Evansville’s WEOA celebrating 25 years as a Black-owned radio station

In line with the Nationwide Affiliation of Black Owned Broadcasters, there are solely 203 Black-owned radio stations within the nation. Evansville is residence to considered one of them.

WEOA-98.5FM has been bringing R&B and hip-hop music to the Evansville space for many years.

Evansville native Edward Lander is the president and common supervisor of WEOA.

“Our viewers comes first. We wish to super-serve those who hear and luxuriate in what we do. It’s vastly necessary to us,” Lander stated.

Lander, 68, went to the College of Evansville, the place he majored in legal justice. He later attended the Indiana Legislation Enforcement Academy in Plainfield. From 1975 to 1978, he served as a deputy with the Vanderburgh Nation Sheriff’s Workplace earlier than leaving for a administration place with Bristol Myers Squibb, the place he labored for 40 years earlier than retiring in 2018.

The Courier & Press sat down with Lander to speak about his profession in radio and the modifications WEOA has skilled through the years.

How did you begin out in radio broadcasting?

Rising up, I had all the time been concerned with some type of radio communication. I used to be an avid Residents Band radio consumer and I loved tinkering with the radios. Though considered one of my first radios was truly a walkie talkie, native CBers now and again would cease by our home to see my gear as a result of they could not imagine the sign vary I used to be capable of obtain with my modified walkie talkie.

Within the early 70s, the College of Evansville allowed college students to program the radio station 91.5 WUEV on weeknights from 10 pm to midnight and round 2 am on the weekend. An area scholar, and well-known deejay, “Huge Hack” had a present referred to as “Occasion Lights,” which was the closest factor to the town having a radio station that performed R&B music.

After I began working at Bristol Myers Squibb, I used to be capable of journey to some main cities across the nation. I’ve all the time beloved music so on my journeys I’d use my cassette recorder to file as many Black radio stations as doable, then hearken to them for months till the subsequent touring alternative introduced itself. My journeys took me to Chicago the place I used to be uncovered to radio legend Tom Joyner, who was often known as the “fly jock,” due to his journey 5 days per week between Chicago and Dallas. He’d do morning broadcasts in Chicago earlier than flying to do afternoons in Dallas.

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Throughout my faculty internship on the Evansville Police Division, I met Gerald Summers, who turned my greatest good friend and fishing accomplice. Whereas on the lake, and if the situations have been proper, we may choose up completely different radio stations particularly KMJM in St. Louis. And we all the time stated, “Sooner or later, we’ll have a station like that in Evansville.”

How did the station occur?

Whereas employed at Bristol Myers Squibb, Gerald and I met Desni Brannon who was from Lexington and grew up listening to Black radio. In 1996, a dialog sparked between the three of us of making a Black radio station in Evansville, and for the subsequent 12 months, we spent almost each Saturday morning at varied native eating places doing analysis and making a marketing strategy.

We meet the CEO of South Central Communications Corp., John Engelbrecht, who owned and operated completely different stations in Evansville and Tennessee. By the grace of God, we found that they had a neighborhood AM station that was open. We signed a neighborhood advertising and marketing settlement with them, which was accredited by the FCC to take over full management of the station. With the assistance of Jim Coy, president of the Beacon Group, a non-profit devoted to serving small enterprise start-ups, we accomplished our enterprise play and shortly obtained our enterprise mortgage.

On Jan. 3, 1997, BLS (Brannon Lander Summers) Leisure Inc., was created. We break up it up by our expertise: Desni would function the monetary officer, Gerald managed gross sales and I used to be chargeable for station operations and expertise. We started constructing our employees with Eric Dockery as common supervisor and he had held varied completely different positions in radio. Then we have been launched to Sharron Brooks, who had a 25-year profession with one other native radio station.

She simply accomplished 25 years with WEOA overseeing site visitors and billing operations, and he or she’s affectionally often known as my “work spouse.”

We utilized to the FCC to vary the present name signal to WEOA, changing into the primary Black-operated radio station in Evansville.

On the morning on Might 19, 1997, within the early morning, myself, Desni, Gerald, Eric, and Frank Hertel, our engineer, gathered within the management room at for a prayer that was led by Larry Rascoe. At 5 am, we turned on the transmitter and started broadcasting the great sound of the “The Tom Joyner Morning Present” and an city grownup modern radio station was born.

What was the overall reception from individuals within the space?

Folks acquired phrase {that a} new Black format radio station was coming into the town. And as we have been going by the method of getting all of the gear put in, and it might be on the air for 5 minutes right here, or perhaps an hour or two, because the engineers have been operating exams and issues like that. Folks would hear it, however then they did not perceive why it might be on after which it might be off. And so it was a interval of training of us what was happening, as a result of a lot of them had by no means lived by a start-up of a radio station.

