IF YOU WANT A CRASH COURSE IN the history of popular music from the 1940s to the present, all you have to do is listen to Tiger 93.3 FM for a week.
Dial in on Saturday mornings and you hear rock in its raw, hopped-up infancy: songs from the early ’50s with squawking saxophones and thumping stand-up basses, or groups singing in smooth, four- or five-part harmonies. The following night, jump back a decade as Big Band music swings over the airwaves.
Throughout the work week, the music progresses from Jermaine Jackson singing, “Let’s get serious/ and fall in love” to David Bowie singing about dancing “under the moonlight/ the serious moonlight.”
On Mondays, you’ll hear songs from the ’60s: three minutes of aural perfection followed by another perfect song you might not have heard in decades. Lesley Gore singing “It’s My Party” and declaring her independence in “You Don’t Own Me.” Early Elvis with his jittery voice, or Buddy Holly hiccupping about how he loves Peggy Sue.Then on Tuesday, songs from the ’70s. And so on, moving forward decade-by-decade, day-by-day, until Friday, when you’ll hear hits of the ’70s again.
Tiger FM plays songs other stations don’t. For example, there are the dance songs: “The Bristol Stomp,” “Hully Gully,” “The Stroll,” “The Harlem Shuffle. ”
You can hear the Jackson Five in its early days, then Michael Jackson as he solos. There are even songs by Janet Jackson and Jermaine Jackson.There are songs about cars, beaches, surfing, dancing. There are countless songs about unrequited love, wanting to be in love, falling in love, being in love, falling out of love. There are songs by The Beach Boys, Melanie, The Ronettes, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Eagles, War, Harry Belafonte, Hall & Oates, Chicago, Sly and the Family Stone, Billy Joel, Manfred Mann, the Go-Gos, Blondie, Prince, Boy George, Pat Benatar, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Simple Minds.
The low-power radio station serves the Dunbar community of Fort Myers, but spreads farther. People have heard it as far south as Gladiolus Drive and to the outskirts of Bonita Springs on I-75, though the farther you get from Dunbar, the less reliable it grows. Reception may grow fuzzy, then suddenly clearer.Like many others, actress Patricia Idlette, a Dunbar resident, found the station by accident. “I was looking for something to rock to that wasn’t Justin Bieber,” she says. She plays the station at The Learning Store at Fleamasters flea market on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where she works on Saturdays. In addition to playing it at work, Ms. Idlette listens on her phone or in her truck while running errands around town. “It keeps me level between NPR and a local rock station,” she says. Angela Pierre, an account manager for an IT research firm who lives in Fort Myers, also listens to the station. She’s a fan of Motown music and in December starred in “A Motown Christmas” at Theatre Conspiracy. “I’m so glad they have dedicated prime time to playing classic music,” she says of the station. “When I have a chance to perform the hits from the Supremes or the Vandellas, it’s amazing to see the way the audience lights up because of the memories and good times it reminds them of. Tiger 93.3 does the same for me when I tune in and can just listen to song after song. For someone like me, who didn’t grow up during that time, it’s a great way to have a way to get a good selection of Motown and oldies music easily.”
Born for sports
The station, which first began broadcasting on June 15, 2015, is the brainchild of Rob Liddle, a social studies teacher at Dunbar High School.
It all began with sports. He and Dunbar
High baseball coach Zach Hopple called the home football games at the high school’s stadium.
“I do the play by play and color commentary,” Coach Hopple explains.
They were calling a game when Mr. Liddle noticed Rob Robbins, a DJ from Call FM standing to the side. He explained he was announcing the game between Dunbar and Clewiston and broadcasting it on the radio.
Curious, Mr. Liddle asked how he could announce the Dunbar games on the internet. Mr. Robbins told him, and so Mr. Liddle began broadcasting the games online.
Then, he started thinking bigger: a radio station that would broadcast to the entire Dunbar community and surrounding neighborhoods.
