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WWUH Memories
Robert Skinner recalled in 2005: While Clark has generously given me credit for being the first station engineer, I think of myself as the general contractor, working with Clark, the Board of Regents, and many people with engineering skills that far exceeded mine to pull together the physical embodiment of WWUH. 
          Randy Mayer's genius and adventurous nature were prominent in bridging the many gaps between donated (and sometimes superannuated) pieces of equipment and specifying a structure for a foundation that supported the many future extensions and improvements.  We also owe honor and gratitude to Peter Chamalian (a ham operator), Robert Haight (Ward School of Engineering), and the late Ken Kalish, who also contributed the ideas, time, constructive criticism, and prodigious effort that made the team so productive.
          Bill Crepeau served as first business manager, getting us off on a sound basis that helped us quickly attract the first $50,000 public contribution .

 WWUH alum Charles Horwitz ’70 recalled:

“I clearly remember sweating the audition to be on the air (little did I know that the station was so desperate for bodies that absolutely everyone passed the audition except for the most grammatically challenged).  The day I opened the mail and saw my FCC License was the start of a big change in my life.

Because of my enthusiasm (and lack of any social life), I was assigned the Friday and Saturday late nighttime slots.  These rock shows followed Mel Peppers (who used the name Maceo Woods on the air) and his Soul Experience.  As soon as Midnight arrived and I started playing the loud stuff, the phones died and I could feel hundreds of radios being turned off simultaneously.  I quickly learned to ease into the hard stuff by starting with a mix of blues, jazz and oldies.

As Program Director you are occasionally forced into service when someone fails to show up for a show and one early evening classic slot stands out in my mind. I was trying to be the epitome of culture and taste among the rubble of the studios as they went renovation.  My two best buddies, Stu Kaufman and John Labella conspired to disrupt the solemn tone of my show by inserting a duck call into the hole where the studio doorknob used to be.  But when Stu let out a long blast that sounded more like a fart than a duck, I did the best I could to stifle my laughing, put on my best professional voice and said “excuse me” as my mother has taught me to do and continued on as if nothing had happened.  After getting a record on the air I chased both of them down the hall and down the steps to the first floor.”

Michael Ditkoff reminisced in 2006:

            “I remember one year, the station's exec committee went to the CBA's spring convention, conference, whatever in Groton, CT. The conference included a trip to General Boat or General Dynamics shipyard for the launching of the submarine Batfin. Senator Lowell Weicker, gave the keynote address. The conference was helpful for smoozing. Jon Eppler drove his car, a former Connecticut state police car, to the conference. I remember we stopped after a toll so we could ensure nobody got lost. He said through the car's loud speaker "Get back in the car, Mike." In April or May 1972, several station members attended the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in Washington, DC. Sometime during the smoozing, GM Phil approached the President, GM, whatever of WTIC, Leonard Patricelli, and asked if we could put attach our antenna to the WTIC weather tower. This is how we got permission. The gang of us stayed at the Windsor Park hotel, which today is the Chinese embassy. For a few minutes, I got to interview FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, who was considered a rebel commissioner and took the license renewal procedure very seriously and encouraged public comment on renewals. He wrote the book How to talk back to your television set.”  

WWUH alum Charlie Horwitz was Program Director during the time period (‘69-71), and he submitted this recollection of one of his shows in the early seventies.

“One of my favorite recollections was one I shared alone. It was the time when Hartford's connection to the sea and whales in particular was getting air airplay and local ink.  In fact a local group had recorded a sea chant of sorts that we played and I think the station had done an interview with them. Their name escapes me.

“Well one night, after my Gothic Blimp Works show, I was determined to incorporate that song into a PSA about Saving the Whales. I put in several hours to get 60 seconds of moderately coherent information and put the whole project to bed on a nice new cart. Leaving the Gengras Center just before dawn, I was struck by the sounds of whales whistling down the empty hallways. Now I know that it was just the wind whistling through the opened doors and not the voices of thankful whales but I checked those doors and there were all properly closed. So I went outside and meditated with the ghosts of those voices and have felt very in tune with their song ever since”.

