On Saturday evening, November 15, 2003, over one hundred people got together to celebrate WWUH's 35th Anniversary. The party was held in the University of Hartford's 1877 Club, directly above the WWUH studios in the Harry Jack Gray Center on the university's West Hartford campus.
The evening festivities kicked off when WWUH founder Clark Schmidt took the podium. Clark, who is now a radio programming consultant, was a student in 1968 when WWUH first went on the air and was the person responsible for spearheading the radio station project at U of H. He was able to pull together a large group of students who would become the people who actually put WWUH on the air. Clark, who was the station's first General Manager, spoke for twenty minutes about what it was like to be involved with the "birth" of a radio station, and mentioned how proud he was with the way the station had turned out.
The night's next speaker was WWUH's current station manager and Chief Engineer, John Ramsey. John spoke about WWUH's history of excellence and the wonderful legacy that Clark and the thousands of volunteers who have kept the station on the air over the years have left. "Who would have thought in 1968, when the station first went on the air, that localism would be all but gone from the radio dial 35 years later, and the public's trust of the electronic media would be at an all time low."
Steve Berian (class of 1979) followed John at the lectern and, along with Clark Schmidt, announced the creation of a WWUH Scholarship Fund that will help ensure the future of the station.
Susan Mullis, the station's current Development Director, presented John Ramsey with a plaque honoring him for twenty five years of service as WWUH's Chief Engineer.
Over sixty present and former staff members were present for the event, including four former WWUH General Managers: Clark Schmidt ('69), Judy Corcoran ('73), Patty Kurlychek ('80) and Dale Maine ('81).
In the summer of 1998 WWUH celebrated it’s 30th Anniversary! While I usually write about the station in this column I was encouraged to get a little more personal in this anniversary issue by my staff, so here goes:
I’ve had the pleasure of being associated with the station since its early days, and I can still remember visiting the station for the first time: It was late `68 or early '69, only months after the station first signed on. I saw an article about the University of Hartford’s new FM station in the local newspaper and having been fascinated with radio for quite some time, asked my father (who was always interested in finding positive things for his fourteen year old son to do) to take me over to the campus for a visit. WWUH was the first radio station I had ever seen, and I was simply amazed by what I saw. At that time, WWUH was shoe horned into the corner of the top floor of the Gengras Student Union, in a space that had been earmarked for the campus valet and barber shop! Everything about the station seemed incredibly interesting to me: The station's large transmitter humming away in the corner of the room, the "huge" record collection of close to 700 albums, the complex studio equipment (including an electronic gadget that turned mono records into stereo for air play). And then there was the music. From what I recall, the station's programming was as alternative then as it is now- an eclectic mix of progressive rock, folk, Jazz, soul, ethnic, and classical music. It was on 91.3 that I first heard Quicksilver Messenger Service, Ray Stevens, and Fairport Convention. In fact, "Turn Your Radio On" by Ray Stevens seemed to be one of the most popular songs played on the station around that time.
I can’t imagine what the college student who gave me the tour thought of this inquisitive (and probably quite obnoxious) teenager asking all sorts of questions about broadcasting, but I know that I was thoroughly impressed by the volunteer nature of the station's staff; and the uniqueness of its programming.
During the next few years my radio dial rarely left the 91.3 position (although I must admit that I would occasionally tune to 89.3 to hear the "Spitz and Peebles Show" on WRTC). The more I listened to WWUH, the more I was hooked on "Public Alternative Radio". One of my friends and neighbors, Barbara Spear, started attending UH and joined the WWUH staff, and she encouraged me to volunteer at the station. I honestly didn't think the station's staff, who were busy trying to run the station while carrying a full course load as full time students, didn't quite know what to do with this quiet fifteen year old. Since I had an interest in electronics, I was assigned to cleaning up the station's engineering shop, which was a small room in the basement piled to the ceiling with all sorts of wonderful (to me) parts and equipment.
By this time the station had expanded in Gengras: in addition to the two studios the had an office on the third floor, which contained all of the normal office furnishings, plus one very unusual item: a gigantic safe, painted bright orange! To this day I don't know where the safe came from, or what it was for. I do know that the station was struggling to stay on the air during those early years, with many of the problems facing them that face any new organization, with financial woes probably heading the list.