“I thought it would be great if we could do something for the Dunbar community,” Mr. Liddle says. “Start out with sports, and then go with music. If we could do something here for the kids and teachers to become involved in broadcasting and sports.”
Mr. Robbins helped him figure out how to apply for a license.
Mr. Liddle got the license to 93.3 FM. He had to come up with call letters, so he decided on WWDH. The letters stand for Dunbar High. And because the school mascot is a tiger, he calls it Tiger FM.
For the music, he invested in the top 100 Billboard hits from 1954 to the present.
“That’s a lot of songs,” he says. “A decade gives you a thousand songs.”
He monitors every song, listening or reading the lyrics before putting in on the air.
“If I read the words and I don’t like the lyrics, nope, we don’t do that.”
You won’t hear any heavy metal or gangsta rap on Tiger FM.
“I want to put out a good product,” he says.
Then he came up with idea of broadcasting each decade day-by-day.
During this time, he was talking with the son of man he’d known in church and discovered he had a tower that had been used for Motorola two-way radios. It was no longer in use, so he agreed to let Mr. Liddle use it for his station. He put an antenna on top of the high tower.
The station is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit.
“We call it a God thing,” says Mr. Liddle, who is a strong man of faith and involved with his church, Cypress Lake United Methodist. “You think, how can I get that done, and you talk to somebody else, and connect to someone. People have been really good about helping.”
Somehow, step-by-step, he finds the right person at the right time who has the knowledge, money or connections that he needs.
“Each one of us has a special talent we bring to the community,” he says.
He recently did PSAs for Bethune- Cookman University, a historical black college in Daytona Beach, whose choir was coming to sing at Cypress Lake United Methodist Church. He wrote to the director and asked if he could broadcast the concert to the community. He agreed. Then he asked the pastor, who also said yes.
“That’s a good thing for the alumni of Bethune, and great for the Dunbar community,” Mr. Liddle says. “It’s a black gospel choir, all college kids who are on some kind of singing scholarship. That’s being in the community.”
After the concert, a couple from the Tice Methodist Church began talking with him.
The man asked Mr. Liddle if he enjoyed the concert. He replied that he’d just broadcast it.
The couple asked, “What station?”
When they heard it was Tiger FM, they grew excited.
“I fall asleep with that!” the man exclaimed. “I go to sleep to you!”
Mr. Liddle also receives phone messages from listeners. He played a couple for a visitor. A man named Matt who identified himself as a local musician called and left a message saying, “This is some stuff I haven’t heard since I was a little kid. I am absolutely loving the selection I’m hearing on your radio station. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. I appreciate it.”
Another man, identifying himself as Scott, left a voice message explaining he’d stumbled upon the station and can’t stop listening. “This station is freaking awesome,” he gushes. “Keep up the good work. Unbelievable.”
While the radio station doesn’t belong to Dunbar High School, it’s intertwined with it in many ways, because Mr. Liddle works there. It broadcasts home games and is used as an educational tool. Many of the teachers recorded 15-second PSAs with their names, and the subjects they teach. Then they’ll say something such as, “I listen to Tiger 93.3 FM. Go Tigers!”
“I love the music, first of all,” she says. “It’s the era. I grew up with that music, it’s all the stuff I grew up listening to when I was a youngster in Fort Lauderdale. I’m looking forward to it doing more, and the kids getting more involved in it.”
“I love that station,” enthuses Fort Myers resident Lauren Taylor, who listens to it whenever she can. “It’s not the same songs over and over again. You hear some real gems, some sleeper hits. It’s not the songs you hear ad nauseam on the other channels. I heard ‘How Do You Do!’ By Mouth & McNeal the other day,” she says.
“I had not heard that since 1971 when it came out,” she says. “It just made me smile. I was driving and smiling and laughing. It was delightful. It’s an upbeat station.”
