Several years ago, a car-jacking left Diana Novotney of Turtle Creek in a coma. Upon awakening, there was much she couldn't remember. But she remembered the sounds of old soul artists -- The O'Jays, Rick James, Patti LaBelle -- and she remembered where she listened to them: on 104.7 FM ("The Beat"). Brother Matt, who spun these R&B classics daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., was her favorite deejay. The attack had left her with multiple injuries, and during rehabilitation, "This guy lifted my spirits," she says.
So when she woke up one morning this January to find that Brother Matt's voice and the music had disappeared, she was devastated. Not only was the music and the man gone, but the new voice -- that of the conservative talker Jim Quinn -- was saying things she found disagreeable: rants against Democrats, Clinton, feminism and affirmative action.
Clear Channel, owners of The Beat, had given Brother Matt two weeks' notice. Station listeners had had less warning.
"The Beat" had a largely black audience, given its urban playlist, and some felt blindsided by the kind of fare offered by Quinn (formerly of WRRK "Channel 97," owned by Steel City Media, City Paper's parent). Although Quinn tells his audience he is "dead-center" in the American political spectrum, a "quick start guide" for his morning show (on his War Room Web site) says that the environmental movement is an excuse for Communism, "Abortion is the sacrament of the feminist church," and "Racial profiling is what groups call common sense when they have a problem they don't want to talk about."
"The Second Amendment," it concludes, "is the essential counter-balance to the deadly power of law-making."
In a letter to the New Pittsburgh Courier, one irate former Beat listener recently called Quinn "racist" and called for him to be taken off the air.
"The people feel betrayed," says Brother Matt. Clear Channel, he thinks, "didn't believe Pittsburgh could have more than one black station."
Reached at home, Quinn said he would speak to CP later but did not call back by press time.
Most of 104.7's new talkers read like Pittsburgh's financial oversight board -- old white guys Glenn Beck, Paul Harvey, Neal Boortz, Sean Hannity, Ellis Cannon and Michael Savage. All are nationally syndicated ultra-conservative supporters of President George W. Bush. Only "Quinn & Rose's War Room" originates here.
"In the end the people lose because their choices are limited," says Brother Matt, who is deejaying parties but vows he'll be back on the air. He continues to show up for his show's former Thursday happy hour at Chauncey's in Station Square, where his listeners still come to talk, eat and dance with him.
Novotney, once confined to a wheelchair, now walks on her own and comes out to see the man who entertained her in her darkest hours. Seated in the VIP section of Chauncey's with Brother Matt and about a dozen other fans she repeats a sentiment that still sounds throughout this circle, even though The Beat has been gone for two months: "We need you back, Brother Matt. We need that old style of music back."