By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
The University of Chicago’s community radio station WHPK 88.5 FM celebrated its 50th Anniversary on Thursday, March 22, at Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave.
Known as the “Pride of the South Side,” the radio station is located inside Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University Ave., on the University of Chicago campus. For its anniversary, the station hosted a live radio show at Experimental Station from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The line-up of DJ’s for the event included King George (dusties, blues, classic rock), El Caobo (hip hop and house music), Reggie Davenport aka DJ Purple (electronic), Ras Tzaddi Wadadah II (reggae), Ben Thevathasan (rock), Pete Cummings (rock), Marta Nicholas (international), South Side Weekly Radio (public affairs), and Erick Hampton (jazz).
One of the station’s long-time listeners Emmy, Grammy and Oscar – winning rapper Common, credits WHPK as his reason for falling in love with Hip-Hop.
“A turning point in my life and career was when I started going up to WHPK when I was like15 years old, going on 16,” said Southside native Common, about the influence the radio station had on his life and career. “First and foremost, that was where I heard all the hip-hop I was getting. Growing up in Chicago, you weren’t biased to a certain coast; you could just be a hip-hop listener, and they played it all. It was JP Chill, Chilly Q and a guy named K-Ill when I first started going up there. I would ask them could they play my demo tape, and they did.”
DJ’s from the past, residents from the area and former hosts also shared their thoughts during the ceremony in honor of the radio station. The station blocked out a slot for a half-hour of short speeches and testimonies.
“I’m proud to say that as the first FM Program Director (class of ’70, following Steve Metalitz ’68 and Peter B Hayward, ’69), I was the person who flipped the switch to turn on WHPK’s FM transmitter (donated by WFMT), back in Fall, 1969,” said Glenn A. Primm, former program director at WHPK. “At that time, we were a closed-circuit, campus-only college radio station. After we went on the air, our audience grew almost exponentially, and in 1972, the trustees released the hounds and money and we officially became a community asset.”
Primm said he was very proud that WHPK-FM continues to serve the many-faceted audience of the South Side Chicago community and beyond.