Poplarville’s WRPM back on air

Published 1:31 am Friday, December 24, 2010

For several months, Pearl River County residents might have caught the signal of a familiar radio station, WRPM of Poplarville, which has returned to broadcasting after an extended absence from the air, originally caused by Katrina.

This time it’s not only on AM that you can hear the station, but there is a station on the FM dial as well. The stations are simulcast, and have new frequencies, WRPM-FM, 99.7, and WRPM-AM, 1170 on the AM dial, said Steve Spillman, general manager.

The AM station was revived at a new frequency, and the new FM station marks a revival of FM in Pearl River County, ] not heard since former owner, the late Ben Griffin, who founded the station, sold out in the late 1980s.

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The AM station broadcasts from dawn to dusk and the FM station around-the-clock. The format is Southern Gospel.

WRPM-AM-FM is owned by Morgan Dowdy, who owns Kicker 108 in Gulfport-Biloxi, one of the most powerful stations in the South, as part of a chain of radio stations, mostly in Mississippi.

Dowdy purchased WRPM-FM in the late 1980s from Griffin, who owned and ran City Rexall Drug Store here, along with the station, for years. Griffin’s family still owns the drug store.

Dowdy moved the station to the Gulf Coast and reconstituted it as Kicker 108. He continued WRPM on the AM dial until Katrina knocked it off the air.

Griffin, an early radio enthusiast and investor in radio here, built up WRPM-FM’s power until the station was being received as far away as Texas and Florida.

WRPM-FM during the 1970s and 1980s built up a large following in the South when Griffin broadcast a classical music format. Kicker 108 today is a popular country music station.

Griffin reportedly sold the station to Dowdy for $2 million.

Spillman is from Picayune and once worked for Picayune’s WRJW-AM. Besides his duties at WRPM, he is also sales manager for the Dowdy stations along the Gulf Coast.

Griffin founded WRPM in 1961 and gradually improved it technically and increased the power of its signal over the years. It is extremely expensive to increase a station’s power because of tower construction expenses, engineering and FCC licensing fees, said experts familiar with the process.

The station was originally located on U.S. Highway 11 South, but later moved to 103 Progress Road, where it is still located.

Said Spillman, “We started broadcasting again a couple months ago, and we are working out the bugs right now.”

“We switched frequencies on the AM station to get better coverage and added the FM station, also,” said Spillman.

Spillman said that Picayune residents should be able to pick up the stations. He said that one listener said he picked up the station’s signal in Gulfport but that is “sort of extreme and probably varies.”

WRPM is the only FM station operating in the county. The station’s number is 601-795-4900.