Are Radio DJs Still Relevant?

Mixed up in all the giving of thanks last week was the giving of pink slips to two of New York's venerable radio mainstays: Vaughn Harper and Champaine of WBLS (107.5 FM). Harper was one of the originators of the format known as The Quiet Storm, while Champaine worked a six-hour shift on the overnights, keeping many a night shift worker alert and entertained. The station justifies the cuts as part of a cost-cutting move. But was there more behind the move than simply attempting to balance the books? Are these firings a sign of the times? Have radio disc jockeys and their banter, interaction with listeners and those listeners' loyalty, outlived their usefulness, instead making way for mere button-pushers? 

In a recent article in the New York Daily News, Champaine admitted that "the art of radio has seen its day." We tend to agree. But she added, "Anyone can push buttons and voice-track, but it takes a seasoned
professional to sustain an audience for six hours and then come back
for more, day after day." Is that still true today? With so many radio stations content with just playing the same songs hour after hour, are DJs still relevant? Will legends like Harper and Champaine even be missed? Let us know in the comments section. [NYDN]

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38 Responses

  1. I rarely listen to radio anymore. I mainly listen online or through XM radio. On the rare occasions when I do listen to radio, it's when I'm on the road traveling.
    But I have to admit, I miss listening to guys like Kevin "Slow Jammin'" James and DJ Theo. Something about those silky voices and those late night grooves that make me want more.

  2. The question isn't whether DJs are relevant. The question is, are station owners and managers smart enough to recognize what they bring to the equation or will they only focus on the bottom line?

  3. You know...this just happened in Baltimore two weeks ago....a popular morning program was just taken off to bring in Rickey Smiley's show. That's the trend that I see: bringing in these nationally syndicated shows and kicking out the local talent. I don't like it. It's one thing to syndicate Tom Joyner or Russ Parr- people who are real djs and b/c of their popularity get national syndication...But what has been happening now is all these big name comedians are getting these shows and it must be cheaper to have them nationally than it is to pay for local talent (I don't know how...but maybe b/c it brings in more commercial revenue?)...anyway, I don't think it's right.....

  4. Personally I like hearing interesting conversation during my morning drive. In LA we still have Big Boy on Power 106 and Guy Black on KJLH. Both personalities are entertaining, charismatic, and you're never bored when listening to them. Steve Harvey is on KDAY but I can't stand his country ass. KDAY needs some major reprogramming, their radio personalities are a major snoozefest. They are LA's first hip hop station and they're coming off hella whack. They need to do like KJAZZ and bring the radio back to the people by having listener-sponsored programming. But when I think about it, how many people are passionate enough about hip hop to make regular donations to keep quality programming alive? I'd send them $10-$20 when I can swing it. *Sigh* Bring back Julio G!

  5. it was the signing of the telecommunications act of 1996 that helped turn radio into the sorry state we know it to be now: fewer personalities, more voice-tracking and cookie-cutter formats up and down the dial from coast to coast. when i do have the radio dial on, it's normally tuned to college or public access radio. when i'm not listening to podcasts, i'm checking out freeform stations online (namely WFMU and East Village Radio).
    once that act was signed into law, clear channel went on a buying spree with a total of over 1200 stations under its belt. they slashed budgets, cut costs, and showed a lot of great DJs the door in favor of practices like voice tracking and the like. it's really a shame about Vaughan Harper and Champaine - i'm sure that there are plenty of 'BLS listeners upset about that. these days, it seems like you have to have a syndicated show like Steve Harvey or Tom Joyner in order to have any real staying power. but what happens to regional talent that's just as good (if not better) in the meantime?
    even with all so many millions excited about the new directions that the Obamadministration could take us in, we ought to take heed to the moves that the FCC may make behind the scenes in the next four years. now might be a good time to remind ourselves that it was a Democratic administration that signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. Bill Clinton put his John Hancock on that, thus allowing the FCC to turn the fine art of radio into a hollowed out shell of itself.
    just sayin'...