“I had spent 3 years hanging around the station; watching it being built and seeing my friends go on the air. I almost auditioned for a folk music show, but got involved in the theater department and never followed up. I was supposed to graduate in June 1971, but had one more semester to go. As I always had a work-study job, I managed to get assigned to WWUH for the summer. I was there the Friday of Memorial Day weekend 1971 working on cataloging the classical library, all pre-computer of course. I'm not sure who came in, but I think it was Ken Kalish who asked me if I ever thought I could do a female, easy listening type of program. I said if I did a show it wouldn't be easy listening and he said, great, you go on in 15 minutes. YIKES! I learned the 5-channel Sparta board pretty quickly and since I had spent many hours hanging around, I had a sense of what was supposed to happen. Ken assured me (as there was NO ONE ELSE in the building at the time) that he would be there if I had any problems. SO off I go. My first song at 11:00 AM was Stage Fright by the Band. And except for forgetting to turn off the mike (but potting it down) and taking off my headphones and thinking I was sending dead air out when I wasn't, I did OK.  UNTIL, about 25 minutes into my show, when Ken came in and said a tower light went out and since it was a top blinking one, he had to go to the tower ASAP to change it. I was doing great, so I said, see ya! Of course, about 10 minutes later, I lost cue in the right hand turntable and spent the rest of my shift only playing the first cut of the record because I could see to cue it up. Brian Lord was program director that summer. And for some strange reason, he liked what he heard and offered me midday’s for the summer. I still have my play lists and I will e-mail a sample day to you at another time.

“I have an old air check from my second week on the air and I have NO IDEA why Brian put me on the air!

          “My most memorable day on the air was the day the draft lottery numbers were announced. I remember playing long cuts so we could gather the info from the wire to read on the air. That was the year my kid brother was in the lottery... imagine how I felt when his birthday came up as number 8....and I still had to be professional and read the rest of the dates. (He turned out to be 4-F from an old skiing injury, but that's another story for another place).”

Paul Payton wrote the following about his experiences at WWUH, which started in 1973
        One of the late night progressive shows; I had also guested on the Street Corner Serenade. The blessing of 'UH for me and many compadres was that youguys let us come up while we were "between stations" and keep our chopssharp. You gave me a place to hang my hat, stay in touch with the trade, and not coincidentally allowed me to help pump up record service a bit for 'UH.

My last show there was filling in for Paul Bezanker on Street Corner Serenade one week when he couldn't make it. It was wonderful - it's the only show I did from the new studio, and I felt like I was *really* back on the radio! (I think I brought up about 4 hours of music for the two hour show!) But the magic of 'UH (and other "real" radio stations in college environments, like WBRU - as opposed to 10-watt or closed-circuit ego trips) is that no matter how much one does for the station, it always does more for you - sometimes you just don't realize in what ways until later.

Cath Spann offered the following recollection about 1973:  I remember rolling in at 6AM one morning to do FM on Toast, only to be greeted by this man wearing what I would describe as a small leather loincloth. That was Sweet Pie, and that's how I remember him, sitting practically naked in the announcer's chair that morning, with long curly brown hair and a smile. That'll wake you up fast!

John Ramsey recalls hearing only silence on 91.3 FM during the spring and waiting for the station to come back on air.

 “I didn’t know why they were off, it seemed pretty strange that they would be off so long, but as soon as the station came back on the air after the transmitter move, the increased coverage was simply amazing! I hadn’t volunteered in the station in well over a year, and decided that I had been away too long.  A few days later, I called the station and spoke with Roger Stauss, who invited me to come by that afternoon for a visit.  When I walked into the Air Studio, Roger and I spoke for a few minutes and then he said “hey, can you do the rest of the show, I’ve got to go. So I was back on WWUH again!”

