Christopher Blank

News Director

It started with ghost stories, of a sort. The wood floors creaking at night, dad assured me, confirmed the presence of spirits in our home. Years of night terrors followed. Then years of transference. Thank you for attending my slumber party. Let me tell you about the noises, friends... 

Eventually, the joy a child finds in manipulating other children's emotions matures into a high school theater career. In that regard, my teen years were of the traditional, unpopular variety.

One day, a few years after college, an editor at the St. Petersburg Times pulled me aside from my part-time job sorting mail and delivering faxes. "Why is your hair orange?" she asked. "And did I see you unicycling in front of that theater across the street?" Few things a person does in the services of "Art" translate into being taken seriously as a human being. To my surprise -- to my eternal, immeasurable surprise --  this was the start of a career as an arts reporter and critic, first at the Times, then at the Memphis Commercial Appeal and for many magazines, journals and newspapers in between. 

In some ways, radio journalism is a back-to-basics medium; people tell stories, share insights, opinions, beliefs and experiences of the verbal kind. And for all the Tweets and Facebook posts and clickbait headlines that parade so stridently upon our psyches day-to-day, the surest way to convince someone that their house is haunted is simply to turn off the lights and let their ears confirm it.

 

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On the political map, Tennessee is nearly solid red and religiously conservative. But even in its islands of blue, liberals vote with their spiritual beliefs in tow. Around 63 percent of Shelby County voters consider themselves Christians. And 63 percent of Shelby County voters chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump (who earned 35 percent) for President last November. So election night for many Christians (and liberals) wasn’t easy.


Photo Courtesy of Chalkbeat Tennessee

Tennessee's largest school district is doing something different next year: more spending than belt-tightening. At least, that's what's projected for Shelby County Schools' new $945 million budget.


Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

With the opening of Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a $45-million expansion of the Graceland entertainment complex, Elvis Presley Enterprises is counting on future generations to keep the King’s memory alive and his estate in order.


Valentine's Day, just around the corner, is a fine time to muse upon love and all its mysteries. Some of those mysteries take longer to -- ahem -- unearth than others. So we'll dig deeper, with the help of Bob Barnett, assistant director at Elmwood Cemetery. 


Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

A day after the Presidential Inauguration, an estimated 6,000 demonstrators marched through downtown Memphis in support of women's rights. Similar marches were held across the country to protest President Trump's policies.

Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

Tony Fletcher's new biography, In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett, delivers new insight into both the great American soul singer's life and some of his classic tunes, several of which were recorded at Memphis' Stax Records. In fact, Pickett's career finally skyrocketed after his Memphis sessions. Fletcher tells WKNO why songs like "In the Midnight Hour" have such staying power. 


Image provided by Loaded for Bear

Last April, when Robby Grant and Jonathan Kirkscey borrowed a pair of vintage Mellotrons from local collector Winston Eggleston, their sold-out concerts revived interest in the instrument famous for its futuristic sounds used by everyone from the Beatles to Radiohead. Nine months later, their compositions are finally available on a record called "Duets for Mellotron."


Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

Memphis music is sometimes hard to classify. Case in point: The Country Rockers. The trio's rough-and-tumble 1988 album “Free Range Chicken"  became something of a cult record, and its reissue on the Big Legal Mess label may introduce new listeners to a lesser-appreciated side of Memphis music – the early mash up of country and rock and roll. 


Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

Mid-South environmentalists are concerned about tapping the vast Memphis Sand aquifer for some industrial uses, and whether the pumping is safe. The Sierra Club's recent legal dispute with the Tennessee Valley Authority over the use of water to cool a natural gas power plant has some Shelby County citizens asking if government should have more oversight.


Her Father's Music: A Redemption in Blues

Dec 12, 2016
Zandria Robinson

Zandria Robinson's father was a "complicated country contradiction." She loved his kindness, suffered his sins, and tried hard to understand what made him the man he became. In some ways, his favorite music was the ultimate guide to his soul. Robinson is a native Memphian and a professor at Rhodes College. Her story, "Listening for the Country," is excerpted from Oxford American magazine's latest music issue, now in bookstores.

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