Gospel music has had few stronger advocates than Don Jackson, founder of the Stellar Awards and chairman of Central City Productions. He has led the program from its boisterous start in 1970 to become one of the industry’s top awards shows, an annual event considered “the Grammys of gospel music.” The biggest challenge Jackson faced in establishing the telecast? To convince broadcast stations, especially in major markets, to air the show.
“Many of the stations had very little knowledge of gospel’s entertainment value, so we purposely aired the show as a tribute to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, which the stations thought was very appropriate,” Jackson tells Billboard. “Because of the rating success, station clearances grew and the event became an annual special for broadcast stations all over the country. This year, we are purposely airing [the awards] over Easter weekend -- the biggest faith-based holiday in the country -- to attract an even larger audience.”