The reception within the Black neighborhood was simply overwhelming. It actually was, I feel it was one thing all of us wished this for therefore very lengthy. So when it occurred, it was simply unbelievable.

Who had an enormous affect on you? Why?

Tom Joyner. Once I would journey to Chicago it was obvious from billboards to lots of different advertising and marketing factor that Tom Joyner was the premiere radio disc jockey from an city perspective in in Chicago, and I’d hearken to him. However I’d hear not only for the music, however only for his model. And I would ask, why was this man so well-liked?

They usually used to seek advice from him because the Fly Jock. And the explanation for that was he could be on the air throughout the morning hours till about 9 o’clock in Chicago, bounce on an airplane and be on the air within the afternoon in Dallas.

Legendary brodcaster and philanthropist Tom Joyner

And he did that 5 days per week, are you able to think about? However he was so good at what he did. He was in simply such a requirement. So when you recognize we began what packages are we going to have on the station along with our native air personalities? It was little question we have been we have been going to have Tom Joyner on.

How has the station modified since 1997?

In 1999, we created the Household Day within the Park, now the Household Day Cultural Celebration, which brings in arts and crafts, meals, merchandising, stay music performances. Within the early 2000s, Gerald and Desni left the enterprise.

In 2009, true to his phrase, John Engelbrecht provided me the chance to buy the station. The FCC accredited the sale and WEOA turned the primary and solely Black-owned radio station to serve the Evansville space. After a couple of years on air, the FCC elevated their efforts to revitalize AM broadcasting by rule modifications and one allowed for AM stations to hunt a license on the FM Band. A 12 months later, WEOA was accredited to buy a FM translator with authorization to re-transmit WEOA 1400 AM on 98.5. After which in 2018, we modified the format from city grownup modern to city modern.

How did you establish programming and what programming does the station have now?

We labored and repeatedly work with radio consultants. It was sort of straightforward realizing the recognition of hip-hop and R&B and never having any direct competitors.

We’d take street journeys to grownup modern radio stations in Peoria and KMJM in St. Louis, which helped in our resolution to syndicate a few of our programming. Nationally, we’ve the Breakfast Membership, Weekends with the Breakfast Membership, D Minor, Full Throttle Radio with Fatman Scoop & Dj Mister Vince, The Baka Boyz Hip-Hop Grasp Combine and Incognito. Domestically, we’ve Group Chat with Melissa Morehead Moore, Management Reference to Lynn Miller-Pease and Gospel Vibes with Brother CR

What are some struggles that the station confronted?

Our gross sales employees steadily discovered themselves educating potential advertisers about city music, audiences and the spending energy of our listeners. They did not perceive city radio, and lots of of them, in the event that they did not perceive that, they weren’t eager about that. The typical spending energy of our listeners is about $423 million yearly within the Evansville metro which breaks all the way down to $8.2 million weekly with native space retailers and companies.

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What’s considered one of your favourite issues about your job?

I really like doing what I am doing. Like I stated, I retired after a 40-plus 12 months profession with a Fortune 500 firm. I really like this. I really like this as a result of it’s completely different day-after-day. Folks take pleasure in it. And coming in with those that share the identical ardour right here… It is my dream job.

Why do you suppose it is necessary for a metropolis like Evansville to have an city station?

One, by a few of our syndicated packages that we convey into the market, it permits them to listen to what is going on on on this planet of Black individuals throughout this nation. It actually makes an enormous distinction in a few of the conversations we’ve.

However not solely the nationwide programming that we herald, it is the native that we wish to give attention to. It is giving the neighborhood a possibility to speak in regards to the issues from a Black perspective. They’ll do it throughout the airwaves and be heard by hundreds of those that make up our viewers. In fact, they just like the music. There isn’t any doubt about it, nevertheless it’s simply realizing that it is sort of like we have arrived. We are able to flip the dial and listen to what we wish to hear, speak or music or no matter. It is proper there accessible to us.

And you may get it now in at present’s world of cell telephones and all these different platforms. Positive you may hearken to the music, however all of us play the identical sort of music. What makes the distinction is the dialog between the music.

What are your hopes for the station’s future?

We wish to be probably the most trusted supply within the African-American neighborhood and past that. We wish to inform, entertain and encourage our viewers by offering culturally related content material by radio and thru our digital platforms.

This text initially appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Evansville’s WEOA celebrating 25 years as a Black-owned radio station