These Memphis podcasters and networks are amplifying the city's stories and culture

Marketing executive Larry T. Robinson never thought he’d get into audio. Podcasts weren’t even a thing when he first moved here, but he had always loved Memphis radio for its “creativity, culture, and unique perspectives” from people who live in the city.

 

Once podcasting started gaining steam, Robinson recognized the format as a powerful tool for marketing and promotion. He started creating audio content, quickly received requests for syndication, and eventually founded the KUDZUKIAN podcast network in 2014.

 

“Really, I look at podcasting almost as the wild, wild west. Memphis is indicative of a lot of creative individuals wanting to tell their story. I wanted to create something to capture that and really be able to share that with the rest of the world,” said Robinson.

 

Robinson is one of many in Memphis helping to amplify the city's podcast scene. There's an abundance of podcast talent, not surprising in a city brimming with stories and culture. With so much to choose from, we put together this guide to help you dive into Memphis' podcast scene and find a new favorite. We limited our scope to podcasts with Memphis-based producers and hosts and those airing consistently. We also gave special attention to the uniqueness and appeal of the show’s content and likability of the hosts.


Tap Into These Networks

 

To discover a local podcast, start with Memphis-based networks, since they’ll have a lot of local content in one place. A podcast network, like a television or radio network, produces and publicizes a variety of shows, from just a few to hundreds. Some large national and international networks that might sound familiar are BBC, NPR, and iHeart Radio. Memphis has a handful of its own local networks, which include:

  • KUDZUKIAN (profiled in the sidebar to the right) was founded in 2014 “to fill an opening in the digisphere for distinctly Southern voices,” with dozens of shows to choose from.

  • Parasaur is another Memphis network producing a handful of shows aimed at millennials and creatives since 2019.

  • OAM has an extensive archive going back to 2012, and a few currently active shows. They’re in the process of moving their headquarters out of state, but they plan to continue production with Memphis talent.

  • Relay.fm is based jointly in Memphis and London, England, and since 2014 it has hosted mostly tech- and creative-focused shows “for people who are creative, curious, and maybe even a little obsessive.”

  • Back to the Light is a music-focused network airing out of Chicago, featuring Memphis talent and content since 2020.

 

Kristen Schebler is a Memphis-based independent podcast producer and doesn’t measure progress solely by number of listeners.

 

“The process is so much fun, and it really is rewarding to have this thing you've made show up on the same platforms as ‘This American Life.’ A lot of folks get worried when their listenership is small. The reality is that the vast majority of podcasts are going to be like that. If you're doing it for yourself and your friends, you have an audience and that's a start,” Schebler said.

 

A Pod for Every Personality and Taste

This list is by no means exhaustive and we're sure we missed some, so drop your favorites in the comments.
 

Science and History


Drowned in History
(OAM)

This relatively new player in Memphis podcasts has been airing since November 2020. It’s a collaboration between OAM Network and Just Place, a media project that “broadcasts stories of overlooked and misrepresented communities where American ingenuity and innovation are in revival.” This show features history experts and artists taking a monthly deep dive into “the hidden histories embedded in the cityscape of Memphis.”

 


Tributaries (Memphis Museums’ Museum-to-Go)

Short-form and engaging, this one is produced by the Museum of Science and History, formerly known as the Pink Palace Museum. Each episode touches on a subject like “Prehistoric Penguins” or “Yellow Fever” for between about 15 minutes and half an hour. Great for older kids and adults with an interest in learning about science and history.

 

Music
Back to the Light (Back to the Light)

J.D. Reager is a podcast producer with Memphis roots who now lives in Chicago. His flagship show presents heartfelt interviews with folks who have ties to the Memphis music scene. Guests talk candidly about their creative lives and reflect on the importance of self-care and mental health. Songs or excerpts from the guest’s body of work are peppered throughout each episode. Reager and Gil Worth of OAM have been working on a podcast festival, tentatively planned for 2022.


