We Like Him

Meet Fred Jones, Founder of  the Southern Heritage Classic & Maestro of Fun

September 2015

jones2636We have the ingredients for this [the Classic] to be a national focus event, but it still remains a challenge because in some circles it’s seen as a local event or a regional event. It’s a national event and getting others to see that is still a work in progress even in our 26th year.

–Fred Jones

The Southern Heritage Classic is September 10th – 12th in Memphis, TN. Each year, Tennessee State University and Jackson State University battle it out for bragging rights on all levels. Yet, the Classic is more than just a game. It’s a cultural celebration jam packed with over a dozed events that include the big game, tailgating, a battle of the bands, a college fair, a fashion show and brunch, a parade, two concerts with nationally recognized artists and more. Radio veteran Tom Joyner even comes each year to do a live broadcast of the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.” This year’s theme is “It’s All About Having Fun!” The founder, Fred Jones, is a native Memphian and has done a phenomenal job creating a three-day extravaganza that people can’t seem to get enough of. If you can’t make it to Memphis you can also catch it on FOX’s SportSouth (Saturday, 9/12 10 p.m. CT; Sunday, 9/13 9 p.m CT; Monday, 9/14 6 p.m. CT; and Tuesday, 9/15 9:30 p.m. CT.) and the American Forces Network, which broadcasts to men and women in the armed forces in 175 overseas locations. But I promise you, it won’t be the same. You can learn all about the fun at www.southernheritageclassic.com.

JH: What’s the Fred Jones formula for success?

Fred: Research, preparation, a great team and a lots of hard work.

JH: What drive you to keep doing this?

Fred: One is the business but it’s long since been more. I know that people in this community love the Classic and look forward to it. They are very passionate about it. It motivates me to keep it fresh. To make sure the presentation is top-notch because that’s what people want. It is hard to keep from getting worn out with it when you’ve been doing something a long period of time, but it’s obvious that the people aren’t worn out with it.

BandJH: What is the most challenging part of producing the Classic?

Fred: Trying to get people to do what they say they are going to do on time.

JH: I’m going to assume that’s in every aspect.

Fred: Absolutely. You can’t put anybody out on front street or as my grandson would say put them on blast. It’s in every area. That’s the challenge and people don’t realize how big the Classic has become. How many moving parts there are and all these personalities you have to deal with just to get to the final product that is the Southern Heritage Classic. All these parts have to come together at a certain time. You don’t get a pass. You can’t say I don’t feel good today. Let’s do the Classic next week. You have to get all these things to work like you need them to work.

Having FunJH: What’s the most rewarding part of producing the Classic?

Fred: It’s the smile on people’s face. They’re having a good time. It’s the parents, the grandparents and the little babies. That’s the reward and as long as I can do that it makes the hard work easier to take. These long days just get longer as you get into it. That’s what drives me.

JH: At what point in putting this on did you realize that this wasn’t about you?

Fred: I always understood that it wasn’t about me. It’s probably gotten to be more of a focus on me in the last 10 years. It took me a long time to let people around me convince me to be up front. But it was something that happened the first year that let me know what this was about. I was coming from the bank the Monday after the game and this lady walked up behind me with tears in her eyes. She hugged me from behind and said you made me feel so happy last night. I just feel so good. I’m proud of you and keep up the good work. We knew right then where this was going. The people who it meant the most to already knew but it took a little while to the people in business to get on board.

JH: Is there anything that you haven’t done that you would like to incorporate into the Classic?

Fred: This is a national event and we have the parts needed to make it a national event. We have Memphis, known internationally. The two schools, JSU and TSU that people know because of their history. We have been able to incorporate top-name entertainment people know.
We have the ingredients for this to be a national focus event but it still remains a challenge that in some circles it’s seen as a local event or a regional event. It’s a national event and getting others to see that is still a work in progress even in our 26th year.

Last year, Essence Magazine did a story about what’s going on in Memphis in September and they didn’t mention the Southern Heritage Classic. That lets you know you’ve still got work to do. Whoever was giving them the info did not mention the SHC in a publication that was geared toward African Americans. It makes you ask why.

HrTNWsjnYSkieK7FRu2e4YVw9fKzPR48el64zFTTzdMJH: How has being televised contributed to that goal?

