“He Loved Chicago:” Melody Spahn Cooper Recalls the Patience, Determination, and Trailblazing Story of Her Father, Pervis Spahn “The Blues Man.”

Chicago (CBS) – Family, friends and civil rights icons gathered on Wednesday for a moving musical tribute to “The Blues Man” Pervis Spahn.

Spahn died on Monday, March 14. He began his radio career in the 1950s and later bought WVON in the late 70s. They also had radio stations in Memphis; Atlanta; and Jacksonville, Florida.

But while many knew Spahn as a blues legend and a businessman, he was just dad to Melody Spahn Cooper. CBS 2’s Erika Sargent sat down with Spann Cooper this week exclusively to learn about the one-man, their bond, and Spahn’s final moments in what Spahn Cooper calls a brutal disease — Alzheimer’s.

“I knew he wasn’t leaving until he was ready, and I knew he was ready,” Spahn Cooper said.

But saying a final goodbye to the one who has been your biggest inspiration is never easy.

Melody Spahn Cooper takes comfort in knowing that her father packed so much into his 89 years and left a mark like no other in Chicago.

“Imagine going from sharecropping to shareholding, in a very short amount of time,” Spahn Cooper said. “You know, he was just amazing.”

Pervis Spahn grew up in the small town of Itta Baena, Mississippi, and took several jobs when he moved to Chicago. But it was blues music that spawned an empire.

“There was nothing he couldn’t do,” Spahn Cooper told Sgt. “He really lived his life, Erika, without a roof. There was nothing my dad didn’t think he could accomplish.”

Spahn started out as a DJ on WOPA Radio. Then, Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, took notice and hired Spahn at WVON.

Spahn quickly became the most popular DJ overnight. He called himself “The Blues Man”.

He was also a concert promoter and a nightclub owner.

“I just remember there was always a house that was life—music, you know,” Spahn Cooper said. “I could wake up and Bibi King would be in the kitchen, or Johnny Taylor.”

Spahn actually named B.B. King the “King of the Blues” and Aretha Franklin the “Queen of the Soul.”

But also deeply immersed in the entertainment industry, Spahn Cooper said that his father had a strict code of conduct.

“My dad didn’t smoke. He didn’t drink,” Spahn Cooper said. “He just believed in hard work.”

Spahn spent a record 87 hours nonstop on air to raise money for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights era.

Spahn eventually went from DJ to owner of WVON, and founded the parent company Midway Broadcasting Corporation. They expanded with other radio stations across the country.

“When we talk about building a radio station, you think, ‘Well, they get a license from the FCC,'” Spahn Cooper said. “No, he was literally in the grass with the antennas on.”

But the past eight years were quite different, as Spahn battled Alzheimer’s.

“He was, you know, not audible. He was in bed,” Spahn Cooper said. “But you could talk to him. He could move his eyes.”

It was heartbreaking for a man whose voice was legendary.

“It’s a brutal disease,” Spahn Cooper said.

The sergeant asked Spahn Cooper what she would miss most about her father.

“His advice,” replied Spahn Cooper. “Her Southern, organic, straight-for-no-chaser advice.”

And that’s what Spahn Cooper relies on to lead the company, like his father.

“He made a difference in the city he loved,” she said. “He loved Chicago.”

Spahn said that when her father came up with new business ideas, she would say, “Dad, this is crazy.” But he always found his way to be successful, and he hopes his determination will inspire the next generation to do the same.

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