Dj Don Dread - Born Don MacDonald, Don Dread became enthralled with reggae music and started to gig as a DJ at clubs around Providence.
Around 1982, Don Dread and another DJ friend contacted the Southeastern Massachusetts University radio station, 91.1 FM, to set up a local reggae show. That same year, Don Dread went on the air with the "Roots Radical" program, a one-man operation to showcase the best of reggae music for SouthCoast listeners.
In the 30 years since the show's inception, SMU became UMass Dartmouth, the station changed call letters (WSMU became WUSM, then WUMD), and it moved up the dial (WUMD is now broadcast on 89.3 FM). Through all these changes, "Roots Radical" continued to be a pillar of stability for its weekly listeners.
It was not easy in the early days, as Sista Laura recounts. "Don would travel to Boston and bought vinyl 45s from his own pocket to spin on his show. It was just him at the show. He lived a simple life but he absolutely loved the music and the program."
By the late '80s, "Roots Radical" had developed a strong local following and began adding more DJs, including Sista Laura. "I used to listen to 'Roots Radical' and when I started to attend UMass Dartmouth as a work/study student I got the chance to get involved with the station."
DJ Realm, another one the early DJs on "Roots Radical" said, "The man taught me everything about reggae music. He and I would go to Dorchester and Boston every Friday when the new shippments came in. I would buy a few 45s but he'd buy $80-$100 worth of music. Just stacks of records."
To this day, Sista Laura and DJ Realm are involved with the program, DJing every Saturday morning bring reggae music to their ever-growing audience.
A turning point for the show came around 1994-1995 when Internet radio started to take off. As Sista Laura notes, "That was when a huge door was opened for the show." While WUMD's broadcast signal is limited, the "Roots Radical" fanbase has gone global. A look at their website shows they have listeners all over the world, from South America to Africa to Asia, with a large constituency in Europe. The program also grew to 17 hours, playing music from midnight-5 p.m. every Saturday. No matter where life brought you, listeners could now always be in touch with Don Dread and "Roots Radical."
However, in summer 2011, DJ Don Dread learned he had a malignant brain tumor. Despite chemotherapy and many surgeries, Sista Laura said, Don Dread maintained his commitment to music and continued to travel to the station and spin DJ sets in Newport and New Bedford as his prognosis worsened. Up until his death in July, Don Dread was able to play the music he had been passionate about his whole life.
"Our general manager has been getting emails from countries and worldwide," DJ Realm notes, "People just emailing saying 'What's going on?' 'Is Don Dread all right?' They've been traveling here to pay their respect for him."
Rather than plan a solemn memorial, friends, fellow DJs and fans are coming together to celebrate the man with a passion for reggae music. The "Roots Radical" DJs will be spinning throughout the night with local DJ act Rebel International, who actually interned at the "Roots Radical" program, playing a set to honor Don Dread. Headlining the event will be Boston's No. 1 reggae DJ, DJ Junior Rodigan, an old friend of DJ Dread.
"People might call me No. 1 DJ in Boston," says Junior Rodigan, "But the hours he would put in, the money he would spend, the dedication he had to the music, he is an icon."
"I admired him," Rodigan continues. "Reggae DJs like David Rodigan in England and many people from Europe learned about reggae from Don Dread's radio show. He inspired so many to just go out and look for it."
At the end of every show, Don Dread would sign off, telling his listeners "Jah Guide," meaning "God bless." After 30 years, Saturday will be their chance to finally wish their good friend a final "Jah Guide."
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The late DJ Don Dread Admirers pays tribute to Him Not rated yet
For the past 30 years, listeners looking for their fix of cutting-edge reggae and dancehall music knew that the only person to turn to was DJ Don Dread. …