Quiet storm is a radio format and a "super genre" of
contemporary R&B, jazz fusion and pop music that is characterized
by understated, mellow dynamics, slow tempos, and relaxed rhythms. It
was pioneered in the mid-1970s by Melvin Lindsey, while he was an
intern at the
Washington, D.C. radio station WHUR-FM. This format was
named after Smokey Robinson's 1976 album A Quiet Storm.
The listening audience of quiet storm was mainly "upscale urban"
African Americans. The term quiet storm became a blanket term for
mellow or soulful slow jams and smooth jazz of the sort played by
radio programs influenced by Melvin Lindsey's format.
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Melvin Lindsey, a student at Howard University, with his classmate
Jack Shuler, was first a disc jockey for WHUR in 1976 as stand-ins for
an employee who failed to report for work. The response from listeners
was positive, and Lindsey stayed on. Founder of Radio One, Cathy
Hughes, WHUR station manager, heard of the show's positive reception
and responded by giving Lindsey and Shuler their own show.
After a time, the strains of "A Quiet Storm," Robinson's popular
recording, became Lindsey's theme music and introduced his time slot
every night thereafter. "The Quiet Storm" was four hours of
melodically soulful music that provided an intimate, laid-back mood
tailor-made for late-night listening, and that was the key to its
tremendous appeal among adult audiences. The format was an immediate
success, becoming so popular that within a few years, virtually every
station in the U.S. with a core black, urban listenership adopted a
similar format for its graveyard slot. In the New York tri-state late
Vaughn Harper D.J'd the quiet storm graveyard program for
WBLS-FM which he helmed for 35 years until being released from the
station in 2008.
Melvin Lindsey died of
AIDS in 1992, but the quiet
storm format he originated remains a staple in radio programming
today, more than 40 years after its inception. WHUR radio still has a
quiet storm show (now under the title The Original Quiet Storm); and
many urban, black radio stations still reserve their late-night
programming slots for quiet storm music, as well. WHUR operator Howard
University has registered "Quiet Storm" as a trademark for
"entertainment services, namely, a continuing series of radio programs
Quiet storm programming is credited with launching the careers of
Luther Vandross and Anita Baker, and with introducing Sade to U.S.
audiences. Classic quiet storm recordings include
Frankie Beverly and
Maze's "Golden Time of Day," Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On", the
orchestrations of Philadelphia soul, the recordings of Al Green, Gil
Scott-Heron, Barry White, and Bill Withers, much of jazz guitarist Wes
Montgomery's work during his
CTI Records years, and the work of
Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr. In 1986, Peabo Bryson
released an album entitled Quiet Storm.
Quiet storm was most popular as a programming niche with baby boomers
from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. During this era, it promoted a
noticeable shift in the sound of R&B of the time. Quiet Storm
songs were in most cases devoid of any significant political
commentary and maintained a strict aesthetic and narrative distance
from issues relating to black urban life. Quiet Storm appropriates
R&B and soul "slow jams" and recontextualizes them into rotations
with their peers and predecessors.  People such as Anita Baker,
Luther Vandross, and Sade became the faces of R&B without the
traditional "grit" and a shift in the focus to sexual activities.
Some, such as Mark Anthony Neal, believe that this shift represents a
cultural appropriation to make R&B more marketable to white
audience. Others argue that it is simply representing the growing
affluence of middle-class African Americans.
Music journalist Jason King wrote, "Sensuous and pensive, quiet storm
is seductive R&B, marked by jazz flourishes, 'smooth grooves,' and
tasteful lyrics about intimate subjects. As disco gave way to the
'urban contemporary' format at the outset of the 1980s, quiet storm
expanded beyond radio to emerge as a broad catchall super-genre."
Ben Fong-Torres of
Rolling Stone called quiet storm a "blend of pop,
jazz fusion, and R&B ballads—all elegant and easy-flowing, like
a flute of Veuve Clicquot champagne."
In the 1990s, Canadian adult contemporary station
CFQR-FM in Montreal
aired a Quiet Storm program featuring new-age music. At least two
non-commercial FM stations, the community-based
WGDR in Plainfield,
Vermont, and its sister station,
Hardwick, Vermont (both owned
by Goddard College), have been broadcasting a weekly, two-hour "Quiet
Storm" program since 1998—a 50-50 mix of smooth jazz and soft
R&B, presented in "Triple-A" (Album Adult Alternative) style, with
a strong emphasis on "B" and "C" album tracks that most commercial
stations often ignore.
Most recently, in 2007,
Premiere Radio Networks
Premiere Radio Networks launched a nationally
syndicated nightly radio program based upon the quiet storm format,
known as The
Keith Sweat Hotel. That program, in edited form,
broadcasts under the Quiet Storm name (as The Quiet Storm with Keith
WBLS in New York City.
^ a b c d e King, Jason (2007). "The Sound of Velvet Melting". In
Weisbard, Eric. Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music. Duke
University Press. pp. 172–199. ISBN 0822390558. Retrieved
December 24, 2014.
^ "Quiet Storm". AllMusic. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
^ United States Patent and Trademark Office.
^ Harvey "The Quiet Storm" pg. 9
^ Harvey "The Quiet Storm" pg.8
Keith Sweat Joins
WBLS as Host of The Quiet Storm", Premiere
Networks, December 28, 2009.
"Listeners Jammin' to the Quiet Storm, Radio's Most Romantic Couple of
Hours" The Virginian-Pilot, February 13, 1995
"Slow jamz and quiet storms", Cheryl Coward
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