Burr Ridge radio executive’s leadership continues

When you are on a first-name basis with the President of the United States and entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey, and hosted the late film critic Roger Ebert in your home, you have some clout.

But with all he has accomplished in the radio industry, what Burr Ridge resident Marv Dyson is most proud of is the charity work he has done through his radio stations, benefiting residents of Chicago’s South Side.

“We would give to people who were struggling,” Dyson said. “We did all kind of community affairs work.”

Dyson, a resident of Burr Ridge since 1986, was the manager of Clear Channel-owned Chicago radio stations WGCI-FM, WVAZ-FM (V-103) and Inspiration 1390-AM for 21 years. Dyson played a role in the careers of many on-air talents, including Steve Harvey, Ramsey Lewis, Tom Joyner, Doug Banks, Tony Sculfield, Yvonne Daniels, Crazy Howard McGee, Bob Wall, Ramonski Luv, Joe Soto, Jeanne Sparrow and Herb Kent.

Retiring from Clear Channel in 2003, Dyson worked at the City Colleges of Chicago’s Kennedy King College from 2004-12 as director of operations for WKKC-FM, the school’s radio station. He also created a media communications curriculum for the college and taught media sales classes.

He co-founded and co-owns URBan Radio Broadcasting, LLC, which owns 16 radio stations in Columbs/Starkville and Tupelo, Miss., Florence/Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Toledo, Ohio.

Despite both of his parents being in radio, Dyson never expected to enter the industry himself. He was planning to be a salesman for a sausage company, but went to the interview for a sales position at WAAF Radio, primarily to learn about the position and the interview questions for a friend.

When he was able to wow the interviewer when asked to create a sales pitch for an office ashtray, Dyson was offered the job. He pulled in $35,000 in his first year, back in the late 1970s.

“Thirty-five thousand dollars was good money back 35 years ago,” Dyson said.

Rising through the ranks, Dyson helped WGCI, V-103 and other stations with primarily black audiences to the top of the charts.

Dyson hopes he will see the day when stations are not divided by white and black audiences.

“I would like to see a station for everyone 25-65 years of age,” Dyson said. “I would like to see an integrated station.”

He laments that in this day and age, “there are not a lot of blacks in white radio … It is embarrassing to me.”

Dyson says prognostications about radio’s demise are off-base.

“It is still alive and well,” Dyson said. “It is not as big as it used to be, but it continues to do well.”

His wife, Kim, is a financial consultant at AXA Advisors. Knowing her husband’s lifelong desire to own a Rolls-Royce, Kim bought Marv a Rolls and gave it to him as a wedding gift.

“I always kept a bottle of Grey Poupon in the glove box,” laughed Dyson. “I always wanted to have another Rolls pull up to me and ask me for some (mimicking the old commercial), but no one ever did.”

Dyson laments that the industry has changed, noting that black talk radio is virtually non-existent and that so much of the music that black stations play is filled with profanities.

“It makes me wonder what these kids are going to have for their wedding songs,” Dyson said.

Dyson said he is proud that the stations he controlled were at the forefront of addressing violence in the black community.

“We stopped the hits at 6 p.m. and talked about the violence,” Dyson remembered. “Other stations would wait until 2 a.m. to do that. We took the time to be there for the black community.”

Dyson’s benevolence continues. He has been a driving force in the Illinois Broadcasters Association increasing its college scholarships for students. He works on behalf of the United Negro College Fund and other benevolent causes.

Marv and Kim Dyson, an interracial couple, have four children, Gabrielle, 35; Danielle, 26; Jordan, 22; and Max, 21, all graduates of Hinsdale South High School. He is proud his kids do not see color when they see a person.

A regular in the front row at 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St, Isaac Jogues Church, Dyson loves the area where his family has thrived. He regularly encourages residents of the city to move to suburbs like Burr Ridge for the education their children will receive.

“You don’t need to have the big house. You just need an apartment to get in these schools, Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central, and Gower,” Dyson advises city dwellers. “There are great advantages to being in these schools. I tell people to run from the city.”

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