J. Bazzel Mull Signs Off

September 6, 2006

Possibly the world’s only blind, Southern Baptist, Democratic, gospel disc jockey died at age 91 in Knoxville yesterday. J. Bazzel, known to generations of East Tennesseans for his Sunday morning television show, “Mull’s Singing Convention,” was much wider known on the airwaves of clear channel AM radio stations for his his nighttime show with the same nam

I got to know Rev. Mull when I was the Knoxville stringer for The New York Times in the late 1970s. At that time, President Jimmy Carter was mustering support for the Panama Canal Treaty in order to give the canal to the country of Panama. Mull, a longtime Democrat, was enlisted in this effort, and held forth nightly on the benefits of the Treaty.

When Congress passed the Treaty, Mull was invited to the White House, and the NYT ran an article I wrote on Mull that day. In it, I quoted some of his favorite lines: “Jesus was the first Democrat, for he rode a donkey into the city of Jerusalem” and included a photo I had taken of Mull at the microphone. When the good reverend got back to Knoxville, he called me and said that Jimmy Carter had mentioned the article.

“Let me tell you, doc,” he concluded, “that New York paper really gets around!

Mull’s Singing Convention was one of the longer locally-produced TV shows in the country. It featured videos of Southern Gospel performers–white folks gospel. Mull was never seen without his wife, always known as “Lady Mull” on the air. She sat beside him on the set, and with her hand pointed his leg toward whichever camera was on.

Mull spoke with a gravelly voice, much imitated by locals. He said his voice got that way from years of preaching. It remains to be seen if his family will continue his show.