RadioFacts is now committed to SHOWING urban radio people how to diversify their skills and to use their leverage in communications to build a career in other areas.
Originally posted Feb 2, 2016
We have seen many comedians do it by coming into our arena and taking over but we have one skill that they don’t have. We are trained and EXCELLENT communicators. That leaves the door to doing something else WIDE open, we just have to believe in ourselves. While we all love radio and music, when it stops loving us, we must look at divorcing it and starting a new relationship. I hope this inspires someone.
Reggie Reg Davis is a 30-year radio broadcast veteran. He worked in markets across the nation such as WQMG at Greensboro N.C., Tampa Florida at 95.7 The Beat/iHeartMedia and afternoon drive at KJLH. Even though Reggie enjoyed his travels to various markets, he began (and ended) his career in his favorite market in his hometown Detroit, Michigan. With his massive involvement with the community, aside from his on air gig, he made a life of doing GOD’s work, helping others, in the city of Detroit.
He won three “Radio Personality of The Year” awards from various regional radio ranking groups and he was nominated for a national “Radio Personality of The Year” award in 2001 by Radio & Records (R&R). He won numerous Community Outreach and Community Advocate Awards over a 30-year span.
“This decision [to leave] was also based on PPM’S arrival, personality radio vanishing, salary compensations being demolished, comedian syndication take-over and a host of other deals that began to slowly evolve into the new radio lifestyle that no longer was appealing to true radio vets.”
In 2004 Reggie was granted an honorary degree from the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts and in 2015 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Entertainment Awards Group. Reggie was a Rosa Parks Scholar who was granted a full ride of undergrad studies at Wayne State University he is an Alma Mater from the great Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 2001, Davis lost his youngest brother to gun violence and since that time he founded (and is President of) The CeaseFire Youth Initiative Inc., a non-profit group aimed at educating youth about the seriousness of gun violence. He is a true advocate for the cause.
In 2009, Davis was elected to the City of Detroit’s Charter Revision Commission and adopted many positive changes in city government such as the election of the city’s Police Commission in order for the electorate body to have a say in the oversight of the para-military group known as the Detroit Police Department.
Since completing his work with the city’s Home Rule Charter, he was appointed Deputy Manager for the Department of Neighborhoods by current Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in 2014. Reggie’s responsibility is to revitalize the neighborhoods which have been on a decline over the past 20 or more years. Davis is also responsible for the repopulation of Detroit which has also been on a downward spiral for decades. He is accomplishing this task by organizing community persons in an effort to work together on the same objective; making Detroit a more vibrant and safe city for all. RadioFacts got a chance to talk to the former radio pro who is now working in the Detroit political arena…
RADIO FACTS: You left radio a few years ago for politics, how did this come about?
REGGIE REG DAVIS: In 2009 conflicts of interest forced me to make a decision, whether to stay on-the-air or represent my constituent base via elected office. Management at the station came into the studio one day and asked me to make a choice between radio and politics while I was on the air doing my afternoon drive shift. They had their attorney’s to do the research on a non-compensated, non-beneficial elected board which met twice per month, only to come back and congratulate me on my work in the community and allow me to stay on air while simultaneously serving the people as an elected public servant.
I had already been consumed about the ‘Equal Time’ regulations by the FCC, for more than 10 years, however, this particular situation did not seem to fit the mold considering the fact that I would not be able to earn a living wage; which was the reason management decided to research the deal. So, after deep prayer and meditation, I decided that it was about time to leave my career in radio and jump into the political arena.
This decision [to leave] was also based on PPM’S arrival, personality radio vanishing, salary compensations being demolished, comedian syndication take-over and a host of other deals that began to slowly evolve into the new radio lifestyle that no longer was appealing to true radio vets.
As I emptied my locker I thought to myself this was simply GOD’s way of showing me that He had something different for me to do. As I continued on my lifelong quest to follow His path and do HIS WORK I was able to leave.
RF: Were you actually able to use the station to promote your political aspirations? From my experience, most urban radio stations shut down any potential growth for black Radio DJs.
