“The early 1980s brought a lot of changes to American culture. In 1981, MTV launched, IBM introduced the personal computer, and a year later the compact disc came along. 1981 was also the year that my tiny, family-owned radio station in Cleveland called WZAK changed formats to urban contemporary. …”
How did one small radio station previously best known for programming “ethnic” music break into — and come to dominate — the emerging urban contemporary scene of the 1980s and beyond? In Change Is On the Air, longtime WZAK owner Lee Zapis tells the true story of his radio journey, bringing unique insider’s perspective to the story of the station responsible for launching the careers of Mary J. Blige, Usher, MC Hammer, and many more.
In the 1980s, the Cleveland metro area was 20 percent black; the city itself that number soared to 50 percent. Yet, the black community was persistently marginalized. Key to WZAK’s success was management’s skill at both pushing back against the racism of the era and capitalizing on an underserved market through the three pillars of programming, sales, and promotion.
For programming, WZAK relied on the vision of radio veterans like program directors Lynn Tolliver and Bobby Rush, who were unafraid to champion up and coming artists, or bring in star power like the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner. With little turnover, the on-air personalities at WZAK, Zapis points out, were well established in the community — and became almost trusted friends to listeners. Meanwhile, Zapis credits WZAK’s ad sales team for the prescient realization that the buying needs of the black community extended far beyond the niche “ethnic” products that were then the advertising mainstays of urban radio. And, of course, there were promotional events. From the legendarily canceled “Street Dance Monopoly” to the distribution of thousands of safe sex kids just as the AIDS crisis was becoming public in 1988, WZAK was always ahead of the curve.
The original Party with a Purpose® is setting sail on an epic 20th Voyage! The 2019 Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage® presented by Denny’s will sail from Miami April 7-14 on the Carnival Magic and make stops in the Caribbean’s Amber Cove, San Juan and St. Thomas. Created as a fundraiser to support students in school at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, this year’s cruise will feature entertainment favorites, informative seminars, morning inspiration, fitness classes, notable celebrities, and popular theme nights. Music superstars including Janet Jackson, Maxwell, Charlie Wilson, Fantasia, KEM, and more will headline a jam-packed entertainment lineup.
The full lineup for the Fantastic Voyage Cruise is on BlackAmericaWeb.com, though other performing artists from today and yesterday in R&B, Soul, Inspiration/Gospel, Hip Hop and Funk include WAR, Sheila E., Chrisette Michele, Biz Markie, MC Lyte, Smokie Norful, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Brian Courtney Wilson, Midnight Star, S.O.S. Band, Oaktown 357, Mase, Black Sheep, Lady of Rage and more.
Tom Joyner stated, “I’m proud of a lot of things we’ve accomplished on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, but I think I’m most proud of all the students we’ve helped stay in school for the last 20 years, and our biggest fundraiser for HBCUs is the Fantastic Voyage cruise. This year our lineup makes it all the more special – Janet Jackson, Charlie Wilson, Maxwell and an endless list of performers!”
“It has been an honor for Denny’s to be a part of this great work with the Tom Joyner Foundation for almost two decades,” said Denny’s President and CEO John Miller. “When we invest in our students, we know we are investing in the future.”
The Fantastic Voyage® has uniquely become one of the most talked about and sought-after events in the country. Developed upon realizing the needs of African-American cruisers were not being met, Joyner combined his purpose with entertainment (something has done daily on his morning show) and came up with the idea to sell cabins at a premium rate to get a superior experience and underwrite HBCUs. By specifically catering to his audience/passengers through ALL activities, media, and even food and beverage, Joyner created an exclusive event that sells out annually and features an exciting lineup of activities and famed entertainers.
This is Denny’s second year as the cruise title sponsor.
