WJLD History – 1990s & Beyond

It’s 1990 and Margie Davis plays mid morning oldies. Engineer Leciel Hubbard and Gary work on both transmitters… always upgrading.

Gary and Bobby D begin doing “Sound Off” together. Gary moves the talk segment to the morning drive. 1992 sees WENN’s Tyrone Robinson join the staff and Melvin Drake joins Ennis Bragg and Nassau Lockett on Sunday. Friedman begins Birmingham Black Radio Museum project. Richardson interviews radio pioneers Gatemouth Moore, Roy Wood and Eddie Castleberry.

Roy Wood and Gatemouth Moore
Moore and Richardson

WJLD begins to influence local politics and expands its talk segment to evening drive with “talk show caller” Shelley Millender recruited as host in 1996.

Shelley Millinder kicks off “Let’s Talk” (1996)
Birmingham City Council candidate debate (1997)

The station organizes candidate debates and participates in various community organizing drives, including efforts to stop a waste transfer site from being built in the low income neighborhood of North Titusville; and the organizing of the city’s first initiative and referendum drive in efforts to prevent privatization of the city’s water and garbage facilities.

Richardson on “Morning Talk” (1999)
Curtis “Blues Boy” Bell Middays (1999)
Friedman on “Let’s Talk” 3-6pm (1999)

In 2000, the station becomes the largest market for a new Black-owned satellite-delivered format, “Party Blues and Oldies” transmitted by the American Blues Network (ABN) out of Mississippi. Jimmy “Jimmy T” Underwood from WMGJ, Gadsden joins the Saturday Blues staff. Both Gary and Bobby run for public office. Gary is elected Mayor of Midfield, Alabama in 2004 and Bobby is appointed to the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners by Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid in 2002 and begins “Saturday Morning Live (6-8AM).”

Paul Dudley White (1988) – Civil Rights leader, praised by Martin Luther King, Jr, sought after by civil rights biographers internationally, passes away on August 19, 2001

Many changes in 2002. Duane Jones (from “the Experience” mentioned above) joins the on-air staff, with over 30 years experience on the air in Atlanta. WJLD makes history again by becoming the nation’s first high definition AM (HD Radio) digital broadcaster.

(l – r) Richardson, two engineers from Ibiquity Corp (creators of HD Radio) with Engineer Leciel Hubbard and staffer Antuon Edwards during installation of new HD Transmitter.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health and WJLD also partner to produce “Body Love,” a weekly health oriented soap opera. The American Urban Radio Network (AURN) and WJLD team up to deliver the “Queen of Late Night” – the Bev Smith Show (6-9pm). And also in 2002, WJLD opens its airwaves to the Latino community with the weekly “Radio Caliente (11am-2pm Saturdays).”

2004 sees Manuel Fitch, long time gospel announcer, joins the staff (again) and more than 20 gospel ministries are on the air Saturday morning and all day Sunday.

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