A few weeks ago, the great Christopher Knowles of The Secret Sun emailed this most curious account by legendary DJ John Peel describing an incident that unfolded in Dallas, Texas in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. At the time, the British Peel had been living in the Dallas area while working as a DJ and for an insurance company. Somehow, Peel was able to convince Dallas police that he was a journalist working for the Liverpool Echo. This bought him a ringside seat for Lee Harvey Oswald's first appearance as Kennedy's alleged assassin before the press. Also present for this event was Oswald's future assassin (as in two days later), Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
This is quite a bizarre "coincidence" on any number of levels. For one, there is Peel's fondness for underage girls. This was a "taste" that Peel reportedly first developed while residing in the Dallas area. After Beatlemania broke out in earnest during early 1964 (only a few months after the assassination), Peel described the scene as thus:
"I was suddenly confronted by this succession of teenage girls who didn't want to know anything about me at all. All they wanted me to do was to abuse them, sexually, which, of course, I was only too happy to do."
|Jack Ruby is on the far left while Peel is on the far right|
The curious figure who ties all of this together is fellow DJ and media baron Gordon McLendon. McLendon is considered to be one of the pioneers of Top 40 programming and pirate radio. One of Peel's earliest radio gigs involved working for McLendon's famed KLIF station as its "official" Beatles correspondent. Reportedly, McLendon also had ties to the even more legendary Radio London, the off-shore pirate station that provided Peel with his first big break when he returned to the UK in 1967.
As was noted above, it was during this time that Peel first developed a taste for underage girls. This ultimately resulted in him marrying a 15-year-old Texas girl in 1965. Not long afterwards, they fled to Oklahoma "just ahead of [the] police." Two years later, Peel would end up back in the UK working for the McLendon-backed Radio London.
As should come as little surprise, McLendon had a deep background. Before breaking into the entertainment biz, McLendon cut his teeth working for the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) during the Second World War. There also indications that McLendon had ties to the Syndicate in the Dallas area. The great Peter Dale Scott in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK notes that McLendon was one of Ruby's six "closet friends" in the Dallas area and that he turned up in the saga of Candy Barr, a Syndicate-linked stripper and prostitute who had relations with both Ruby and LA godfather Mickey Cohen.
|David Atlee Phillips|
The AFIO is certainly a curious entity. As such, it is quite striking that a future co-founder was active in Peel's early career. While this researcher has found no indications that McLendon knew Peel when he found his way to Oswald's press conference, there can be little doubt that Peel was in his employment when he began his escapades with teenage girls. Peel was then able to move around the country, despite having married a 15 year-old in 1965, with little concern over the legal consequences. When things finally did get a little hot in the States, he effortlessly returned to the UK, got a job at another radio station linked to McLendon, and would continue his peculiar appetites unabated for decades to come.
This isn't to suggest that Peel was wholly a creation of McLendon. Surely he had other backers. But Peel does make another curious addition to this sinister network lurking behind the JFK assassination that appears to have become gradually incorporated into the AFIO's network by the 1970s. McLendon's own contributions to the creation of modern radio in the US and Europe, in addition to his patronage of Peel (possibly the most famous DJ in the world by the end of the 20th century) shows that this network's influence on popular culture was none inconsiderate, in addition to its other activities.
What's more, the profound influence that Texas had on the development of rock 'n roll is tremendous, if little understood. The "pirate stations" that McLendon launched from there were instrumental in introducing both "black music" and early rock to a wide ranging audience across the United States. A few years later, one of the earliest psychedelic scenes in the US would emerge in Austin. Inevitable, it also produced the largest acid rock scene outside of San Francisco, driven by the legendary 13th Floor Elevators. And even the far more well known San Fran scene owed a huge debt to their Texan counterparts. Further, the Austin scene would later have a tremendous influence on a host of other styles: blues rock, punk, new wave, and post-punk, among others. Much more information on the Austin scene can be found in my series on the Elevators.
This was quite a feat for what was and still is one of the most conservative states in these United States. And with a man like McLendon looming behind these happenings, one is left with the distinction impression that these developments were not entirely organic. And with that I shall sign off for now. Until next time dear readers, stay tuned.