My friends like to clown on me for listening to the radio sometimes. Like, I know it’s a revolving door of top 20 hits most days, but hear me out, the purpose is in the programming. There’s comedy, advice segments, political commentary—and whether it’s the latest Tik Tok hits or a compilation of Golden Oldies, it’s the use of music and meaningful conversations as a means for building communities, for me! I’ve been tuning into local stations since what feels like the beginning of time, and I’m pumped to add a new channel, WYXR 91.7FM, to the lineup.
“We want to “edutain” in a sense. You know, it’s less about playing the music, and more about telling these stories and honoring these spaces, and these subcultures, and these creators, and the people who have taken their time in their years of their life to understand the music that they care about,” said Jared Boyd, Arts and Culture Columnist at the Daily Memphian, and one-third of the official WYXR team is his role as Program Manager.
Parts two and three of the team are held by Robby Grant, otherwise known as Executive Director, and Shelby McCall, the Coordinator of Operations. As I sat down with this crew in their studio located inside Crosstown Concourse, I already had an inkling that this wouldn’t be your average local radio station—and as we dove deeper into conversation, they not only confirmed my preconceived notions, but left me with insight into the larger role radio programming can play in a community.
“Overall, it’s centered on arts and culture, right?” Grant said. “So this isn’t a news station. There will no sports updates. There will be some talk programming, but, largely, our focus is centered around the music—and more so the large population of Memphis with all of its different voices that deserve to be represented.”
And as much as we love hearing “WAP” played morning, noon, and night, this station has opened up a space for local DJs and artists with a unique connection to Memphis to showcase their craft and synergize the connection that Memphians have to music of all kinds.
“It’s this identity of what it means to be from Memphis, to love and to care for Memphis, that’s bringing people together.”
Their community stream, or YXR stream as they call it, will be characterized by the volunteer DJs they’ve handpicked to feature this fall—and they’ve built a partnership with the University of Memphis to host a second student-stream that will foster even more young talent. From Afrobeat and Neo Soul to Reggae, House, Hip-Hop, and more, each week offers an opportunity for discovery, for both the person who’s playing and the person who’s listening.
“We are helping people build an awareness of the things that are always around them, and encouraging them to take them in—coming together as a family,” McCall said. “When listeners interact with our DJs and our DJs interact with one another, we create this hub that’s only going to get bigger and bigger.”
Thus far, some of their schedule includes weekly segments from Kudzukian podcast studio, a weekend segment with Three Black Chicks, and more talk-programming featuring Grammy-award winning writer and filmmaker Robert Gordon’s interviews with musicians from the Music Listening Party with Benjamin Hook’s Library. They even plan to bring on other heavy hitters like Andrew VanWyngarden from MGMT who, though no longer a local resident, can inspire people to continue to be connected to Memphis, even if their talents take them elsewhere.
Now as far as what the music schedule will look like, you’ve got to tune in to get a real taste—because even we don’t know what all WYXR has cookin’ in their kitchen.
“On most nights where it feels live, you’ll hear songs you probably will never hear again just because each of those deejays has their bags, so to speak,” Boyd said. “That’s really what I want.”
“It’s this identity of what it means to be from Memphis, to love and to care for Memphis, that’s bringing people together. And that’s why we can have a station that celebrates what makes us all different, but still have a thread that can tie it all together.”