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Pearlee Toliver; 'Jewel of the Dial' Had Radio Show in Louisiana

September 11, 2002

Pearlee Toliver, the Louisiana radio personality called the "Jewel of the Dial" and revered for her homespun commercials as much as for the gospel records she played, died Monday of a heart attack in Monroe, La. It was her stated wish that her age never be revealed in print.

For a mere $15, Toliver would script and deliver ads as part of her patter in discussing music. Her poor diction, awkward phrasing and dropped letters only added to her appeal. Touting a local bail bondsman, for example, she would urge: "Don't sit there in jail all day and all night with your feet swelling all over your shoes, and you worrying and crying and wanting to go home to your family. Call Diddy Bop. Diddy Bop will be there in the next 15 minutes to get you out of jail."

Born to sharecroppers in Drew, Miss., Toliver served in the Women's Army Corps toward the end of World War II and then became manager of a gospel group called the Jordan Singers. They landed a radio show in Monroe, and after the group broke up, Toliver was told she could take over the program if she could find her own sponsors. The recently widowed Toliver was sufficiently motivated to walk into local stores and persuade owners to pay her $15 for a radio commercial.

Her weekly Sunday morning show grew from 15 minutes to two hours, with the last recorded episode broadcast the day before her death. Her patter gained a national audience as cassettes of her show were circulated by fans, including country singers Loretta Lynn and Andy Griggs. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top included her voice in one of the band's albums.

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