Article ©Jacob Katel
DJ Milton “Butterball” Smith was a pioneering broadcaster of epic proportions and his effects on radio and the music industry are still felt strongly to this day. Butterball got his start on Florida radio in 1952. After World War II, independent blues, r&b, and gospel exploded on the air waves. As the styles proliferated across the “clear channel” broadcast power of stations like WLAC in Nashville, they kickstarted other indie stations that communicated the music for free across the U.S. and even the Caribbean. A handful of AM DJ’s and independent distributors were a large part of the reason why. DJ Jack The Rapper is widely considered the first R&B DJ, and he often acknowledged Milton “Butterball” Smith by name in his many speeches on the “13 Original Black DJs.” Butterball was also friendly with Judge Johnny Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr. He was pals with James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Wynonie Harris. Legend has it that he shadowboxed Muhammad Ali; and drank whiskey with Big Mama Thornton. Sugar Ray Robinson used to listen to Butterball’s radio show while driving his pink Cadillac convertible through Overtown. Smith was close with the everyday people all over South Florida and The Bahamas. So in tribute to this great man and pioneer DJ, who worked and partied with Henry Stone for decades, here are some of the essential facts that you must know about DJ Milton “Butterball” Smith.
– Butterball was born in Richmond, VA, and received a B.S. from Tennessee State College, served in the Korean War for the U.S. Marines, and moved to Miami in 1952.
– He started out on WFEC, a South Florida AM radio station which was one of the earliest stations in the area to play rhythm & blues. They combined this format with gospel, news, jazz, and foreign language programming.
– He worked at WFEC under the name “Fat Daddy.”
– He was hired away from WFEC by WMBM, a tiny AM station south of fifth street on Miami Beach.
– When he moved to WMBM he changed his name to “Butterball” because WFEC claimed ownership over the name “Fat Daddy.”
– He worked out of a street facing sub-station in the heart of Overtown in front of a big window. Everybody passing by could see and hear Butterball through the window and a speaker that was set up and he could see them too.
– Butterball broke all the hot independent records.
– Butterball was known for his signature catch phrases, slogans, and specific ways he started and ended show. He would say things like, “This is Mrs. Smith’s 300 pound boy.”
– Milton Smith was such a popular DJ that he would go to the Bahamas and play for 10,000 people. He was one of the world’s original superstar DJ’s.
– He was great friends with Steve Alaimo and even appeared in a few locally shot films directed by William Grefe that are considered cult classics such as “The Hooked Generation,” “Stanley,” and “Mako: Jaws of Death”
– Smith was well known for his community programs, which included food giveaways, appearances, cash donations, parties, loans, promotion, playing records, showing up, doing it right, and being the best.
– When he retired from the radio, he worked with TK Records.
– He was extremely well known for his BBQ skills and his special babyback ribs, which he cooked everywhere from the Tone Distributors warehouse parking lot, to the lobby of a hotel on Miami Beach during a record convention.
– The radio DJ and personality King Coleman was also hired away from WFEC by WMBM and they became a very powerful duo for breaking records on a nationwide basis based on their clout in the southeast.
– Was great friends with Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, with whom he recorded the earliest version of “Rapp Dirty” in 1962.
– Butterball passed away in 1990. Milton “Butterball” Smith, rest in peace.
From 1946 to 2014, Henry Stone ruled the Florida music industry with an iron fist, a brick of cash, and a warehouse full of vinyl. HSM is the last of over one hundred record labels he personally founded. This record label includes works from every decade in his sixty-five year career right up until today. Licensing available for film, samples, advertising, movies, video games, and more. Family owned and operated.