RRD: I believe that if there were any attempts to shut down what I totally perceive as GOD’s work, I was totally unaware of it. While working for iHeartMedia (then Clear Channel) in 2001, I produced a particular segment during my afternoon shift entitled ‘Holla At The Mayor’ which showcased the work of the now-infamous Hip Hop Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. This segment was by far the HOTTEST piece of Detroit radio during the time. Sadly enough, it was one of the brighter sides of Mayor Kilpatrick’s first term in office as the rest ultimately became a part of this good brother’s demise. So sad to see one of my peers; a good brother, rise so fast and fall so hard. And no matter what one may say, to give that brother 28 years with a charge of racketeering, to say the least, was overkill.
Another brother who GOD sent to me as an angel who REALLY, WHOLEHEARTEDLY looked out for me and my best interest was my program director during that time Mr. Michael Saunders. I can’t begin to describe the peaceful, kind, magnanimous character this brother exemplified
I recall walking into Mike’s office one day after I hadn’t heard anything from him in about a week or two. I said “Hey Mike, what’s up? I haven’t heard from you on the hotline, you have not asked to meet with me, you have not come into the control room, is everything ok?” Mike would give it to me so plain and so simple. He replied, “Reggie Reg look at this’ (as he reached for a document from the side of his desk) ‘this is all the talking we need to do, it’s Arbitron’s last book and you are number one with a bullet, now get out of my office” (with a slight smile on his face).
Michael Saunders would probably allow me to get away with murder, as long as the product (ratings) were at a premium and I admit, I took advantage of this one-of-a-kind treatment as I went hard into the community. I promoted the hottest parties, threw the liveliest concerts, hung out with the Who’s Who like my good friend Jerry Stackhouse, who at that time played for the soon to be champion Detroit Pistons. Jerry partnered with me on many promotions and anytime the Pistons were in town on the night of one of our events, he would invite the starting line up from the Pistons as well as the starters from the opposing team. Kevin, we had parties with Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Allen Iverson; name them and they were there. Jerry made me look like a star and together we made Michael Saunders and iHeartmedia look like the star of Detroit radio.
Aside from the fun, I also took full advantage of going in and out of the Detroit Public Schools, mentoring young men and being a guiding force to those faced with no direction, no hope, no focus, no father figure; those youth in search of the truth but are oftentimes stuck between adversity and a hard place. My non-profit, The CeaseFire Youth Initiative would team up with local rap artists, former gang members, clergy, elected officials (including the Mayor), successful hometown athletes, poets etc. to gain the attention of the youngster in an effort to lead them in the right direction, graduation, and lifelong productivity.
The Good and the Bad
Let’s start with the not so good. In my 30-year radio career, the one thing I despised most were the few times I was totally used to make a fortune for the mom and pop station. They would bring you in and set you up on air just the way you wanted to be. They’d tell you all of these great stories about the new direction the station was going in and how you will be an asset to the great, positive future of the brand. Then the ratings would come out and even though you absolutely killed the competition about 180 days later, after you kept hearing all the rumors of this “big sale” to the big radio conglomerate, which they consistently denied, they would call you into the big conference room just to introduce you to the guy who operates the new company, which just hours prior wrote them a 77 Million dollar check with your name nowhere attached.
In contrast, I am very proud to see the way GOD works through me and how he uses me in a totally different manner. Case in point, I was driving home one weekday morning, coming back from vacation in upper Michigan. And just as all of us real radio people do, I turned the radio on as I traveled in my car just to see
what everybody else was doing. So upon picking up reception as I traveled I-96 East passing Lansing, I turned on a station I formerly worked for only to hear these young ladies cute but authoritative voice. She was the morning show co-host and she was giving out important information to the residents of the capitol city. I immediately called the old station hotline (which had never changed) and spoke to the young lady. She could not believe it was Reggie Reg from JLB in Detroit and to excite her even more, I asked her if she’d like to do traffic on my afternoon show in Detroit. After the amazement rubbed off she simply said ‘Yes Reggie Reg, I would be absolutely honored to accept the offer … WHEN DO I START!’ And not to many moons later she was hired in to do the afternoon traffic report in major market Detroit; a true dream of hers.
