ST. PETERSBURG – Before the civil rights era, there was little to no opportunities for African Americans on the radio or in television. Once opportunities became available, these trailblazers had to work extremely hard to forge a career in the highly competitive business of broadcast radio and television.
One such pioneer is St. Pete native Marvin Tim Flemmings, who has been in the business for more than 40 years and can still be heard on WMNF 88.5 FM, listener-supported independent radio.
Flemmings is a 1966 graduate of Gibbs High School. Growing up in a musically inclined family, he was a member of the Pinellas County Youth Symphony. His brother, Leroy “Head” Flemmings, played saxophone and toured with the legendary James Brown and Otis Redding, and was a former director of the Al Downing Orchestra.
“He was a great influence on my career,” said Flemmings who also sites George Charouve, a local record producer and DJ at WTMP in Tampa, as a great influencer on his young life.
Flemmings fondly remembers Charouve playing vinyl records at the segregated recreation centers for teenage dances. Once he got the opportunity to assist Charouve, his life was forever changed as his dream of being a disc jockey was born.
Flemmings, whose family once owned the L&B Meat Market located on Ninth Avenue South, attended East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn. While there he was a DJ at the college station WETS and had his own jazz show. He also got an opportunity to work at a country-western station.
“I told them that if Charley Pride can sing it, then I can play it,” he laughed.
After graduating with a BA in Health and Physical Education with a minor in broadcast communication, Flemmings enlisted in the army where he continued to hone his broadcast skills. While stationed at the 24th Infantry Division—Hunter Army Airfield at Ft. Stewart, Ga., he was on the air providing music, updating the troops on important information and even produced the welcome video for new recruits.
According to Flemmings, stations in the early 1970s were clamoring for experienced black talent, and WLCY, which later went by the call letters of WTSP, brought him on board. WLCY was Tampa Bay’s premiere Top 40 station and operated from offices, studios and transmitter site on Gandy Boulevard, just off Fourth Street North.
He became one of the cameramen for news reporter Lam Tucker. When he did receive the opportunity to cover his own stories, they would only let him voiceover his work and not show his face on camera.
“It’s a dog eat dog business,” said Flemmings. “There’s always someone coming along who thinks they’re better than you. It’s a big ego thing and very competitive.”
On the plus side he was able to meet major entertainers and record producers. “If you like your job it’s always rewarding,” he said.
Flemmings fulfilled his boyhood dream of commanding the airwaves with his voice. He’s worked at many stations throughout the nation including WNJR in Newark, NJ, WEAS in Savannah Ga., WTMP in Tampa and WRXB in St. Petersburg.
Since 2004 he has been with WMNF and his show entitled “Mellow Music Encounter” can be enjoyed Saturday mornings from 3-6 a.m.
“I love it because I can do my thing,” Flemmings stated. “I love all genres of music and there is a power in speaking and communication.”