- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - At 13, “Gospel Ron” Wilson, a disc jockey at WBOK-1230 AM radio in New Orleans, sat behind a radio microphone for the first time in what is now a 41-year career. The help he received from moonlighting police officer John Watkins also known as “The Gospel King,” at WCKW-1010 radio in Garyville, he now extends to others, including on air seat time in the DJ’s chair for youth.

“I love to help kids get started,” Wilson said. Of the more than 20 “Guest DJs” that have debuted behind his mic over the years, the youngest was 5.

Wilson’s Rise and Shine program airs six days a week, beginning at 5 a.m. with a format of contemporary gospel. On Sundays, it’s traditional black gospel music that “gets people ready for church,” Wilson said. His job is to encourage, he said.

“I try to make it as uplifting as I can,” Wilson said.

The birthday cards and gifts that adorned his desk during a recent Sunday morning program give a glimpse of lives he has touched. One card, sent by a grandmother and signed by each of her grandchildren, read “Praying for your family; You’re the best, Love you.”

Wilson credits his start to Watkins, a man he admired, who took him under his wing and taught him the ropes. On air and seated beside him, Wilson took over whenever Watkins was called away to emergency duty.

Soon dubbed “The Gospel King Sidekick,” Wilson’s career as a young teen DJ in the 1970s cut its own path when his junior high principal heard Watkins’ program. Wilson said his principal asked him to deliver the school’s morning announcements and “make it like a radio station.”

Arriving daily at school by 6 a.m., Wilson played vinyl records and 45 rpms of Rock and R & B brought to him by fellow students. Wilson became “Rockin’ Ron” on the early morning program he named “WRJH,” a moniker reflecting the initials of Reserve Junior High.

Wilson’s arrival years later in New Orleans brought him to WBOK and a faithful River Parishes audience followed. The last DJ on air at the station as Hurricane Katrina moved in, Wilson locked the door and the station went silent for two years.

“I’d be delighted,” was Wilson’s answer when station management asked him back as one of its first rehires, he said. But reworking his schedule at his full-time job at Bunny Bread to make Sunday’s program fit took a divine hand, Wilson said. “I’ve been here ever since,” Wilson said.

With a long career that now includes Wilson’s online radio station www.kgrrradio.com that he operates from home, gospel music has been his life. The online station operates continuously.

While Wilson calls his position at Bunny Bread his “employment,” his time on the radio is something different.

“This is fun to me,” Wilson said. “My other job is work. This is not work.”

As listeners call in with requests for favorite songs, sometimes they give “Gospel Ron” a prayer request. When they do, Wilson prays with them on air.

“I come in here Sunday morning and I don’t think about nothing except one thing,” Wilson said. “Coming in here and serving the Lord.”

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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