by Sheena Barnett | photo by Jamie Harmon
[Above photo: Program Manager Jared Boyd, Operations Coordinator Shelby McCall and Executive Director Robby Grant have been working on WYXR for about a year, and the station officially began broadcasting in early October.]
To hear what Memphis sounds like, tune in to 91.7 FM WYXR.
The latest station to hit the local airwaves features music of all genres and voices from many backgrounds, all in an attempt to bring Memphis together – musically.
“We really wanted genres of music that have been underrepresented and people and communities that have been underrepresented on radio to have a voice,” said WYXR Executive Director Robby Grant. “We also feel like there is some community news, community talk that just doesn’t have a place on the dial, so we wanted to have a place for that.”
WYXR is a collaboration between the University of Memphis, The Daily Memphian and the Crosstown Concourse – which serves as the station’s home base. The station plays a wide variety of artists and genres, all hand-picked by the Memphians who serve as volunteer programmers. The station’s taglines are “Raised by Sound” and “Memphis is our format,” and that’s evident in the tunes and shows.
Shows include We Belong, which features LGBT-inclusive music of all genres (Sundays from 4 to 5 p.m.); Sounds of Africa, which showcases the diverse sounds of West Africa; Ring the Alarm, a Caribbean music themed show; Dead Wax, a Memphis music history tour; Finders, Keepers, which shines the spotlight on obscure artists; and Riffin’ on Jazz, a celebration of all kinds of jazz. See the full schedule at https://wyxr.org/schedule/.
Grant and Program Manager Jared Boyd have worked to find a diverse group of programmers and DJs who can showcase not only the best of each genre, but highlight the deep cuts, too.
“What’s cool about the station is that even if you’re familiar with certain genres, like soul or funk or rock, you’re hearing one level or two levels deeper than in a lot of cases you would,” Grant said. “Somebody on Twitter said, ‘I’ve heard so many songs I like that I’ve never heard before,’
and that’s what we’re trying to go for.”
Even Grant and Boyd are being introduced to new tunes through the station.
On a recent episode of Reachin’ Out, DJ Daniel Mathis played two hours’ worth of obscure disco songs from the 70s and 80s.
“It was just incredible,” Grant said. “I’d never heard one of those songs before, and I listen to a lot of music.”
WYXR’s headquarters features everything from turntables to cassette players to CD players, plus controller hookups, so DJs can truly play any music, no matter the format.
“We didn’t want to limit people to a certain medium, because we wanted to hear as many voices as possible,” Grant said.
The station can play any style of music because it is commercial-free.
“Because we’re non- commercial, we’re not as beholden to ratings. We’re not trying to narrow cast our entire station for a specific demographic or format. We’re trying to keep it open, so being listener-supported helps us do that,” he said. Donations to the station can be made on the WYXR website at wyxr.org.
The website also features the station’s schedule, as well as two weeks’ worth of archived shows.
WYXR will feature even more voices next year, as the station will host a second stream that’s more focused on the University of Memphis and its student DJs. So far, though, the station is rocking and rolling – and Grant couldn’t be happier.
“Our idea is that we create this microcosm of Memphis with the station and people interacting, and then people listening to the different shows are staying a little bit longer to listen to the show after that or coming back the next day because they liked what they heard the day before,” he said. “They’re hearing different genres of music and voices they haven’t heard before, and people are opening up and expanding their horizons a bit.”