Black radio history the history of america’s soul radio stations metro dallasweekly.com gas stoichiometry calculator

It was a hot July in 1970 in a town 85 miles north of Dallas Texas. At about the age 15 I can remember all to well sleeping in late- which is what kids did in the summer time, with the radio playing loud, only to be awaken with the song “The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5, followed by an unfamiliar slogan “Soul 73 KKDA 730 on your dial.” Still half asleep I asked out loud “what is that?” My brother said “a new station called Soul 73.” What happy news to wake up to.

Lots of people today have no idea how huge it was back then to have a soul radio station to listen to. Now we had two-KNOK 970 that has been operating since the late 60’s only to change format after the emergence of Soul 73, which officially launch on the air in April of 1970. But for the next 42 years it would be KKDA AM that would become an icon to the community until midnight of 2013, when listeners heard Korean music playing on their radio dial instead. It became a shock to DFW as news got around that KKDA, had been sold. What was it on that midnight that really came to an end?

The history of the “soul radio stations” has its humble beginning. The first African American to own and operate a radio station in the United States was a man by the name of Jesse B. Blayton, Sr. He founded WERD-AM in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949. Blayton made history then when he bought the 1,000 watt Atlanta radio station for $50,000. He changed the radio format and directed it toward the African American audience. WERD was a pioneer in programming what he called “Negro appeal” music, playing early versions of rhythm and blues music that could not be found elsewhere on the air. Although WDIA, established in Memphis, Tennessee just a year earlier in 1948, played music oriented for a black audience, WERD was the ONLY black-owned station to do so at that time. By 1954, there were approximately 200 black-oriented stations but fewer than a dozen were African American-owned.

Before the existence of the soul radio stations most blacks depended on radio stations that played a mixed format. Then I remembered a radio station out of Nashville Tennessee- WLAC, also called “Randy.” Randy was known for playing a “soul sound” format starting at 10:00 P.M. six nights a week, and black people were only too happy to stay up at night to hear their favorite sounds like James Brown, Clearance Carter, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and of course the Motown sound just to name a few. With its 50,000 watt of power at 1510 on the AM dial, Randy could be heard late at night thousands of miles away. It wasn’t long until Texas had its own version of Randy-but not out of Houston nor Dallas, but San Antonio-WOAI, 1400 on the AM dial. Unlike Randy WOAI started playing “soul music” as early as 7:00 P.M. Randy and WOAI would serve black communities for many years to come.

But none would serve its community as well as KKDA did for the past 42 years in Dallas, with names like Tom Joyner, Willis Johnson, “Cousin” Lenny, Bobby Patterson, and Millie Jackson herself just to name a few. Losing KKDA reminds me of the movie “Barbershop” where the character played by Ice Cube sells the barbershop which turns out to be more than just a physical building for business but a huge symbol of the black community and Ice Cube has to figure out a way to get it back.

Losing “Soul 73” in Dallas Texas is losing more than a soul radio station, but a priceless symbol of a community that spans the third largest metropolitan in the nation-DFW. Not only that but I feel you are losing a precious piece of HISTORY. A history when soul radio stations were rare-where Afro-American individuals changed history to provide the sound to dance and finger-pop to, and ways to serve their community. A piece of history that the younger generation with their FM radio, Satellite Radio, and their mp3’s loaded on their iPhones with their earplugs to their heads- will ever know. How well they have it made!

For me personally “Soul 73” is special. It was the slogan of us Afro-Americans in my graduating class of 1973.Time will tell if Dallas have heard the last of KKDA. Perhaps like the character played by Ice Cube, the community will rally. Maybe we have not heard the last of that familiar slogan I heard have asleep in Denison Texas in the summer of 1970- “This Is Soul 73 KKDA AM.”