One December afternoon in 1970, someone in the programming department found out that I had my FCC Third Class License, and asked me to do a four hour program on Christmas Day. I was extremely flattered at the time, and accepted immediately. I now realize the truth behind the offer. I would probably be the only "warm body" with a license stupid enough to volunteer to do a show on Christmas Day. Just to be sure, they preprogrammed the show with me by picking out the albums for me to play in advance.
Yes, I have that first show on tape somewhere. No, you won't be hearing it on the air during our anniversary celebration programming this summer. No way.
They must have liked how I sounded during that show, or they must have been pretty desperate for announcers. In any case, I wound up doing fill-ins for the next year or so about once a week. I worked with some great programmers, and learned a lot about how the station operated.
I drifted away from the station for a few years while I was on the road doing sound for various bands, but returned to the station in the Summer of '73 just after the station moved its transmitter from the campus to the top of Avon Mountain. This move caused the station to be off the air for a few weeks, and when 91.3 again came alive with a much stronger signal, I called in to congratulate them. Roger Stauss, who was Program Director at the time, took my call and invited me to come by for a tour. I arrived around four in the afternoon and after talking with Roger for about ten minutes, he asked me to fill in on the air for him as he had to go to work! Needless to say, I said yes, and it wasn't long before I was able to land two weekly shifts. The Sunday night and the Tuesday night Gothic Blimp Works.
The Gothics at that time ran from midnight to at least two am, when the announcer could either sign off the station or stay on the air for as long as they wanted. Most of us would stay on until at least 3 am or so, and a few brave souls would stay on until the morning show started at 6 am. One cold Tuesday night I was about to sign the station off at 3 am when a wonderful young woman by the name of Clem walked into the studio and announced that she was here to do the All Night Show. It was dedicated to individuals such as Clem Infante who allowed WWUH to adopt a 24 hour a day schedule, something that was unheard of in college radio at the time. It is that same level of dedication that still keeps the station on 24/7.
I left the station for the second time in late 1974 when my sound career was forcing me to miss too many of my scheduled shifts. I wouldn't return until 1977, but I kept in contact with the station both by listening and by talking with Mark Smith, a close friend who had joined the station at my suggestion and quickly snagged a coveted Morning Jazz slot in addition to becoming the station's Business Manager. Mark kept me abreast of what was happening behind the scenes, and convinced me to rejoin the staff in the summer of 1977, which was a time of extreme turmoil at WWUH. Simply put, a number of staff members felt that the station had started to drift away from its alternative roots, and that the station was beginning to sound too commercial, but that's the topic of another letter.
In 1978, I was voted in as the station's Chief Engineer, filling the void left by Jim McGivern's departure for a full time gig with WTIC radio's engineering department. I also did some afternoon rock programming, hosting an "Afternoon Roll" program through the name change to "Midday Fuse" and finally ended up doing the Tuesday "Synthesis" for a number of years.
In 1986 I was hired as the station's first paid General Manager, a position I have held ever since. I'm not kidding when I say that it is the best job in the world.
by Mike Marti, Saturday All Night Host
WWUH was formulated in 1966 by a small group of University of Hartford students under the leadership of student Clark Smidt. This group convinced their fellow students and the school administration that the University should have its own radio station. Once given the go ahead, they soon learned that starting a new radio station was a formidable task which required detailed engineering studies, a license from the FCC, the raising of funds and building of studios.
With the help of the school faculty, the "Clark Schmidt" group requested and received a substantial grant from the family of the late Louis K. Roth and the donation of a transmitter from WTIC radio. After two years of hard work, WWUH became a reality and signed on the air at 4:05 PM on the afternoon of July 15, 1968.
WWUH was the first stereo educational station in New England, and one of the strongest in the region. In those early years, WWUH’s studios, transmitter and antenna were located in and on top of the Gengras Student Union, where the studios remained for the next 21 years.
WWUH was the first station in Connecticut to broadcast daily a "progressive rock" program, from 12 midnight til 3 AM called "The Gothic Blimp Works" which you can still hear to this day. In the first 18 months of broadcasting, the station’s dedicated volunteer staff expanded the broadcast schedule from 6 hours a day in 1968 to 24 hours a day in 1970. Listeners to the station during those early years were able to hear an eclectic mix of progressive rock, jazz, folk and classical music, as well as news and public affairs programs.