Judy Corcoran wrote about the controversial 1974 "Nixon Impeachment Count Down Calendar" Program Guide cover in 2003:  The countdown calendar was a real "poster" I purchased somewhere.  I forget when Watergate broke, but it took several months/years to come to a head.  Nixon, mainly because of the war, was about as popular with half the country as George Bush is today.  The countdown calendar counted Nixon's days in office with a little box to scratch off each day.  I don't recall that we got in trouble for it.  Someone might have said something in passing, but it wasn't huge.  It would be akin to putting a George Bush countdown calendar to the next election or similar "bumper sticker art" on the cover of the program guide today.  Would you get in trouble from the university and listeners?

Speaking of bumper stickers, the bicycle bumper stickers were little 1.5 inch by 1 inch "stickers" in assorted neon colors.  We ordered them for no real reason, probably just for fun to stick around places.  When they arrived, I said they looked like "bumper stickers for bicycles."

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Picozzi.

I owe it all to WWUH.

By Michael Picozzi

    The band I was in during college broke up.  I could study with that free time but…well there was a radio station starting up.  I got a shift then became the Music Director then the Program Director.  New college.  Shift then Sales Manager then General Manager (a paid position…$25 a week, thank you.) Straight out of college radio (3 stations, 2 colleges, every kind of music imaginable) into overnights at WSAR Fall River.  Nights and Production Director. Mornings and Program Director.  Now I’m the king of radio.  They change formats to all news.  I’m gone.

Back to the parents’ basement in Bloomfield and now everyone’s got career advice.  “Get a real job”. “You should be on WHCN”.  Wow, I listened to that in high school, they’re WAY too cool for a geek like me. I sent a tape anyway; the Program Director never returned my calls. “Review bands for the Hartford Advocate”.  Now, that made sense.  I played in bands.  I drink.  Go to clubs, imbibe, listen to live music, try and remember enough to write about.  I must be the only guy with that idea, right?  I send the resume; I make the call.  They don’t care about my party plans.  But, they do want to use my radio experience. 

It seems they have noticed WWUH, a free-form college station sounds more and more like WHCN,  (“ugh” said with an upturned nose) a commercial station.  They noticed similar music, “ Why, I think they even did an album giveaway!” I was told in disgust.  They wanted to know why and I was the radio guy to find out.  Off I ran with my little pen and paper.

          The college radio “powers that be” couldn’t wait to tell me their story of success.  “ We tricked the record company”; they said. “Yeah, we’re just college kids we don’t know better” (Insert Dr. Evil’s evil laugh here.)  “What a couple of boobs” I said to myself.  They have the opportunity to play anything they want; say anything they want and they’re playing the same songs commercial radio is.  And doing dumb giveaways.  To myself I said all this because while they were bragging, I was writing.  “WHCN is scared of us,” they blurted out.  Oh my God, are they high!  Then I was off.  “Thanks boobs”.

I’m off to call the Program Director of WHCN to get his side of the story.  Sure, like he’ll talk to me.  Well, there might have been no returned calls to out of work Picozzi, but Picozzi of the Advocate…he couldn’t wait to talk to me.  “Come on in, let’s chat”.  Hey, my new best friend. 

Basically, he agreed with me.  College radio is freedom, no sponsors to answer to, no ratings to mass appeal program for.  What a shame to toss that away. College radio is the time for experimenting.  Finding new music, finding your voice, finding tomorrows commercial styles and stars.  As I was leaving, I said; “by the way…while I’m here…you have my tape.”  He fumphed around cleared his throat and said he’d try and find it. 

The phone was ringing when I got home.  “Come back, let’s talk”  “Ah great, he’s going to bribe me for a favorable write-up in the article”.  He told me my tape was good and he offered me a Saturday midday shift.  I told him I was offered a Saturday night shift elsewhere, he said; “I think you’d be wasted on Saturday night”.  Exactly!  I re-started radio at WHCN, the Advocate printed my story and paid me $15!”

 I'm Annette Jones, but in 'UH history, I'm Annette Salvucci...

