They called him “the Magnificent Montague”. He was a radio DJ during the 1965 ‘burn baby burn riot’!

Shouted out by the Watts rioters of 1965, the phrase “Burn, baby! Burn!” had actually gotten its start as a catchphrase used by the popular radiodisc jockey known as Magnificent Montague. Then working at Los Angeles radio station KGFJ, Montague had been using the phrase to introduce records he felt were really hot. The Baltimore

Nathaniel “Magnificent” Montague (born in New Jersey, January 11, 1928, is an American R&B disc jockey notable not only for the soul music records he helped promote on KGFJ Los Angeles and WWRL New York City, but also his trademark catch-phrase, “Burn, baby! Burn!” that became the rallying cry of the 1965 Watts riots. Following criticism that this phrase had inadvertently stirred up rioters, Montague advocated non-violence and urged young listeners to pursue their education, coining the new phrase “Learn, baby! Learn!”

Semi-retired by the mid-1970s, Montague relocated to Palm Springs, California, where he was instrumental in the launch of easy listening KPLM, today a successful country music station. His was the first radio station construction permit issued to an African-American in four decades.


Montague’s catch-phrase was referenced in the Apollo 11 software code that took America to the moon in the mid 1960s: “BURN, BABY, BURN – MASTER IGNITION ROUTINE”. In 2009, on the 40th anniversary of the first moonwalk, Don Eyles attributed this code reference to Montague.

His autobiography, Burn, Baby! Burn! (ISBN 978-0252028731) was published in October 2003 by the University of Illinois Press. Montague retired with his wife Rose to Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a convert to Judaism.Wiki