Winston J. “Buddy” Deane, one of the first radio disc jockeys to broadcast rock ‘n’ roll and who is the basis for the film and musical character Corny Collins in “Hairspray,” died Wednesday July 17 in Pine Bluff, Ark., of complication from a stroke. He was 78.
A broadcaster for more than 50 years, he was among the first in the 1950s to recognize the appeal of the emerging rock sound and began airing the music continuously for what was then a new radio format.
Later, Deane hosted a popular television teen-dance show in Baltimore (1957-64) that became the basis for the John Waters feature “Hairspray” — he even had a bit part in the 1988 production. The film was recently turned into the Broadway musical that swept much of this year’s Tonys.
Deane started his career at Little Rock radio station KLXR, moved to Memphis, Tenn., then to Baltimore, where he worked at WITH radio station and was one of the first disc jockeys in the area to regularly feature rock ‘n’ roll.
In the late 1950s, Deane hosted “The Buddy Deane Show” on WJZ-TV in Baltimore that became one of the most popular local shows in America. The show featured kids dancing to live bands, most of which later became major recording groups. It ran two hours a day, six days a week. Bill Haley and the Comets did their premier perf of “Rock Around the Clock” on Deane’s show, and Deane was named the No. 1 DJ in 1962 by Billboard mag.
After the show was canceled, Deane returned to his home state of Arkansas and acquired KOTN-FM and KOTN-AM radio stations in Pine Bluff. Deane even dubbed himself “the morning mayor,” joking with listeners that he ran the town from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. until the city’s real mayor took over. He expanded his radio ownership to other stations in Pine Bluff and Dumas. He was partners with one of his daughters and a son-in-law in Delta Radio Inc., which last year sold its remaining four stations.
Survivors include his wife and three daughters.