WNSB 91.1 History Last update 3/21/2016
WNSB first signed on the air February 22, 1980 from Norfolk State University’s James Hugo Madison Hall. The 1,000 watt non-commercial radio station broadcasted only five hours per day, mostly instructional programming. The radio station was the dream of Dr. Wilbert D. Edgerton the first Chair of the Department of Mass Communications & Journalism (deceased), Dr. Georgia Ryder, Dean of what is now the College of Liberal Arts and former Chair of the Music Department (deceased) and Dr. Melvin Smith, NSU Administrator (deceased). Dr. Stanley Tickton was a consultant on the legal aspects of forming a station.
Dr. Melvin O. Smith, who authored federal grants in the early 1970’s and provided funds for the purchase of the initial radio equipment. Efforts by Dr. Smith, Dr. Georgia A. Ryder and Dr. Wilbert D. Edgerton in following grants enabled the station to acquire staff and additional equipment, including monies from the Kellogg Foundation which funded the construction of a production studio and allowed for expansion of services. Efforts by Joel Looper, Earl Willey, Edward D. Turner, Howard Jernigan, Quay Austin and Dr. Stanley Tickton were crucial in establishing and maintaining a successful broadcasting operation. As a result of support by then University President Harrison B. Wilson, WNSB was initially established as a one thousand watt radio station rather than the 10 – 100 watts station commonly assigned to college-related stations, using the call letters WNSB ( Norfolk State Broadcasting ), consistent with growth plans for the college.
On April 25, 1980, WNSB radio became Hampton Road’s first full-time FM Jazz station broadcasting twelve hours per day. The station was known as FM Jazz 91, which later became The Jazzbeat of Hampton Roads. Under the leadership of Dr. Wilbert D. Edgerton, general manager and mass communications chair and Edward D. Turner (Station Manager, 1980-2011) operational hours were expanded in 1983 as the station took on affiliations with the Associated Press, United Press International and in 1990 with National Public Radio.
This expansion included a change in program format to “FM Jazz 91”, making WNSB Tidewater’s only full-time jazz radio station. In 1982 WNSB became the first educational station in the region to acquire an earth station receiving satellite dish. On March 1, 1983, WNSB began broadcasting in stereo and expanded its daily operation to eighteen hours. In March of 2000, WNSB adopted an urban contemporary format with overnight satellite jazz programming with Bob Parlocha of WMFT.
Through Norfolk State University student’s efforts to promote jazz in the community a local festival was birthed, Twelve hours of Jazz in the Park. The festival later became the second largest jazz festival in the area and one of the city of Norfolk’s largest outdoor events The Townpoint Jazz Festival. Today the festival has taken on a new name under the direction of the city of Norfolk.
Dr. Wanda Brockington became Chair of the Mass Communications and Journalism Department and general manager of WNSB on July 1, 2005.
In 1992, WNSB increased it’s transmitted wattage and relocated the main transmitter to Chesapeake, Virginia. The station evolved it’s format and identity several times after the upgrade, migrating to a new adult contemporary (Smooth Jazz) format. As jazz embraced a new era of “Acid Jazz” WNSB’s identity crisis took the station through several identifying slogans over the next four years The Beat, then Kool Jazz and then Hot Buttered Soul.
Spartan Station (the old Norfolk Trailway bus station) became the newly renovated home for WNSB in 1996 when the station moved from James Hugo Madison Hall to it’s present location.
In 1998 WNSB abandoned its rich jazz heritage and changed the format to Urban Contemporary. The station also expanded the operational time to 24-hours in the summer of that year. In year 2000, WNSB conducted a transmitter upgrade and become one of the area’s first HD Radio stations.
With the collaboration of Turner and Douglas A. Perry, Jr. (Program Director, 2000 – present) WNSB modified the format to Urban Mainstream (Hip Hop and R&B) and took on the slogan Hot 91 as it is known today.
Throughout it’s two major identities The Jazzbeat of Hampton Roads and Hot 91 WNSB has continuously been the landmark station for developing successful broadcasters and international talent in the entertainment business, which includes NBC’s Saturday Night Live cast member Jared Antonio Farrow, better known by his stage name Jay Pharoah. WNSB is also known for playing songs before they are hits and breaking records for nationally signed and independent artists. The radio station is key to the urban music movement in the region’s Hip Hop culture even developing and presenting some of today’s newest hip-hop and R&B producers as well as recording talents.
Since its inception, WNSB has actively associated with local, regional and national professional organizations, including Tidewater Area Radio Broadcasters ( TARB ), Virginia Association of Broadcasters ( VAB ), Broadcast Education Association, National Association of Broadcasters ( NAB ) and the National Broadcasting Society ( Alpha Epsilon Rho ). WNSB has actively supported community events and public service organizations within the Tidewater area, earning and maintaining respect throughout its service area and within the local broadcast industry.
In late January of 2014, Kashon Powell became Station Manager of Hot 91 after Turner retired in 2011. Powell resigned the position in January of 2015, leaving the station in the management hands of the program director, Douglas Perry and Dr. Danny Adams, associate dean for the NSU College of Liberal Arts.
Although WNSB’s terrestrial broadcast signal fell silent for eight months due to antenna damage from multiple thunderstorms on February 17, 2014 Hot 91 continued to broadcast as an online station through the Tune-In Radio Mobile App. The radio station resumed full operation on October 23, 2014.
Over the past year, the staff and management of WNSB has continued to persevere beyond an electrical fire and flood in the building it is housed. In July 2015 Spartan Station suffered a flood which took WNSB off the air for a forty-eight hour period. And in August 2015 an electrical fire occurred IN Spartan Station within a transformer in the building causing WNSB to suffer electrical damage and off the air for forty-eight hours.
On January 10, 2016, Edith J. Lee-Thorpe became general manager of WNSB, Hot 91. Thorpe’s strategic plan is to study the radio market through market research, focus groups, and serving in the public’s interest.
On February 22, 2016, WNSB will celebrate it’s 36th year anniversary of broadcasting. WNSB is positioned to carve out another grand programming niche that will catapult and position Hot 91 as a leading station in a major radio market, Norfolk, Virginia.
On April 1, 2016, WNSB will conduct its’ first live on-are membership campaign. The ten day campaign will begin with five days silent and end April 10, 2016 after five days of a live campaign.