With broadcast outlets dwindling, local musicians and fans look to revive Boston’s gospel scene
|Northeastern University professor and gospel music consultant Emmett Price (top) and local recording artist and producer Stanley Porter (bottom) are among a host of musicians and fans that are keeping the faith in Boston’s gospel scene. As it becomes harder to find gospel on your radio dial, the genre’s enthusiasts are working overtime to find new ways to get gospel music to the masses. (Left: Craig Bailey photo; right: Photo courtesy of Stanley Porter)|
Gospel music is alive in Boston.
Since the demise of WILD, the genre’s listeners and performers have had to find innovative ways to keep joyful noises on local airwaves.
The scramble started in October 2005, when media corporation Radio One — owner of about 70 radio stations across the U.S., including Boston’s WILD-AM — decided to move the station’s popular format of largely R&B and soul music off of the AM dial and onto a stronger FM signal.
The switch opened up WILD’s 1090 AM signal, which Radio One decided to re-brand as an urban contemporary gospel music channel called “Praise 1090” and sought to emulate ratings successes enjoyed by other powerful gospel stations around the country.
But Praise 1090 lasted only about three months before the company changed formats again. WILD-AM became a news/talk station featuring Radio One’s syndicated national programming and a morning show hosted by local radio mainstay Jimmy Myers, with the gospel music resurfacing on weekends.
When Radio One sold WILD-FM to Entercom Communications in August 2006, the FM station’s format was flipped to rock music, jeopardizing the future of black-owned radio in Boston. The 1090 AM signal reverted back to its gospel format, but the frequent changes over the past few years have made it hard for gospel music to prosper locally, and for local listeners to find it.
“We are sorely lacking gospel music in Boston,” said Freda Battle, a local gospel singer and minister of music at Mattapan-based Jubilee Christian Church. “There is only one gospel station these days in town. Most people have to listen to XM Satellite Radio or other radio stations online for gospel music.”
During the 1980s, Battle hosted a midday gospel music program on WLVG, a Cambridge AM station that gave Greater Boston premieres to national gospel megastars like the Winans and Shirley Caesar. However, Battle said, that station too met its demise due to a lack of resources to keep it going.(p2)
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