Donnie Simpson is back, hosting TV One’s “Donnie After Dark” on Sundays at 11 p.m.
“It’s the slot I need to be in … late night,” the legendary radio DJ said about his return from retirement to host “Donnie After Dark,” the after-hours TV talk show now in its second season.
Simpson also hosts the MAJIC 102.3 (WMMJ-FM) radio program “The Donnie Simpson Show,” airing Monday through Friday from 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said. “Now I have two shows — radio and television.”
The second season of “Donnie After Dark” launched Thanksgiving Day and airs regularly on Sundays at 11 p.m. Upcoming shows include visits by rapper David Banner, comedian Lil Duval, producer Jermaine Dupri, actress LisaRaye McCoy, comedian Special K, R&B group 112, actress Naturi Naughton and singer Musiq.
Simpson, known for his deep voice and green eyes, told me he came back to the airwaves after 5½ years of retirement at the urging of his wife, Pamela, who told him at 62 years old that he was too young to retire.
“I am blessed to have set out for 5½ years,” Simpson said of his new career beginning. “I got my first check and didn’t know where to sign, I hadn’t seen one in so long.”
Simpson, the first DJ personality of an urban-format radio station to have a salary of over $1 million without syndication, began career at the age of 15. Because of his deep voice, he was asked to sit in for a regular DJ for a week. That week lasted for over seven years.
“I was watching him and I said, ‘I can do that,’” he said of his humble introduction into the life of a radio DJ. “Three months later, I was on the air. I became very popular, a heavy voice and I’m just a kid. I couldn’t be live the straight 8 p.m. to midnight [shift] because of the law [in Detroit].”
The young Simpson would air live from 8 p.m.-10 p.m., then go home and do his homework while a prerecorded show aired.
His once-airy voice morphed to the husky baritone we know it as now between 7th and 8th grade.
“My voice changed over the summer,” he recounted. “Before that I loved being in the choir. I was the only male in 1st soprano with the girls! After the summer break, I was baritone.”
Simpson said his mother had an in-house live remote radio show and he was asked to record the promo spots and, as they say, the rest is history. Before he was even 18, he was a professional DJ on WJLB in Detroit, an urban contemporary station, before relocating to D.C. to work at WRC-TV. From there he went on to host BET’s “Video Soul” and other network specials.
He went on to host “The Donnie Simpson’s Morning Show” on WPGC-FM for 17 years until retiring in 2010, garnering Billboard’s Air Personality of the Year award in 1998 along the way. In 2015, he came out of retirement to host his weekday radio show on MAJIC 102.3 FM.
Despite his showbiz success, however, Simpson once had his eye on a higher calling.
“James Brown, the sportscaster, and my mom say all the time, ‘you gonna be a minister,’” he said when I mentioned that God may be setting him up with a massive audience before giving him the “call” to preach.
“My mother owned a record shop,” he said. “She is celebrating her 50th anniversary. … She still has a record store. People would say to me, ‘you sound like a radio DJ.’ I wanted to be a Baptist minister.”
Simpson has a twin brother, Lonnie, who is a pastor in Detroit, so you never know.
In the meantime, Simpson continues to be the country’s favorite East Coast radio personality to minister to us the best in music.
TV One was launched in 2004 by Radio One and reaches over 60 million households. In 2008, it launched TV One High-Def, reaching 14 million more households. Learn more about TV One’s “Donnie After Dark” television show and “The Donnie Simpson Show” on MAJIC 102.3 FM by logging onto www.TVOne.tv or follow him @DonnieAfterDark and @DonnieSimpson on social media platforms.
Eunice Moseley has an estimated weekly readership of over 250,000 with The Pulse of Entertainment (www.ThePulseofEntertainment.com). She is a public relations strategist and business management consultant at Freelance Associates and promotions director-at-large for The Baltimore Times.