    I just wanted to let you know that I was WWUH's news director from Sept. 77 through May '78.  It was a fun time... I actually had a small staff that include Patty Kurlycek  (her air name was Patty O'Hair), Bob Holdsworth and a couple of others.  When I jocked (which was very very very seldom) I used the air name of Toni Daniels.  I mostly did an odd classical show or two.  Had NO clue what I was doing, but I kept the modulator going, you know? 

    The '78 Marathon did so well that I was able to go to a news conference that President Jimmy Carter did for the college media.  It was so much fun...  I remember sitting in the Old Executive Office Building... in the back, because back then I was still pretty shy... and just being enthralled by it all.  I did some reports for the radio station with a Capitol Hill lockout because that's where I was when I found the pay phone.  (Remember pay phones?)

Marsha Lasker wrote in 2008:

“I was on the air, literally when the civic center came crashing down and
 out for a better tomorrow. (I was doing the) Gothic Blimp Works, so obviously after midnight(and)  i DID announce it on the air after a few minutes of indecision and phone calls. the uh photographer, jeff somebody,  was working late in the darkroom on the
 floor and he came rushing in and went downdown directly. I STILL have the photograph he gave me (an excellent photo, indeed)”

At the start of one of a 1979 live broadcasts from Bushnell Park, there was an interesting “incident”, that is humorous in hindsight:  John Ramsey writes:

“During summer, the air studio was undergoing renovation so all programming was being aired out of the Production studio. There was a live, call-in show on the air right before the start of the remote broadcasts from the park, and everything was fine at first. The board operator at the studio got the park feed on the air just fine, and on-site announcer Doug Maine was just starting to welcome the listeners to what he was sure to be an outstanding evening of live jazz. I was the engineer at the site, and I was listening to the first minute of the broadcast on the air when I heard in my headphones "Hi, WWUH" followed by a listener asking a question about when the station's music director would be in! It didn't take more than a second for both Doug and I to realize what was going on, The board operator had forgotten to turn off the phone feed in the studio after the last show, and he was taking routine phone calls and putting them on the air by accident!

Poor Doug, there he was trying to do an ad-libbed live introduction, and all of a sudden he was hearing a telephone call loudly in his earphones. I was worried that he would stop talking, which would be a natural reaction, but which would have made the problem even worse since the listeners would be hearing just the phone call, and silence when the caller hung up. Doug did not stop talking which would have been a normal reaction. He didn't even stumble as he described the show that was about to begin. Doug did something that only a seasoned veteran announcer would ever think of doing. He simply took off his headphones (so that the phone call wouldn't distract him) and kept on with his announcement!

I grabbed the phone and started calling the station hot line number. As the phone was ringing, I was thinking of the best way to get the board op to realize what had gone wrong. I had to identify myself, and then tell him specifically what the problem was and how to correct it. Trouble was, with such a common first name, I realized that I would have to give my last name as well so that he would not think that I was a prank (the board op didn't know there was a problem since he had turned down the speakers in the studio at the start of the broadcast to answer the phone).       

As I was thinking all of these things, with the telephone to one ear and one side of my headphones to the other, I heard the op say "Oh, I've got another call, I've got to go" in the phone ear followed almost immediately by "Hi, WWUH" IN BOTH EARS (both on the phone and on the air!). I used the board ops name and said "Dave, this is John Ramsey, the phone is on the air, turn off pot ten". Both the listeners and I heard this, and they heard his confused reply, "What did you say?” I paraphrased myself and said "Dave, this is John Ramsey, this conversation is on the air, turn off pot number ten" to which he responded "Oh Shit!" before he turned off the phone feed. This entire exchange was heard by the thousands of WWUH listeners who were tuned in for the evening's jazz performance. It was not uncommon for listeners to record these live broadcasts back then, if anyone has a tape of the start of this broadcast, I would love to hear it.”

