Remembering Walter

Walter C. Blount III, beloved father and grandfather affectionately known as “Pop-Pop”, deejay for Washington DC’s Pacifica station WPFW, musicologist, stagehand, teacher, former employee for the National Urban League, and member of IATSE Local 22, passed away January 21. He was 73. Blount was the deejay for his late-night show Rocco’s Rocketship on WPFW-FM and was known for playing an eclectic mix of world music, mixing genres, and telling never-before-heard stories of artists and musicians that befriended him. On his radio show he played otherworldly music from Sun-Ra to Alice Coltrane, Santana to local music from Go-Go bands and punk rockers, from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings to straight-ahead jazz from Coltrane and Bird. He left no stone unturned, showcasing work from artists like Fela and Parliament-Funkadelic, Hip-Hop, Soul, and R&B artists to emerging artists like Saul Williams and Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, all the while teaching and entertaining audiences. He got his start in radio at WFHS-FM in Bethesda, MD, co-hosting with college friends Norman Reid and Isaac Hargrove on the weekends and was one of a group of students vying for the new student-led jazz station WHUR-FM on Howard’s campus.

He went by many names, Rocco, Walter, Rashid, and “Temptation” as a teen because he loved the singing group and could perform the whole routine to their tune, “My Girl.” Friends and family characterized him as a humble, self-sacrificing man, committed to being decent and nonjudgmental, and always encouraging. He had a way with kids. Students that he tutored, taught and mentored adored him, and many young people in his orbit referred to him as the father they never had. “He taught without arrogance,” said music writer Michael Gonzales. “Whenever I was working on a new story, I could ask him about the artist and he would share a story about seeing them live or buying their records.” Blount moved to Washington, DC from New York to attend Howard University in 1966, where his sister Faith Blount was also a student. He helped promote concerts at Cramton Auditorium while he was a student and graduated from Howard with a psychology major in 1971. The year before his graduation, he married his junior high and high school sweetheart Linda Steward Blount Berry. They would later move to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC, where they raised their two daughters and was active and beloved in the community.

A family man, he was described by those closest to him as a funny, witty, kind, thoughtful, and a brilliant life of the party. As a young adult in Washington, DC his home was always filled with the sounds of music from his massive record collection, people who enjoyed his company, and books that lined bookshelves in every room. Always ahead of the curve he had an encyclopedic knowledge about literature, art, politics and music of all genres, embracing youth genres like go-go and hip-hop even as some of his peers dismissed the music. He imparted his love of music to his children, taking them with him backstage and to in-store signings and music venues with him including Washington D.C’s Capital Centre, 9:30 club and Kilimanjaro nightclub. He also took family members to venues in New York like The Paradise Garage, The Roxy, S.O.B.’s and Village Vanguard. He moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in the early 2000s, deejayed at community events and supported and influenced artists.

He settled in Baltimore, MD for the last five years of his life to be in close proximity to both of his daughters, his grandchildren and former wife Linda Blount Berry, his lifelong ally and confidant. In Baltimore he deejayed for an Internet radio show, made fast friends with other jazz aficionados, attended jazz clubs, concerts, museums and music listening parties. He also enjoyed watching Jeopardy and The View and was distressed by the notion that no one would ever be able to fill Alex Trebek’s shoes. He was an avid reader and cultural archivist. A stack of books he was reading sat beside his desk before he passed including “I Came as a Shadow,” the autobiography of Georgetown University coach John Thompson by Jesse Washington, the novel, “The Man Who Cried I Am,” by John A. Williams, and “Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s.”

He was an involved father and grandfather attending all childhood milestones for his children, grandchildren, and children of his and their friends, including sporting games, school events, and graduations. He supported his daughters’ work in art, writing, film, and music which was heavily influenced by his teaching and archives. His grandchildren were the cen- ter of his world. His influence led three of them to follow in his footsteps at Howard University and his grandson to follow his passion for track and field. His favorite time of the year was Christmas where he would regale all of the children with gifts.

Blount was raised in Nyack, NY, by Walter Blount Jr., a graduate of Virginia State University, and Mineola Blount, a graduate of North Carolina A&T College. He attended Liberty Street elementary school, Hilltop Junior High and Tappan Zee High School. Always immaculately turned out, he inherited his attention to detail from his mother who kept a meticulous home and was a sartorial professional. By high school he was having his suits custom made from a tailor in Harlem. He met his future wife, Linda Steward, in a seventh grade science class where he was tapping a beat on the desk. She was won over by his handsome charm, wit and musical tastes when he introduced her to the music of John Coltrane. He was a sports enthusiast who lettered in track and field and was an avid baseball fan. He often spoke of his favorite childhood oasis, Ebbets Field, where he spent many days rooting for his favorite team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. After one game, his father engineered a meeting between him and Jackie Robinson. The end result was an autographed baseball bat from the legendary player. On a dress-down day, even recently, you could see him sporting his fitted, royal blue Brooklyn Dodgers cap. He loved the intersection of sports and society, especially as it related to the Black athlete and could speak with a professorial ease about the exploits and importance of some of his favorite athletes like Roberto Clemente, Muhammad Ali, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and many others, all the way up to his current favorites like LeBron James and Marshawn Lynch. He had perfect comedic timing and loved comedic geniuses like Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Redd Foxx, often spitting out tidbits of Pryor’s Mudbone routines to his grandchildren. Always operating with an eternally youthful spirit, he was known for his sense of humor and for taking his children and extended family’s children on his adventures. When he was traveling and asked by customs whether his travel was for business or pleasure he quipped: “My business is pleasure.”

He is survived by his former wife Linda Blount Berry, his children, Elissa Blount Moorhead and Ericka Blount Danois, his grandchildren, Maia Danois, Laila Danois, Mahsati Moorhead, and Ziggy Moorhead, his sister Faith Blount and his niece Zakiya Lesley, cousins, nieces, nephews and many members of his adopted extended family.

The family hosted a virtual memorial on February 21, 2021 at 12 noon.  See the video recording here.