Fred: It’s exposure. You can’t stop getting exposure but the landscape has changed in college sports. The networks are geared toward the big boys the SEC, the Big 10, the Big 12 and whatever they want television wise they are going to get. Everybody else, especially us will be at the bottom. With the help of our sponsors we pay to have the game on. That’s how important I think it is. Being on TV gives us something to talk about, our sponsors our schools and the city. It’s just a good thing. But we don’t know what the future holds. We hope if we continue doing what we do someone will come along and say let’s look at the Classic. When that day comes we’re ready to go! We will know exactly what we’re doing.
JH: On average, how much does it cost to produce the Classic?

Fred: From a dollar stand point, depending on what kind of shows we bring you’re talking about somewhere between 1 million to 1.2. The schools themselves earn $325,000 per school. We have a contract with the schools thru 2019. The have earned collectively over 10 million dollars since we started the Classic. We are able to do something that continually supports the schools.

JH: Now, you did not attend a HBCU but I know you see the value in it because you also support LeMoyne Owen College? What is that value for you?

Fred: It’s just helping out where you can. I’m in a position where I can make those things happen. It may be a part of me that wanted to go to TSU when I graduated but I went to Memphis State. It only cost $65 a quarter and I didn’t have money to do that. That was 1966.

JH: I read you worked two jobs to put yourself through school.
Fred: With the limited resources my parents had I did what I needed to do to make it happen.

JH: Why did you decide to do the Classic?

Fred: When the opportunity came about to discuss the idea of the Classic. The two athletic directors wanted to put it together but they didn’t have the money, the knowledge or the experience to put it on and grow it to the level where it is now. There was an opportunity to do it and to do it in my hometown. Everyone wants to be successful in their hometown. (laughs)

JH: So, could the Classic be considered a fundraiser?

Fred: It’s not a fundraiser. It was always about the business. If it was going to survive it had to be about the business. It had to be able to generate enough money to pay the schools and all of the other aspects of it. If we had not done that, then we would not be able to celebrate 26 years. Some people get a little unnerved because they think that’s all you think about but in order to make this wheel turn we had to be able to conduct it in a way that doesn’t infringe on the tradition of HBCU’s but in a business context. The people that support the Classic have to be able to support everything that goes along with producing the product.

JH: Tailgating has become a big part of the Classic.

Fred: Yes. In our first year, we were lucky to get 400 or 500 people to tailgate. It was too hot or too that. Now we have more than 10,000 people tailgating. Those numbers are absolutely tremendous and it’s only getting stronger. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. It’s been a good 26 years.

JH: Now the coaches came to you to form the Classic because you were in entertainment. You had done several successful shows. How did you get into entertainment?

Fred: Luck and timing. I was working at Union Planters bank. I went to work there in 1968. They transferred me to the on Bellevue and McClemore branch as an assistant manager. It’s no longer there. That was the bank where STAX records did their banking. David Porter, Isaac Hayes, Soul Children, Jim Stewart all of them banked at that branch. I was at the right place at the right time. I started doing some weekend work for the Soul Children and David Porter. In June of ’71 I took a leave of absence from the bank to finish my degree at Memphis State. I was a finance major and the courses I needed to graduate were not available at night. It ended up being a really smart move. When I got my degree in August of ’71, I came back to the bank and they weren’t sure what I was going to be doing. Isaac offered me a job. The job was to count money. That’s when Shaft was breaking national and international records. My first day on the job I went to Los Angeles and since then entertainment is mostly all I’ve done.

JH: How old are you?

Fred: 67

JH: Do you see yourself retiring anytime soon?

Fred: Laughs…to do what. I’ll be involved in The Classic for a while. I’m taking a less and lessor role. I’m incorporating my kids and grand kids. I have the honor of sharing this knowledge with my kids and other people’s as well. I have the health and the stamina to do so. That’s a blessing. I have six children and 19 grandchildren.

JH: Are all of your children involved in the business in some way?

Fred: No but they are kind of finding their way into it. Nathaniel, the oldest. He’s the most involved.


Estimated total attendance for all ten years 1, 163,653

Average yearly attendance: 46,546

The Classic brings about $21 million to the local economy. This was determined by a survey SHC conducts. According to Jones, it’s been very consistent over the three times they haveve done the survey.
Testimony Time: After I did this interview, Fred offered me a job doing PR for the Classic. Ain’t God Good!

I now blog for him. It’s called “SHC Inside Scoop.” Read it here http://www.southernheritageclassic.com/blog/.

