The Autobiography of Magnificent Montague

The Autobiography of Magnificent Montague


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Like many black disc jockeys of his day, Montague played a community role beyond simply

spreading the music of James Brown, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin



Burn, Baby! BURN!

The Autobiography of Magnificent Montague

By Magnificent Montague with Bob Baker


With his dynamic on-air personality and his trademark cry of  Burn, Baby! BURN! when spinning the hottest new records, Magnificent Montague was the charismatic voice of soul music in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. In this memoir Montague recounts the events of his momentous radio career, which ran from the era of segregation tot hat of the civil rights movement; as he does so, he also tells the broader story of a life spent in the passionate pursuit of knowledge, historical, and musical.

Like many black disc jockeys of his day, Montague played a community role beyond simply spreading the music of James Brown, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and other prominent artists. Montague served as an unofficial spokesman for his black listeners, reflecting their beliefs and acting as a sounding board for their concerns.

Montague was based in Los Angeles in 1965 when the Watts rioters seized on his incendiary slogan, turning the shout of musical appreciation into a rallying cry for racial violence. In  Burn, Baby! BURN! Montague recalls these tumultuous times and his own difficult choice: whether to remain true to his listeners or bend to political pressure and stop shouting his suddenly controversial slogan.

What his listeners never knew was that since the 1950s Montague, who would later become the first African American to build his own radio station, had been amassing one of the country’s largest private collections of books, paintings, and other artifacts by or about African-Americans–a veritable one-man museum dedicated to documenting black achievement.

A compelling account of a rich and varied life,  Burn, Baby! BURN! gives an insider’s view of half a century of the black experience, told with on-the-air zest by the deejay/historian who was chasing history as history chased him.

Check Prologue:

About Magnificent Montague

Born in New Jersey in 1928, Magnificent Montague built a reputation for a fierce, unpredictable style of broadcasting that was enthralling and perfectly in synch with the soul music of his day. Moving from Houston to Chicago to San Francisco to New York (to Chicago again) to Los Angeles, he personified independent radio of the ’50s and ’60s. 

Leaving day-to-day broadcasting in the early 1970s, he became a successful radio consultant and built his own station in Palm Springs in the ’80s. He has spent the past decade cataloging his massive, 6,000-piece collection of African American memorabilia.


Montague and his wife of 49 years, Rose, are the parents of a son, Martin. They live in Las Vegas.


Co-Author Bob Baker

Born in Los Angeles in 1947, Bob Baker grew up loving music and first tuned his radio to Montague’s KGFJ show in late 1965. Twenty years later he tracked down the DJ for a Los Angeles Times article, and they eventually became writing partners.

Bob attended Cal State Northridge, spent seven years as a reporter and editor on a small newspaper and then joined the L.A. Times. He’s been at the Times for the past 25 years as a reporter, editor and writing coach, and these days is an entertainment/popular-culture reporter. He’s also the author of a book on mental organization for journalists, Newsthinking (Allyn & Bacon, 2002) and the creator of has been married for 33 years to his wife, Marjorie. They’re the parents of a daughter, Amanda. They live in Los Angeles.

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