HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WWUH 40th Anniversary 08

WWUH 40th REUNION

 (scroll down for photos)

 

WWUH celebrated its 40th year on November 8, 2008 with a combination Anniversary party and staff reunion.  The event took place in the 1877 Club of the Harry Jack Gray Center , directly above the radio station.

The event started at 5 pm with a reception in the rotunda with well over 100 people in attendance.  At around 6:30 the event moved into the 1877 Club proper where those present participated in a buffet dinner.

At 7 pm a short formal presentation commenced. John Ramsey, WWUH General Manager spoke first.  His comments are below.  WWUH founder Clark Smidt took the podium next and thrilled those present with some great stories about the station’s early years and some words of encouragement (text below).  Steve Berian spoke about the WWUH Scholarship Fund.

Station tours were offered throughout the evening.

The event ended at approximately 9 p.m. at which time a number of staff members walked over to the Gengras Student Union where the WWUH studios were located between 1968 and 1989.

Excerpts from station founder Clark Smidt's remarks:

“Great to see everyone.

You know the most fantastic thing about WWUH is . . .

All of you.

Alternative Radio 91.3 has survived, grown and flourished for 40 years…

As you know, we signed on back on July 15, 1968 … wow, I was only 9!

Talk about timing.  The telegram from the FCC giving us approval came just hours before we went on the air…and we invited a bunch of folks…compete with the famous Manny from Manny’s Deli in Bloomfield, brining the corned beef sandwiches…

 

The control room was so small…we had everyone in an adjacent room with a closed circuit TV camera.  We turned on a bunch of bright red lights, we played the national anthem…then…strangers in the night…and we were on the air.

The little group of studios in Gengras, the tower on the Gengras roof, the all night games of Risk building the station, the organization, running interference with the Student Faculty Association and the Board of Regents…

The first years, it was certainly something. In fact something for everyone.   Broadcasting in stereo throughout the Hartford Springfield and New Haven areas.  The largest non-commercial radio station in Southern New England.  Sure I’m Proud!

In November (1968) we had the dedication and became the Louis K. Roth Memorial Station, giving us $50,000!

And by the time I graduated in June of 1970, during the Kent State strike, WWUH was still in the black by about $17,000, even after all the construction.  A lot of work, a lot of ingenuity, a lot of great people.

Bob Skinner, Larry Titus, Charlie Allen, Charlie Hotpartz, Leslie Newton, Dottie Allen, Jerie Dahmer, Mark Persky, Ronnie Berger, Jimmy Wagner, Bill Crepau, Tibor Banlaki, Neil Portnoy were all there at the beginning.

Sadly some of these very great folks are no longer with us.  But always remembered including founders Randy Mayer, Kenny Kalish, John Labella, Mel Peppers.

Quite a who’s who, over the years, even Mitch Kampor, later the genius behind Lotus, wanted to hang out with us at WWUH.

The support of then Chancellor Dr. Woodruff, Louis Sampliner in the New Bureau, the engineering students, Dr. Teso, Harold Dorschug of WTIC who got a transmitter for us, and many folks who broadcast and became broadcasters and radio people because of our WWUH.  For a moment, could we have all the folks who were part of WWUH in the 60s stand up.  If they’re able to.  How about folks from the WWUH 70’s? And the 80s? And the 90S?  Quite a tribute.

We remember some highlights of WWUH History.  When a geekie young teenager trying to find himself was brought to see the radio station by his dad, John Ramsey, and a big ovation for John for keeping all together for these many years.

Mark Persky almost giving Buffalo Bob a heart attack by dragging him from a Howdy Doody Field House rally all the way across campus and up the stairs to do an interview.

We were top 40 with “UH FM” jingles and showed up in the Hartford Hooper ratings, much to the upset of WDRC and WPOP.  We traded a new car, which ended up in the Hog River . The night Bob Harper strung everybody along saying he would teach everyone how to blow grass on the air.  I nearly had a heart attack until I heard him on the air a bit later making a whistling sound by blowing through two blades of grass.

Probably not far from the truth is the fact that the entire original staff of WHCN came from WWUH when HCN changed from Classical to Commercial rock on Top of Meriden Mountain in 1969.

We broadcast live concerts from Hartt College and even football games from Winoosky, Vermont, .

Got permission to go up to Avon Mountain with the antenna. Gosh I must have hot lined everyone insisting that they do a legal ID.

We set up a professional atmosphere. And I know we had some of our alums become announcers at some great radio stations in Hartford, Portland, all over New England, Boston, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, and more.

Radio has changed over the past 40 years, FCC rules, ownership levels and consolidation, but our foundation here at WWUH gave us a real appreciation and understanding for the need of local service and the right way to be broadcasters in commercial or non-commercial, major market, corporate or mom and pop operations.

We had a lot of great radio people then, and now, and in the future. Which is an outstanding legacy to us all as we’re always continuing to build WWUH.

The start of WWUH was extremely special to me. After 42 years, I’m still in it.  Still playing radio.  Currently consulting and owning a full time, AM local talk and information station in Lowell, MA, north of Boston. 980 WCAP. Everybody gets its!

