Arlene’s House of Music brightened Christmas in Indy
Holidays on Indiana Avenue! “For a long remembered Christmas, remember Arlene’s House of Music for all the latest records.” Arlene’s was a bygone business that offered layaway on blues, jazz & rock records.
The owner, Arlene Manson, was also a broadcaster.
From Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, January 24, 1976:
“Arlene Manson named director of religious programming for WGRT *
Arlene Manson of Arlene’s House of Music, 547 Indiana Avenue, has been named director of Religious and gospel Programming at Radio Station WGRT-FM, Stereo 107 on your dial. Starting Friday morning, January 23, from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. she assumes her new position. Format of the new program will be her own choice of gospel music. Dedications and requests, coupled with the warm and friendly chatter for which she has become locally renowned, will be included. WGRT-FM inaugurated 24hour broadcasting on January 5 and has programed rhythm and blues since the fulltime schedule was adopted.”
And check out this article by Diane Frederick in the Indianapolis News in 1977:
“To some derelicts on Indiana Avenue, she’s ‘Arlene the Queen of Gospel.’ She’s Arlene Manson who has brought gospel to the Avenue through her broadcasts on WHYT-AM from her record shop at 547 Indiana Avenue.
It’s not unusual to see the pool room next door empty out at 5:30pm as the ‘boys’ take their folding chairs in front of Arlene’s House of Music. That’s when Arlene goes on the air. Fifteen to twenty of the pool room’s patrons perch on borrowed chairs from the billiard parlor while twenty or so stand to listen to the sermons, prayers, and gospel music recordings over the loudspeakers outside the record shop.
‘The Queen’ has been on the Avenue for 25 years. She admits she could have moved her business ‘higher up,’ but said, ‘They need me here.’
‘If you run from them, you can’t help them.’ she said. ‘I could’ve moved my business north, but if I get away from around them, I can’t reach them.’
‘They’ are the drug addicts, the winos, the prostitutes and others who walk the seamier side of life and make up a large part of Mrs. Manson’s audience…
She went on to start her own radio program because, in her words, ‘it is so necessary for the gospel to be put over the air for the unfortunate, the sick, the afflicted and the institutionalized. It gets them away from the pit they’re in for the time being.’ she said. ‘They come to the Avenue for drinking and dope. Some of them want to get out of it, but it’s not that easy. You just don’t walk away from the Avenue.’
Mrs Manson’s broadcasts have been responsible for some small and not so small miracles… A 25-year-old prostitute with no place else to go walked into Mrs. Manson’s makeshift studio one day with no teeth and a drug habit.
The woman is now employed, has her own home, is off the ‘stuff’ and ‘the teeth in her mouth are paid for.’
Much of Mrs. Manson’s programs are devoted to ‘call ins’ - requests for particular songs, prayers, or sermons.
‘Some people whose sons and daughters are imprisoned want me to play a number for them, thinking maybe if they hear it through a song they’ll change,’ she said. ‘The girls from the Indiana Women’s Prison call in a request for gospel songs…’
Mrs. Manson doesn’t profess to saving the Avenue. ‘But it’s straightening some of them out,’ she said. ‘We know that.’ “