- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Donnie Simpson has been in the radio business for 37 years, but he did something last week on his popular WPGC-FM (95.5) morning show he’d only done four times before: He played an entire recording, on-air, uninterrupted.

Mr. Simpson said he played Prince’s new album, “3121,” during the 8 a.m. hour last Thursday because he was “blown away” after listening to it the previous night. “It just moved me spiritually,” he said in an interview.

A longtime Prince fan, Mr. Simpson said much of the artist’s recent offerings were not as strong, but when he decided to play “3121” he told his son and producer, Donnie Simpson Jr., to listen to it: “I said, ‘D.J., I’m playing the whole thing tomorrow.’”

To accommodate the hour of nonstop music, “The Donnie Simpson Show” ran more ads than normal between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and after 9 a.m. to squeeze in all the commercials. He did not have to clear the changes with the CBS Radio station’s managers.

“I control that four hours,” Mr. Simpson said. “It’s not run by management or anything like that. I wish that more DJs had the freedom to express themselves musically.”

Mr. Simpson, 52, said he had played one other recording uninterrupted on-air as a DJ, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which he calls the “best album ever.” It was so good, Mr. Simpson played it twice — once when it debuted in 1971 and again on its 30th anniversary.

The other two times he played entire albums, one each from Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire, occurred when he was programming for WKYS-FM (93.9), he said.

“It’s very, very rare,” for a DJ to have the creative freedom that Mr. Simpson enjoys, said Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers magazine. “We used to [play entire records] all the time in the old days … and I hope we see more things like that,” as long as they’re done honestly and not as publicity stunts.

While at WKYS, Mr. Simpson said he stopped seeing music label representatives after being offered gifts to play certain records. He said he prefers to get new music with no labels and no politics attached, and was not worried that playing the Prince album would give the appearance of pay-for-play, which is illegal and the subject of ongoing government investigations.

“It was absolutely, positively never a thought in my head,” Mr. Simpson said. “My audience knows my integrity. What is that you could give me?”

Fans have stopped Mr. Simpson on the street to tell him how much they liked the Prince album and to express shock that he played it on the air uninterrupted, he said.

Surprised by that reaction since people play albums all the way through at home, but Mr. Simpson said “they couldn’t believe that I did it” on the radio.

ChickChat to WMET

WMET-AM (1160) this week started airing ChickChat Radio, co-hosted by a former Washington Redskins cheerleader, from 2 to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Former cheerleader Heidi Hanzel broadcasts from her home city of Middleburg, Va., while her co-host, Lara Dyan, works from New York City. The duo’s show is available online and has been on the air since 2002, but D.C. is its largest market, Ms. Hanzel said.

“We are here to have fun. It’s that simple and, unfortunately, it’s not that common,” she said.

Ms. Hanzel would not discuss the terms of ChickChat’s deal with WMET, which last week changed its format from talk radio to paid programming.

Channel Surfing runs Wednesdays. Call 202/636-3173 or e-mail [email protected]

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