored such groups as Earth Wind and Fired, Aretha Franklin, Rufus, The Isley Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone.
"Radio time has a big effect," Washington said. "If a group is not played, the product becomes cold. Then we have to sell the memory of an act. Sometimes that works."
Lawyers for the FCC said although the investigaton into payola is initially focussed on the city of Washington, it is expected to involve radio stations nationwide.
"This is the first time in a long time that we've gotten what we believe to be concrete allegations," said FCC lawyer John McDonald. "We figured we should begin in our own backyard."
McDonald said that eight or nine witnesses will be called to testify in the local investigation.
One of the principals in DJ Productions was WOL disc jockey R. Seavy (Soul Papa) Campbell, who was found shot to death last May alongside a rural Virginia road. Although the murder is unsolved, colleague of Campbell, say Campbell was having problems promoting and raising money for his rock group, The Pashuns.