Somebody hearing Diana Krall's interpretation of "Body and Soul" on KTSU may not associate the jazz standard, immortalized by Billie Holiday, with a "concentration camp." But according to a longtime Houston entertainer, that's exactly what's going on behind the scenes at the local radio station.
In addition to the Nazi Germany motif, local emcee Chris Tucker says that Donna Franklin has created a "slave mentality" environment at The Choice KTSU 90.9 FM. Franklin, the assistant general manager of Texas Southern University's radio station, says this isn't true and that Tucker is acting on a "personal vendetta."
According to the two, the hubbub started to conflagrate with the formation of the Concerned Legends of KTSU, an anonymous group that, to date, has published and distributed five e-mails.
The manifesto-style letters (each entitled "What Are They Doing to the Black Jewel?") pines for KTSU's "keepers of the flame," ranging from The Frog Prince and Maurice "The Gangster" Jackson to Shirley Wolford and Pam Collins. These legacies, explains the unknown author, have been left for dead for dentist-office jazz.
"'The Black Jewel' is now experiencing a dulling effect of its uniquely shiny and beautiful glow, and is in grave danger if not checked and soon, of being forever changed by the current leadership regime absolutely bent on changing everything this 'Jewel' shines for," states one of the letters.
The cause of this so-called sheen-altered jewel, according to the Concerned Legends, is Franklin, who, three years ago, started at KTSU as an on-air DJ and in the sales department after a stint at The Wave KHJZ FM 97.5. A year and a half ago, Franklin was promoted to assistant general manager at KTSU.
"The radio station is in a serious decline," Tucker tells Hair Balls. "The quality of the music has really declined greatly and the employees are under siege. They're just there because there's money involved. When they come to work, they have a feeling of a slave mentality. It's just an awful environment....[Franklin] runs the place like a concentration camp."
As of the time this post was published, attempts at talking to other KTSU DJs were unsuccessful.Franklin, speaking to Hair Balls by phone, says that no other KTSU employees, including DJs, have expressed ill will towards her or the station's trajectory. Franklin explains that she's simply doing her job, which is to play more smooth jazz.
"That was the void that they wanted filled when The Wave flipped formats," she says. "KTSU wanted that audience, which was huge at The Wave, so therefore they hired me."
According to Tucker, who worked at KTSU in the 1990s, not only is Franklin bringing commercial-radio-ready sounds to the 39-year-old station, but she's preventing Tucker from scoring gigs because his name has been "slandered."
The issue in question took place earlier this month during the 2011 Red Cat Jazz Festival. Tucker explains that instead of co-hosting the October 8 event at Jones Plaza as he has in the past, Franklin "blacklisted" him.
"Miss Franklin directly associated me with those [Concerned Legends] letters," says Tucker, who adds that he has filed a formal complaint with TSU. He also plans to press charges.
Franklin says that Tucker didn't co-emcee the Red Cat fest because he didn't follow proper procedure. "[Red Cat Jazz Café owner] Sam Pink told Chris that if he wants to host, he has to come see me because I'm handling the stage. Well, Chris never contacted me."
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Meanwhile, Franklin dismisses Tucker's claims and the Concerned Legends letters. "It's nothing but a personal attack...[Tucker] sent the letters out to everybody and it's not taking off like he wanted it to," she says.
One thing the two can agree on is that they don't know who's behind the Concerned Legends of KTSU.
"I'm not a part of it," says Tucker. "I've just received [the letters], read them and distributed them."
"If I'm going to address something, I need to know who I'm addressing," says Franklin. "As a matter of fact, I really want to know who the Concerned Legends are."