Marissa Donza, class of ’81 wrote:

          “My very first radio stow was hosting FM On Toast in the Spring of ’80.  At that time those slots were very free-form but shortly after I started, one by one, every “Toast” turned into a morning Folk show.  So Tuesday stuck out like a sore thumb – or reather – “the middle finger” that it was . . . loud and raunchy and fileld with the rebellious punk music of the day; Elvix Costello, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols.  Well, one particularly frustinging morning after about two months of fielding request from folk fans who obviously weren’t listening, I christened my slot “The Folk-Off” show during a break!  Rob Banks, program Director, who happened to get into the office early that day, came into the studio and nervously told me that I couldn’t call my show that – too offensive or something. But it stuck, it captured the spirit of the show and the folk announcers were great sports throughout the duration of the show”.

Dave Gardiner recounted another story from 1980:

          “I can remember being at a staff meeting and someone complaining about waking up to AC/DC at 6 am; over in the corner Marissa Donza was hiding her head saying “Was that me?”

Long time Folk Music Director Ed McKeon recalled in 2004:

Bill Domler brought me to the station.  I used to buy some of the wildest folk albums at his shop in Elmwood.  I first visited his shop to find a copy of a song I heard while driving west on I-84.  I can remember the precise location, just past West Farms, and he played Kate Wolf singing “Give Yourself to Love,” followed by Andrew Calhoun singing “The Gates of Love.”  I thought, “What’s this?”  And I was hooked.  We chatted frequently at his shop.  Then I let him borrow some albums by Billy Bragg, the Pogues, the Men They Couldn’t Hang and others. I had bought these albums at Capitol Records where I first met Susan Mullis, Mark Santini, Michael Clare, Mark DeLorenzo and Andy Taylor.  The music I was listening to didn’t appeal to Bill but he asked me to appear as a guest on his show to play some of them and to talk about them, and I did.  Then he convinced me to go through training.  He didn’t have to twist my arm.

Operations Director Grant Miller recalls:

“While conducting a training program, level one, in one of the meeting rooms, the ECOM was distributing forms and talking about the different departments of the station.  I noticed that Dan had a distressed look on his face, and after some time I gestured for him to come outside the room.  In the hall he said that he felt a student was carrying a gun in his back pocket!   He asked me to look discreetly.  After going back into the room, I offered to distribute handouts so that he could check out the student in question.  Yes indeed, there was the butt of a pistol sticking out of his back pocket.  A state of confusion ensued behind the scenes while Dan and I figured out the best way to inform the General Manager, who was conducting the meeting.  Then he realized that he had seen a sign posted for the annual assassin game, which involved toy pistols.  I let Dan stew for about 30 minutes.”

Phil Cabot-‘73

Hartford’s Mayor George Athanson was a good friend of the station. He often participate din our events including our annual dinner. He was convinced I was a fellow Greek and changed my name to Phil Cabotopolus.

          We had a 3-day fundraiser to earn funds for the Newington Children’s Hospital. Lowell Weicker, who was then Senator, spent considerable time participating on the air along with other celebrities. Mayor Athanson spent hours and raffled off his tie and shirt to help earn funds. Fortunately, he stopped at his shirt.

          We spent lots of time covering various Vietnam War protests. At one demonstration near the Capitol in Hartford, Abbey Hoffman was captured on tape by the station saying “Capitalism does pay” to Tom Hayden after they passed the hat to collect donations.”

          Steve Nichols-‘79

“Many recollections of those years really can’t be discussed until the statuette of limitations runs out, but …

After the Hartford Civic Center roof collapsed, Ed Stivender and the Myth America crew did some of the best radio ever created in the United States.

I recall roaming around Hartford on Saturday and finding that EVERYONE was tuned to Mort Fega’s “Focus on Jazz”.

Having long discussion with G.M. Evica, one of the planet’s truly interesting people.  I remember that for Marathon one year, he did a bogus Assassination Journal show that implicated Mickey Mouse and others!

WWUH in its own noble way has maintained a direction and focus that reminds us what radio can and SHOULD do. Inform. Entertain. Make us think!  Make us feel. Educate. Respond.”