This interview was conducted by IGW founder, Jae Henderson. Learn more about her, here.


Comedian Marcus D. Wiley Has Hustle & Faith

March 2015

Marcus Wiley Often you hear in church, just have faith. The good book, the Bible, says faith without works is dead. Your faith needs employment. Your faith needs a job. You have to give the Lord something work with.–Marcus D. Wiley

Marcus D. Wiley is funny. It’s the kind of funny that makes you almost pee on yourself. It’s clean enough to be done in church and real enough to make you wonder if he’s been attending your church or talking to the people there. I met Marcus many moons ago when I was a volunteer on the Radio One One Love Cruise. He is a hilarious Christian comedian and one of the co-hosts of the highly successful “Yolanda Adams Morning Show”. While on the cruise, I sat down and had a very candid conversation about the business and the struggles and joys that come along with being a Christian comedian. I was surprised to learn that Marcus is also a professor of public speaking at his alma mater Texas A&M. He has stuck with comedy and education and it has paid off. According to him, one of his proudest accomplishments is to be able to provide financially for his grandparents and parents along with his own lovely wife and son. While in Memphis for a show, I got to sit down for another candid conversation about where Marcus’s life has taken him and his new book “Hustle & Faith”.

Jae: How did you start doing comedy?

Marcus: I got into comedy because a lady who thought I was a comedian offered me $500 to host a comedy show at her coffee shop. She saw me hosting something at my church and thought I was a comedian. I wasn’t. I did it and and she was like WOW the people really enjoyed you and I started doing it once a month. So it was the money that got me started. LOL

Jae: How long ago was that?

Marcus: That was September 20th 2002.

Jae: So, you came into the business working?

Marcus: I came in working…getting paid!

Jae: How did you end up doing the “Yolanda Adams Morning Show”?

Marcus: I was hosting a program where they were honoring Yolanda and I met her that night. Shortly after that, she ended up getting a morning show in Houston. Another comedian was supposed to be co-hosting it but his contract didn’t work out. I like to say God blocked it. Later, Yolanda recommended that the producers of the show call me. After three straight Fridays of auditions I got the gig and a week later the show was syndicated.

Jae: That’s a blessing. How long ago was that?

Marcus: That was in 2003.

Jae: How has the experience been for you on the morning show?

Marcus: It’s been a good experience. When I first got on the show I was like I’ve come up. I have arrived. But since I’ve been on the show, I’ve realized that the show isn’t about me. It’s about the listeners. I get so many emails, Facebook messages, Tweets and other social media type of things from people saying that I helped make their day. I helped them get through a rough day at work or they come from a hellish type household and I gave them a laugh. I now think about those people. How can I help them? I guess that’s what they call ministry.

Jae: Yes it is. What do you think is the best thing about what you do?

Marcus: Being able to touch people. You can’t beat that. I have people tell me they weren’t going to church but then I made them want to get back in church. Or I made being a Christian cool. I’m just hoping that’s gone help me get into heaven. I hope the Lord looks at that and says, ‘You know I wasn’t gone let you in but you helped a lot of folk get comfortable being a Christian.’

Jae: You are so silly. There’s another role you play that you don’t find a lot among comedians doing, and that is the role of a college professor. How did that come about?

Marcus: The same year I started doing comedy I needed a job. I went up to my alma mater Texas A&M and asked the dean if he had any positions open. He said, ‘I might have an adjunct professor position coming open teaching two courses.’ Then, I went and harassed him, if I can say this, the hell out of him. Finally, he said, ‘Man, I got a class for you. It’s on a Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10:50.’ Then he said, ‘I found you another class. It’s on a Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8 a.m.’ I took the classes and I would come in those classes and give them the business. The dean was like we haven’t gotten anything but good reports from you so we’re going to give you two more classes and make you full time. I always wanted to be a professor. One of the professors I had in college, he made it look good. He had the answer for everybody. All the girls wanted to be with him and all the dudes wanted to be like him. So, it’s been good.

Jae: So, as a college professor have you achieved that goal of being like him?

Marcus: No doubt. I have passed him. Naw, just kidding. It’s different. He was finished when he was teaching us. He had a been there done that attitude. My attitude is I haven’t done that. I’m still on the way there and I’m taking my students with me. I incorporate them into my show. I have them work for me and that way they actually get to see their work live. My students have traveled with me to Atlanta and all over the place. I fly them all over the place and I treat them first class. I show them what the business looks like. I give them that experience. I took my students on this journey with me. They’ve seen me start from the bottom and now I’m here.