For over 18 years, the Tom Joyner Foundation has partnered with Denny’s to support higher education causes, including the Denny’s Hungry for Education Scholarship, a program that recognizes and rewards students who show initiative and creativity in the fight against childhood hunger in their communities. This year, the Tom Joyner Foundation/Denny’s Filmmaker’s Scholarship Program will recognize six outstanding students from HBCUs who have produced a film about hunger in their communities. On behalf of Denny’s, the Tom Joyner Foundation has awarded more than $550,000 in scholarships to deserving elementary, high school, and college students. The Hungry for Education program, as a whole, has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships. Denny’s sponsorship of the Fantastic Voyage is another means by which the company demonstrates a commitment to higher education for minority students.
Joyner first gained popularity after earning the nickname “The Fly Jock” while flying round-trip between Dallas and Chicago five days a week for seven years to host the morning and afternoon drives in two different cities. In his 25 years as a leader in the industry, Joyner’s impact and influence have never wavered. As previously announced, Joyner will end his groundbreaking radio show on December 31, 2019. Though no final decisions have been made, Joyner vows to continue the Fantastic Voyage and support of the Tom Joyner Foundation for many years to come.
The 2019 Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage® presented by Denny’s will take place on the Carnival Magic. For more information, please visit BlackAmericaWeb.com. Itinerary, schedule and performances are subject to change.
SOURCE The Tom Joyner Foundation
Prior to AURN, Mr. Anderson worked for Billboard magazine as Director, Urban/Canadian Advertising, the first African-American to hold such a position with the magazine. While there, he created the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Conference and Awards and developed special advertising tributes for musical powerhouses such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, and Master P to name a few, which brought in millions of dollars in incremental revenue to the magazine.
Mr. Anderson began his 35-year career in sales and marketing when he was recruited by Libbey-Owens-Ford his senior year at Howard University. Mr. Anderson is an alumnus of the NAB’s Executive Development Program for Radio Broadcasters at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
AURN is the # 1 Nielsen rated national broadcast radio network that connects African Americans to national advertisers. Reaching over 25 million listeners weekly, AURN provides unique, compelling and star-studded programming harnessing the creative energy, vision, and power of African American culture. AURN with its 4 RADAR-rated networks, 24/7 programming network, and syndicated division offers over 40 weekly audio programs and services.
SOURCE American Urban Radio Networks
WERUradio’s uniquely diverse format was crafted through 20 plus years of broadcast radio program experience. Music lovers can now hear a newly created format on WERUradio. WERUradio is currently accessible 24hrs a day on WERUradio.com, Live365, Streema.com, and Alexa/Echo using the WERUradio skill. WERUradio has created a platform that interpolates the uptempo flavors of R&B (Fantasia, Kelly Rowland, Usher) Hip Hop (Busta Rhymes, Trina, Missy Elliott) and House Music (Quentin Harris, Martha Wash, Frankie Knuckles) combine to give you a unique musical taste.
The WERUradio roster brings the heat with the latest from chart-topping artists while it fills a niche market by prominently featuring amazing artists like B. Slade, Big Freedia, MNEK, Young M.A. and more from the LGBTQ community in heavy rotation.
WERUradio launches its live programming officially on Monday, February 4, 2019. The lineup starts strong at 6 am with the premiere of The WERU Morning Crew. The WERU Morning Crew is a dynamic team of voices and personalities: Say Imamu, Nova Clawtooth, Jana Fleming, and TJ Oanomochi. Their vibe and energy are unbounded. The WERU Morning Crew is there for you when you wake up, for your drive time, and that first sip of coffee with relevant news, hilarious commentary, and insightful observations on all the things going on in the world! WERU Morning Crew…your partners in morning fun!
WERUradio’s mission is to present the diversity of the musical landscape in the LGBTQ community. Many LGBTQ themed and formatted stations, only offer one dimension of the vast patchwork of musical influences embraced by the LGBTQ community. Moreover, those same stations are void of the incredible artists who articulate and represent the musical tapestry of the LGBTQ community.
While WERUradio features LGBTQ artists, the format remains relatable to everyone. Whether you’re part of the LGBTQ Community or not, WERUradio offers music that makes you feel good and makes you move. The universal force that brings the world together.