Angelo F. “Duke” Rumore was a Birmingham native, attending Glen Iris School and Ramsey High School while growing up on the Southside. He got his start in radio at WVOK-AM in 1952 when his brother, Joe Rumore, another legendary Birmingham DJ, let him work during his vacations. Later on in 1952, Duke worked in Memphis at WMC-AM but 6 months later he returned to Birmingham, this time to stay.
In 1955 Duke Rumore was named the top radio DJ in Birmingham while he was with WJLD-AM. In 1957 he moved on to WSGN-AM where he hosted both morning and afternoon “Drive Time”. He usually came on the air at 4:45 am after “Miss Midnight” signed off and his show ran until 9 am. His afternoon drive-time show was from 3 until 6 pm. He was the number 1 DJ with the high school kids because he always played the records they wanted to hear.
It was during this time that he began his “Duke in Dixieland” record hops. Starting out at the old Pickwick Club on the Southside “Duke’s” traveled around to many different locations including some Sunday afternoons at Holiday Beach just outside of Bessemer where the teens gathered to dance. But his most popular and longest lasting location was at the Ensley National Guard Armory on Friday and Saturday nights. The admission charge was only 50¢ and you could stay all 3 hours, 8 until 11 pm. It’s hard to describe what Duke’s was other than to say it was a “happening”. You had to be there to experience. It was a place where high school students from all over Jefferson County gathered to make new friends, hear some good music, including some local bands. Locally we all remember that night in 1961 when the Premieres, a popular local band recorded “Are You All Right?” live, which became a big hit in five southern states.
In 1962 Duke went to WYDE-AM where he remained until 1977. WYDE had a circular driveway in its early location where teenagers could drive by and see the DJ’s while they were on the air. Duke was popular because he played requests from those who drove by. Sometimes even playing records on the air that were brought by the teenagers for him to play. When WYDE was sold in 1977 Duke went to WZZK-FM where he worked for 5 years until retiring in 1982.
Duke was in radio at a time when DJ’s could play almost any record they wanted to as many times as they wanted to. As such, he helped to “break” many records by playing them on the air for the first time in Birmingham. Thanks to him we were able to hear a lot of the New Orleans R&B and Blues songs before others in the country did and also a lot of “flip sides” of records that became hits here in Birmingham. Duke favored upbeat dance tunes featuring them on the air and at his record hops. He also gave many local area bands opportunities to play before live audiences at the dances.
Duke Rumore, along with his brother Joe Rumore, fellow DJ Tommy Charles and radio station manager, Ben McKinnon were the driving force behind the success of their stations during the hey-day of AM Radio in Birmingham. They were DJ’s who were “personalities” as much as they were record spinners, and what they said on the air was almost as important as the songs they played.
Duke Rumore was one of the best.
The Birmingham Record Collectors are pleased to honor Duke Rumore by inducting him to the Class of 2005 of The Birmingham Record Collectors Music Hall of Fame.