Station on the air; Cherry II to restart program
BY THE DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
After testing and stabilizing its broadcast signal, WPUL-AM 1590, Volusia County’s only Black-owned commercial radio station, went back on the air full-time last week with a musical variety format featuring Latino, Top 40, hip-hop, and reggaeton music.
As a part of the station’s return, Daytona Times and Florida Courier Publisher Charles W. Cherry II’s popular commentary, “Free Your Mind,” will air again for the first time in four years on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at noon. The show will be regularly rebroadcast the following Thursdays at 5p.m. and the following Sundays at 2 p.m.
Cherry’s show previously aired on WPUL-AM for more than 14 years, beginning in 2000 and ending when the station went off the air in 2014. He also served as the station’s general manager.
Lots to discuss
“I’m excited about getting back in front of a microphone regularly,” Cherry II said. “There’s plenty to talk about locally, statewide and nationally – the Bethune-Cookman University fiasco, the continuing lack of Black economic development in Daytona Beach, the local churches, the move to reinstate the civil rights of ex-felons in Florida, Donald Trump, the upcoming 2018 state and national elections.
“It’s an abundance of riches for a radio commentator. And it’s about time somebody spoke about all this from an unabashedly unapologetic Black perspective.
“Folks who’ve listened to me for a long time can determine for themselves if I’ve lost a step,” he grinned. “I think I can still go hard, but they will have to listen to find out.”
Gone four years
The station’s resumption of operations comes almost four years to the day in February 2014 that the station terminated its full-time operation due to technical challenges.
Prior to the 2014 shutdown, WPUL-AM had been in continuous operation for more than 25 years after being purchased by Psi Communications, Inc., an investment group of Morehouse College graduates led by the Daytona Times’ late founder, Charles W. Cherry, Sr.
All of the initial investors were members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., who joined the fraternity while they were students at Morehouse, located in Atlanta.
Covered for 20 years
For almost 20 years, WPUL-AM’s broadcast signal covered Ormond Beach to the north to New Smyrna to the southeast.
But in 2008, the station began to operate at reduced power after its longtime landlord refused to renew the lease of its broadcast tower off Nova Road in South Daytona. The station searched for other broadcast sites, but other local radio station owners couldn’t – or wouldn’t – allow WPUL-AM to ‘share’ broadcast sites.
Because of its reduced broadcasting area, WPUL began to lose local listeners – though it had more than 50,000 online listeners at the time it was shut down in 2014.
WPUL’s first day on local airwaves was Sept. 1, 1988. It was then known as WZIP-AM and was a country-western music station. The all-Black investment team put up the initial capital to purchase the station from D&H Radio in 1988.
Sunday gospel was a staple at WPUL from the beginning with a variety of local gospel DJs, including Mary Rhymes, Elder Robert Brewer, the Rev. Harry Austin, and Joyceline Poole-Dudley. For years, live Sunday worship services were broadcast from local churches, including the Church of Christ, Mount Bethel Baptist, and Greater Friendship Baptist.
For almost 20 years, local gospel DJ and concert promoter Mattie was the backbone of the station. From WPUL-AM’s first day on the air in 1988, she played gospel music every weekday morning starting at 6 a.m., until leaving for health reasons in 2003.
When was occasionally absent – which wasn’t often, according to Cherry II – her youthful replacement, Jarvis Smith, would fill in for her.
Smith, a musician, was introduced to the inner workings of the radio industry while working at WPUL-AM. He went on to establish WAIG-FM, a local low-power FM station known as Joy 106.3 FM, which began broadcasting in January 2015.
Smith died unexpectedly in April 2015 at age 34; Howard died in April 2016 at age 73.
Only Black music station
For years, WPUL-AM was the only full-time Black music radio station in Central Florida. The station tried to stay on the technological cutting edge to stay competitive. It was one of the first local stations to air broadcasts via satellite, and aired the Tom Joyner Morning Show in the early 1990s. The Joyner show then moved from WPUL-AM to WCFB-FM (Star 94.5) in Orlando, where it has remained.
The station has also broadcast a number of formats, including urban adult contemporary music, gospel music, and progressive talk. Various programs have aired over the years, including jazz, health and medical, a show selling discount items, and local talk, Christian ministry, politics, and sports.
Radio station technology evolved at WPUL-AM from eight-track cartridge machines, reel-to-reel tape and vinyl records to cassettes, then to mini-disks and CDs, then to computer files. Programs were tracked first by handwritten records, then by computer.
The station went from broadcasting over a transmitter with vacuum tubes literally held together by duct tape and chicken wire to its current transmitter that has run 24-7 for more than 10 years with minor maintenance and without a major hiccup.
In 1999, WPUL-AM established a secondary studio at the Daytona Times building on South Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Daytona Beach to reduce costs and move closer to the center of the Black community. That site will now become the station’s broadcasting site.