Over the years, the station programming and technical facilities grew. By moving the transmitter from the campus location to high atop Avon mountain, the station was able to greatly extend its broadcasting reach. In 1989 the studios and offices were moved from the third floor of the Gengras Student Union to the east wing of the Harry Jack Gray Center. The new facilities included space for additional studios and a recording control room which has facilitated many live broadcasts, concerts and our CD recordings.
Currently, WWUH has a reputation for being one of the top jazz, folk and alternative rock stations in the country. The station has developed an outstanding lineup of weekly musical programming, including approximately 26 hours of classical, 19 hours of folk and bluegrass, 30 hours of jazz, 9 hours of oldies, 65 hours of alternative broadcasts including: progressive rock, urban, Indian, West Indian, reggae, Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian, blues, polka, world and ambient music. In addition WWUH continues to offer an interesting mix of public affairs and news programs, recently adding a dish to receive Pacifica programming via satellite for rebroadcast.
Today, WWUH studios are filled with state-of-the art broadcast equipment - better than that of many commercial stations in Connecticut. Record and compact disc libraries hold over 77,000 titles, one of the largest in the country. WWUH announcers, numbering over 70, are all highly motivated and well trained volunteers committed to broadcasting the best music programming and spoken word in alternative radio. The WWUH listening audience is furiously loyal as we witness each year at fundraising time when the station always manages to exceed its financial goals.
From the beginning of WWUH’s broadcasting start in 1968 to the present, the station’s mission has been to serve the public and the University of Hartford through the continuous broadcast of quality, non-commercial, alternative music and public affairs programming while adhering to the rules and regulations of the Federal Communications Commission.
As we look back on these years of broadcasting and celebrate this 30 year milestone, we are confident of our ability to provide many more years of quality broadcasting for the enjoyment of our listening audience as well as our staff and station management.
By Kevin "Moondog" O'Toole
"Sure," I said, "I’ll write a history of rock at the station in the thirtieth anniversary issue."
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.
Station joins forces with the Litchfield Jazz Frestival & Bushnell Park series
by Chuck Obuchowski
WWUH will once again be broadcasting the Monday Night Bushnell Park series during the months of July and August. And thanks to series founder Paul Brown, one evening - July 27 - will be designated "WWUH Night." We hope to have a special presence in the park that night, as we celebrate our long-standing collaboration with this marvelous free series, now in its 31st year of operation. Please come out to join in the fun, and meet all your friendly ‘UH broadcasters! Stay tuned for a complete listing of all the Monday concerts as soon as it becomes available, or call the Jazzline at 860-768-5267.
The third annual Litchfield Jazz Festival (which, by the way, is being dedicated to the memory of Thomas Chapin, who was a lifelong friend of WWUH) takes place August 7-9 at the Goshen Fairgrounds on Rt. 63 in Goshen, CT. Jazz fans who pick up our signal in Torrington via WAPJ (89.9 FM) will have a special opportunity that weekend to mingle with ‘UH announcers. The Litchfield Fest features three days of great jazz and blues; among the featured performers are Tito Puente, T.S. Monk, John Scofield, Stanley Turrentine, Roomful of Blues and West Hartford native Brad Mehldau. For more details, call 860-567-4162 or check our their website: www.litchfield.com. Stay tuned to WWUH for artist interviews, updated info and giveaways.
by Doug Maine, Friday Accent on Jazz Host
For at least four people who’ve done shows on WWUH, the station has had a more personal impact than for most, even if they’re not as involved as they once were. That’s because they’re happily married to people who were fellow volunteers at WWUH.
Jim Bolan had been doing shows at WWUH for a number of years before Donna Giddings joined the staff. In fact, his brother Thom had preceded him on the station, and the Bolans had grown up in the same West Hartford neighborhood as John Ramsey, WWUH’s longtime station manager and chief engineer.
Giddings was working odd hours and, "I remember I wanted to do something with people other than whom I worked. She recalled, "Everyone was friendly...It certainly enhanced my social life."
Being at WWUH had other, longer-term benefits, as well. "I became acting business manager, and it was through that that I got my job at Arteffects. Joanne Bilota (a former station volunteer) was doing job recruiting and called the station and asked if anybody would be interested in doing light accounting," said Giddings. "Because of the radio station, I got a job, I got a husband, and I got a wealth of knowledge about jazz."
