If you're driving through downtown Terrell, you probably wouldn't notice the small radio station between the travel agency and the clothing store on Moore avenue. The station--with its faded wood front and DJ booth facing the street (with a large window for passersby to peer in)--makes you feel like you've just stepped back in time to the 1950s, when Patsy Cline was queen and Elvis was only seen from the waist up on TV. No one would ever guess that inside this small studio thumps the heartbeat of Latino and freestyle dance music for the metroplex. From Tejano car clubs to teenage breakdancers, Jim Evans' radio show dominates the night from Grayson to Navarro counties.
His nightly show on KRVA (106.9 FM) and KTLR (107.1 FM) (depending on your location) plays the best in contemporary Latino dance, hip-hop, freestyle, and old school jams. With his small-framed country-boy appearance and his cow-bell East Texas accent, Jim Evans reminds you of Buddy Holly without his glasses, a most unlikely candidate for mix-master of the airwaves. At almost 107,000 listeners per week (mostly Hispanic and Asian youth) Power 107's nightly show is dominating smaller stations and rivaling large ones--pretty impressive for a radio station with only 6,000 watts, especially when compared to top radio stations that broadcast with 15 times the power.
At 6:30 p.m., Evans pulls up in front of the station's studio and rushes up to the front door. That's his standard mode these days as his show's main DJ, programming director, music director, salesman, and engineer--rushing back and forth, putting out fires, repairing broadcasting equipment, and apologizing profusely for being late. Even more amazing than his constant motion is that with a full day behind him, he still has over nine more hours to go and smiles almost constantly.
Inside the studio, the carpet is old; you can practically hear the walls creak as they lean. The musty smell of dust is penetrated only by the aroma of coffee brewing on a fold-out table in the back room. Inside one of the small rooms directly behind the DJ booth, Jim pulls out several lists of notes kept on the listeners who call in to his show. He can recognize hundreds of listeners as soon as their phone numbers pop up on the caller ID screen. "We keep track of our listeners," he explains. "If they call us up and start talking about gang stuff, we'll make a note of it, and we won't let them on the air. If they call back, we'll talk to them and try to make them see how it's not cool to be in a gang."
If you're a member of a gang, not only can you not get on the air at Power 107, you can't win tickets or prizes--and Evans' loyal followers will be more than happy to let you know they don't want you at their station-sponsored events. "We only want people with a positive attitude," Evans says. "We're hoping positivity [a favorite buzzword] will rub off on the troublemakers...We try to hit problems head-on."
Everyone who participates shares this viewpoint. "Our DJs must have a positive attitude," Evans stresses. "If they don't have a love for the people, they're in the wrong business...All of our DJs are street DJs--no button pushers. Button pushing is okay for the thirty-plus listeners, but if you get too computer, you lose touch. You lose the magic. Most of our DJs have been in this business for over 12 years now...they're the nicest people you'll ever meet. They care as much for the listeners as I do."
Jim's DJs--Stevie D, DJ Dave, DJ Wild, Rox C, Patrick Figueroa, DJ Kai--have zero tolerance for gangs and violence. Frequently, they play "drops"--short recordings dropped into the show during commercials and changes in music--with messages that promote peace and harmony. Usually, DJs use drops for self-promotion, but when you tune into Power 107, you'll hear Jim's voice coming over the radio promoting "peace in the barrio--let's all join hands and keep peace in the barrio" in between thumping freestyles and love songs; he refuses to play gangsta rap. He firmly believes that if you promote the idea of non-violence and harmony enough, it will eventually take hold: "We've even had some listeners call us and say they got out of a gang because of our show."
"He really cares about his listeners," says blue-eyed Sophie, the assistant music director who answers the phones at night. "This is what he loves. All of our DJs are like that--they all care about our listeners. There are some people we just can't help because they don't want to help themselves, but those who want to help themselves will listen. They listen to Jim because he talks to them on their level." Back in the DJ booth, a young girl calls in to make a request. "You sound like a smart girl that does her homework," Evans tells her.
"You know it," she replies proudly.
Even with better job offers coming in, Jim refuses to leave the metroplex. "This is something I believe in, and I won't let it go away. I'm dedicated to our listeners; they've always been there for me, and this show is all that some of them have," he says with the deepest sincerity. "Somebody has to be there for the kids."
"I want people to be at peace," he explained later. "We try to project positiveness to the community by promoting education, awareness, and self-importance in the barrio." Evans' co-workers tell of how he has not only put parents in touch with runaway listeners, but has even gone so far as to actually give runaways a ride home. Many listeners call in frequently to dedicate songs to friends and relatives who have recently passed away. "I truly believe they can hear it," Jim tells a listener he is comforting on the air.
Jim started in radio in '83 with KNON (89.3 FM) and has since worked in the background at various "top 10" radio stations in the metroplex. Before that, he worked at the Twilight and Thunderbird skating rinks and local discos (remember J Rags?). His radio show on KNON came under fire briefly when he allowed gang-bangers to say their "gang-shouts" on the air--but all that has changed. "I thought that was a good idea back then, because I thought it was a way for them to get their frustrations out," he explains. "Now, things have changed, and we yank anyone off the air that might be throwing out something gang-related." In fact, he won't even let listeners use nicknames on the air, because of their heavy use in gangs: "They need to be proud of who they are and use their own names--not one that someone else gave them."
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Although Ritmo (Rhythm) 107 is completely Spanish-speaking during the day, Jim's nightly show is in English with only the occasional all-Spanish commercial. Even though the average listener is 24 years old, surveys have shown the show's listeners range in age from 13 to 44, from all types of backgrounds and families. Every Friday night, they flock to Emotionz, an alcohol-free night club, to dance and see the different groups promoted by Power 107. The mostly 18-and-under crowd dances on stage, in the "breakdance corner," and on the dance floor. While most of the kids were leery of someone walking up and asking a bunch of questions, they became excited when asked about Jim--"Yeah, man. He's great! You know, he plays the best music and everything, but you know, he...he...he comprehends us!" (Comprehends?...is that word even allowed into clubs on a Friday night?) On stage, Jim is giving away T-shirts and CDs, chanting in rhythm with the music: "Get your hands in the air! Let's see those peace signs!" On the dance floor, hundreds of kids hold their fingers up in vees to show that they, too, are with him. He loves it.
"Every Friday is a peace rally for us," he says. "We don't make up cardboard signs and demonstrate, but we make sure everyone in the club knows that only positive people are allowed. People are tired of hearing about negative things. They'll be amazed what these kids are capable of doing when they're given a chance.
"These kids just need attention," he maintains. "If they don't get it from their parents, and we don't give it to them, then where are they going to get it from? The gangs?"
Jim Evans' show is on both KRVA (106.9 FM) and KTLR (107.1 FM) from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m., Monday through Friday; from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. on Saturday; and from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Sunday.