Broadcasting in stereo with 25,000 watts of power, WUMR is the only exclusive jazz
outlet in the Memphis metro area. The station offers a mix of contemporary and traditional
jazz, as well as a sampling of fusion, Blues, Latin, and new age Jazz. The station
also serves the Mid-South community with unique educational, sports, and community
WUMR has been the University of Memphis broadcasting outlet since 1979, when Southwestern
at Memphis (now Rhodes College) sold one of its two radio licenses to then Memphis
State University. WSMS-FM 91.7, carrying the Memphis State call letters, was created
as an all-jazz station. Although the call letters changed to WUMR, when Memphis State
became the University of Memphis on July 1, 1994, the station, which is now known
as WUMR “The Jazz Lover” U 92-FM, has stayed true to the all-jazz format during its
30-year history. WUMR is part of the College of Communication and Fine Arts’ (CCFA)
Department of Communication. An element of the station’s mission is to train communication
and journalism students in broadcasting.
“When I founded the station, we chose the all-jazz format for three reasons,” says
Richard Ranta, CCFA Dean. “We didn’t want to compete with the programming of commercial
radio in Memphis, and none of the stations were playing jazz regularly. We wanted
a musical style that appealed to a multiracial audience and, finally, jazz was a format
that fit in nicely with the jazz curriculum in our music department, now the Rudi
E. Scheidt School of Music,” Ranta continues.
Although WUMR relies on volunteers and students for on-air shifts, and to manage some
of the daily tasks, the station’s recipe for success is its focus on professionalism.
This professionalism was brought to the station when the late Bob McDowell was hired
as WUMR’s general manager in 1982. McDowell was a great influence in every aspect
of the broadcast industry, not only in Memphis and the surrounding area, but also
nationally. He was the backbone of WUMR, founded and was executive director of the
Memphis Area Radio Stations Association, was program director for WDIA as well as
program director, station and general manager for WRVR before he took the position
at the University of Memphis.
Today, the station provides the best in classic and contemporary jazz to local listeners,
24-hours a day, and, a tribute to 21st century technology, the station now also streams
online so that jazz lovers from all over the world can tune in. WUMR will continue
to be a major learning laboratory for students, giving many of them the very first
opportunity to work at an FM station—on air and behind the scenes. It still supports
the jazz program at the University of Memphis as well as local jazz musicians, and
Mid-South jazz lovers. Malvin Massey, long-time WUMR music director and former jazz
musician, is the station’s general manager.