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Pervis Spann (born August 16, 1932) is an American broadcaster and music promoter, who has been influential in the development of blues music in Chicago. He was nominated as a member of the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012.
Life and career
Pervis Spann was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi. In his teens, he cared for his mother after she suffered a stroke, and made money picking cotton and managing a local movie theater before moving with his mother and sister to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1949. He soon left to work in Gary, Indiana, and spent a time in the forces in the Korean War, before returning to live in Chicago, where he worked in a steel mill, drove a taxi, and repaired television sets.
Under the G.I. Bill, he attended the Midwestern Broadcasting School, before starting work on WOPA radio in 1959. He organised his first concert, featuring B.B. King and Junior Parker, in 1960. Three years later, when Leonard and Phil Chess launched WVON, Spann was given a regular late-night blues slot, and won attention with an 87-hour "sleepless sit-in" on the station to raise money for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..
During the 1960s, Spann managed the careers of leading blues and soul performers, including B.B. King, and claimed to have a role in discovering the Jackson 5 and Chaka Khan. Known as a workaholic, he also co-owned several clubs, including the Burning Spear. After WVON was sold, Spann helped set up a new blues and gospel-oriented station, WXOL, on the same frequency in 1979; it became WVON again in 1983. He continued to promote blues festivals, and also ran station WXSS in Memphis, Tennessee, during the 1980s.
"If you don't love the blues, you got a hole in your soul."
- David Whiteis, "Not So Smooth Operator", Chicago Reader, January 18, 2001