Furthermuckin Frankie Crocker

I miss WBLS DJ Frankie Crocker (rest in peace); allow me to explain. My parents only have two decades on me. Pops was 20 when I was born, and moms a month away from turning 20, and married. So I’ve got graphic memories of them in their 20s (my single-digit years) and 30s (my teens), etc. This was pretty much the norm in the 1970s. Whenever there were late-late night get-togethers in Parkchester and the South Bronx (peace to Inwood Avenue), I’d be there with my Micronauts and Mego superhero dolls, playing with their friends’ kids my age and falling asleep whenever my Coca-Cola high started to subside. We’d get back to Co-op City in the north Bronx between midnight and three a lot of weekends, nights that usually started with the ending MGM credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as we walked out the door: Sonny Curtis’s “Love Is All Around,” the cat’s meow and so forth.

Driving up the Hutchinson River Parkway to Co-op, the “chief rocker” Frankie Crocker would spin the soundtrack of my kiddie years on the stereo of our Mercury Comet. Crocker was known for mixing up the playlist of WBLS with white hits that blacks (and everybody circa the 70s) were groovin to: “Call Me” and “The Tide Is High” by Blondie, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Hollywood Crocker led BLSto become the highest-rated station in NYC at the time, period. But every night, his set closed with the one that still chokes me up if I’m in Ellington’s proverbial sentimental mood: “I’m in the Mood for Love,” by King Pleasure. (Nope, it’s not called “Moody’s Mood for Love”; that was the name of the album.)

This special, kinda underground version of the tune by saxophonist James Moody (the one that is called “Moody’s Mood for Love”) was based on singer Eddie Jefferson’s vocalese version of Moody’s “I’m in the Mood for Love,” the one that Alfalfa always used to sing Darla in the Little Rascals. But it sounds nothing like that. Opening with descending strings from heaven, Tennessee-born jazz vocalist King Pleasure comes in with the “there I go, there I go, there I go, theeere I go/pretty baby, you are the soul that snaps my control…” And it’s all over. The clinks of wine glasses during the live performance are audible.

You really had to be there. Because though the song is lovely, and since covered by everybody from Amy Winehouse on Frank to Queen Latifah on The Dana Owens Album, it won’t ever mean the same to anyone who wasn’t coming in from (or starting!) late-night adventures in New York City in the 1970s, with DJ Frankie Crocker on copilot. When I began my own creepin in my own 20s, I knew I arrived one night when, out of the blue at some velvet-rope Roseland party, in walked a fiftysomething Frankie Crocker with a sexy white chick on his arm. Did I dare tell him we share the same birthday? No. I kept my Sagittarius cool as laid-back as “Moody’s Mood” and kept it moving to the open bar.