When my children were looking at schools, they teased me about applying to the Univ. of Hartford of because they claimed that my entrance essay was multiple choice and I majored in Advanced Disc Jockey. They went on to Colgate and Union, which is why I’m still working to pay for it.  Son Jeff was GM of the Colgate Univ. station WRCU and now at JP Morgan working on plans to build a station group for me.  And daughter Katie might still end up here in the graduate psychology program.  My wife Maura is on the air as a smart shopper, which is kind of a creative way of keeping her black belt in shopping out of stores and on the radio.

I guess I’ve never really done much that hasn’t included radio in some manner and just about all of it in New York and New England, and I feel pretty lucky.  After all, radio is very special. It truly is a wonderful free service, operating in the public’s interest convenience and necessity.  Its serving folks, it’s entertaining, it’s playing music, it’s creating ideas, and it’s giving important information.

We learned a lot here at WWUH 91.3.  Please be very proud of your involvement with this wonderful radio station.  And after 40 years I can only express outstanding pride and gratitude for all, and everybody in this room, and to encourage everyone who has worked here, broadcast here and contributed here at our radio station.  

This is truly the most valuable, outstanding and long lasting student operation that the University of Hartford has ever had and UH must be hugely proud of WWUH-FM, West Hartford, Connecticut, .

And if you were listening in the car, thanks very much for the ride and thank you so very much for allowing me to be part of this great celebration. 

40 years, here’s to another 40, at the very least, with our 91.3, WWUH.”

 

Excerpts from John Ramsey’s remarks:

 

Good Evening,

     “Public Alternative Radio”. Those 3 words are what have brought us all together tonight and they are what have kept WWUH going strong for more than four decades.  WWUH was Public Alternative Radio years before Public Radio as we know it today existed.  At a time when there was no alternative media to speak of other than a few ‘underground’ newspapers, WWUH was an oasis in the middle of a wasteland and presented programming to the community the likes of which Hartford had never heard before.

WWUH played the music that commercial stations didn’t dare play:  Progressive Rock, Folk and oh my God Jazz to name just a few.  And WWUH did more than just play music. Public affairs programming was aired in prime time when people were actually listening instead of early Sunday morning like every other station in the country.

The alternative programming philosophy and the professionalism that Clark and others demanded early on are two of the three major factors behind the station’s success.  The third is the volunteer staff.  I estimate that there have probably been 1500-plus people who have volunteered here over the years. The dedication shown by these folks is as amazing as it is inspiring.  Collectively they’ve produced over a third of a million hours of exceptional programming and maintained a 24/7 schedule for over three decades! You guys were and are the best!

Let me tell you about WWUH today. UH-FM is considered one of the top college stations in the country.  We’ve won the “Best College Station” award in the Hartford Advocate’s annual Reader’s Poll 16 times in the last 20 years and the only time we haven’t won is when the other station buys more ads space.  We’ve been listed as “one of the hundred best things in Hartford by The Hartford Courant” and we have recently been chosen as the flagship station the newly formed CT Non-Commercial Radio Alliance. 

WWUH now, more than ever before, is serving a vital role by providing alternative music and news programming, some of which would otherwise not be heard, at all!  And it’s not just people in Greater Hartford who are benefiting by our programming. Thanks to the support of the our listeners and the hard work of our volunteer staff, WWUH became the first station in the state to broadcast over the internet in 1997 and today we offer 1000 free streams and have listeners all over the world.  Think about it, what would you rather have representing the US to the rest of the world, Rush Limbaugh, John Tesh and Howard Stern or Morning Jazz, West Indian Rhythms and New Focus?

Thanks to a commitment early on of building a “comprehensive” library, we now has one of the largest music collections in radio numbering close to 100,000 LPs and CDs.  This library is one of the reason why our music shows are listened to by the DJs at the other college stations.

We have a Celtic Concert series with an international reputation which has produced over 100 shows and brought in, along with our other concerts, well over a hundred thousand dollars for the station over the last decade and a half.

Our public affairs programming, still aired in prime time, and much of it produced by local volunteers, is world class and several of our shows are syndicated on other stations.

We don’t measure the success of the station in financial terms because we don’t believe in programming to the highest bidder, some shows subsidize others and that’s the way is should be. But I know to some people money is an indicator of success so using that yardstick I can assure you we are doing very well.  Our Marathons continue to hit or exceed the mark and just last month, we finished our fall drive 33% over our goal!  Considering the economy I’m sure you’ll all agree that that’s an amazing feat!

The next decade may be the most challenging faced by the station.  A couple of examples:

Think of how new technology effects our listeners and can indirectly effect us.  Bluegrass has always been an important part of our programming. From Mickey McClusky and Mountain Man McGivern to Jim Douglas and our current Kevin Lynch, UH Radio Bluegrass has always been extremely popular.  20 years ago if you were a Bluegrass fan in Hartford we were the only game in town. Few other stations in the state offered Bluegrass and our Bluegrass show was the place where fans heard new releases, learned about the music and found out about the festivals.  But today, you can download your favorite Bluegrass songs from itunes, get festival info on the Internet and choose from dozens of webcasts that feature your favorite music.  Yet our specialty shows continue to be as popular as ever because of our hosts.

