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The mural at WMCS-AM (1290) building on Capitol Drive.
The mural at WMCS-AM (1290) building on Capitol Drive.

WMCS 1290 silences the talk

It was a shock to hear that Milwaukee's home for black talk radio had decided to change formats Tuesday.

It was even more a shock when the station started playing Elvis Presley this morning just to make sure listeners got the point.

The Milwaukee radio station WMCS-AM (1290) has served the city's African-American radio audience for more than two decades with a variety of popular on-air hosts and personalities.

Black talk radio is a vibrant force in town, particularly during local elections, but the city's two black-owned radio stations have always been challenged by economic realities that made the going tough. (The other station is  WNOV-AM 860, which still offers talk radio.)

The general manager at the company that runs WMCS chalked up a drastic decision to end the all-talk format on most days to strictly business. "Radio stations have to make money and serve the community," said Bill Horwitz, vice president and general manager of the Milwaukee Radio Alliance.

Nobody can argue with that.

Co-owned by Packers great Willie Davis, it's always been perceived as a struggling radio station that lacked the ratings and revenue to survive in a competitive market. But over the years, the talk radio on WMCS did serve the community with passionate discussions of issues and often combative discourse between listeners and on-air hosts and guests.

Listening to the most popular talk shows on WMCS – Eric Von in the morning and Earl Ingram in the afternoon, along with syndicated shows including Al Sharpton – was often akin to being part of a raucous debate in a black barbershop. 

The radio audience for WMCS is largely made up of older African-Americans who don't listen to hip-hop 24/7 and prefer more serious discussions about politics and society. It's also not an audience drawn to another popular feature on Milwaukee radio, right-wing conservatives who often speak a different language than most African-Americans in Milwaukee.

WMCS was always racially inclusive, with …

Grooving on the Potawatomi Soul Train Line.
Grooving on the Potawatomi Soul Train Line. (Photo: Potawatomi Bingo Casino)
No record but fun was had by all.
No record but fun was had by all. (Photo: Potawatomi Bingo Casino)
The hippest trip in America: The Soul Train Line.
The hippest trip in America: The Soul Train Line. (Photo: Potawatomi Bingo Casino)

They came, they saw, they boogied

They came, they saw, they boogied.

But in the end, the record for the longest "Soul Train Line" remained standing. But lots of folks at Potawatomi Bingo and Casino still had a great time.

The casino held a "Groove Line" contest Thursday to attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest line of dancers who participated in a re-enactment of the classic Soul Train Line, featured on countless episodes of the syndicated "Soul Train" program.

"Soul Train" isn't on TV anymore but it is fondly remembered by generations of music fans as one of the first television music shows that featured predominantly African-American performers and studio dancers.

The founder of "Soul Train," Don Cornelius, died after committing suicide last year.

Ryan Amundson of Potawatomi said only 160 people participated, not enough to break the record of 291 set in Philadelphia last year.

But as Cornelius used to say, there was lots of "Love, peace and soul!" 

Why do cops take the Fifth?
Why do cops take the Fifth?

Why do cops take the Fifth?

Why did seven Milwaukee police officers refuse to testify at the Milwaukee County inquest into the death of Derek Williams?

Inquiring minds want to know, particularly since many Milwaukee cops take a different tack when it comes to their own investigations into possible crimes.

Local defense attorney Craig Mastantuono said it struck him as ironic that Milwaukee cops relied on their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during the inquest into the death of Williams, who died while in police custody.

"I know most cops tell my clients If you don't have anything to hide, you should answer our questions,'" said Mastantuono, who doesn't represent anybody involved in the Williams case.

"But they don't do that, do they?"

Mastantuono said although some residents might be cynical, he fully understood why police officers would take the Fifth on the advice of their own legal representation.

"They are the subject of a criminal investigation; they have reasons to evoke the Fifth Amendment that have nothing to do with being guilty."

The answers to questions from special prosecutor John Franke could leave them open to future prosecution, Also, they have no idea what questions will be asked.

Just like most suspects, the Milwaukee cops involved in the inquest want to preserve all of their rights for a fair trial. Latest reports say Franke plans to offer immunity to officers who took the Fifth so they can freely give their account of what happened when Williams died, which was probably their intention all along.

Mastantuono rightly points out that when police officers take the Fifth, some members of the community see that as "unseemly" given that many cops suggest most suspects should always cooperate with authorities unless they are guilty of a crime.

For many it's just another example why they feel justice isn't always so equal. 

Note: Congrats to former Journal Sentinel colleague Gina Barton for her Polk Award for coverage of the Derek Williams case. 

Center Court never caught on.
Center Court never caught on. (Photo: Eugene Kane)

What's wrong with this location?

"Bar Month" at is back for another round – brought to you by Aperol, Pinnacle, Jameson, Fireball, Red Stag and Avion. The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

It's a mystery why a sports bar located right across the street from the city's main sports arena just never seemed to work.

In business, they say the mantra is location, location location.

Apparently not when it comes to the Center Court Pub and Grille at 1118 N. 4th St.

I'm sure the owners leasing the property probably considered the location a prime spot due to the presence of the BMO Harris Bradley Center right across the street. Between home games for the Milwaukee Bucks, concerts and various special events like professional wrestling that are regular heavy crowd dates during the year, one would imagine the Center Court Pub could become a real institution.

It never happened.

Maybe the Center Court Pub owners should have talked to the people who owned Legends. Or GameTime. Those were the names of previous establishments that used to exist in the exact same spot.

Absent any financial records or inside information about management practices or food quality, it's hard to make a definitive statement why Center Court Pub – or any of the others – just never caught on with the public.

The sporting crowd in Downtown Milwaukee does have its traditional favorites like Major Goolsby's, and other new bars and clubs that have opened over the past five years or so.

More than ever before, you have lots of choices if you want a bite or a drink before or after the game.

But it's hard to believe anyplace would be more convenient than just walking across the street. And it's just as hard to believe a place that sold good drinks and beverages at a reasonable price wouldn't have a good chance to compete.

Again,  I bet that's what they all thought …