Bill “Hoss” Allen was a man of paradox by any definition of the term. Although Allen was born into a wealthy Catholic family, he lived with his grandparents and was essentially raised by an African-American domestic who worked for his family. It was this woman who took the young Allen to church every Sunday where he first fell in love with black gospel music.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University with an English degree, Allen went on to establish himself in the world of radio. In the mid-1950s, Hoss Allen established himself as a deejay for WLAC’s 50,000-watt radio station, a powerful entity that had broadcast capabilities stretching from Michigan to Mobile, AL. Allen soon gained a reputation for playing the newest releases and is even credited for later helping to jumpstart the careers of such greats as James Brown and Jimi Hendrix through his airplay.
By early 1975, “the Hossman” had experienced several changes in management and was the lone jockey working at WLAC who had been there as long as five years. It was at this time that Allen reformatted his program as “Early Morning Gospel Time With the Hossman,” a showcase for national and regional black gospel acts. It was through this program that Allen was able to impact the world of black gospel music unlike any of his predecessors, providing a platform for the music which previously had not existed. The combination of Allen’s popularity and the far-reaching airwaves of WLAC allowed for an unparalleled opportunity, giving black gospel music a powerful voice unlike ever before.
Allen continued his gospel program until 1993, more than a decade after WLAC dropped all other music in favor of talk radio. Throughout his nearly 50 years in the industry, Hossman contributed more than just music to his listeners. In an era when both laws and social mores kept blacks and whites apart, Hossman taught his listeners that music was colorblind.