Ruth Dickerson: God Bless The Queen

…”That’s Esther McIsacc and the Gospel Girls singing ‘Showers Of Blessings’. And you are listening to the ‘Showers Of Blessings’ program. I’m your host, Ruth Dickerson and we are going to continue on with the music because when the praises go up, the blessings come down.”

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The smooth, comforting voice that spoke those words has opened thousands of night-time radio broadcasts in Los Angeles. For over 50 years, the great Ruth Dickerson has presided over gospel music; speaking in mellow, measured tones and ministering to all insomniacs. She was more than a ‘radio personality’.  She was a gospel music historian, playing everything from the obscure to the popular; she played the hits and some of the misses. When people talk about ‘free form radio’ and it’s influence during the 60’s and 70’s, it was Ruth Dickerson who was among the first in broadcasting to go beyond a playlist and play music that was neither heavily promoted nor performed by ‘stars’. It was simply great music and she would put it on the air, no matter who wrote it!

My first night in the KALI 900 AM studios with her was both exciting–and harrowing. Having already been coached by my sister Rosalind (“Don’t screw up! Don’t try to talk on the air! Sit quiet and LEARN something!”), I didn’t want to make any mistakes–or turn out to BE one. She came into the studio that night carrying two huge cloth shopping bags full of CD’s and cassettes. She had a box of Vinyl LP’s in her car. She had everything from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the O’Neal Twins to James Cleveland to Mahalia Jackson to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Mass Choir (featuring a young musician by the name of Kirk Franklin). Her music collection was a combination of star power mixed in with ‘who was that’. She looked over her glasses at me sitting there grinning at her. Before I knew it, she was introducing me on the air! In the 3 seconds that it took her to say “Brother Herb Merriweather” and turn on the mic in front of me, my tongue swelled, my eyes popped, and a lump the size of East St. Louis rose in my throat. I remember mumbling something about being blessed to be there and thanks for the opportunity. Sister Ruth KNEW she had surprised and stunned me. She smiled and started showing me how to keep the music logs.  As time passed she allowed me even more on-air opportunities, even referring to me as her ‘co-host’

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She was a wonderfully stern teacher who loved God and His music. She didn’t suffer fools nor foolishness as was evident in the way she chided preachers and laymen alike about doing things the right way.  She was set in her ways and that was a good thing because more often that not, her way was the right one. She instructed me on matters of radio etiquette and advertising principles. She worked with me and gave me substantial airtime to read announcement and commercials. But it wasn’t all work and seriousness. I had built a rapport with the late night/early morning listeners and we started ‘The Coffee Club’–with listeners calling in with their freshly brewed beverages in one hand while making requests over the phone.

I was especially saddened and hurt to hear of her passing last week. She was like a grandmother to me–guiding  and instructing me fearlessly and challenging me to rise above the ‘mess’ that she used to dislike so much.

She has gone on to be with the Lord her King–and on to her new job as program director and night-time personality on HEVN Radio…

7 thoughts on “Ruth Dickerson: God Bless The Queen

  1. I too worked at KMAX with the first lady of Gospel Radio, Lady Ruth Dickerson in the early 1980s. I was mostly on the stations AM side, KPPC AM 1240.
    Ruth was classically-trained in speech performance which gave her distinctive vocal gait. She was an inspiration to all knew her. Especially those of us who had a great love for an eclectic mix of Gospel music.
    Rev. Mary B Wigginton
    KMAX FM 107.1
    KPPC AM 1240

  2. I Only wish that I could have been available too, to (intern)shadow Lady Ruth Dickerson in her haydays, in her element, playing her role that she did very well. Me and my Mom, Gladys Yancy sure did enjoy listening to Showers of Blessing. Ruth’s Gospel Music library was to die for. I still dream of becoming a Gospel Music Radio Announcer or Christain Radio Announcer. Ruth was my inspiration.

    • …Hi, Carol–thanks for responding to my tribute for Ruth Dickerson. It was awesome sitting there and watching her minister: a set of songs about the blood, and then a set of songs about faith, and then she would move to the ‘praise’ set–always my favorite. Never give up on your dream–if it’s bigger than you, then it’s the right size! Pray, practice, repeat…

  3. Madame, Lady, Queen, True Black Gospel Music Historian, Innovator, My Forever Personal DJ. of Gospel Music Ms. Ruth Dickerson 1977 I was in elementary when I first heard her captivating voice over the air waves in Los Angeles, California @ 1:30 AM. in the wee hours of the morning. To God and my mother I owe thanks. I became addicted to tuning in every Sunday and Wednesday of the week. I knew no one had the tone or touch like her. There were others on the radio like Brother Henderson, Brother Welch, Ms. Patricia Newman, Ollie Collins Jr., Mr. Hailey and Ms. Gloria Jean (Bell) Cotton, but no one and I literally mean no one came close to Ms. Dickerson. I talk to her by telephone on many occasions during personal request and trying to find out the correct name of a song or the artist. I missed the opportunity of personally meeting Ms. Ruth face to face by a personal invitation from her to visit the radio station some eight years later as I transition and became a high school student. Ms. Ruth ministered to me through various songs God led her to play during some very difficult periods in my life untimely events occurring and I was going through puberty. We miss Ms. Ruth, I will always cherish her as part of my generation and being a mentor. Love Always!!!! Thanks for allowing me to post my comments!

  4. One of the saddest days of my life was when KMAX went off the airwaves. This meant that I would no longer be able to listen to Ruth Dickerson, who was my “midnight companion” for all of my teenage years. Her voice, the music and the anointing that was on her life was a powerful combination. Those were great times and fantastic music. Sis Dickerson loved James Cleveland, Mattie Moss Clark, Soul Sister #1 Aretha Franklin ( as she would call her) Sara Jordan Powell, and the list goes on and on…. Typing this has made really sad to think about how much gospel music has changed and not for the better. There will NEVER be another Ruth Dickerson in this lifetime and I look forward to seeing her again in the Rapture…….. RIP Sister Ruth Dickerson….

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