It’s been a decade since Ray Richardson went backwards, so to speak.
After doing fill-in work, he began his weekly “Back in the Day” program at KMOJ-FM in November 1998. “I was a little nervous at first, because I had to replace a well-known person in John Suttles,” recalls Richardson.
Ever since, Back in the Day has become a regular Sunday-night fixture at the station, where listeners get the weekly four-hour fix of old-school music, mixed with current songs and other features such as artists’ triple plays, trivia questions and a Top-Five countdown, which allows one listener to correctly guess the artist and song title in order.
The 6-10 pm time slot “is a time when people don’t have many TV distractions — a time when they might be winding down from the weekend,” Richardson believes. “It is their last chance to celebrate the end of the weekend.
“The music is important, but I want to build stuff around the music,” he continues. “I want to give people an experience for four hours. I want people to be a part of the show as much as possible.”
“He is not just a disc jockey, but he is a music historian,” says Desi Williamson, a loyal listener from Plymouth. Originally from St. Louis, Williamson grew up on Black radio. The DJs there “created a show and a theme. They were super jocks,” he recalls. “Ray brings me back to [those] memories.”
“I look forward to Sunday evenings,” says Jerome Bill Aiken of Minneapolis. “[Richardson’s] flavor and the way he connects to the listeners is phenomenal,” he adds.
“He gets good ratings, has a good personality and plays good music,” KMOJ morning personality Sunny Day says of Richardson.
“Ray is an excellent, unique talent,” KMOJ General Manager Kelvin Quarles points out.
Richardson admits that he was influenced listening to such legendary DJs as Herb Kent and Tom Joyner while growing up in Chicago: “I wanted to be like those guys.”
Although he had a journalism career that began in Chicago and moved to Phoenix before joining the St. Paul Pioneer Press sports writing staff in the late 1980s, deep down inside the radio bug stayed with him. “I’m a sportswriter by trade, but music always has been my biggest love,” says Richardson.
“I worked in college on a radio station, and I always wanted to work on radio somewhere. But I never though I get the chance to play [music] on the radio again.”
Bill English, who was on the station’s board of directors at the time, quickly recognized Richardson’s talent after he joined the station in the late 1990s. “His writing background helps him on radio to keep it short and simple. He is a much understated personality,” says English.
Derrick Stephens, now production manager at The Current (KCMP-FM), and Richardson once co-taught volunteers on-air techniques. He also helped him during his infancy days. “I just tried to make him comfortable on the air,” recalls Stephens. “I thought he had the talent and would be a good fit for KMOJ.”
Midway through the show’s existence came the “Lovely Tola,” who joined the show in 2002. “She came in [with a friend, who was a show intern] and they were helping me answer my phones, putting stuff together,” says Richardson. Eventually, her friend moved on but Tola didn’t. “Tola was keeping me in order, organizing and showing me how to do stuff with the computer.”
It wasn’t long before Tola Oyewole, now a senior community relations specialist at Best Buy, became a local personality. Her voice became a magnet for the male listeners, says Richardson. “Pretty soon guys started calling, trying to talk to her,” he recalls.
“It’s crazy on how people know you without seeing you,” says Tola, who after four years on Back in the Day left in 2006.
“To this day, the show would not be as good without her influence,” Richardson admits.
“With Ray and me going back and forth with old school and new school, we were able to bring some pizzazz to the show,” Tola points out. “Ray is somebody who really loves his job. He really tries to connect with the listeners, and not all DJs do that. That is a skill I think he really mastered.”
“Every Sunday is the time of my life,” concludes Richardson. “It is the most fun four hours of my life. I owe KMOJ a lot. I owe that station more than I can ever say.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or read his blog: www.ww wchallman.blogspot.com.