A Conversation with Aundrae Russell of KJLH On Making Gospel Work at Mainstream Radio – Interview Conducted by Lin. Woods for RFFocus
(Mary J Blige, KJLH PD Aundre Russell, Midday Host Nautica DeLaCruz)
Aundrae Russell, Program Director of Stevie Wonder owned Los Angeles community minded Urban AC radio station, Radio Free 102.3 FM KJLH and host of its top rated Spread The Word Sunday Gospel show, has been working his ratings winning formula for blending Gospel into day-parts with at a mainstream station for over a decade in the Gospel starved second largest market in the nation.
KJLH’s award winning Sunday programming, airing from 12am to 12 am, has one of the station’s biggest listening audiences. It features the Gospel Experience (church broadcasts featuring prominent mega church pastors Bishop Charles Blake-West Angeles COGIC, Bishop Hunter-First AME and Bishop Noel Jones-City of Refuge) and Gospel music shows Spread The Word with Aundrae Russell and the Gospel Mix Show with El Vee.
I recently spoke with the forever busy Mr. Russell about the station’s commitment to the community and Gospel. Here’s what went down.
RADIO FACTS: How long have you been the program director at KJLH?
AR: I’ve been the PD here just under ten years. But I’ve been here at the station, on-air for over twenty years. I’m from Meridian, MS. I left WALT in Meridian, MS where I was PD. I moved here and started out as a part-time jock and moved up to full-time jock and then to PD.
RADIO FACTS: I remember you being an on-air personality before you became the program director.
AR: Yeah, I used to see you at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles! No, just kidding!
RADIO FACTS: Ha, ha! How long has KJLH been an Urban AC formatted radio station?
AR: Since Stevie Wonder’s owned the station”¦ for 32 years”¦and maybe before that. The station has been around for over 40 years.
RADIO FACTS: KJLH is a rarity. It’s a community minded Urban AC station that’s not a part of a conglomerate.
AR: People say Urban AC, but Stevie came up with a moniker”¦and a format called Radio Free, which means we play a lot of music that most Urban ACs won’t touch and won’t play. We spice in some Hip Hop, some Gospel and some Jazz”¦Radio Free is a mix between Urban AC and AC.
RADIO FACTS: Explain that a little more.
AR: Most radio stations pigeon hole themselves and get into a corner and say, “We’ve got to go after this segment of the audience.” But we just throw that out the window and say, “No, we don’t. We can get the young ones and we can get the older ones.” So, we play a little of everything”¦on a weekday we play everything from Norman Brown to Marvin Sapp, to Tupac, to 50 cent, to Janet Jackson, to Kem, to Mary J. Blige.
RADIO FACTS: What is your process for adding a Gospel song during the week?
AR: We play the top songs that do well on Sunday’s Spread the Word during the week”¦I just take it even to another level with artists like Mary Mary”¦Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams”¦a lot of the songs we played during the week were not your traditional Monday through Friday inspirational songs, but we’d play them anyway because they were working, they were great.
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