Ms. Taylor is familiar with the station because her elder son, August, attended Dunbar High School and helped create the radio’s Web site. (He won second place for his Web design in the Digital Lee competition.) Her younger son, Everett, is now a freshman there.
“Yes, I’m a Tiger Mom,” she says.
She’s excited by the possibilities the tiny station presents.
“It’s a nascent station; it will grow,” she says. She wants to get involved with making 30-second public service announcements introducing senior students.
Mr. Liddle has big plans for the station.
He wants a former teacher to do regular black history snippets. He wants someone else to give health tips for the Dunbar Community.
He knows someone who loves Sinatra who’d love to announce the songs and talk a little bit about each one before it’s played.
Then there’s the teacher who wants to do a show on Saturday nights from 9 to midnight, either pop hits or blues and jazz.
All will be prerecorded, Mr. Liddle says. He’s big on quality control; nothing goes out over the air live.
And because it’s a nonprofit, there aren’t any advertisements. But Mr. Liddle is more than happy to air public service announcements he feels will benefit the community.
Recently, he’s been running PSAs about a 100 Black Men organization mentoring event that will take place at the STARS Complex March 31-April 1.
Some of the biggest fans and listeners to the football and basketball broadcasts on the station seem to be Dunbar alumni, both recent and older, says Carl Falk, a history teacher and head coach of boys’ soccer at Dunbar.
“They have complimented us on how we speak positively about our students, school and community,” he says.
“I’ve known Rob for eight years now, and there isn’t a more dedicated man I have ever met. He pours all of his effort in anything he does, and the radio station exemplifies that. He never does things to help himself. Rather, he does things to benefit others. I spent a few hours here and there helping him set up the radio station, but to see the time and effort he put into creating something that serves the community and not himself, is amazing. He is a tremendous asset to Dunbar High School and the community. The relationships he’s built in the area are amazing. He is an advocate for every student he teaches and reaches.”
While many listeners of Tiger FM love the station because it plays music they grew up with, students at Dunbar High don’t always appreciate it. All of it was produced before their time, it doesn’t have that driving hip-hop beat and it’s not their generation’s music.
In Mr. Liddle’s class they’ll sometimes try to get him to change the station, but he refuses. He doesn’t care for some of the lyrics and messages in today’s music.
But surprising things sometimes happen.
Coach Hopple says that two students came up to him asking about some songs they’d heard on the station. They wanted to know what they were.
The Beach Boys, he told them.
“They’d never heard of them before,” he says. They were enthralled.
“They were two girls, seniors,” he says.
Then, when he spoke with them later, they told him, “We’ve been listening to them for two hours.”
And just like that, music reached across the generations and spoke to the hearts of two high school girls who, like countless teens before them, discovered its timeless, magical sounds.
Tiger FM mission
>> WWDH’s goal is to make a positive impact in the Dunbar Community by building great relationships and by:
>> Providing a wide range of information related to educational, cultural, business, employment and self-employment opportunities offered to persons in the Dunbar Community.
>> Effectively teaching and communicating the ideals of citizenship, integrity, personal responsibility, moral rectitude, and spiritual maturity.
>> Helping to address personal, social, relational and health problems of concern to the local Dunbar and Fort Myers communities. Examples are: family development, child rearing, education, health information, local sports and Dunbar history.
>> Programs will be responsive to the needs and interests of the Dunbar Community.
The 93.3 Tiger FM format
>> Monday: Music from the 1960s
>> Tuesday: The ’70s
>> Wednesday: The ’80s
>> Thursday: The ’90s
>> Friday: The ’70s (soon to become music from Y2K)
>> Saturday: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., golden oldies, music from the early ’50s; 3 p.m. onward, jazz and R&B
>> Sunday: Midnight-6 a.m. Christian music; 6 a.m. to noon, local church services; noon- 3 p.m., Frank Sinatra; 3-6 p.m., big band; 6 p.m.-midnight: jazz and blues
>> Also: Dunbar High School basketball and football games presented live on game nights