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There’s no real easy way to say this: Travis “Tre Day” Rowan is a white guy.
That might not seem too shocking, unless you’ve ever heard him on the air, doing his “Take it to the House” drivetime show on Power 92.3, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
That’s because (and there’s no real easy way to say this either) Rowan sounds black — so much so, in fact, that even his fans are surprised that he isn’t black when they meet him face to face.
Before you start thinking it’s all some kind of put-on or act on his part, his friends can vouch: that’s his real speaking voice. On the phone, in person or ordering a cup of coffee, Rowan has an accent that would fit right in at a Juneteenth picnic. That said, his success at rap/R&B powerhouse KIPR Power 92.3 might be the best proof ever of that old saying about books and covers.
Rowan started as an intern at the station the summer he graduated from high school. A long-time fan of rap and hip-hop, he was serving as a lifeguard at a Jacksonville pool when his father scored him a tour of Power 92 with a friend: program director and morning man Joe “Broadway Joe” Booker. Rowan said Booker was surprised when they met, after speaking beforehand on the phone.
“He kind of had a little shock that I was white,” Rowan said. “But he thought it was real cool that I was so interested in everything. He was like, ‘Hey, how’d you like to intern here?’”
After awhile, Booker put Rowan behind a microphone, jockeying the station’s weekend graveyard shift, 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., Friday and Saturday night (Rowan said that he luckily didn’t have much of a social life at the time). The experience helped him get to know the ropes, and his audience.
“You’d be surprised how many people listen at that time — coming home from the club, or people working overnight, third shift — that kind of thing,” he said.
Ten years later — years which saw him graduate summa cum laude with a mass communications degree from UALR — Rowan has worked his way up the ladder to assistant program director, and Power 92’s coveted afternoon rush hour slot. He said that hip-hop has become much more accepted since he started at Power 92. Back then, he said, the station didn’t play much real rap during the workday.
“Rap music wasn’t really cool to play at work, or people wouldn’t listen at work,” he said. “Now, you can go look on the Billboard top 40 and about 30 of them are hip-hop songs, or R&B — the stuff Power 92 plays.”
While Rowan said he loves Power 92 for all it has done for him, he feels the itch to move on to a larger market. While he said he’s sure he’ll be around through the end of the year (his wife, Spirit Trickey, is a park ranger at the Central High School National Historic Site, and is helping plan events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the 1957 crisis), he said he’ll have to rethink things after that.
For now, Rowan is all about Little Rock, Power 92 and his fans. Though the station makes no secret of Rowan’s ethnicity, plastering his face all over its website (www.power923.com) and sending him out on in-person meet and greets, he still gets fans that are taken aback when they meet him in person.
“You’d think, having been on 10 years, they’d know by now,” he said, laughing. “Radio is really a theater of the mind, and they come up with this picture in their heads … Then they actually see me and they say ‘Whoa! That’s not what I thought you looked like at all.’ ”
Recently, at an in-person remote for the station, Rowan was approached by a woman who said she had been a fan for years. “She said ‘Tre Day, I just love you, but I always thought you were about six-foot-six, with big muscles and a bald head and black,’” he said. “She said, ‘You’re still real cute, but you’re just not what I expected.’”
There are worse things in life, I suppose, than getting mistaken for Samuel L. Jackson.
To hear clips of Tre Day on the air, go to his website at: www.treday.com.
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