To honor and celebrate the 40th anniversary of Radio One and the radio division of Urban One and its founder Cathy Hughes’ outstanding contributions as a media pioneer – as well as the impact of the honorees–we’re proud to continue the company’s mission to represent the richness of the Black experience. A spotlight is placed on the men who have stood beside Ms. Hughes as she developed Urban One, the brand that is shaping the culture. These gentlemen express their sentiments about the impact of Radio One, Urban One, and what it’s like working alongside Cathy Hughes. Monarch Magazine is proud to present The Men of Urban One: The Royal Court, A Legacy of Black Culture.
Donnie Simpson is the ruling Washington D.C. radio icon as well as a television and movie personality. He hosted The Donnie Simpson Morning Show in Morning Drive for more than 17 years. Donnie’s star shone brightly as he maintained an incredible run of success on top of the ratings throughout his tenure in Morning Drive Radio. No stranger to Radio One it’s an incredible honor to have a living legend back on the airwaves at WMMJ!
Monarch Magazine: Hello Mr. Simpson. What is your role at Urban One, and how has it been since you started until now?
Donnie Simpson: I think on my job description it says “smiler” [laughter]. That’s my job – to smile – you know, that’s what I do. Seriously, I have been the host of the afternoon show on Majic 102.3 and 92.7 for the past five years, and you know I just keep the afternoons going; that’s what I do.
Monarch Magazine: What makes being a part of the Urban One Family and Radio One, different from any other organization that you’ve been with? What makes it unique?
Donnie Simpson: It’s very simple for me. This is the first company that I’ve worked for that is ours, that is Black-owned. This is my 50th year in radio and I can remember from very early on that we needed to have more of these properties owned by us. That was just important. So when Cathy Hughes came along and did her thing and bought these stations and created Urban One, that was just a phenomenal development. Even though I was in competition with them at the time, that was huge for me.
Monarch Magazine: Tell us a little about that moment when Ms. Hughes bought the station and what happened when you walked into that office.
Donnie Simpson: Well, it was a huge day. Cathy had just bought KISS, WKYS in Washington, D.C., and that was the station that I was the program director and the morning guy for. And I had created this format that was hugely successful. Number one in every demographic–it was an incredible radio station. But, they sold it to Cathy, and the day she bought it, I showed up at the radio station with a bottle of Dom Perignon. When I walked in, the receptionist looked at me like I was a ghost, and everyone was looking like, what is he doing here? He’s the competition! But this was so much bigger than competition to me; this was about Black ownership. It was about us taking control of the voice that comes out of our community. It was all of that to me, and it was so much bigger than me competing for ratings. Cathy actually told me she still has that bottle of Dom Perignon sitting on her mantel at home from all those years ago. That’s how significant that was to me and still is.
A top-rated, radio host nationally-syndicated for more than 14 years and heard weekdays by 3.2 million listeners in 25 cities across America. In addition, as an independent filmmaker, with UpToParr Productions, in conjunction with Swirl Films, Parr has written, produced and directed four other films including: The Last Stand (2006), Something Like a Business (2010), Love for Sale (2008) and 35 and Ticking (2011), currently airing on BET, TV One and Showtime and available on DVD. Russ Parr’s wife and children are paramount in his life. His devotion to his family is paralleled only by his commitment to his listeners and community issues.
Monarch Magazine: Mr. Parr, what is your role within Urban One?
Russ Parr: There’s a show I do called the Russ Parr Morning Show, and I am honored to have my name in it. Ms. H [Cathy Hughes] has always been the kind of person that allowed me to speak my mind without any retribution. She has always supported me even if she disagreed with me. She has never told me to shut up.
Monarch Magazine: [Laughter] That’s great. Looking back on the years that you have now worked with Ms. Hughes, can you tell me a scenario or experience that you have had that set the tone for the relationship you have?
Russ Parr: The big thing with Ms. H is she demands excellence and she demands accountability. That is one of the things that I have seen her instill in everyone she has worked with, including me. The biggest compliment that she has given me is that I am her least problematic child, which is a very beautiful thing. There are a lot of individuals in this business who are driven by their ego, and she found out early on that that is not me, which helps our relationship.
Monarch Magazine: What would you say to a younger version of yourself in this industry who wants to design a legacy in Black culture?
Russ Parr: Don’t be afraid to go backwards in order to go forward. There’s so many people that feel like, “I have arrived,” and they use money as a barometer to their success, and a lot of times you have to take less to do more. I left a job that was paying me double to come to D.C., but I saw the upside and I saw the opportunity to work with an African American-owned company; it was something that I could really feel good about when I get up in the morning.