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WZZQ The Movie to air on Mississippi Public Broadcasting

  • The station was more than just the background music to our lives. An entire culture was created with concerts and other live events.

Who doesn’t remember their teenage years, driving in the car with your favorite radio station turned up full volume? For me, those years were long ago, but the radio station, the disc jockeys and, most of all, the music, is a vivid memory. The station I listened to while driving my 1969 Buick Skylark was WZZQ-FM out of Jackson. It was the first rock FM station in the state, and Jackson’s first free-form rock station. 

In the mid-1970s, listening to FM on a car radio was not a common occurrence, mainly because cars came equipped with an AM-only radio. No problem – the folks at WZZQ offered FM converters for sale for $28.25. 

The station was more than just the background music to our lives. An entire culture was created with concerts and other live events, and the disc jockeys were as popular as the rock stars whose songs they played. 

What started with  WJDX-FM, WZZQ-FM launched on August 20, 1973 on Beasley Road. The station was rooted in, but not limited to, rock ‘n roll.

“We played around with the public’s sensibilities from time to time,” said the late David Adcock in the film. 

The station was owned by Lamar Life, and when they decided to get out of the radio business in 1981, they sold the station to Little Rock country radio station owner and promoter Kerby Confer who believed in the financial benefits of bringing Jackson its first FM country station. The late Warren Strain was on the control board when WZZQ broadcast for the last time on July 1, 1981. The next day the station signed on as MISS 103. 

Sergio Fernandez in the control room of WZZQ.

Ann Ford was one of the many who grew up listening to WZZQ. She even started a radio career there when she was only 14.

“I called the station to request a song, and the guy who answered the phone was kind of flirty with me. I told him I was only 14.”

The flirting stopped immediately, but Ann was asked if she’d like to visit the station to do some voice-over work.

“Of course, I said yes, and I was taken into an audio booth where I recorded a couple of commercials. I’m pretty sure I got paid with a t-shirt.”  

Those commercials helped her get a job at another radio station in town, and Ann ended up working in radio throughout her high school and college years. “I always loved ‘ZZQ.”

After college, Ann worked at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, doing promotions and ads. She returned to Jackson and took a position in marketing and communications at UMMC, where she continues to work today. 

Now she has made a documentary film about WZZQ that is meeting with critical acclaim. Four years in the making, WZZQ the Movie has already aired once on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. It will run again tonight at 7:30pm, followed by airings on Saturday, May 25 at 7:00pm., Sunday, May 26 at 4:30pm. And Thursday, May 30 at 2:00pm. The film can also be seen at this link

Like a proud parent, Ann is  thrilled at the reaction of her film.

“I have so much gratitude to MPB. John Gibson and Talwo Gaynor have been very supportive.”

Sadly, licensing the film to run theatrically would have been cost-prohibitive. The footage in the film contains actual air recordings from the radio station, including music clips. “The cost would have been astronomical,” Ann says.

The movie premiered last Friday in the auditorium of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, which was filled to capacity. An overflow room with monitors was set up for those who didn’t get a seat in the auditorium. A Q&A session was held after the showing of the nearly hour-long film where Ann shared the stage with Bill Ellison, Perez Hodge, and Randall Pinkston, all on-air personalities at WZZQ, who shared stories and answered questions from the audience. 

The making of the film was a labor of love for Ann. It was suggested by Ellison that she would be the right person to make the film, because she loved the station, and she had radio and television experience. Ann applied for and received a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council and hired veteran filmmakers Robbie Fisher and Don Warren. 

A public “listener event” was held at Duling Hall in August 2022, and that helped get the ball rolling. Several interviews were held at that time, and Ann got contact information and leads that would help her get the materials she needed to make the film. One of the hardest and time-consuming aspects of the process was getting release forms signed, something Fisher as the producer insisted on.

“She is a lawyer, after all,” laughs Ann. “It was my biggest challenge, but the most rewarding. I got to know so many people and hear their stories.”

The timing of the film’s production was critical. Ann was able to get interviews with four key players who have subsequently died, including Sergio Fernandez (died in 2021); Bruce Owen (died in2023); Curtis Jones (died 2023); and Marshall Magee (died in 2023), who served as the station manager for WZZQ, and declined to be interviewed due to health issues, but was featured prominently in the film.

Bruce Owen in the control room of WZZQ

Other on-air personalities who participated in the film were Phil Seymour, Lamar Evans, Randy Bell, Victor Hawkins, and Bill Fitzhugh. 

Ann describes the process of making the film daunting, challenging, and engaging.

“I met people I got to know. They shared their WZZQ stories with me, and that was incredibly moving.” 

When asked what her favorite part of the film is, Ann didn’t hesitate.

“My favorite part is watching people watching it. That is something I have dreamed about for a long time.” 

Visit the WZZQ Facebook page for more. 

Read original article by clicking here.

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