By Barney Blakeney
Charleston disc jockey and radio personality, the legendary Frankie ‘The Big Bopper’ Green, died April 18. He was 66.
Green, a product of the Charleston peninsula’s Eastside neighborhood, parlayed a love for music and drumming into an unparalleled musical career that propelled him into local superstardom. Over the span of Green’s more than 50-year career that began with him playing drumbeats on top of the recorded hits of the day, Green evolved to become one of the most sought after local disc jockeys and an iconic radio personality.
Green’s first set of drums were garbage cans at Wraggsbourough Homes public housing complex in downtown Charleston where he spent his childhood. He and friends like Vander Polite taught themselves to play a set of drums. Green became so proficient, his playing soon surpassed Polite and others who took formal drum lessons.
At the age of 15 Green formed a group with the late Wilson Brown, the late James “Huck” Fields, and Rodney “DJ Rod” Burnell. He was hired to play at parties and made a name for himself as Frankie the Little Bopper. Years later he changed the moniker and called himself Frankie the Big Bopper.
He favored all genres of music but had a special love for gospel, R&B, blues, soul, and funk.
His talent didn’t go unnoticed and his ambition landed him beside some of the area’s most popular disc jockeys, including WPAL radio personality Bob Nichols. The pair was among a cadre of musical partnerships that dominated the local record hop scene. Nichols was one of the first Black radio disc jockeys in South Carolina working for WPAL-AM 730. He took his show on the road to communities throughout the region. After Nichols left the radio station, owner William ‘Bill’ Saunders in 1979 hired Green. It started another phase in Green’s stellar career.
“Frankie had real ambition. Considering where he came from – a kid from the projects who started out playing drums, with no family in the business or any of that – he did well,” Saunders said. “Without trying, Frankie was able to go beyond all those who taught him. He was hard working, he was ambitious and he loved people. He passed on that philosophy – he would always tell young people coming behind him to be better than him,” Saunders said.
Green’s intelligence and business acumen was easily recognizable. The drummer from the projects set high goals, figured out how to achieve them and worked hard to make them a reality. In the late 80s, he recorded his first hit record, “Feel So Good, Hurt So Bad” on the Galactic Star Records label. In 1998 he purchased his own radio station, WALD 1080-AM, in Walterboro. An unexpected decline in health forced to sell his radio station.
In 2000, he was asked him to join the team at Magic 101.7 now Magic 107.3. There he created the syndicated Saturday morning show, “All the Blues You Can Use and a Bit More”. The show morphed into something infinitely more than a musical program. Green used the program as a platform to promote cultural, social and political awareness as well.
Over the years Green took his rhythm and blues show on the road becoming one of the region’s most popular disc jockeys. And he would MC for southern soul headliners such as Marvin Sease, Roy C, Cameo and Tyrone Davis.
During his career Green received many awards. His most treasured was his family – wife Catherine Goodwine Green, daughters Erica Green, Frankie LaCher White and Maria Ray. Also grandchildren, Robert Young III, Ra’Ven Young, Caleb Diggs, Carsyn Diggs and honorary grandson, Mason Macon. Green also is survived by his sister Karen Green, brother Mr. Carl Green, nephews Jermaine Green, Xavier Grant, and Quandell Green; niece Shakara Green, mother-in-law Evelyn Perry, sister-in-law Sharon Green, best friend/son Rodney Burnell, cousin Theresa Holland, Lottie Smalls and countless great nieces, nephews, aunties, uncles and friends.
Green’s daughter Maria said her father will never die. “Daddy was full of life. Those people never die,” she said.