How Robert “DJ Mad Lad” Goins Shaped Lynchburg’s Culture
Local DJ and all-around renaissance man Robert “DJ Mad Lad” Goins’ influence on Lynchburg’s rich and complex cultural and musical identities simply cannot be overstated. At the tender age of 15, he saw that Lynchburg’s African American population lacked representation on the radio and set out with tenacity, curiosity, and ingenuity to address the problem. Goins’ fateful tale of the summer of 1966 is a testament to an individual’s capacity to enact positive change and transform a community.
In the early 1960s, Lynchburg’s radio station offerings did not come close to reflecting the vibrant diversity of the music being made or the artists making that music. In particular, soul music by Black artists had no avenue for reaching a broad local audience; access was limited to those who could afford to buy soul records.
“Growing up in Lynchburg in the ’60s, there was no soul station,” Goins recalled. “I didn’t know the difference between the different genres of music. Songs like Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On; Ahab,
the Arab; Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour; and Peggy Sue were all that I knew about in the first, second, and third grades. I didn’t know anything about Black artists because the stations
weren’t really playing those artists. Nobody played any soul music during the day. You might occasionally hear The Supremes or Chubby Checker, but those occurrences were few and far between.”
Little did Goins know that a trip to Chicago in the summer of 1966 would open up a new world of music not only for him, but also for the Lynchburg community at large.
“I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a Black radio station until 1966, when I spent the summer with my cousin in Chicago,” he said. “I heard this Black radio station and I said, ‘Wow, this is slick! I wish I could have some kind of way to get this kind of music out to everybody!’”
It didn’t take long for Goins—who was only 15 at the time—to begin turning that wish into reality. His first step was learning how to build a transmitter.
“I came across this popular electronics book called Radio-TV Experimenter, and they had this circuit board transmitter—a short-wave code transmitter—and I just started building it,” he noted. “All it did was make Morse Code noise on the air on the short-wave band. I just kept on messing with it and adjusting it and making it fall on a band where people could listen to it.”
The next step in the process was figuring out how to get music onto the radio.
“After some trial and error and a couple of blown circuit boards, I found a way to put music on the radio,” said Goins. “It was a daily experiment until I got something that worked, and it took me the summer of 1966 to figure it out. I finally got a circuit, hooked my record player and microphone up to it, and I was on the air! I could get a couple of blocks with it.”
Along the way, Goins—who did not yet realize that he was creating an illegal radio station—consulted with two of his teachers, neither of whom were aware of their student’s project.
“I had a couple of teachers—my electronics shop teacher and my physics teacher—who told me about crystals, which are the things that put the radio waves on the air,” he stated. “They didn’t know what they were helping me do! They thought I was just really interested in the topic.”
Once Goins figured out how to get music on the air, he realized that he needed access to additional music if he wanted to start his own station. Fortunately, he had plenty of friends who were happy to share their records in exchange for guest spots on Goins’ new station, which he named WKKD (KKD stood for Krispy Kreme Donuts).
“I didn’t have too much music at the time,” Goins recalled. “Records were 76¢ back then, and that was most of my lunch money. And that was only for a two-and-a-half-minute song, so what do you do for the rest of the time? I kind of depended on my friends who bought records all \the time. If you had a record collection, you could come be on the air!”
Still unaware that his station was illegal, Goins advertised with gusto.
“I put it out there that I was putting a soul radio station on the air and nobody believed it because the only time we heard soul music was when WLAC out in Nashville came through Lynchburg around 10:00 at night,” he said. “That was my bedtime! I put up posters and flyers all over the school telling people to tune in to 630 on their radio dials to hear all kinds of soul music starting at 3:00 p.m.”
Despite any initial skepticism, WKKD quickly gained a lot of traffic—literally and figuratively. A myriad of listeners consistently drove downtown and lined the streets within WKKD’s limited range
to listen to artists like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, Otis Redding, and many more.
“Everyone seemed to like what I was doing,” Goins stated. “They would drive in range of the station, and that range was very, very limited. I lived at 1502 Pierce Street. On a good day, when it was nice and sunny, I might reach all the way past 5th Street and the Rivermont Bridge—that’s all the range it had. At 3:00, there was a huge migration of cars that parked on the side of the road so they could hear some music. Cars would line up on 12th Street and Pierce Street so they could get in range of the station. People would even dance on the side of the road!”
As WKKD’s popularity continued to skyrocket, one of Goins’ friends—who worked at a legitimate radio station—warned him that he could get into hot water.
“I didn’t know anything about radio regulations, FCC licenses, or any of that stuff,” noted Goins. “I just kept hearing from a friend of mine, ‘Yo man, you’re going to get into trouble! You might go to jail!’ And I said, ‘Go to jail for what? I’m just playing around with the radio here!’”
Ultimately, Goins did not get into legal trouble, but he was forced to shut WKKD down after about a year and a half on the air. By this point, however, Goins had already established himself as a central figure in the Lynchburg music scene and quickly embarked on the next chapter of his ongoing illustrious career—all before graduating from high school.
“There was a radio station called WDMS that played easy listening music on AM and FM all day, and they weren’t able to get advertisers,” Goins recalled. “Sponsors were calling them wanting to know where my station was so they could advertise on it. That did it. The guy [at WDMS] said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this,’ and they gave the FM—which became WJJS—to us. I didn’t know it was going to become as popular as it did—if I had known, I would have bought it! I was in eleventh grade at the time.”
WJJS went on to become the number one radio station in Lynchburg.
These days, Goins continues to DJ a wide variety of events in and around Lynchburg and can be heard on “The Groove” WGVY, an Oldies station on 102.3 FM, weekdays at 3 p.m. With his gregarious nature, boundless curiosity, and respect for all genres of music, he also continues to lead the charge in fostering connection and innovation through music.
“I play all different genres of music with the same level of enthusiasm,” he said.
“I’m also the kind of person where, after about 15 to 20 minutes, you’re my best friend and I’m your best friend! That’s just the way I am.”