Melinda and Chris Marsalis, owners of JC Media LLC, are the founders of Sun Bear Studios in Ripley. Photo by Gina Morgan.

RIPLEY • Chris and Melinda Marsalis are no newbies to the entertainment industry. Both have been involved in theater and sound production for over 15 years and recently decided to step out of their comfort zone and venture into the radio world by purchasing two Ripley FM radio stations.

JC Media LLC is the home of Kudzu 104.9 and The Shark 102.3. Staff includes Office and Traffic Manager Rick Williams, Account Executives Tessa Holder and Henry Wylie, Sales Manager Joyce Graddy, Mike Garrett and Paul Adams, the hosts of the Rollin’ Hills Bluegrass Show on Kudzu 104.9, and Josh Sanderson, host of the Sunday Morning Gospel show on Kudzu.

Since becoming the new owners in April of 2019, the two have made many changes, one of the biggest being the addition of Sun Bear Studio. Sun Bear is a local recording studio with a funky, cool vibe where artists can record music for a fraction of the price of other studios. Sun Bear Studio is geared towards helping people get their music out there. Tippah talents like Reece Horton, Mike King, Garry Burnside, and the late Buddy Grisham have already spent some time behind the mic in Sun Bear.

“Any kind of artist or band can record in our studio and take the unmastered version or Sun Bear can master it for you. We can help you as much or as little as you like,” said Melinda Marsalis.

Children can record CDs for their families for Christmas. Girl’s Night Out groups can sing karaoke and have the tracks to keep forever. The opportunities are endless. Although not yet open to the public, Sun Bear has already made waves in the community.

“Recording at the studio was a highlight in my musical career. Chris and Melinda made me feel so comfortable with using the equipment for the first time. I’m super thankful for the opportunity they gave me to make my own CD,” stated Reece Horton. “I truly think that this studio can become a major draw for talent in the area. They are giving us the chance to come in and see how the recording process works. We have so much to offer the music world in forms of genre in our area. Mississippi has a rich history in music, and I think Sun Bear Studio is going to write their own chapters, and I am happy to be a part of it.”

Before passing away in April this year, Buddy Grisham recorded his last music at Sun Bear.

“There is no replacement for memories like those. His love for music will be here forever,” Melinda Marsalis says.

Watch for an upcoming CD release of Buddy’s sessions with Garry Burnside.

Sun Bear Studio is scheduled to open to the public in late September. Once open, you can expect to see talented and professional sudio technical advisors and musicians like studio set-up specialist and equipment advisor Chuck Duncan; Cedric Burnside, two-time Grammy-nominated Blues musician; and Garry Burnside, also a two-time Grammy nominee and Hill Country Blues artist. Other local stars who’ve recorded and performed live on the air include King Edward (Mike King and Ed Smith), Skip Oliver, and Lightening Malcolm.

“We just feel like there is a demand for high-quality local content. Radio is the perfect medium to showcase the tremendous talent we have in our area,” said Chris Marsalis. “With the advent of digital streaming, our content is available to literally anyone in the world.”

In the meantime, look for frequent live concerts on 102.3 The Shark from Sun Bear Studio featuring the talent of local and regional artists. The next live show will be on Friday, July 3 at 7 p.m. It will feature Garry Burnside, Kenny Brown, Pinky Pulliam, and Avery Dilworth.

If you can’t pick up the FM station, stream it directly from, or download the 102.3 The Shark app from the App Store or Google Play.

Rollin’ Hills Bluegrass Show DJs broadcast live on Kudzu 104.9 every Saturday morning from 8 to 10 a.m. Bluegrass fans can stream that show from or listen on the Kudzu 1049 Classic Country app.

Past shows for both stations are available as podcasts on the apps and websites.

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