by Hunter Simms, Museum Intern
Music was a healing component in the struggle for equality for African Americans during the Civil Rights movement. In Lynchburg, access to that music over the radio was difficult to obtain. Robert Goins, otherwise known as “DJ Mad Lad” was instrumental in providing an outlet for enjoyment. Goins was born in Abingdon, VA but his family relocated to Lynchburg when he was five years old to a house on Fifteenth and Pierce Street. Little did Goins know at the time, he would become a cultural icon in Lynchburg a decade later.
Two stations in Lynchburg played black music sparingly, WLL & WWOD, which mostly played rock ‘n’ roll. Goins recollects, “The only time you heard ‘soul’ music was staying up late and listening to WLAC out of Nashville, Tennessee and falling asleep in class the next day, or listening to far away WPXI on 910kc from Roanoke!” Goins didn’t fully discover the power and impact of “soul stations” until he visited family during the summer of 1966 in Chicago. He would tape-record the songs WVON played, and amaze friends and family with the collection of hits they were missing out on in Lynchburg. It was his discovery of this station, and the DJ who dished out these tunes in Chicago, Mad Lad (E. Rodney Jones), who inspired him to create his own station and persona.
With help from books and a couple of his teachers, including his electric shop teacher, Mr. Jones, Mad Lad went to work. Once he had his transmitter working and hooked to the station he wanted, he began passing out flyers at Dunbar High to advertise his newly created station. It was 1967, Goins was only fifteen years old but had become a local hero of sorts. His station, WKKD (KKD for Krispy Kreme Donuts) ran from around 3:30 after school to 7:00 in the evening. Reaching about half a mile in all directions, Goins had a solid listening audience. Those who knew of the station but couldn’t access it would sometimes drive within range and sit in their cars until the broadcast ended! WKKD played artists like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and other top R&B singers and popular groups. While Mad Lad was the architect of the project, he wasn’t the sole contributor. Goins had a large staff working for WKKD: Milbert "Piggy" Megginson, Kenneth "The Androver" Banks, Ronnie "Soul Kid" Rathers, Chris Sharp, Mike "Rico" Harris, George "Speedy" Walker, Troy "Jimmy Troy" Jones, Clay "Buckshot" James, Sam "Sugar Bear" Stevens, and Leroy "Dr. Soul" Copeland.
Music wasn’t the only element of the broadcast. WKKD included segments of news on the show to keep listeners engaged with current events that they may have been unaware of. Due to the bias in Lynchburg’s newspapers at the time, many events and accomplishments of the black community were hidden near the obituary section – or left out altogether. Goins would read the sections that were buried in the newspaper while he was live on air. Additionally, he would find newsworthy segments out of The Journal and Guide from Richmond, which his mother had a subscription for, and read them aloud. Possibly the most outstanding political segment was when Charles Mangum, part of William Kunstler’s defense team in the Wansley case, gave a speech on WKKD. In response, WKKD’s staff assembled a voter outreach team that went door-to-door to register people to vote.
As WKKD’s popularity increased, it brought unwarranted attention.Goins recalls riding his bike through the neighborhood to check his station’s signal, when he spotted a vehicle with government tags. After the agent parked and exited his car on Fifteenth and Fillmore Street, which was about a block from Goins’ house, Goins approached him curiously. Upon closer inspection, he noticed an FCC stamp on the unit the man was carrying. Instead of panicking, Goins assumed this was a chance to legitimize his station. He was honest with the man and showed him his setup but was disappointed when he was given a warning and was forced to shut down the station. WKKD was officially done after a year and a half on the airwaves. Mad Lad wasn’t.
Mad Lad went on to be hired by WJJS not long after and tapped into the overlooked African American audience. WJJS went from being nearly obsolete to the number one station in Lynchburg. Mad Lad had about 150,000 listeners at his peak. Goins eventually left WJJS in 1998 and stayed on-air with a gospel station until 2004 before retiring.
The impression Goins has left is unquestionable. Hermina Hendricks, who knew Goins while growing up, summed up his cultural and creative impact – “He has a place in Lynchburg’s history as part of a youthful and idealist generation that, among other achievements, helped pave the way for equality on the Hill City’s airwaves.”
Goins now operates MADLAD Music Service and DJs gigs across Lynchburg. More historical and business information can be found at www.djmadlad.com.
Mad Lad: Iconic Lynchburg DJ reflects on nearly 50-year career, News and Advance, Emma Schkloven
Lynchburg Civil Rights Movement - Part 6, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nciQBoyc8Sc