Texarkana’s first black radio station hit the airwaves in 1992

Texarkana
Black History Month

TEXARKANA, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – For nearly 30 years, 104.7 KTOY has been serving the Texarkana community.

The area’s first Black-owned radio station hit the air in 1992.

According to co-founder Emmie Gamble, it started with a newspaper article about the Federal Communications Commission offering an opportunity for women and minorities to join the radio business.

“The article said there were 600 frequencies being offered in the United States,” said Gamble.

Gamble called her brother in law, co-founder Al Davis to see if he would like to join in.

“We had an opportunity to compete with three other groups and we were victorious,” said Davis.

They started with a crew of 14 people, all predominantly black, playing Urban Contemporary Music.

We were amongst the first to carry the Tom Joyner Show and that became very popular,” said Gamble.

Photo Courtesy: 104.7 KTOY

104.7 KTOY quickly became the number one station in Texarkana. They took to the streets to engage with the black community, starting a segment known as “The Sunday Show” to highlight black professionals and issues relevant to underserved communities.

One of the original employees, Billy “Soul Man” Bland still works for the company today as a Radio Host.

“Over 20 years here at the radio station and it’s been a blessing. I’ve grown so much and developed in those years,” said Bland.

The Heritage station was sold in 2005. Now owned by Texarkana Radio Center, it has a sister station, known as KTOY GOSPEL.

“Because it’s been around for such a long time, there comes a sense of heritage with that, a sense of belonging and a sense of ownership,” said Texarkana Radio Center Owner, Col Taylor. “The community, I think in large, loves and owns that. You know, we only have to do a parade and you’ll see people on the side of the street saying, ‘Yay I love KTOY!'”

Gamble and Davis say they are proud of what they started so long ago and glad to see the legacy continue.

“It really makes you feel good, I thought we had something the community could enjoy and like,” said Davis.

“I just want them to keep up the good work,” said Gamble.

Radio Host Derrick Keener says he’s thankful for the opportunity to be apart of today’s station. Gamble and Davis paved a way for radio hosts for generations to come.

“I feel like I have a responsibility. A lot of people in the city know me as a comedian but I never want to be known as a clown, but I take opening that mic seriously,” said Keener.

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