Grant Miller-’89:

“What comes to immediately to mind when recalling my days at WWUH is simply what a profound influence that place had on the way I think about music.  The station has consistently had a wealth of truly interesting people on its staff. When I first arrived for training in September 1986, I though I knew it all. I was intent on proving it by being the first one then in training to finish a demo tape, and to get a show where I could demonstrate my “vast” knowledge.  Well, Stuart Werner was the Program Director at the time.  He rejected my first demo; he felt that the music wasn’t “alternative”.  I submitted a second demo, and about a month after getting my fist show he suspended me from doing fill-ins saying that my choice of material was nothing more than the ‘same old stuff’. He was right (in retrospect) but I resented him for a long time.

Reluctantly, I buckled down and began exploring the station’s vast resources . . . so much was learned over the next three years. As Operations Director, I worked a great deal beside John Ramsey, whose remarkable common sense, patience and ability to teach make (and still makes) him the perfect “man in charge”.

Harvey Jassem:

 “When I moved to Connecticut in 1977, I quickly found WWUH as a listener, and really liked the station and its variety. I was a regular listener, and was pleased that the station was affiliated with the University of Hartford were I too was affiliated.

“I did my first show in around 1980, sitting in with Marsha Lasker, playing "oldies" on her late night show. She was a student of mine who challenged me to do radio if I were going to teach about it. I recall bringing in some of my "oldies" and playing & discussing old rock. Shortly after that, I did an afternoon synthesis slot for a while. Then Rob Banks asked me to take a morning jazz slot, and that became something of a staple. I think I started that regular morning jazz (Weds. if I recall correctly) around 1982. I recall Rob and Bill Yousman hanging out in the background urging me to play the real edgy avant-garde stuff.

“In addition to the music that was given time on the station, what I really liked about WWUH was the people and their ethics. I remember, for example, a staff discussion about whether or not to announce concerts that were being held at a local venue, and whether or not to accept 'guest list' passes for that venue. The venue had a lot of good music that appealed to our staffers, but the staff decided that the bouncers in that place were far too rough and we should not cooperate with them anymore, even though that meant giving up the 'guest list' status. That was an ethical decision that cost station staff a nice benefit. I was proud to be a part of such a group of people.

“I continued doing morning Jazz until around 1987, when I left the area for nearly a year, then returned in 1988 to Monday morning jazz until around 1997 when I again left for about a year. Since then I have been filling in on jazz shows, playing a role in the Monday Night summer Bushnell Park jazz series, filling in for synthesis, and taking on the role of a regular for the Street corner Serenade since spring, 2001. Ironically, I'm playing some of the same records that I started with 20 years earlier.

Charlie Horwitz, Class of '72:

“Once Ken Kalish realized that his motley crew of announcers really did want to do radio round the clock, he set out to make it happen. A brave move for anyone but especially for Ken since I'm not sure he even liked rock music. At the time, let's call it the summer of '70, Charlie Allen was our CE and I was PD. We also happened to be roommates with two other guys in a run down dump in some uncharted area of Hartford.

“So before the end of the school year, Ken gets funding to pay us for sticking around during the summer months and making sure the station was on the air and kept regular hours. He even made sure our cars were outfitted with FM radios so we'd always know what was going on at the station. Now that was a big perk cause in '70, Fm radios hadn't yet become standard equipment in cars. Several times, after coming home an crashing after doing an extended Blimp Works, I guess I let my enthusiasm slip and sometimes I just didn't care what the station was doing or who was doing it. But it was my job to jump out of bed and get over to the station any time someone didn't show up. Which seemed to happen with some regularity that first summer.

“Well as it turned out, Ken didn't make any friends with my roomies and when he called (and he did, any hour of the day or night), if they answered the phone, they'd hang up on him. Of course this was intolerable to Ken and he let me have it every time he got hold of me. So I pressed all my friends and plenty of strangers into service just to

keep Ken off my back. I remember my roommate and best friend Hank Bultman became Electric Aunt Jemima on the air. He got so into his show that he went out and bought the entire Dylan library. So he could play clean copies of all his favorites.

