University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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A Brief History of (About Thirty Years) Time

By Kevin "Moondog" O'Toole

"Sure," I said, "I’ll write a history of rock at the station in the thirtieth anniversary issue."
     No, seriously.
     Actually, I’ve been combing through ye olde stash of vintage station program guides going back over 26 years, and they revealed some interesting little tidbits.
     Well, to begin with: FM On Toast began as an early morning rock show.
     Hard to believe, but it’s true. The station’s centerpiece for folk was not always such. It was morning rock, with no folk this side of Bob Dylan.
     During the 70’s much of the station’s rock programming was geared as "auditions" for our then on-air-talent, and musically, there was little difference between the rock programming here and that on WHCN, WPLR or WCCC at the time. As a matter of fact, one FM On Toast write-up mentioned continued and failed attempts by the then hosts to get Don Imus on the phone.
     Oh, what wacky pranksters.
     There also (brace yourself) was no Synthesis then. Instead, there were Recess Rock and Afternoon Roll which ran ninety to a hundred or so minutes longer. Back then, hosts floated freely between all shows, including the then established Gothic Blimp Works, and the less frequently scheduled Off the Blimps or Gothic Annex (later the All Night Show).
     And how about that name, Gothic Blimp Works? The origins of that name go back to the late 1960’s, when it was the name of the comics insert in the "underground" (remember that name?) newspaper "The East Village Other." Rent the movie "Crumb," and you’ll see one or two of R. Crumbs covers for it flash by.
     Throughout the seventies, however, there were some rock DJ’s who still held a torch for the more creative aspects of radio. One such we know of was Mark Persky, whose show entitled God Presents Adam and Eve’s Cavalcade of mutated by 1977 into The Greatest Show From Earth, which still runs today thanks to Dave DeMaw (regular host 1978-85) and The Voice of Delorenzoid (1985-present).
     Some of the other long running WWUH 70’s stalwarts included: Jim Shanahan, Roger Stauss, Ray White, Maceo Woods (soul host from 1972-1980), Bob Smolen, John Klepsak, Steve Foss, Bob Thompson, Nay Nassar (hosting Sounds of the City, an early version of Street Corner Serenade), Ray White, Burrito, "Wild" Wayne Jones (starting The Rock and Roll Memory Machine in 1977)
     In the very early 1980’s, the executive committee of WWUH changed, in what was a highly contested election to determine the future of WWUH. With the hotly contested election of Patty Kurlychek as General Manager came a new dedication to a different WWUH. And to make that difference real, the Synthesis (as it had evolved by 1981 or so), Gothics and All Night slots were dedicated to rock and musically free form programming ( or, perhaps more accurately, musically format free). With the early eighties came names like Andy Taylor (the longest running Synthesis host, still on Tuesday’s from 1 PM to 4 PM), Michael Clare (owner of the late lamented Capitol Record Shop), Psychedelic Susan, (later of Ambience fame) bringing back psychedelia before it was trendy, Mark DeLorenzo (later Delorenzoid of GSFE), Reynolds Onderdonk (like Andy Taylor also a WRTC host), Bill Yousman, Rob Banks, Steve Burke, Janet "Planet" (a long running host on Thursday Synthesis until the early 90’s).
     The musically free form spirit continued through the eighties on WWUH, thanks in part to these remembered names:
     Stuart "Mad Daddy" Werner (one of the more raucous shows and show hosts in our history); Lee "Flea" Courtney (with his show, eventually titled "No Family Values" in our Friday Gothics slot - a balm in the third Regan/Bush conservative term); Rich "DJ Dick" Dittman (later with Tim Costa as "Two Hillbillies," they busted house music on the Hartford radio scene); Dave Zaluda (often, but not always, host of Wednesday or Friday Synthesis over the years, he still plays new sounds All Night Wednesday); Mark Melnick (not only master of beats, but of loud raucous music later known as Grunge. (By who I don’t know...); Jim Valentino and Mike McGarry (co-hosts of "The War Zone" home to much metal, and other loud fast hybrids); and Grant Miller (his "Mouthful of Paint" was a fantastic format-free show).
     Then, in 1988, came the man who would change everything.
     That November, came....
     (Pause for non-existent "oohs" and "ahhs" and a short gag from the editor).
     OK, well, maybe it wasn’t that big a deal, but that’s when I started, originally taking over for the Thursday All Night Show from the Polka Madness guys.
     By 1988, a number of the Gothics and All Nights were given over to shows having nothing to do with rock (nothing much, anyway). For instance. Lloyd Weir has been the reggae host of Saturday’s Gothic Blimp Works for over a decade now. In that format-free spirit, the Synths, Goths and have often been open to reggae, hip-hop, R&B, blues, jazz, folk and world.
     It’s a programming concept that continues through today.
     Continuing a dedication to African American based music forms other than jazz, blues or rock on WWUH over the years, have been hosts like Maurice Robinson (technically a "jazz" host, I know, but he calls it "Accent on Creative Music"), Art Barlow, Art Green, Terrell Dickson, Anthony Price, Pretlow Harris,(Spreadlove), Technique Specialist, as well as Steve Williams and Synthesis host Matt (Sly).
     Meanwhile, with the nineties, the rock hasn’t subsided: Sunday Gothic’s saw the arrival of "Captain" Jon Scott in 1988 with a mix of blues, rock, folk and more; the 801’ s "Twist and Rut" show (as it came to be called) gave us a few years of programming dedicated to great rock; Vicki Aubin busted some new bands on us on Synthesis from 1991 to 1994 or so; Don T. And Way Out Willie blasted our eardrums in those early to mid nineties; Joan Holliday began "The Happy Club’ on Synthesis, and hasn’t stopped smiling since; and the elusive Jim Locker threw together sounds on "Radio For...," with a special passion of rock in the spirit of Patti Smith and Gang of Four.
     Did I mention Mike Ringland’s "Evening Peal?", or Bora? or Chris’s "Frith & Inle?"
     Well suffice it to say, I really couldn’t do much more with this article than drop some old names and perhaps introduce you to newer ones. Does this tell you the history of rock and free-form programming at WWUH? Only a little. The rest of the story is there, on the radio. It’s on "Synthesis" (Monday-Friday, one to four PM), the ‘"Gothic Blimp Works" (nightly, midnight to three AM) and the "All Night Show" (likewise nightly from three to six AM). It’s on "Street Corner Serenade" (Saturday one to three PM) and the "Rock and Roll Memory Machine" (second longest running rock show behind Gothics, Sunday six to eight PM). And it’s still there on "The Greatest Show From Earth" (Sunday nine to midnight).
     Me? I’m Moondog. Friday Gothics. I work the night shift.