Before arriving in Savannah, Georgia in 1971, Ben Tucker had a successful career as a bass violinist playing and recording Jazz music across the country. Despite humble beginnings in Brentwood TN, Tucker would come to tour with greats such as Marian McPartland, Quincy Jones, and Billy Taylor. After his composition ”Comin’ Home Baby” was recorded and became a hit, Tucker made the foray into the recording industry, producing other hits such as ”Sunny”. He had started a production company with Bob Dorough in the early 70s and was approached by an advertising executive whose son had trouble learning arithmetic. Tucker and Dorough created a set that matched the multiplication table with music thus spawning the pilot episode of Schoolhouse Rock! After an initial taste in business, Ben looked to combine his passion for music with his entrepreneurial spirit and began seeking out an affordable radio station to purchase.
In 1972 he bought Savannah’s local radio station WSOK. The day he closed the deal, a majority of the white employees in key positions decided to quit rather than work for an African-American. An employee at the station told him, “Come here, but don’t expect to be accepted”. With help from his wife, Gloria, after three short months WSOK quickly rose to be Savannah’s number one radio station, and held the spot for 13 years. Ben worked to unite and uplift the then still segregated community through informative, inclusive on-air programming and good music.
During his time at the station a close friend of Tucker’s, Teddy Adams, encouraged him to begin playing music again, and the two musicians set about revitalizing Savannah’s once-great jazz scene. Their work would form the Telfair Jazz Society, later renamed the Coastal Jazz Association; which has continued to sponsor concerts and musical education in the Low-Country of South Carolina and Georgia.
In 1984 Tucker sold the radio station in order to attend to civic matters such as volunteering to help local schools, churches, charities and the First Tee of Savannah. He split his time between his love for Golf, as well as managing his nightclub: Hard Hearted Hannah’s, which lasted as a regular music hub for jazz players, locals, and tourists alike until 1993.
For 40 years Ben called Savannah home, and his music and work became an invaluable part of the city’s fabric. Unfortunately, after a fatal accident took his life abruptly in 2013, Savannah has been left to both mourn his passing and celebrate his legacy.