By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
You would think after 33 years on the radio, one gets tired and worn out of the industry. With the changes in technology comes different ways people view and appreciate media. Some would say that radio is traditional media, antiquated, or soon will be replaced with the more savvy ways of communication.
Well, this is especially not the case for radio announcer and on air host, Cavell Phillips.
“Radio is not what I do, it’s who I am,” comments Phillips. Cavell Phillips currently works as a Sales Senior Account Executive at AMEN 820 and is the Sunday on air announcer at WPZZ 104.7.
At the tender age of 15 years old, Phillips wanted to be a police officer just like any other young boy. That immediately changed when Cavell starting hanging around the radio studio at WANT 990 AM with on air host, John “Tiger” Tom. Cavell says, “It was amazing to see that no matter what people are going through, they would still call in to the radio. Mr. Mitchell could play a song that would help them get through whatever was going on, or offer an encouraging word. And, I found that to be so cool.”
That very moment changed Cavell’s childhood dreams, and he was going to always put his best foot forward from then on to make radio announcing become a dream come true. And, he did just that, and has been serving the Greater Richmond area with the sound of his voice amplifying through speakers across the region for the last three decades.
Cavell Phillips is from the “real” West End of Richmond. For those who came up in the late 1960s, the “Mighty Mighty West End” is now what you call the VCU/Fan District. Phillips is a graduate of Huguenot High School, and later graduated from the Columbia School of Broadcasting.
Cavell has worked in some capacity of radio all his life. In the 1980s, Phillips really began to spread his wings and reach to the community. He was working in Washington, DC at the time at WUST as part-time filler and doing whatever he needed to do at the station just to get his feet wet in the industry. Some colleagues were transitioning out of radio, because the station was switching over to gospel. In Richmond, WGOE 16 was transitioning to WFTH 1590 AM (religious gospel station), and this opportunity is what brought Cavell back to Richmond. In 1980, Phillips returned to Richmond and after his time at WFTH, in 1982, he was offered a position with WDYL 92 Lite. This was his chance to move over to contemporary Christian and broaden his spectrum and expand his territory. In 1984, Phillips was contacted by EURE Communications in Petersburg, VA. Magic 99 was the first urban FM station in the Richmond area. EURE Communications owned WSSV AM 1240, and Phillips became the music director and the Sunday morning host on Gospel 99 (Magic 99). He continued at Magic 99 on the Sunday Show under the direction of Phil “Philly Phil” Daniel, program manager. Cavell was the first on air announcer in the Richmond area who played gospel on Sundays that was broadcast on a FM station. And, his presence on the air began to radiate across the area.
In 1989, PACO-JON purchased AM 1240 and Magic 99 and did away with the AM format. Phillips became an account executive in sales at Hoffman Communications. Oddly enough, sales attracted him because it showed another side to radio.
“In sales, you are able to get to know people, and sales was an opportunity for me to help people fulfill their dreams,” said Cavell.
This opportunity made him really have a new love for radio. In 1991, PACO-JON had an outcry for Phillips no longer being on their AM station, and he returned by popular demand.
Third Time is a Charm
Cavell Phillips found himself back in Chester/Petersburg, VA for the third time.
Hoffman Communications was overseeing Sinclair Telecommunications. For the next nine years, Sinclair’s Ben Miles was the general manager of Power 92, Magic 99, The River 105.7 and AM 1240. Radio One then took over management of AM 1240. Phillips served as the program director, operations manager, sales manager, and station manager during this time.
From 2006 until July 31, 2012, Phillips remained the morning show host at AMEN WGGM 820 and WZEZ 100.5 General Manager. He still continues as the Sunday morning gospel host on Kiss 105.7/99.3
So, why gospel?
“It’s a lifestyle. It’s what I believe in. It’s my values. It’s all about the lyrics. Gospel is like breathing for me. I really feel at home.” Cavell comments.
Nine years ago Cavell became an ordained minister. He is the Assistant Pastor at Richmond Christian Center under the leadership of Dr. Steve A. Parsons, Sr. Even though he serves at his home church, he preaches 2-3 Sundays a month at other community churches around the area.
In 1990, Phillips was contacted by OnePlace.com. At this time, OnePlace.com was the only online streaming services that featured national pastors from around the world. They wanted to venture into offering Black gospel on the Internet for the first time via the Blackgospelnetwork.com.
“God used me to start something else.” says Phillips.
After three years, the licensing fees increased and the online service was too expensive to maintain because it was not bringing in enough revenue. So, Cavell went back to what he knew, and that was traditional radio.
“I have an interest in what people do daily, what makes people tick. Through the radio, I am able to soothe pains, help people rejoice. A particular song may change a person’s viewpoint; help them see the glass half full vs. half empty. I am able to look deeper into what people are going through.” says Cavell.
Sometimes we are so consumed with the cares of life that we forget and fail to realize what our neighbor is going through.
“I am more than just a jock or on air announcer. I look beyond skin color and see a person, just as God sees us.”
There is no doubt about it, that Cavell is a true broadcaster first and foremost. But, he is more than that, he is a role model and a true influencer in the Richmond community and nationally.
Radio is still around because there are still generations that rely upon the information on the radio. There is still a generation that is apprehensive to the growing technology age. Way back when, radio made up a huge part of the fabric in the Black community.
“We would receive one newspaper a week, so we depended on radio to get the information we needed.” said Cavell.
Radio is a support for whatever vehicle you use to promote your business. Through the radio, you can direct your audience to a company’s website, TV show, newspaper, etc.
Outside of radio, Cavell enjoys bowling and is a drummer. He admits that he still toys around with the trumpet and baritone horn from time to time bringing back high school band memories.
So, what’s the next step for Cavell, possibly, after retirement?
“You cannot retire from radio. Once it is in your blood, it is hard to get out. I do not plan to retire. At 100 years old, I plan to still serve in some type of capacity in radio broadcast.” comments Phillips.
Phillips continued with saying that his role as pastor will never end. His ministry can be used for something so much greater, and as doors continue to open for him, he cannot turn away from what he was called to do.
There is no doubt that Cavell Phillips has made and is continuing to make a difference in the community through the power of radio. Through the power of his voice, he is able to make someone smile and see the brighter side of life, and encourage people to keep going for their goals. That’s Cavell’s legacy. And, so I close out this story with how Cavell closes his Sunday morning gospel show each week.
Make life better for everyday people. Life is fragile, so handle it with lots of prayer.