Waking up this morning to the news that Reggie Warren had passed felt different than any other celebrity or musician death. I’m always saddened to hear about the passing of any performer, especially when they are an artist I grew up listening to. It’s always worse when you’re a personal fan of the musician. But this one felt more like an uncle, or maybe even my favorite teacher had been taken away. This one cut much deeper and, truth be told, I haven’t even yet begun to process it.
Reggie’s group, Troop–the group responsible for such romance-infused Slow Jams including “Spread My Wings,” “I Will Always Love You” and that amazing remake of “All I Do Is Think of You“–is single-handedly responsible for launching a young kid’s interest, adoration and eventual entrance into “The Quiet Storm” format and industry. (“The Quiet Storm” is the general term for any late-night Slow Jams and dedications radio show.) If it wasn’t for Troop, I shudder to think where I’d be and what I’d be doing today: a 9 to 5 desk job? A car salesman? An insurance broker? By the way, don’t get me wrong – all of those jobs are admirable! I’m just so damn fortunate that I’m able to make a living doing what I love the most, and that’s playing Slow Jams on the radio. But if it hadn’t have been for Troop, I’m not sure what I’d be doing today.
The year was 1991 and I’d just moved from Los Angeles to Orlando, Florida. Only over the past year or so, had I begun an interest in music at all. I didn’t even know what an “Urban” radio station was at the time. I was just 13 years old, and I was listening to the radio station that all my fellow seventh-grade friends were glued to to: 102.7 KIIS-FM in L.A. It was the city’s Top 40 music station and played everything from Guns N’ Roses to Roxette to Phil Collins to Young MC. I found myself gravitating towards the more rhythmic titles and really getting into artists like Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli, still absolutely oblivious that there were entire radio stations that specialized in Hip-Hop and R&B as an entire format. I just knew it was the “Black” music played on KIIS that I really enjoyed, as I filled out that Columbia House music magazine insert, checking off the boxes for my 12 free cassettes for a penny.
So here I was in a brand new city, away from everything I knew in California. That first night in Florida, I remember unpacking and plugging in my very first radio. I’d treasured this little, cool, black-lacquer, futuristic-looking cube called The Night Jammer that my mom gave to me a couple Christmases ago. The design of this digital clock-radio fit right into the early 90s’ sleek and contemporary stylings, that included black floor lamps, neon nights, white carpet and chrome and glass furniture. Max Headroom himself could’ve designed this radio. But more than its looks, it’s what came out of the speakers that had given me so much joy over the last couple of years. I’d listened to hundreds of hours of KIIS FM and other Los Angeles radio stations on this little box. As modern as the radio’s design was, it still had a “dial,” not buttons, that you’d have to spin to change the station.
It must have been after midnight by the time The Night Jammer was powered up and turned on. The rest of the house was asleep. All the lights were off. I still remember the orange glow from the streetlights outside slipping though my mini-blinds. I had one job to do: I needed to find “my” new station here in Florida. I hoped to find something close to KIIS-FM.
The radio dial was still in the “102.7FM” position it had been left in when I departed California. Of course there was no KIIS-FM in Orlando, so I’d need to scan the dial to find a new station. At that moment I just hoped to find something similar to my favorite (Pop music) station back home. What would happen next would change the course of my entire life.
As I mentioned, this radio had a dial. And I had a choice: Turn it left to go “down” the FM dial (102.5, 102.3, 102.1 and so on)…or spin the wheel to the right to go “up” the dial (102.9, 103.1, 103.3, etc.) I didn’t know it at the time, but this tiny action, that I wouldn’t think twice about at the time, would have the most extreme consequences, based solely on which direction I moved my little 13-year old index finger. Left or right? Left…or right? Left?????? Or right.
I went left, stopping almost instantly on 101.9FM. I stopped because what I heard caught my attention. It was an R&B love song. (I didn’t even know the term “Slow Jam” at the time). I caught the very beginning of the song: a piano solo. And then these words emanated from the speaker…
I can’t wait to get to school each day
And wait for you to pass my way
And bells start to ring
An angel starts to sing
“Hey that’s the girl for you
So what are you gonna do?”
My skin was immediately covered in goose-bumps. How did these singers know that’s exactly the way I was feeling–at this exact time–for this girl in my class who I was crushing on? These were my exact sentiments!!! How did they know??? And it just got better…
I begin to take the long way home
Just so I can be alone
To think of how to say
“My heart is here to stay”
(“Hey, I’m in love with you
I think the world of you”)
So won’t you please, please be mine?
(Oh, please be mine, mine)
Oh my God! This song was describing ME! To the tee! I was the kid taking the long way home…just so I can be alone…to think of how to say…my heart is here to stay!!! What is all this???!!! How could this music, this song, this group, be inside my head??? Was this a dream?
If you don’t know by now, these are the lyrics to Troop’s “All I Do is Think of You.” Hearing that song, in its entirety, for the first time would set me on a lifelong course which would include a robust and lengthy (and still ongoing) career in R&B music. For after Troop’s song ended, came on another amazing Slow Jam, then another one, then another one. Then, finally sound effects of rain played for thirty seconds, before the smooth talking Robert Morgan (R.I.P.) would crack the mic and greet his late night listeners with a string of dedications, read softly, and in only the most caring manner.
It wasn’t long before I comprehended that playing R&B love songs on the radio late at night and taking and disseminating listener dedications (Oral Expressions) was an actual “job.” I’ll save the rest of my life story for another time, but know that very moment, hearing Reggie’s music on the radio, would alter my entire life forever, setting my path on a new trajectory that I could never have even imagined in my wildest dreams. I’d immediately set goals and an action plan into place, breaking into the industry just two years later and going on to have multi-decade career in “The Quiet Storm,” which included hosting a syndicated Slow Jams show, which today, airs on over 200 radio stations. In 2001, I’d welcome Reggie Warren and the guys from Troop on stage to be part of my Slow Jams LIVE! concert tour. Going from a teenage fan, to the guy introducing Troop on stage was something I’ll never forget. Totally surreal.
>>> RELATED: IT WAS ALL A DREAM – THE STORY OF SUNDAY NIGHT SLOW JAMS
I’m privileged to say that the group and I have become friends over time. They have supported me as I have supported them over the last thirty years. Hearing about Reggie’s death leaves a hole in my heart and, although the rest of the group remains healthy and active, puts a small, yet symbolic “end to an era,” at least for me. I will always cherish and continue to enjoy, support and share the music of Troop. My deepest condolences go out to Reggie’s family and fellow Troop members, but more than that – a sincere thank you and an endless and ongoing amount of appreciation to Reggie and Troop – for not only introducing a young kid to Slow Jams, but for changing his whole life.
By the way, in case you’re wondering… Had I turned the dial to the right, I wouldn’t soon landed on Orlando’s Pop music station: XL106.7, and might never have stumbled upon Troop and The Quiet Storm. My stomach drops when I think about the “Butterfly Effect” what long-lasting consequences that small action might have led to.
You will always be missed and remembered, Reggie.
RELATED: Listen to R Dub! tell the story of his first time hearing Troop on The Quiet Storm, here: