Memphis Flyer 2021
By Marcella Simien
WYPL (89.3): Serving the Underserved, Dishing Out Memphis Magic
Though WEVL’s original 10 watts may have been rather weak, a station now using one of the region’s most powerful transmitters had even more humble beginnings. “We are now a 100,000-watt station, covering a 75-mile radius from the tower in West Memphis. That tower was actually donated to the library in 1997, and its power and size is a bit of overkill, but that’s the situation we’re in.” So reflects Tommy Warren, broadcast manager for WYPL, the station based in the basement of the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.
Yet the station still retains its original mission of offering the vision-impaired and others readings of current newspapers, magazines, and books — one of only two such stations in the country. “It started out in 1978 as a ham radio kind of situation,” says Warren. “I am only the second radio manager here since then. Before me, there was a manager who was himself vision-impaired. He organized volunteers, and they’d sit in a little booth and read, and you had to have a ham radio at home to pick it up. It operated like that for about 15 years.”
When Warren came on board, he added an element to the readings by tapping into the huge digital archive of Memphis music in the library system. That has seen its audience increase dramatically, especially overseas, where the station can be heard online.
“We started doing all the music shows five or six years ago. Now we’re bringing in DJs like Randy Haspel and Lahna Deering and Barbara Blue. People who actually play Memphis music also come in here and produce shows.”