On Sept. 5, Morgan State University’s radio station WEAA, 88.9 FM, known as, “the Voice of the Community,” announced major changes, which essentially forced several of WEAA’s long-time radio personalities to sign off abruptly after providing decades of musical pleasure.
James Big Jim Staton. Big Jim is a renowned WEAA 88.9 FM radio Station personality. (Courtesy Photo)
The shift at WEAA, which began broadcasting in 1977, will impact the station’s evening line-up the most, effectively ending all current programing Monday through Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight in most cases. All the changes will take effect Oct. 2.
On Monday, “Keep it Moving,” hosted by Marsha Jews, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and “In the Tradition,” hosted by long-time jazz impresario George “Doc” Manning, 8 p.m. – midnight, will end. On Tuesday, “Wealthy Radio,” hosted by financial expert Deborah Owens, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and “Fiesta Musical,” a latin music program hosted by Guillermo Brown, 8 p.m. – 11 p.m., will be eliminated. On Wednesday, “The Relation Shift Experience,” hosted by wellness, yoga and mindfullness practitioner Changa Bell 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. and “Jazz Straight Ahead,” hosted by brothers Jan and Eric Tegler (whose father Jon Tegler hosted the show for decades) 8 p.m. – midnight is over. On Thursday, “Blues in the Night,” hosted by James “Big Jim” Staton for 30 years 8 p.m.- midnight is no more (Staton parted ways with the station prior to the announced changes). Friday evening, “Listen Up!”, hosted by Faraji Muhammad 7 p.m. – 8 p.m., and the, “Friday Night Jazz Club,” hosted by Angela “The Duchess” Thorpe will end.
“I’m numb from this,” said Thorpe on Sept. 6. The WEAA radio personality began her stint on the air at the station as an intern in 1996, when she was a student at Morgan State University. Marcellus “Bass Man” Shepard who for many years presented a mix of “smooth jazz,” and Rhythm and Blues in the afternoon, will shift to weekday evenings 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. “First Edition,” hosted by Baltimore AFRO editor Sean Yoes Monday through Friday, 5 p.m.- 7 p.m., will be cut to 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Other changes to the weekday evening line-up have yet to be announced, but are expected.
Prior to this week’s shake-up, a 30 year radio veteran at WEAA suddenly left the station, perhaps foreshadowing the major changes to come.
Early Saturday morning and late Thursday night “Big” Jim Staton was on the airwaves of WEAA radio, for more than a generation.
Whether you were getting a head start on Saturday chores or perhaps recovering from a Friday night on the town, you could count on Big Jim to wake you up at 5:00 a.m. sharp every Saturday with his “Turning Back the Hands of Time” show cranking out the oldies that you or your parents listened to.
On Thursday nights, Staton’s show, “Blues in the Night,” presented straight ahead blues; popular artists known universally like Ray Charles and BB King, along with artists more familiar to blues aficionados; Bobby “Blue” Bland, John Lee Hooker and Koko Taylor.
“Big Jim” as he is known to his WEAA listeners, may have one of the most extensive collection of oldies on the East Coast and counted his service to WEAA as a labor of love. But last month, Jim’s 30-year labor of love with WEAA ended with an unexpected resignation from the station.
“I’ve been working with Big Jim for the last 11 years. I consider him as an uncle. As a professional I am going to miss his camaraderie,” said Walter Berry II, a fellow WEAA-FM music host better known to his listeners as “Papa WaBe.”
“Me and Big Jim go way back to the Al Stuart and Mary Carter Smith Days. Big Jim has always been a faithful friend. I could count on him because he is a man of his word,” said friend and colleague, Ernestine Jones, long time host of the Gospel Grace Brunch, which airs on WEAA Sundays 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Staton said he and other hosts at the station recently discovered that while they earned slightly above minimum wage or worked for free, WEAA had been paying more than $100,000 to Marc Steiner, host of a weekday morning news show. Steiner’s relationship with the station ended July 31st after his contract was not renewed.
“More money in one year than I made in 30 years…you do the math,” Staton said in a statement. “My first 11 years, I volunteered my service…then $11.50 per hour.”
Morgan State University School of Global Journalism Dean DeWayne Wickham would not comment on Staton’s departure, and insisted that the station is on firm footing, referring to an editorial Wickham wrote that was published in the AFRO about WEAA’s future in July.
Staton believes the station had lost its close connection with the campus and its strong connection with the community.
“I’ve been around and here for my listeners and the Morgan State community for 30 years I remember when the station was connected to the community. We’ve lost some of that and it takes leadership to get it back,” Staton told the AFRO.
WEAA-FM Station Interim Manager Mireille Grangenois did not return calls by the AFRO.