How do you measure a volunteer’s personal dedication?
There are many different ways. For volunteer gospel disc jockeys Bobby H and Dr. Kwame, the definition includes getting up before dawn on Sunday morning — every week — and coming to the basement studios of campus/community radio station KDVS on the UC Davis campus.
There, they host “Songs of Praise,” a two-hour gospel show that’s heard over the air at 90.3 FM and online at www.kdvs.org. Bobby H and Dr. Kwame play inspirational CDs, announce upcoming events, share spoken-word messages and prayers, and read Bible passages to their early-morning listeners, many of whom have been tuning in to the program for years.
And while many regular KDVS hosts go on vacation and recruit a substitute to fill in on a Christmas Day show, Bobby H and Dr. Kwame have a different plan. They intend to do their regular 6-to-8 a.m. radio shift on Christmas Day… and on New Year’s Day as well.
“I started helping with the show in September 1984,” recalled Bobby H, whose full name is Bobby Henderson. He’s been with KDVS ever since, spinning gospel discs (and getting up his nerve to announce the names of the artists) on most Sunday mornings for the past 27 years, working with a variety of co-hosts over that time.
Dr. Kwame, whose full name is Kwame Acquaah, joined the co-host rotation about four years ago. For Bobby H, doing the weekly show involves getting up at 5 a.m. and driving to Davis from his home in North Highlands — a round trip of about 50 miles. Dr. Kwame gets up early as well, and makes the trip from his home in Elk Grove.
The two hosts came to the gospel program by different paths. Bobby H, who is 74, was born in Richmond, Va. He joined the Air Force and came to California for the first time in 1965. He was stationed twice at Beale Air Force Base, northeast of Sacramento, and settled in North Highlands after he retired from the military in 1978. As a retiree, he started taking a more active role in his church.
“And one of the brothers from our church, Ike Thomason, was hosting a show at KDVS,” Bobby H recalls. “At that time, it was called ‘The King Solomon Program.’ Ike had been doing the show for quite some time, and he asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in becoming a gospel DJ.
“So I asked quite a few people, but when I told them that there was no pay, and it was in Davis, and the show started at 6 a.m. — plus you’ve got to help clean up the studios with a broom — they said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’
“So finally Ike said, ‘Why don’t you come with me some Sundays?’ And I said, ‘OK, I’d like to see what it’s all about.’ I didn’t know anything about radio. He coached me.
“At that time, Aliane Johnson was one of the co-hosts; she was rather new. Ike had her show me the controls, and how to queue up the LPs.”
Initially, Bobby H recalls he was “too shy” to step up to the microphone and help with the announcing. So for a while, Johnson did the talking, and Bobby H would queue up the songs and help with the control board.
“I like gospel music; I was singing in a church choir,” he says. “My problem was talking on the air. But eventually with Aliane, we’d sit there and chat.”
Eventually, Thomason turned over the program to Johnson and Bobby H.
“And I couldn’t let Aliane down,” Bobby H recalls. “It had to be two people doing the program” — a model that continues to this day.
After Johnson and her husband moved to another city, Bobby H continued the show with other co-hosts. Mr. Tee — Terrance Stokes — shared the show for some years. More recently, Dr. Kwame has been his Sunday morning partner.
Dr. Kwame, who recently turned 45, was born in Ghana. He also lived in England for a time, and eventually settled in California. He has a job with the state, and is also a leader in Trans-Atlantic Environmental, a nonprofit group that promotes waste-to-energy and waste-t0-reusable-products projects in Third World countries.
“I was also the president of the Ghanaian Association of Sacramento; Bobby was a member as well,” Dr. Kwame says. “Bobby asked me to come on his KDVS show to talk about one of the Ghanaian Association’s upcoming events. And then a few months later, he asked me to come and talk on the air again.
“After I came on the show a third time, he asked me if I would like to help out. So I gave it a shot. Anything that has to do with God, I have no problem doing it. So I came to the studios, Bobby showed me how to read the meters, and that’s how it started.”
For their music on Christmas morning, Bobby H said he plans to follow a pattern that has worked well on Christmas week gospel shows in years past.
“We do our regular gospel music, with special gospel Christmas music alternating. We’re going to lean heavily on Christmas,” he says. “That’s the real story, the real meaning. That’s what we plan on doing.
“And of course, you know Dr. Kwame will give the sermonette, the spoken word message,” Bobby H adds.
Dr. Kwame says, “When I started, before I would come to the studios, I would pick my music and think about my message — what I was going to say. But after a while, I stopped doing that. When I walk in, the spirit takes over. Somehow, the words come, the music flows and the music is always in synch. It’s marvelous.”
Adds Bobby H, “We seem to be on the same wave pattern. Sometimes I would say the same thing as Kwame, or he would say something that was on my mind. And there are times when I was going to play a certain song, and I play a different one (by mistake), and it turns out to be the right song.”
Chimes in Dr. Kwame, “The whole thing becomes not just something you do, but something you live. We live this program every week, every time we come here. It’s part of our lives now.
“It takes commitment. It’s a responsibility that doesn’t just bless us, but it blesses our listeners … our listeners in Davis, and the listeners around the world who go online to hear us. It is a responsibility we both take seriously. We work well together. We enjoy coming here.”
And when that alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning?
“It’s always hard getting up. But when you get here, the energy comes alive,” Bobby H says with a smile.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8055.