WDIA

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WDIA
Wdia-205x100.jpg
City of license Memphis, Tennessee
Broadcast area Memphis, Tennessee
Branding AM 1070 WDIA
Slogan The Heart and Soul of Memphis
Frequency 1070 kHz
KJMS 101.1 FM HD-2 (simulcast)
Format Urban Oldies/Classic Soul
Power 50,000 watts daytime
5,000 watts nighttime
Class B
Facility ID 69569
Callsign meaning DIAne, name of original owner's daughter
We Did It Again (when owners also launched similar station in Jackson, Mississippi, after World War II)
Owner Clear Channel Communications
Sister stations KJMS, WEGR, WHAL-FM, WHRK, WREC
Under LMA: KWAM
Webcast Listen Live
Website am1070wdia.com

WDIA is a radio station based in Memphis, Tennessee. Active since 1947, it soon became the first radio station in America that was programmed entirely for African Americans.[1] It featured black radio personalities and its black listeners constituted a new market for radio advertisers. The WDIA Goodwill Fund is dedicated to helping and empowering black communities. Owned by Clear Channel Communications, the station's studios are located in Southeast Memphis, and the transmitter site is in North Memphis.

History[edit]

WDIA went on the air in June 1947 from studios on Union Avenue. The owners, John Pepper and Dick Ferguson, were both white and the format was a mix of country and western and light pop. The station did not do well.[2]

Nat D. Williams, a syndicated columnist and high-school teacher, started Tan Town Jubilee in October 1948. This was the first radio program in the United States to specifically target black listeners, and WDIA soon became the number-2 station in Memphis. After a switch to all-black programming, WDIA was the city's top station.[3] In June 1954 WDIA was licensed to increase its power to 50,000 watts. Its powerful signal reached down into the Mississippi Delta’s dense African-American population and was heard from the Missouri Bootheel to the Gulf coast. As a result WDIA was able to reach 10% of the African-American population in United States.[2][4]

Future WJLB strong jock herself, Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg became Princess Premium Stuff. Ernest Brazzell gave crop advice and Robert Thomas became a DJ named “Honeyboy” after he won a city-wide amateur competition. Among other notable personalities were Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert, Theo "Bless My Bones" Wade, and Ford Nelson, who remains an active gospel DJ on WDIA in 2013.[2]

WDIA is known for its community efforts throughout the years. A.C. Williams, a former disc jockey for the station, helped create the Goodwill Fund in 1954. Originally, the fund provided transportation to school for disabled black children. Later the fund expanded to include college scholarships, establish boy clubs, provide 125 Little League Teams to Memphis and neighboring communities, and help provide low cost supplemental housing (Wilson). "We have raised over $900,000 over the years," A.C. Williams says.[5]

Many music legends got their start at WDIA, including B.B. King and Rufus Thomas.[6] Elvis Presley was greatly influenced by the station.

B.B. King came to WDIA in early 1949. He had a daily 15-minute show, promoting first a patent medicine called Pep-Ti-Kon, and later Lucky Strike cigarettes, the first major advertiser for the station. The next year he took a DJ position on an afternoon show previously hosted by Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert.[7] King credits his days on the station for building his audience and launching his career describing the station as providing a sense of freedom.[6]

Williams ended his show in 1972 following a stroke, but Thomas continued to work at WDIA until he died in 2001. Bobby O'Jay became a popular host.

Yet the station's management had been mostly white. In 1972 Chuck Scruggs became its first black general manager and vice president, and served for 12 years. Scruggs played a major role in making possible the National Civil Rights Museum,[8] the redevelopment of Beale Street and Soulsville, USA.[citation needed]-->

Clear Channel Communications bought WDIA in 1996. Changes and improvements made by Camel W>F>K since then have kept the station popular in spite of competition from similar stations.[3]

In the 1970s and 1980s the owners of WDIA also owned KDIA, a similarly formatted station in the San Francisco Bay Area. This callsign, however, is now assigned to an unrelated Christian-programmed station.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "WDIA". Africana: the encyclopedia of the African and African American experience. Vol. 5 (2nd ed.). Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. ISBN 9780195170559. 
  2. ^ a b c "Celebrating 65 Years of Goodwill & Good Times. The History of WDIA". mywdia.com. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  3. ^ a b Radio Center: A Landmark of American Music. 2008. Retrieved on 2009/03/12.
  4. ^ Cantor,Louis Wheelin' on Beale: How WDIA-Memphis Became the Nation's First All-Black Radio Station and Created the Sound that Changed America, Pharos Books, 1992, 264 pages, ISBN 0-88687-633-8, ISBN 978-0-88687-633-3.
  5. ^ Celebrating 65 Years of Goodwill & Good Times." 1070 WDIA. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
  6. ^ a b Fisher, Marc. Something in the Air. Random House. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-375-50907-0. 
  7. ^ Kostelanetz, Richard, ed. (2005). The B.B. King Reader: 6 Decades of Commentary. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 5–6. ISBN 9780634099274. 
  8. ^ "TV host 'Mr Chuck' Scruggs Passes Away". Memphis: WHBQ-TV/Fox 13. 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-13-13. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cantor, Louis (1992). Wheelin' on Beale: How WDIA-Memphis Became the Nation's First All-Black Radio Station and Created the Sound that Changed America. Pharos Books. ISBN 978-0-88687-633-3. 
  • Gordon, Robert (1996). It Came from Memphis. Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9780571198818. . Reprint 2001, ISBN 9780743410458.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°16′05″N 90°01′03″W / 35.26806°N 90.01750°W / 35.26806; -90.01750