“I don't think I took my first management position too seriously but somehow we got through that long hot summer, had some fun and somehow managed to change WWUH forever. It wasn't long after expanding the program day that the Ecom felt justified in asking our listeners to financially support our efforts. We mimicked every bad PBS beg-a-thon plea and probably drove away more listeners then we ever had. Again, the idea stuck and became a lasting tradition.

“Please get Mr. (Charles) Allen to verify my stories to protect the innocent. I remember when I first started at the station seeing the News Station wagon. One of the news guys was Claude Schlotterer (spelling??). He looked like Bluto and had a gland condition that prevented any deodorant or antiperspirant from doing the slightest bit of good (OK - he stunk!).

“Those of us in the up and coming crew of announcers thought Claude's weight led to a prolonged state of disrepair of the wagon and that his lack of bodily hygiene prevented the car from having any resale value what so ever. Claude just seemed to disappear after that year - I hope] it was because he graduated but I don't really know.

Bruce Pratt, a station supporter and co-founder of the Folk Next Door with Ed McKeon, submitted the following recollections for the anniversary:

When UH committed to a five-morning-a-week acoustic format, I believe the station began an unprecedented era in non-commercial radio. Until then, most stations programmed folk or blues only on the weekends. To have drive time folk, and drive time ratings, no less, still amazes me. With Ed McKeon, Wild Bill Cunningham, Tom Bowman, Bill Domler, and the station’s other personalities—and I mean personality in every sense of the word—listeners in the UH area not only heard the widest variety of acoustic music possible, but were informed of the hundreds of opportunities each year to see these performers live. The station’s countless live in studio appearances has to be unmatched in southern new England. When UH also began to promote shows, one can argue with conviction that the Golden Age of Connecticut Radio had arrived.

          If a Golden moment has existed in this Golden Age it was when Ed McKeon and I first figured out how to make The Folk Next Door work.  As boastful as that may sound, I believe it to be true. The idea was simple. We’d invite as many of the best acoustic performers as we could to a concert, charge the public a reasonable amount, and record the show for a compilation CD. The artists would donate their time, but would receive the very tangible benefit of being on a CD that would be played on stations across the country. The concert appearance itself was an added benefit—often the first big stage performance for some of the artists.

The first artist selection process was arduous and fraught with discord. Besides the ancient arguments about what constituted folk music, and the internecine quarrels between the folk, singer/songwriter, bluegrass, blues, and traditional camps, there were arguments over the quality of certain artists suggested by members of the staff. Though Ed had done all the work, everyone at the station and in the folk community felt they had a stake in deciding who should appear. Ed made a sincere attempt to be democratic: we had meetings, voted on suggestions, argued for favorites, and some nearly came to blows. When the project seemed to be sinking in its own turmoil, with a patience unmatched by Job, Ed pushed on. Tempers rose, noses were put out of joint, but in the end as fine an evening of music and spirit as I have ever known ensued. I cherish the CDs and the memories of this venture. If I am ever in a really tight spot and need help I can absolutely stake my life on, one of the first people I’ll call is Ed McKeon.

          The Folk Next Door’s run astonishes me. There is a saying among musicians that goes, “Everyone remembers a funeral, but not always the wedding.” Translated, this means if the first attempt fails, you don’t get a second shot. There are many more, “First Annual” events, than there are “Tenth Annual” ones. Like most great ventures, The Folk Next Door, came to an end as an annual event, but its legacy is remembered in every one of the projects that have imitated its success over these past many years.

          For more than a decade now, I have lived out of range of the signals of my two favorite stations, WHUS and WWUH. Save for WERU, an excellent community radio station here in Maine, and the offerings on NPR, I am Beyond The Pale, beyond the reach of the vibrant community served by WWUH. I am a radio person. I have traveled a good bit of this land, and have encountered nowhere else the richness of radio in greater Hartford. Now I get NPR reruns, packaged shows—but I do love American Roots—and, when I can get it, the good programming at WERU. What I don’t get is the sense of community I once knew. As the old blues line goes, “You sure don’t miss your water ‘til your well runs dry.”

          I hope to be able to add notes to UH’s one hundredth anniversary celebration.

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