The young lady I’m talking about is Ms. Cheron Sanders, who went on to do weekends on air, and later was promoted to APD, MD and full-time midday personality at WJLB. Cheron replaced the late, great Kris Kelly who was promoted to PD at WGCI in Chi town. Today Cheron is Director of Urban Programming for iHeart/Detroit. I am SOOOOO very proud of her it makes me cry. Congrats Cheron!!!
RF: Many urban radio people feel urban radio is their last stop and that they can’t have other opportunities, what would you suggest for the MANY frustrated urban Radio DJs that are stuck in the moving-from-station-to-station-but-not-progressing grind?
RRD: I would like to say to my dear brothers and sisters who just feel like you are stuck in quicksand over all this radio madness to remember two very important things: Put GOD first and do good deeds for others. I don’t know if your niche will be in the form of politics, spokesperson for a corporation, real estate or Voiceover. Whatever the case, you must believe in those that stood there for you all those years and marked in the old Arbitron diary your station’s call letters and your time slot as if they were a robot. Go to them and they will pull you straight up out of the quicksand and give you hope again.
RF: How does it feel to have taken control of your own destiny? What’s it like to make a move like you did?
RRD: Taking control of my destiny simply reminds me of my commitment to the most high. It actually was not difficult for me because I am a man of substance and I do not only talk the talk I walked it. Because of my talk with GOD and the clear understanding that I have about this life and my duty while here, it was never hard for me to withstand the evils of like. For example fads and pop culture, and cars and money and liquor and drugs; you know the things that other people fancy? It never moved me. Now I do admit I had my experiences with a nice car or two and a couple of dollars here and there but I am so grateful that I’m guided by GOD’s will verses man’s will or I would have fallen into a big hole a long time ago.
I am so thankful that I have detached personality verses an addictive one. I can have something one day and it can be gone the next and it does not shake me or send me into a deep depression. So, long story short, as my favorite group of the 90’s Tony, Toni, Tone would put it ‘It Feels Good!’ It feels good to be able to tell a multi-million dollar powerhouse goodbye.
RF: Do you miss radio? What do you miss most about it?
RRD: I miss delivering important information to a mass group of folk simultaneously and watching the community respond to the information or advice I gave them. For example, my former P.D., the late KJ Holiday would refer to me as the radio personality/CNN reporter because I always felt the need to not just talk up a song hitting the post and give away the Janet Jackson concert tix or the $1,000 give away at 4:22 pm. I instead found it far more important to open the mic and say ‘Hey cuzin, are you in a gang and can’t get out? I can help you’ or ‘Young lady are you pregnant and just totally terrified of what could happen, little cuzin I got you, call me at this number …’
In addition, listeners never forget about us because they tuned in to us everyday, just as they drank their morning coffee and dropped the little ones off at school, we were an important part of their everyday life; they counted on us just as they did their snooze button.
In my case, the single mom’s who connected with me when I lost my baby brother Vito to gun violence in 2001, they heard my cries on air as I asked them ‘Cuzin help me find my brother’s murderers.’ They went out and helped me and within a 40-hour period all five assailants, between the ages of 16 and 20, we’re apprehended and two received a life sentence. The phone lines poured in as I begin to assist families, on air, find their loved one’s assassins. Listeners do not forget those types of actions; how could they?
So Kevin, if I do miss radio that is the part I miss. Not the parties and the ladies and the liquor and the after hours club. Not the many things that came along with the program but the actual moments on air in the control room, which was normally a mere 30×30 ft. in diameter, when I turned on the microphone in hopes of helping or in some cases saving people’s lives; that’s what I miss.
RF: Would you ever go back to radio? If so, how would it be different this time?
RRD: Kev, by GOD’s so glorious will, I will go back to radio in an effort to continue to do what he told me back in 1987. If there is ever a time that a programmer or whatever it is they call em’ these days? Brand manager, OM or GM wishes to sit with me and have one of those cool conversations, the first thing on the list of discussion has to be how we can help in the community in which those awesome people whom I refer to as my cuzin or my family members reside. Radio has to be in the community or it just will not work Kevin; it just will not.