Jae: You didn’t just take the role of being a college professor. You also took on the role of being a mentor.

Marcus: Mentor. College professor. I believe in our HBCUs. You have to be all things to all men like the Bible says. These kids are so talented. They just need some structure and some direction, some guidance. My goal is to help show them how to take their good ideas and turn them into a business. Everybody is a brand now. When I was in school you worked for a brand. You worked for Nike. You worked for McDonalds. Now with social media, everybody is a brand. I am letting the students know that you are a business and all the good ideas you have you can do it now. You don’t have to wait until you graduate. You can do it now. That’s what we focus on.

Hustle-and-Faith_bookJae: That is a good segue into the last part of our interview where I want to talk about your new book, “Hustle and Faith”.

Marcus: It is the answer to the question, ‘How did you get here?’ It’s because of my hustle. It’s because of my faith. Often you hear in church, just have faith. The good book, the Bible, says faith without works is dead. Your faith needs employment. Your faith needs a job. You have to give the Lord something work with. It’s all through the Bible where the folks He blessed they were hustling. We look at hustle as a bad word because we attach it to our cousin Day Day dem cuz they hustling. That just means to work rapidly. To work energetically. To press towards a goal. God gave us all some talent and you need to get out there and start hustling your talent. Whatever it is you are good at you need to be hustling it. The Bible tells the story of the men who had the talents. The one with five hustles got ten talents. The one with two hustles got four. The one with one hustle probably was a good Christian. They had faith but no hustle. The Bible says they took his talent and gave to the man with ten. So, you have to be out there hustling your talent and if you’re not then you are wicked and you are lazy. Although you believe, although you have talent. Although you fast from time to time, you have to put in the work. So many of us mess up because we literally wait on the Lord. In my book, I talk about from the time when I was in the fifth grade when I realized that I wanted to be an entertainer up until the time I got on the “Yolanda Adams Show”. The Lord has been ordering my steps. The book is a pretty good read and hopefully inspiring.

You can learn more about Marcus D. Wiley and his new book “Hustle and Faith” at www.marcusdwiley.com.

This interview was conducted by IGW founder, Jae Henderson. Learn more about her, here.


Who’s Your Daddy!

Papy of  DITC Radio Provides Old School Hip Hop 24/7

January 2015

Papy S.

If you’re anything like me, you really aren’t crazy about a lot of the hip hop being released today. Rather than force myself to listen to what’s offered, I sought out a station that specialized in delivering hip hop during a times when lyrics could be easily understood, the content had variety and made sense, and radio didn’t play the same songs over and over. What I found was DITC Radio (Diggin In The Crates), a refreshing online radio station that plays some of my favorite hip hop artists and songs that I rarely get to hear anymore.

DITC Radio was founded by Papy Sagybay of Dallas, Texas. A former radio personality and DJ who has worked in the markets of Dallas, Philly, and Memphis and is a true child of hip hop. This fun-loving single father spends his days giving people like me what we need.

Jae: I know this might sound corny, but when did you first fall in love in hip hop?

Papy: LOL…I guess it was when I was in fourth grade and I heard Rappin Duke Da Haahh Da Haahh. It was a domino effect after that. Also, there’s this non-commercial radio station out here in Dallas with this DJ named Ez Eddie D. He’s still there and he used to bang out all the hits. As a kid, we used to get out the tape player and record him. When he played EPMD’s You Gots to Chill we all went crazy! Those were the days.

Jae: What made you want to start DITC Radio?

Papy: Commercial radio just became too political and too much red tape. It wasn’t about introducing the listeners to new music or playing hot songs. It became about control. Even with the DJs. The DJs became like robots. We had to play what they told us to play and if you played anything different you got reprimanded, you got a call, or you had to come to the office and have a talk. They only played the top five or ten songs. Nothing different was being introduced. Even during the mix shows they started to have us mix songs from our play lists and there was nothing I could do about it. We couldn’t mix what we wanted to mix. Radio has taken a serious hit.

