One day in 1976 on the campus of Howard University, the nation’s largest historically black institution of higher learning, the professional radio disc-jockeys went on strike at WHUR 96.3 FM, the university’s commercial radio station. A shy student intern named Melvin Lindsey was given the task of hosting a live radio shift to fill the dead air. Quietly shaking in his platform shoes, armed with only the albums from his basement, and no DJ experience to his name, he did it. Without a playlist, Melvin worked with what he had and mixed his satin voice with album cuts from the soul artists he listened to in the solitude of his basement.
Melvin’s soothing voice had a thunderous impact on the emotions of his audience. His listeners fell in love with his voice and were moved to almost ecstasy when they came face to face with his smooth sound on their radio speakers. His listeners turned down the lights, curled up on the edge of their beds and watched the radio to hear his voice while anticipating the depth of the next song he would play. Melvin was a radio music designer. He used music to tell a story and weave a tapestry of sound that words could not describe. Unlike the DJs of his time, Melvin let the music speak for itself and it worked. His audience continued to grow. Melvin’s General Manager, Cathy Hughes, the broadcast visionary who put him on air during the strike, called him a “Quiet Storm” which is how the radio program, got its name. Melvin and his music embodied the Smokey Robinson lyric “soft and warm, a quiet storm.”
Though Melvin didn’t speak much on air, he introduced Washington D.C. to artists they never knew, and reintroduced them to artists they thought they knew. Melvin played eight-minute album cuts, and B-sides, like they were solid gold hits. With soul vocalists and musicians like Angela Bofill, George Benson, Phyllis Hyman, D.J Rogers, The Delfonics, Aretha Franklin, Barry White, Undisputed Truth, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Sarah Vaughn, Chaka Khan, Teena Marie, The Emotions, Marvin Gaye, LTD, Randy Crawford, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, The Brothers Johnson, Natalie Cole and so many others, Melvin created a new music format for late night radio.
Soon the sensuous sounds of Melvin’s music tastes permeated the city and this handsome shy guy found himself with an army of fans from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. A tremendous amount of word of mouth about this young man and his music tastes spread like wildfire and had a profound influence on listeners and leaders in the radio and music industries. Famous soul singers, musicians, record industry executives, and entertainment celebrities came to D.C. not to meet the President, but to meet Melvin Lindsey, a shy communications student at Howard University. As the years passed and Melvin’s popularity and notoriety soared, The Quiet Storm radio music format was copied from coast to coast by professional radio programmers in almost every major city in the nation.
Even after Melvin’s departure from WHUR in 1985, gifted DJs who knew and lived the music like Mansey Pullen, Bob Thomas, Jeff Brown, Chris James, and others confidently slipped into the WHUR Quiet Storm shoes, took the reins, and continued the tradition of The Original Quiet Storm. Today those shoes fit perfectly on the feet of John Monds, host of The Original Quiet Storm, weeknights on 96.3 WHUR. Mansy Pullen is at the helm and navigates the Storm on Sunday nights.
Melvin Lindsey passed in 1992 at the age of 36 after a successful career in radio and television as a result of complications from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. However, it is our belief at WHUR Radio and Howard University that Melvin Lindsey lives because The Quiet Storm is still going on.