  6. What a minute, they still have RADIO STATIONS????? 🙂 radio is so irrellevent, I cant tell you thelast time I listened to the radio

  7. Wow! Vaughn Harper is gone...? I still have the tapes I used to make from some of his shows back in the early 90's-- and I don't even own a tape player.
    I think the current direction of radio is sad and actually bad business practice. What they are failing to realize is that while they are appealing to a certain niche in the market--they are also losing a significant amount of listnership. Their management style at Clear Channel and Radio 1 is akin to the auto industry--the seeping is slow at first as a few listeners find other outlets, and then it happens at a greater rate.
    Countless people tell me they no longer listen to the radio, or they only listen to college or other public radio. And then their is the slow growing Satellite deal.
    Bad move on 'BLS part. Next thing you know they will be getting rid of the Sunday Morning's old school show (I forget his name). And that is not only a legendary show, but quite well done. 'BLS has always been a little off the mark if you ask me.

  8. Champaine is the best! What a loss, she one of the very few reasons that I listen to music stations on the radio.
    Watch out Hal Jackson and Felix Hernandez ......

  9. the concept of radio (be it terrestrial or satellite) has no meaning in my life, and hasn't for quite some time.

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  11. why did they take her off? she will be truly missed. wbls is no longer my station.

  12. Of all the DJs to "let go", Champaine was the worst choice. BLS could have made. Champaine was the best DJ on the radio. Every night I look forward to coming to work and turning on Champaine. Her voice, her laught, her sweet nature and her knowledge of music is amazing. Now I don't even listen to BLS at night. She will definately be missed.

  13. What a shame that they got rid of Harper and Champaine. He reminded me of the legendary Bob Thomas formerlly of WHUR. I'm from Baltimore and listen regularly to WBLS. BLS reminds me of WHUR in Washington, DC (minus the hip hop) It's all about the dollar dollar bill yall. It's cheaper to pay a board operator compared to the salaries that alot of jocks command.

  14. Of course DJs are still relevant, it's not as if WBLS isn't going to replace these people! Vaughn is of course a legend, but there is a lot of DJ talent out there, and maybe WBLS simply decided to give others a chance and hoped to expand the age range of their market. Champaine's overnight slot has been ably handled for the last 3 weeks by veteran jock "Doctor" Bob Lee, who has been on air since the 80's in various slots at the station, and for my money he's doing a better job than she was and it seems like the spot now is his. So kudos to WBLS for getting the Doctor back on air!

  15. Yes, they will be missed, WBLS already struggles now it will go down the tubes. I do not listern after Wendy, and if they do not renew Wendy's Contract I will not listen at all. I do not want to hear a bunch of the same old songs, I like to hear the DJ's speak along with the music.

  16. what happen to Champange from wbls 107.5 radio show?

  17. It just did not dawn on me that Champagne was fired, I thought she was on vacation. This must be the most explosive move WBLS could have done. Champagne and Vaughn are just as relevent today as they were when they started. They are WBLS.

  18. It just did not dawn on me that Champagne was fired, I thought she was on vacation. This must be the most explosive move WBLS could have done. Champagne and Vaughn are just as relevent today as they were when they started. They are WBLS.

  19. It just did not dawn on me that Champagne was fired, I thought she was on vacation. This must be the most explosive move WBLS could have done. Champagne and Vaughn are just as relevent today as they were when they started. They are WBLS.

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    It's really sad to see someone as spiritually filled as Champaine to be let go from WBLS. It's definitely a shocker to learn of this information and I'm extremely saddened because Champaine brought the heat when it came to listening to the radio on the overnights. WBLS now sucks because of this. Now we have to "...listen to the same 20 songs every hour for the next 3 months. Man - FUNK THAT!!!!...". WBLS, you have definitely lost a dedicated listener on the overnights. WRKS, here I come. Peace and Blessings to Champaine and Vaughn Harper. DANGIT MAN!!!!!!

