MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Forty years ago, WLOK Radio was purchased by Gilliam Communications, Inc. and principal owner Art Gilliam. It was the first black-owned and the first locally-owned radio station in Memphis.
On Saturday, June 4, at the Orpheum, WLOK will celebrate the fortieth anniversary year of black and local ownership. The celebration will be a concert featuring Al Green, The Brown Singers, The Gospel Four, the Tennessee Mass Choir, and the Stax Academy Alumni Band.
One important aspect of the concert is the special relationship between WLOK and Bishop Al Green. “Bishop Green was the first person to come and congratulate me on the purchase of WLOK,” said Art Gilliam, WLOK’s owner. “It was very special because it was a new venture for me with all the uncertainties that go with any newly formed business. Al was a star then, as he is today, and it meant a lot to me for someone of that magnitude to stop by and express support.”
The paths taken by Al Green and WLOK coincided over the years. WLOK began as a soul music station in the early years, and Al Green was a soul music superstar. A few years later WLOK evolved into a gospel music station which also paralleled the transition of Bishop Green from soul music to gospel music. “The one artist whose career has most paralleled the history of WLOK is Al Green,” said Gilliam, and that is why I made a special appeal to him to be a vital part of our 40th anniversary. Al Green accepted and he will be the premier artist on the program. Other popular nationally known gospel artists from Memphis, the Brown Singers and the Gospel Four, will also perform at the 40th anniversary celebration. The Tennessee Mass Choir, which is from Memphis, will appear as well. The Stax Academy Alumni Band will open the show and perform many of the Stax hits that were a staple of WLOK and Memphis in the station’s early years.
Tickets for the WLOK 40TH Anniversary celebration are on sale at all Ticketmaster outlets and online.