I grew up with hip hop and those were the days when hip hop and radio was fun. There were even different types of hip hop. You had gantsta rap, playful rap, sexual rap, and socially conscious rap. Everything had its place and there was room for it. There were more female MCs back then than there are now. They got shine, too. We still have a lot of female MCs but very few of them are getting shine. The culture is suffering. That is one of the main reasons I started my own station. When the station launched listeners were coming out of the woodworks domestically but internationally too. I probably have more international listeners than I have domestic.

Jae: So, how would you describe your radio station?

Papy: I always say we’re bridging the gap. I mean that we have listeners in their mid 30’s to early 40’s and then the ones in their early 20’s. So, I play music from a couple of different eras but it’s still considered old school hip hop. You can hear music from the late 80’s like KRS 1, My Philosophy, and then also Ludacris, What’s Your Fantasy, from the 90’s. Ludacris can be considered old school and new school because he came out in like 1999. I know it doesn’t seem like that long ago but its 2014. So, basically we’re bringing together the parents and the child.

Jae: Tell me about DITC Radio’s weekend syndicated show?

Papy: The weekend syndicated show is an extension of the radio station. On the radio station there’s no talking at all. But on the weekend syndicated show I host for two hours. It airs in Oklahoma and Augusta, GA. It’s doing very well in both markets. It’s number one in its time slot. People like it because it helps listeners reminisce. The music takes them back. It’s nostalgic. It also has more energy because there is an announcer to help move the show along. But it doesn’t take anything from my radio station because on there the songs can hold their own.

We also have the website, DITCradio.com. I blog on there and do current events. The ladies loooove that. And the mobile app allows me to have an even broader audience. I’m expanding that locally as well as nationally. I hope to do an old school party tour in the future.

Jae: Being a connoisseur of hip hop, what is your opinion of hip hop today?

Papy: Hip hop is in a challenging place right now because there used to be more diversity. It’s not that hip hop has gotten worst. There are still people making good hip hop. But what’s getting played on the radio and for the masses all sounds the same. Labels don’t want to take a chance on anybody different because they don’t want to lose money. They say, ‘Let’s just take this cook cutter music and make an album because that’s what’s hot right now’. They are duplicating that style and dumbing down the lyrics. Why keep the lyrics creative and complex when they don’t have to? There are less lyrics in songs right now. They are repeating the same words 12 times. There are more hooks in songs. What used to be a hot 16 bars is now a hot 10 bars. I don’t know what’s going to happen but I think it’s going to revert back to old school eventually. It’s going to back to what new at some point. Right now nobody’s trying to be creative they’re just doing what’s already been done. You got rappers singing now. The words are barely even audible. Time needs to be taken with  the lyrics.

A lot of people like Kendric Lamar because he’s such a breath of fresh air. He’s not sticking to that mold everybody else seems to be using.

Also, more artists need to study the history of hip hop.If you take any other genre of music–jazz, R&B, whatever–the artists that perform them actually grow up listening to that genre of music. They study it. You can’t be in a rock band and not know who Aerosmith is. They know the history of the music they are performing. You have to know it so you can know what’s been done before you and how you should do it. So many rappers don’t seem to do that. I interviewed Soulja Boy one time and I asked him to name one old school artist that has influenced him and he said J-Kwon. I was like J-Kwon? Everybody In The Club Getting Tipsy was old for him? I understand that he was young at the time but you should know who came before you longer than three years earlier. A lot of hip hop artists today don’t know anything about the history of the culture. All they know is that they’re in it.

If you are going to be an artist, you need to be educated. You need to know how to speak. NWA had music talking about F the Police but when they sat down for interviews they articulated very well. There was never a problem with being understood in old school. Now, you got artists saying, ‘You know what um sayin’ all through the interview. No, I don’t know what you’re saying because you haven’s said anything. Hip Hop is in a sad state right now but there is still hope. It isn’t dead but it’s on life support and we need some paddles to bring it back to life.

Jae: Who are your favorite hip hop artists?

Papy: Groups, The Roots, Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy

Individuals, there are so many…Big Daddy Kane, Tupac, Biggie, Jay Z

Female MCs, MC Lyte and Queen Latifah…in that order!

Jae: What can people do to support you?

Papy: Listen to the station, but they can also download the app. That would be a big help. It’s for Android and iPhones and can be found in the Google Play Store and in the App Store. Or people can visit DITCradio.com and find the link. They can also find me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.

This interview was conducted by IGW founder, Jae Henderson. Learn more about her, here.

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