Memory Lane: ‘Jocko’s Rocket Ship’

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Do any of you remember this–Jocko’s Rocket Ship, a TV show from 1958?

Douglas “Jocko” Henderson was one of the first African-American disc jockeys to make it big in radio, first in Philadelphia and then in New York, and for one season he was on TV. Jocko’s Rocket Ship came on after school, on Channel 13, New York, which some years later became our long-time PBS channel. Jocko was competition for American Bandstand.

At nine years old I had no interest whatsoever in rock ‘n’ roll–indeed, I never did get interested in it–but I couldn’t get enough of rocket ships. Sometimes you even saw Jocko in a space suit. So I was looking for outer space and alien planets and bug-eyed monsters, and all I got was crummy rock ‘n’ roll. Then I found out I was the only kid in my class who’d ever even heard of this show: my friend Marvin flatly refused to believe in its existence.

“Jocko” Henderson died in 2000. I’ll bet it’s been a good 50 years or more since I’ve thought of his show.

8 comments on “Memory Lane: ‘Jocko’s Rocket Ship’

  1. First I have heard of it. I had a one year old toddler at that time, so I
    probably wasn’t watching much like this.

  2. Okay, first off, that was one of the greatest bandstands ever. We had five at once…Dick Clark from Philly, Alan Freed, Ted Steele, Herb Sheldon and “eee tiddy ock, a ho this is Jock, and I’m back on the scene with the record machine.. singin ooo poppa do and how do you do….walk on!. Jocko. In 1958, I saw the Heartbeats sing I Found a Job and the Adelphis perform Katrhleen live.. While it was true that Alan Freed didn’t play white cover records of Black artists, Jocko played the oddest groups, no-hit wonders that were great, like the Emerals singing Juke Box Rock. The dancers were Black teens. Everyone of those shows should have been archived. The TV Bandstand had his radio show on WADO, or was it WOV, as a counterpart and several of my friends still have their Rocketship membership card.

    Bob Friedman

    1. Bob, thanks for dropping in. I urge everyone to check out your website, given above (Unknowable, you’ll really like it).

      Unfortunately, so much great classic TV did not get archived, an irreplaceable lost. Studios kept re-using the videotape, recording over earlier material.

      I must add that I was a little kid at the time and I thought Jocko had a real rocket ship.

  3. Yes, I was a teen living in NJ and tuned into Jocko on Channel 13. I was amazed at the dancing and that it was an all black show. I loved Jocko and his show. I loved watching the kids dance on the show. They were so much better dancers than the kids on Bandstand which I also watched every day. Glad to know that someone else watched the show. Jocko would start the show with, “Are you ready to blast off with Jocko on his Rocketship?” He was so cool. I was 12 and it was a revelation to me.

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