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Friday, September 17, 2021

50 years of impact: Locals celebrate WTLC’s significance in their lives

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Spot the Jock, turkey giveaways, gospel music and Mayor William Hudnut’s monthly show are all memories Cynthia Stigger fondly recalls of WTLC – Indianapolis’ first Black-owned radio station.

Stigger has been a loyal WTLC listener from the start and her vast memory of the station’s humble beginnings is astounding.

“Although I don’t recall the first song that played on the radio, or what disc jockey that was on the air, that particular day, I can say that it was an emotional and eventful moment for every African-American that resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, and its surrounding area,” Stigger said. “Everywhere you turned, people were blasting their radio to the sound of soul music, our music.”

WTLC is celebrating a half a century of not only playing popular music by Black artists but also serving the greater Indianapolis community. Founded by Dr. Frank L. Lloyd, WTLC previously was owned by Emmis Communications before becoming part of the Urban One family. As the radio station switched owners it also switched stations on the FM dial, moving from 105.7 to 106.7. Under Emmis ownership, gospel music moved to sister station AM 1310 The Light. Throughout the changes, however, WTLC’s listeners remained faithful.

“I’ve seen the changes in leadership over the years, and I have also seen the station change with the introduction of 1310 The Light, which is now the city’s only gospel station,” said Beverly Barney, who goes by the moniker “Pastor Bev” and hosts a show with her husband, Reginald, on AM 1310 The Light. “WTLC has done so much for the community with outreaches … It’s a blessing for the stability it’s given the city even through their transitions.”

Barney remembers listening to Rev. Mozel Sanders as well as Delores “Sugar” Poindexter and Al “The Bishop” Hobbs.

The DJs were an integral part of WTLC’s success. Stigger remembers a time when the radio personalities were seen as celebrities in the local community.

“I remember as a child, WTLC was always having some sort of give away contest, one of them being Spot the Jock,” Stigger said. “This was a special moment … we were always looking over our shoulder in hope of spotting our favorite jock — any jock for that matter. Being in the presence of a radio personality was like being in the presence of a famous movie star.”

While the music and DJs were an integral part to WTLC so was the business side of the radio station. As a retired business owner Jane Brown worked with WTLC through her time as CEO of clothing boutique House of Jayne to advertise her business. It was a win-win situation for Brown and WTLC as she cultivated relationships with station employees who helped her stay relevant for 42 years.

“There are so many people at WTLC that assisted me and my business along the way,” Brown said. “Since 1969 WTLC and I have worked together through community events and advertising my business. They were so much help along the way for me and I can never thank them enough for advertising at a fair price even when money was tight at the station.”

Contact staff writer Dontre Graves at 317-762-7848. 

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