By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
With music in his spirit, Marvell Reed set about engineering “something for the people.”
Reed, general manager of the local radio station 97.5 FM KDEE, passed away on December 1 after battling with diabetes. He was 52.
Marvell Churon Reed was born in San Francisco on February 7, 1969. He was the eldest child born of Linda Rosalia Alayon and Jesse Reed. Marvell Reed was christened at Mission Dolores Basilica and attended All Hallows Catholic Church with his family. He later joined Providence Baptist Church of San Francisco and was baptized by the late Rev. Calvin Jones Jr. Reed frequently volunteered assisting the church with recordings and sound production and was later hired by the church as its audio/media coordinator. At the time of his passing, Reed was coordinating the sound and music for a former pastor’s own memorial service.
“He was always involved with music,” his wife Apryle Stanley said.
The couple married on December 22, 2009. They met around 2001 when Stanley came to Reed’s commercial recording studio to sing on a track for a recording artist. Reed’s “heart for music” led him to co-found a music production company, a DJ company and a record label.
LaidBlack Productions, which Reed started with fellow DJ Kevin Davis, worked with artists who helped define the Bay Area rap sound including Too $hort, Mac Dre, B-Legit, Yukmouth, Keak Da Sneak, Conscious Daughters, Rappin’ 4-Tay and Messy Marv. Reed also created another business, LaidBack Multimedia, through which he created web design, graphics and print media.
Reed started at KDEE on January 15, 2008, and as program director, he sought to reach Sacramento’s African American communities. The radio station is run by the California Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC).
“He always wanted the station to have different colors to it — music, information, empowerment, economic development, he wanted it all,” said CBCC President and CEO Jay King, who was one of the station’s first on-air hosts, prior to taking his current leadership role.
“My first few weeks, I was terrible,” King says of his early show.
Reed, he says, trained him and helped him transition from hosting an internet radio show to the work of a broadcast radio host. The day came when Reed felt King was ready to go on air without him sitting close by. King asked if Reed would be joining him that day in the studio.
“He said, ‘Naw, you got this,’” recalled an emotional King.
When King took the helm of the CBCC after the passing of Aubry Stone, his first duty, he says, was putting Reed in charge of KDEE. Reed would become the General Manager, Sales Manager, Traffic Director, Account Executive, Promotions Director, and Social Media/Website Manager as well. He recruited hosts, established relationships with community leaders, music producers and concert promoters. He also created the 97.5 Street Team, an outreach component of the radio station. When the station went through a recent renovation, Reed was the acting contractor.
“Moving forward, it’s going to be difficult to fill his shoes because he wore so many different shoes,” shared friend and Smooth Vibe host Leon Guidry.
Initially, Guidry questioned Reed’s lack of radio experience, but was quickly assured that he was a “genuine guy” with a plan.
“He learned along the way,” Guidry said. “His vision, his mission was to make [KDEE] the best alternative radio for Black people in Sacramento. His success ended too soon. He had a lot of ideas that he wanted to implement.”
One of those ideas was to give a voice to younger music listeners.
“We are a ‘grown folks station,’ but he saw the void and a need to reach young people,” Guidry said.
“He wanted to involve the whole community,” King shared. “So did I. We wanted a community conversation that encompassed Sacramento as a whole with a special emphasis on African Americans because of the systemic racism and the bigotry and biases that have existed in this country against us. We wanted it to be a full conversation where no one was excluded. That’s what we were on our way to doing.”
Before his passing, Reed was undergoing dialysis three days a week. King says rather than have him commute to Sacramento, Reed was working from home.
“He was so important to where we were going, that we stopped some things until he could get better,” King said.
While he has no immediate plans to replace Reed, King says he’ll have to eventually find several people to do all that Reed did solo. He says the foundation of how to operate in the future is there and is part of Reed’s legacy.
“We’ll put systems in place so whoever comes into the Chamber, whether it’s at the president’s level or the radio programming level, that there’s a blueprint, or there’s a system in place, that you can at least follow and you can build from.”
Just days before his death, Reed called King wanting to check on the sound for an impending Chamber event. He was committed, “no matter what,” King said.
Stanley says that’s how she wants her husband to be remembered.
“I just want him to be remembered for all that he did. He did so much. He was always busy helping people,” she said.
In the wake of Reed’s sudden death, several KDEE personalities like Lee Perkins, Wanda Abney and Guidry dedicated their shows to him during the week following his passing.
“We’re not going to shut down, lay down or stop what we’re doing,” Guidry said. “We’re still going to continue to grow. It’s what he would have wanted, [for] us to continue to serve the community better.”
Reed was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Derrick “Digg” Reed. He leaves to cherish his memory, his wife Apryle Stanley; five children, Anthony “Tony” Baker, II, Marvelle “Junior” Reed, Jr., Johnel Reed, Breyana Reed, and Nia Greer; his stepmother, Ella “Dotty” Reed and seven siblings, Cassandra Reed, La Geachia Johnson, Jessica Williams, James Johnson, Ja Porsha Reed, Lugh Markland, and stepbrother Kevin Mitchell, Jr.