Which U.S. city was home to the first radio station to be programmed entirely by African Americans?

Famed Beale Street, located in Memphis, Tenn. has hosted such jazz legends as Albert King, Louis Armstrong, Memphis Minnie, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King. // (c) 2010 Thomas Hawk / Flickr.com
Famed Beale Street, located in Memphis, Tenn. has hosted such jazz legends as Albert King, Louis Armstrong, Memphis Minnie, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King. // (c) 2010 Thomas Hawk / Flickr.com

WDIA (1070 AM), in Memphis, Tenn. is the first radio station in America to develop programming exclusively by and for African-Americans.

The station, the sixth to open in Memphis in 1947, began with a country and western, light pop format. But at a time when television programs were rare and radios shows catering to black audiences were nearly non-existent, WDIA owners John Pepper and Bert Ferguson hired Nat D. Williams, an African-American, to host the “Tan Town Jamboree” in 1948.  The show was an almost instant hit–except with audience members from the white supremacist community–and WDIA quickly catapulted to the city’s number-two radio station slot. By 1949, all of the station’s on-air talent was African American.

The programming became so popular in a still-segregated where can i buy levitra over the counter society, that advertisers weren’t quite sure what to do with the format.  WDIA recalls that “it had to alert their advertisers that they’d be getting visits from black shoppers—lots and lots of black shoppers.”

Although Williams was not a musician himself, he was born on the city’s famed Beale Street, where jazz legends like Albert King, Louis Armstrong, Memphis Minnie, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King have all performed. (In 1977, Beale Street was officially declared the Home of the Blues by an act of Congress.)

A high school teacher, Williams organized the annual Booker T. High School talent show, transforming it into a highly successful fundraiser for the school and for the ongoing education of its students.Williams also hosted the famed Palace Theater Amateur Night, which helped launch the careers of numerous Memphis[based artists, including B.B. King, who recorded his first single at the station.

Listen to WDIA on “I Heart Radio”
www.iheart.com/live/2129/?autoplay=true

Read the full history of WDIA Radio
www.mywdia.com/pages/history/about/

Read more Memphis Firsts
www.memphistravel.com/press/made-memphis