Damian “Gravedigga” Harris celebrates 20 years as a radio personality with FM 100.1 the Beat this week. He’s been a local celebrity behind the microphone, meeting many celebrities along the way. He has seen the technology change from tapes and reels to digital operations. However, despite the technological aspects to the job, he recognizes the influence the microphone plays to listeners. He is mindful of his position. As a father and husband, he continues his hard work ethic, bringing the beats to the streets. He took a few moments and spoke with the Free Press to discuss his 20 years with the Beat.
FREE PRESS: Do you remember your first interview? What was it like?
GRAVEDIGGA: It wasn’t an interview. I got a telephone call from Daddy Ro. He asked me did I want a job driving the station van. I was already working at Lowe’s, the Shell Station, and at Johnny’s Pizza. I already had three jobs….well I wanted four. So that’s how I got started, driving the Beat van.
FREE PRESS: Was being a DJ something you wanted to do as a youth?
GRAVEDIGGA: I actually wanted to be an engineer. I wanted to build bridges. With that, I always wanted to work for myself and be my own boss.
FREE PRESS: What are some of the technological changes that you’ve seen over the years?
GRAVEDIGGA: When Pearlie Tolliver was around, we used albums. There were no computers. We made commercials off reel-to-reel and tape. Now everything is an mp3. At the station everything is digital. You used to need someone at the station at all times. Now you can do an entire show from anywhere as long as you have a microphone and a laptop.
FREE PRESS: Who are some of the celebrities that you have met over the years?
GRAVEDIGGA: Awww man, its too many. UGK, Pimp C, Trey Songz, Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Mystikal, Master P, Anthony Hamilton, Lil Boosie, Webbie, Frankie Beverly, and David Banner. I actually stayed with Banner for a while. Through him I met Chris Brown, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Rick Ross. Banner put me through Full Sail Audio school and got me certified as an audio engineer.
FREE PRESS: Does the DJ play an important role in the community?
GRAVEDIGGA: At first I didn’t think it was, but it is. We have that microphone and when we turn it on, people are listening. With social media, we can be seen more than back in the day, like local celebrities. You have to be mindful of what you do and what you say. If something goes on in the community, people often look up to you to see what you’re going to say.
FREE PRESS: If you could go back 20 years, what would you tell the Damian of 1997?
GRAVEDIGGA: Everybody is not your friend and at the same time everybody is not against you. Keep yourself prayed up and put God first.
FREE PRESS: What have been some of your favorite hits over the years?
GRAVEDIGGA: Man, it’s so many. But I think the two that stand out are UGK “One Day” and Devin the Dude “Anything.”
FREE PRESS: Is there any artist that you wish you could have met and why?
GRAVEDIGGA: I wish I could have met Prince. He was very talented and creative with his music. That’s the part of music I like. He used to mix his own music. I like to hear the music. Since I can’t play it, I’m the one that likes to bring it together and make it sound right.
FREE PRESS: What keeps you going back to the station?
GRAVEDIGGA: Sometimes it’s an escape to just come to the station and let the weight of the world go and be by yourself, but you’re not really by yourself because you’re connected with the world.
FREE PRESS: What is the difference between radio today than when you began?
GRAVEDIGGA: Radio was more about getting out in the community. We used to have contests, passing out t-shirts and bumper stickers. Today its more about playing the hits, less talk and more music. It’s more syndicated and not community oriented.
Gravedigga not only broadcasts from 100.1 the Beat, but on the weekends he plays the blues on Saturday nights on Mix 101.9. He said that when he began his career, Daddy Ro (Roosevelt Wright, III) gave him some advice that he’s kept at heart.
“Ro told me, you may not make money being a radio DJ but with the side DJ gigs, that will make all the difference,” he said. When he’s not on the station, he’s entertaining crowds at private parties. When he’s not doing that, he’s operating his own lawn maintenance service. At 41, Harris may be a radio celebrity, but to those who knows him, he’s just a man trying to stay busy all the time.