Changing the dial
Holmes introduces Baker as program director at 95.3 FM ribbon cutting
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Darius “Doc” Baker stood in front of a crowd that included government officials who came to help celebrate the launching of Tallahassee’s newest radio station.
Baker’s comments were uncharacteristically short for a man who has big goals for making Hallelujah 95.3 FM Tallahassee’s most popular gospel station. Baker, who was named program director by Rev. RB Holmes, owner of Live Communications Inc., will host the station’s weekday drive-time show.
“The sky is the limit,” Baker said after a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Thursday outside of the gray building that houses the station on Mahan Drive.
A chronological run down on the history of the station that operated as Tallahassee’s first radio station in the early 1940s was given by general manager Taralisha Sanders, a legacy not lost on Baker. The station had undergone at least one other frequency and call-letter change before becoming WTAL in 1962.
The transition to Hallelujah 95.3 was completed last Nov. 30.
“With the transition comes a new vision, new programming; programming that will uplift, inspire (and) encourage the community and the world,” Sanders said.
Seemingly inspired by the station’s long history, Baker expressed some eagerness to start his new role.
“You respect where it has been but then you get people to buy into where it’s going,” said Baker who is a two-time Stella Award nominee. “That’s all. The history of it is proven, but we’ve got somewhere to go. I have no doubt that it’s going to grow.”
Baker was the right fit for the move to the FM band, Holmes said.
“He is well known in radio nation, the man knows how to bring people together (and) he doesn’t give up,” Holmes said. “He is a winner and I’m just humbled and honored to have him on board.
Baker, 43, grew up in Tallahassee, where he attended Godby High School and played on the basketball team. Music took up his spare time, though.
His passion grew when his grandmother Cora Anderson-Smith bought him his first keyboard. That led to playing at three churches, laying the foundation for his religious background.
As a teenager, Baker also dabbled in producing music for his neighborhood friends and classmates. His first studio was set up in his bedroom, he said.
His list of major productions includes working with former boxing champion Roy Jones when he attempted a rapping career in the early 2000’s.
His involvement as a producer led to the birth of Tallahassee Nights, which he now calls a talent development agency. The production draws huge crowds and has also established an annual sea-bound party with Carnival Cruise Lines.
Several years after Baker launched Tallahassee Nights Live, he was invited to be a guest on a religious talk show in 2015. He eventually became the host’s sidekick and that led to a relationship with Cumulus, which resulted in the beginning of Heaven 1410 AM. That eventually became Heaven 98.3 FM, which Baker embraced with a religious format.
He brought electricity to the station that drew national attention and he was named Radio Host of the Year for 2019 at the Tampa Bay Gospel Awards. The trade magazine, Radio Ink, also named him “a future leader in radio.”
Baker parted ways with Cumulus last year, making him available for Holmes to hire him.
He didn’t waste time making changes to enhance the station.
“There were lots of things that I did because I knew I wanted to build the station,” he said. “You have to create a vision to build it.”
Holmes expressed optimism that the station could grow with advertising and support from Black businesses. In general, said Sue Dick, president of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, radio is a platform that helps drive the economy.
Radio stations “are sending the message internally to the city and externally to other things that are going on and why this community is so important,” she said. “They are actually drivers, the point of contact to continue to grow industry and commerce; not only for the jobs they create, but for the jobs they encourage to be brought to the community and why it’s a strong market to be in.”
Following the ribbon cutting that was officiated by Capital City Chamber of Commerce, Mayor John Dailey added: “radio is still one of; if not the most effective ways to communicate with people. It’s just excellent to have the station going to the next level and moving over to FM.”
City manager Reese Goad said he was impressed with the decision to retain the religious format that WTAL was known for in recent years.
“Our community is rooted in religious belief and faith so I’m real happy to see it,” he said. “I think it’s such a strong indication of where we are headed. We are a strong community. We are a vibrant community. This is a good day to see the growth and expansion of Hallelujah 95.3.”