Fort Wayne, Indiana had a plethora of radio stations in the 1970s. But they were all either rock or country, at least on FM. One local entrepreneur changed all that by taking advantage of an opportunity to buy radio space without a license. Because of the pioneering spirit of Louie Dinwiddie, black music in Fort Wayne, Indiana was changed forever.
Because of Dinwiddie’s risk-taking, he has been recognized again for his work in Summit City radio. Long retired and living with family in Georgia, Dinwiddie came to Fort Wayne in the 1950s, when according to his interview with a Georgia television station, Dinwiddie says the city was still a bit segregated in some ways.
By developing Fort Wayne’s first black-oriented radio station, Dinwiddie provided a kind of agency and representation that had been missing in the city’s media. This week, Dinwiddie was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Radio Networks Founders Award. Previously, Dinwiddie was inducted into the National Black Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame for creating the first all-black cable radio station in the US.
Louis Dinwiddie and cable radio
For people who have not heard of “cable radio” the term sounds absurd. But for those who lived through the creation of Dinwiddie’s KOOL-FM, it was one of the best things to happen to radio for some black residents since the invention of the media.
What cable radio required was a cable subscription. At the time, a number of cable television networks were available on the radio, and a person could have cable television and hear KOOL-FM. It was also available on home stereos. More than one teenager listened to both at the same time. It was on KOOL-FM that the devout could hear black Gospel music on Sunday mornings before church. The station was also where blues fans could hear the genre on a show on Saturday mornings and afternoon. The nights belonged to soul that was not meant for Top 40 consumption, and when the Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow and George Clinton and others gave the world rap music, it was heard in Fort Wayne, Indiana on KOOL-FM.
Eventually, KOOL-FM became WJFX, also known as “FOXY.” A cable subscription was no longer needed to hear black music. And until the early 2000s, the programming that had served a community since the late 1970s still played Gospel on Sunday mornings, until a new buyer of the station got rid of what he called “1940s style block programming.”
In the intervening years, Dinwiddie has retired, and FOXY is not quite the station that some longtime Fort Wayne residents remember, but for those who can remember, that moment when there was a radio show for nearly everyone in the house because of one man’s vision for Fort Wayne radio is one they will never forget.
Congratulations to Louis Dinwiddie.