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    It's really sad to see someone as spiritually filled as Champaine to be let go from WBLS. It's definitely a shocker to learn of this information and I'm extremely saddened because Champaine brought the heat when it came to listening to the radio on the overnights. WBLS now sucks because of this. Now we have to "...listen to the same 20 songs every hour for the next 3 months. Man - FUNK THAT!!!!...". WBLS, you have definitely lost a dedicated listener on the overnights. WRKS, here I come. Peace and Blessings to Champaine and Vaughn Harper. DANGIT MAN!!!!!!

  22. Yes, DJs are still relevant. Of course Champaine and Vaughn Harper are legends, especially Vaughn, but times change. The stations are under enormous pressure to give what listeners want and compete with web radio, etc, and they are probably making these moves to do that. Here, it seems to me that they still care about DJs. Although Vaughn's replacement hasn't been announced, veteran DJ "Doctor" Bob Lee has been ably filling the overnight slot since November and has been doing a great job. Bob is well known in New York and in the black community especially, and I think putting him in that spot was an effort to bond more closely with the community. The PPM's that arbitron now uses place a premium on community work, I think, so the addition of Bob Lee really makes sense to me. Should improve ratings.

  23. I think that the loss of these unique,refined and talanted D'Js are a loss to the fans of bootgh wbls as well as Vaughn and Champaine as individuals.Ther is no explanation as to why the fans have to suffer.I would like to have them booth back on WBLS.Some things as well as some people are non-expendible.This is truly a great loss,I am truly dissapointed and at this point truly unhappy about this.

  24. It was like loosing an old friend when they pulled her show. In fact I became depressed and couldn't write my papers- I'm a graduate student working on my dissertation. The funny thing is that I did not readily know how Champaine firing deeply impacted me.
    WBLS made a serious mistake and I wrote them to tell them so. I no longer listen at night and if Steve Harvey's show isn't on, I don't listen at all. I now listen to online radio and I agree with the DJ, that nothing beats a seasoned professional who can engage the listener beyond the music. Also, she added a spirituality and a comforting that compelled you to listen. When she gets a new show, please let me know. CHampaine is the best.

  25. OF COURSE THEY WILL BE MISSEDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I no longer even listen to the radio during the evening because all you hear are the same songs over and over again.there's no personable connection with the air personalities.Legends like Vaughn Harper and Champaine only come around once,and they blew it by letting them go.

  26. I truly miss them both. At first I thought someone was filling in or them but when I never heard their sound effects I new something was up.I dont like the way the station did it. They kept me going on my stressful job.

  27. i miss harper and champaine. where can they be found?

  28. It defiantly is not the same quiet storm, followed by that sweet glass of Champagne. I grew on BLS. Starting to listen while I was 15 back in CT, I am 50 now. It is a shame great talent has to be lost due to the economy. I hope we get to see them back when the economy is better or in a different venue. Keep it real, keep it strong, and as Reese and Philip would say "Keep your head to the sky

  29. Does Von Harper and Champainge remain members of WBLS?
    And do they remain members of the line up on Sunday from 1pm to 5pm?

  30. Vaughn Harper was the best thing on radio period.The world needs people that play love songs.With the shape of the world today a good song can influence and remind us love is always relevant and Mr. Harper gave us that.

  31. I was driving my car and was trying to get harper and I heard some-one else, so I went on line and typed up vaghn harper. I have not lisened to wbls in a while because I work late @ night. I said maybe he was out on sick leave or something. I will truely missed his powerful voice, his music and his guess. I wish you and Champagne the best .

