Breaking News
More () »

First black owned radio station undergoes renovations

A grant from Downtown Memphis Commission allowed the first black owned radio station in Memphis to begin updates.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WLOK radio station started in 1956 as WBCR, and changed it's name when it was bought by the OK Group, a franchise based out of Louisiana. WLOK was the second radio station in Memphis to offer programming directed to a black audience. As its popularity grew WLOK underwent a few changes to meet high demands as its business expanded. Because of this, the radio station moved to a new building on South Second Street in 1958. 

When popular DJs added to the sound of WLOK's radio station, it's popularity increased even more and by the 1960s, WLOK was the top radio station for young African-American listeners. 

However, it was in 1977 that gave WLOK the most significant change, from a racial point of view. Art Gilliam, a young, black businessman from Yale, bought the radio station, making WLOK the first black-owned, and the first locally owned radio station in Memphis.  

With a 50,000 grant from Downtown Memphis Commission in April of 2021, WLOK began renovations. The most noticeable renovation is the outside of the building, going from beige to a multicolor of blue, black, white, and yellow. 

"The inside will soon reflect more of the history of WLOK and what it means to Memphis," said Art Gilliam, owner of WLOK radio station. 

RELATED: How a Memphis 5-year-old is working to keep his community clean

RELATED: Memphis police to increase Beale Street patrols

RELATED: How a Memphis couple turned a school bus into a home

Before You Leave, Check This Out