WWUH’s exists on the dial with a whole bunch of radio stations that appear to me to be trying to drive their listeners away!  Incredibly repetitive playlists.  Syndicated programming with little of no local flavor. Voice tracked jocks.  Practically no public affairs programming and twelve or more minutes of commercials per hour.  That’s no way to keep listeners.  And with digital radios so prevalent we’re finding that fewer and fewer listeners “tune around” or check out the left side of the dial.  Many just give up, put in a CD, turn on the Ipod or subscribe to satellite radio.  We can be competitive and even grow our listener base, but to do so we’re going to have to work harder to publicize WWUH, something we’ve never been particularly good at.

Our webcasts have already brought us lots new listeners, but we need to move into the 21st century and fully embrace such things a podcasting and on demand audio.

While volunteerism is alive and well here at WWUH, it has become harder and harder to find students who have an interest in radio and those that are often can’t afford to work for free. 

I’m confident we can meet these challenges and that WWUH will continue to be something that you can all be proud of for years to come.

I would be remiss tonight if I didn’t recognize the spouses and significant others of the volunteers who have worked at WWUH over the years.  I raise my glass to the people behind the volunteers who have made WWUH great.

In closing I want to tell you about a conversation I had with Clark a while back. I complimented him on the “Public Alternative Radio” motto which has been so important to the station’s success. Clark remarked that it was good thing that they chose that phrase, because our runner up was “UH Radio, Stick It in Your Ear”.  Hey, it was the sixties you know.”

 

Those present included:

 

ALUMNI

 

Charlie Allen

Jeff Becker

Steve Berian and Valerie

Ryan Connor

Judy Corcoran             

Mike Crispino

Michael Ditkoff

Leora Dowling

Marsh Dubaldo

Mariana Evica and Ron Barnes

Dave Gardiner and Terri

Shelly Kadish and Jeff

Mike Kirven and Linda Rathburn

Marissa Lindgren         

Dale Maine

Steve Nichols andCindy

Dave Parsons

Paul Payton and Bette

Mark Rinas

Anjali Shivkumar and Shiv

Robert Skinner

Marcia Simon

Clark Smidt

Roger Stauss

Sue Terry

Vic Vince and Laura

Dave Viveiros

Chris Watson

Andy Zeldin

Gary Zenobi

Paul Zulpa and Roberta

 

CURRENT STAFF

 

Larry Bilanski and Faith

Jim Bolan           

John Bollash and Mary

Steve Brewer and Merlyn

Dave Buddington and Barbara

Brian Burness              

Bob Celmer and Joni

Peter Carbone and Liz Foley

Mark Channon and Elaine

Jim Christensen and Madeline

Cheryl Curtiss and Gloria Jasieniecki

Steve Deiterich and Christina

Mark DeLorenzo and Cyndie

Mike DeRosa and Barbara

Dave Demaw

Michael Dolan

Mary Dowst and Ken

Donna Giddings

Susan Forbes Hansen

Sam Hatch and Kimberly

Eugene Hazanov          and Pat

Chris Heerema

Dean Hildabrandt and Majorie

Brandon Kampe

Bruce Kampe

Chris Larsen      

Gary Levin and Pamela McMahon

Kevin Lynch

Will Mackey and Keri Strickland

Doug Maine and Vivian

Rob McGuire and Susan

Bill Measom

Jim Meehan and Marsha

Peter Michaelson

Susan Mullis and Brad King

Chuck Obuchowski and Pam

Kevin O’toole

Priscilla Parillo

Steve Petke and Suzanne

John Ramsey and Jackie

John Scott and Christina Chromack

Steve Theaker

Dwight Thurston

Rob Turner

Rob Tyrka

Bob Walsh and Rachel

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Above:  Clark Smidt, WWUH founder, during his Opening Remarks.

Above; Seventies staff, L-R: Shelly Kadish, Dave Parsons, Gary Zenobi, Dave Demaw, Stu Feldman, Andy Zeldin, Leora, Steve Nichols, Mike Kirven, Michael Ditkoff and Roger Stauss.

Above:  Front Row, L-R: Steve Dieterich, Debbie Conklin, Steve Petke, Chuck Obuchowski, Bill Measom, Donne Giddings.  Back, L-R: Susan Mullis, Mark DeLorenzo, Dean Hildebrandt, John Ramsey, Gary Levin.

Above:  Currrent staff. Front row, L-R:  Steve Dieterich, Kevin Lynch, Mike Dolan, Chuck Obuchowski, Deborah Conklin, Michael Carroll, Jim Christensen, Marsha Meehan. 2nd row:  Pat, Mark DeLorenzo, Larry Bilanski, Brandon Kampe, Monica, WIll Mackie, Steve Brewer. Back row:  Doug Maine, Susan Mullis, Priscille Parillo, Dwight Thurston.

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