  32. Bernie, It's only about the owners the bottomline, ofcourse it's money, this isn't even about the recession even that seems to be the cop out spin they want people to take as the gospel, the truth is corporate radio doesn't work, radio is not a goliath business it's origins ands roots define regions, black owners like wbls follow the corporate radio ideaology the days of Dorothy Brunson , frankie crocker, being key players and builders of wbls are long gone, what they give you now are shows like steve harvey, wendy williams that might originate from the studios of wbls, but they are also some of the top nationally syndicated radio shows on radio stations that service black communitys, but wbls tricks it's listener's into thinking that because they eminate from those studios they are acutally for you the wbls listener really? reality is that the listener goes for it, vaughn harper hadn't been heard on nyc radio for almost a decade if memory serves me correctly, it wasn't until 2000 that jammin 105 bought vaughn harper back to nyc radio, see wbls had considered vaughn a dinosaur, then wbls picks vaughn back up when the jammin format is canned for more fragmented radio from power 105. Black people stop suckering yourself into listening to failed radio, truth be told wbls should of never let vaughn go in the first place, but that is mentality that presists inside wbls, no innovation, just reaction, from owners who only think about profit, and leaving you at their will to be suckered so they can continue to profit, vaughn harper having to get canned by wbls for about the 3rd time sucks, but what sucks more is wbls doing it again, I doubt there will be a next time for vaughn on wbls, wbls is a shell of itself, and has been since the days when kiss fm came to town, the ratings during the 80's-90's show us that, it's time for a reality check for wbls listener's stop taking what they give cuz they happen to be black, they supposed to serve you, not sucker and pimp you, the fcc grants them to use the public airwaves, instead they use it to just profit in a system that always plays them short, but they play you day and night.

  33. I loved Champaine's Show and her Pearls of Wisdom. WBLS should have been proud to have a season DJ on their program. She brought so much love, healing and depth to her show. This is a hugh loss to all of us that listened to Champaine and anticipated her soothing words and voice. I have refused to listen to WBLS since she left. It's just not the same. I wish her well. I know she has great things in store for her and us.

  34. We need the DJ's, I miss the "Art" of radio. Ttelling me who the song was by and the name of the song.

  35. WBLS has not been the same without Vaughn and Champaine. I miss u Champaine and the fun we use to have late night with my segment Debbie's Desk and the listening audience participation what were they thinking when they let you go? LUV YA

  36. I can't even listen to WBLS anymore. I listen to Steve in the morning but that's as far as it goes. After that I'm all over the place. Baisden is cool but I never ever listened to him when WBLS had Wendy, Vaughn, and Champaine. I might have to just suck it up and get HD radio or satellite radio.

  37. I kept asking everyone what happened to Champaine and Vaughn? Late night radio is not the same without them. If you want to listen to a radio show that put you to sleep, then listen to WBLS. Even Steve Harvey is getting boring. You hear the same 3 songs over and over. After I hear Tommy pranks, I turn the radio station to country music.....

  38. Champaine, you and Wendy were the only reasons I listened to WBLS! Vaughn, your voice set the stage for the station it self. I grew up hearing, and expecting to hear, your voice saying "soft and warm its the quiet storm". You are a WBLS staple! Period! How could they get rid of the two of you for this modern day non-sense? Champaine you've gotten me through many many nights. I, for certain reasons, did not and could not listen to the radio. Only now to try and listen on line to CHAMPAINE and there is no Champaine! Wow!! How heart breaking is that. You worked to keep us all entertained and happy at night and your song selections were outstanding!! The veterans in radio, music and many other walks of life are being disrespected and depreciated for this newly acceptable chaotic world of studio fixed talent. Seemingly, people with raw talent and years of experience just don't matter anymore. So sorry to hear that you are gone. My station will never be on WBLS again. I often heard that WBLS was black owned and black operated. I often gave them credit for that. Meaning, having stuck that out all these years, and not selling out (being bought out). But I see they are now becoming a watered down entity just like everything else. WBLS thumbs down. The station is nothing without Champaine, Vaughn, and Wendy. Stupid!