‘Chatty Hatty’ reflects on career as Charlotte’s first Black female radio DJ

CHARLOTTE — All this month, Channel 9 has been telling the stories of those who’ve made Black history here in the Carolinas. Those individuals include a trailblazing radio personality who sat down with us to reflect on her career.

To longtime Charlotteans, “Chatty Hatty” Leeper needs no introduction. If you spend even a little time with her, you’ll understand the nickname.

Leeper has plenty to chat about. In 1951, at age 17, she got her own radio show at Charlotte’s WGIV. She became the city’s first Black female radio DJ and one of the first in the nation.

“We rhymed a lot of the things we said on our program. Like, I would just open the mic and say, ‘Hi world, this is your girl Chatty Hatty. And you’re on the top of the dial, at 1600 on the radio that makes listening all worth your while,’” Leeper told Channel 9′s Erica Bryant. “People think rap now is so extraordinary. They better not give me a chance. I already know how to do that with my eyes closed.”

For years, Leeper was Charlotte’s best-known radio personality. That came with lots of perks.

“Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, the list just goes on and on and on,” she said. “People that I have had handshaking contact with when they would get their stars put on the Hollywood Hall of Fame on the sidewalk.”

“Oh yeah, I would emcee James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, he was my main man,” she added, laughing.

But Leeper never forgot where she came from: Charlotte. It was a very different city back then.

“If you went to a restaurant, you couldn’t go in the front door,” she said. “If you were Black, brown, polka-dot, you go to the back of that restaurant to the back door where all the trash cans, all the porta-Johns were. You’d go there and have a window and you would order what you wanted off the menu and they would fix it so nice. And you’d pay at the window and you’d go.”

Today, her home is filled with accolades like the Black Women In Radio and Lifetime Achievement awards, the Charlotte Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and a book called “Chatty Hatty the Legend.”

Leeper celebrates every memory and she plans to keep celebrating for a very long time.

“I’m so glad I had the sense to stay where I love, and that’s right here at home,” she said. “This is home. Charlotte. I love it, I love it.”

Leeper’s career goes beyond radio. She’s opened two record stores, written songs, managed groups, and even started her own record label. She’s also written plays and taught courses at Gaston College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Central Piedmont Community College.

The one thing Leeper hasn’t done that she’d still like to do is open a movie studio.

(WATCH BELOW: Black History Month: Local cardiologist paving path for others)

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