Blues in the Basement
(KUDZUKIAN)
Promising to “[serve the blues] in a way that is educational, enlightening, honest to the culture, and funny,” this pod has been running on and off since 2015. With themes like “The Challenge of the Sexes” and “Blue Eyed Blues,” along with episodes featuring specific artists, the hosts offer unique perspectives on a very Memphis art form.

 




Nerdom

Black Nerd Power (KUDZUKIAN)

This may be the crown jewel of locally produced podcasts, making it cool to be geeky since at least 2014. Three knowledgeable nerds cover “Sci-Fi, fantasy, gaming, comics, Black authors, tech and more!” Episodes are fast-paced and witty, jam-packed with banter and fun.

 

Astronomica (Team Meatbag)

For the gamer missing sitting around the tabletop with friends, listening to an “actual play” podcast can help fill that lonely gap. This one features a group of Memphians playing a rag-tag crew of characters on a spaceship that talks back. That one-of-a-kind sound of dice rolling on the table is particularly satisfying.

 


Black Career Excellence

Grindset and The Journey (KUDZUKIAN)

This pair of pods focuses on black entrepreneurs and success in business. Grindset is a collaboration with Epicenter, a Memphis nonprofit that “aims to connect, support, and expand the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the greater Memphis area.” The Journey is hosted by KUDZUKIAN founder Larry T. Robinson and highlights stories of black men in business, “eschewing glamorized tales of microwave success and Instagram-perfect photos.” These two shows create a powerful conduit for career guidance by and for black folks with their eyes on success.

 

For Kids

Aunt Blanche’s Story Corner (Blanche Tosh)

In each short episode, veteran Memphis theater artist Blanche Tosh reads classic stories in her friendly, sweet, southern-grandmotherly voice. She brings emotion and sincerity to tales like the “Uncle Wiggily” series, “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” and occasional faith-based parables. Parents will enjoy sharing these stories from their childhoods with their kids.

 


Like You: Mindfulness for Kids (Like You)

This podcast is for kids, but considering the many wild events of the past year, adults may benefit from taking a little relaxing time for themselves too. Episodes run about 15 minutes each and “use breathing, affirmations, music, and imagination to explore feelings, relieve anxiety, encourage self-esteem, and grow empathy,” techniques that are helpful for people of all ages.

 

Weird Stuff

Night Classy (Parasaur)

Two teachers enjoy a glass of vino while chatting and laughing about subjects they can’t teach in school. It’s long-form, with many episodes clocking in at an hour and a half or more, but it’s just the thing for adults looking to unwind with something a little weird.

 

You Can See Me in the Dark (Melissa Sweazy and Nathan Reisman)

Beautifully produced stories about ghosts and haunted places, with fun music, scary sound effects, and charismatic hosts. Most of the episodes have guests with spooky stories to tell, but don’t skip the “Ghosted” episodes that happen when the guest has to cancel on them. Ghosted. Get it?

 

Culture


Whelmed with Megan & Chad (Megan & Chad)

Billed as a sometimes-serious, sometimes-funny podcast for Xennials. For the listener of a certain age, it feels like an hour of hanging out with friends. Best friends Megan and Chad shoot the breeze about tv and movies, current events, and whatever else comes up. Recent episodes include “The 90s Are Back!,” “Art vs. Artist,” “Covid Realness” — it’s easy listening with some strategically-placed moments of gravity.

 

3BC/Three Black Chicks (KUDZUKIAN)

A slick show featuring three “intelligent, sophisticated, and successful business women engaging in real talk about real topics.” Episodes are usually less than half an hour, and with titles like “F*&k Your Diet,” “Policing Activism” and “It’s Still Real in These HIV Streets,” you know they’re pulling no punches when it comes to that real talk. Like Whelmed, it also feels like just hanging out with friends who have engaging opinions that get you nodding in agreement.

Read more articles by Sarah Rushakoff.

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