"I didn’t even want to do a show, but Bill Yousman and Rob Rosenthal encouraged me to do a demo tape," she said. She ended up hosting Thursday Morning Jazz from 1983-1994. Bolan hosted various programs during his years at the station and had the unenvious assignment of replacing the legendary and popular Mort Fega on Tuesday evening Accent of Jazz after Fega left the station. "It was a difficult transition, to put it diplomatically," he said. "I probably got angry phone calls for a good five to six weeks afterward. Usually I got them when I played things like Chico Freeman or David Murray, not even (something so radical as) Cecil Taylor."
Bolan’s most vivid memory is a chilly one. "Once when I did Tuesday nights, they had to fumigate the Gengras Student Union," where the station was located until fall 1989. As a result UH had to broadcast taped programs from an unheated closet off the building’s patio. " I couldn’t get up to the station to record a show during the week, so Doug Maine taped the show, and I came up and played the tapes. It was probably the coldest night of the winter. To make matters worse, he referred to me on the tape as ’Thom’ Bolan."(opps.)
Now living downstate, Giddings and Bolan continue to do occasional jazz fill-ins.
Another marriage fostered by WWUH was of "Mark Time" and "Carole Clock." At least that’s what Mark Rinas and the then Carole Brosseau called themselves on air, borrowing the names from a Firesign Theatre record.
Mark Rinas had already been doing shows at WWUH for a year or so when he met Carole, a U of H student, at a WWUH Pub Night on campus in the fall of 1980.
"I was kind of interested in the station once I started learning about it," Carole Rinas said, "I met a lot of fun, interesting people. I ended up hanging around the station sometimes."
One night, when former UH-staffer Jeff Becker was doing the Gothic Blimp Works, "he got stuck (for ideas of what to play) and I said, ‘pull Chick Corea’." Carole Rinas remembered.
Eventually, the one tune built into an entire set of music and she had learned how to cue records. When the last song was ending, Becker and Mark Rinas dared her to go on-air and announce the music. "The music went so great," said Mark Rinas. "Then we just opened up the mic and made her talk."
She and Mark did shows individually and together. In fact, they were both among the first Synthesis show hosts after Midday Fuse and Afternoon Roll were consolidated, creating time for public affairs at noon. A highlight was getting backstage to interview Frank Zappa before a concert in Hartford.
The Rinases were pulled away from the station by "worldly obligations," but still listen and think about getting involved again. For them and Bolan and Giddings, it was the mix of people at WWUH that made their involvement enjoyable.
"Once I got so involved with the radio station, I was amazed that such a wide variety of personality types were brought together," said Giddings.
Bolan added, "You have people come to the station for diverse reasons, certainly, you would meet a wider range of people than you would, at least I did, in other social situations."
And in a couple of happy cases, that diverse group of people included partners for life.
by Maurice Robinson
Since October 1976, I have maintained a creative improvisational jazz format at WWUH. This station in its 30 years has allowed persons such as myself to find a home, and to help, in our own ways, to educate the listener to different ways of hearing whatever genre of music we program.
Within the jazz format, I’ve watched WWUH broadcast live jazz from Bushnell Park and other Hartford sites. If has also aired wonderful syndicated programs such as the Miles Davis series and NEFA’s Jazz Portraits, plus the myriad interviews conducted formally and informally almost weekly.
Some of my fondest and more intriguing memories include the innovative jazz series done in our old Gengras Campus Center studios during the late 1970’s, which included the very expressive pianist Don Pullen in a solo context - also spoken-word artist Jayne Cortez with her very electric blues band, the Fire Spitters.
In our archives from the Monday Night Bushnell Park Jazz Series and the old Peace Train concerts, there are tapes of deceased masters like Bill Evans, Dexter Gordan and Stephane Grappelli.
I would probably need a past life regression to remember it all, but - to sum it up - we’re here to stay, and me, maybe another 22.
Note: Maurice Robertson is one of the region’s finest jazz photographers. His work can be viewed regularly in New England Jazz News.
Former WWUH Announcers Recall "The good ol' Days"
by Chuck Obuchowski
WWUH radio changed my life. Go ahead, call me a crazy brainwashed fool, but truth is, this radio station - or more precisely - the individuals who have broadcast at 91.3 MHz over the past 30 years - have had a profound influence on my appreciation of all sorts of music, most notably the idiom commonly referred to as "jazz."
I have been a fan of radio since I was 10; by the time I reached high school age, the redundant playlists of top-40 commercial stations were beginning to bore me. So I began tuning in to the left end of the dial (remember, this was the pre-digital era... we still had dials then), checking out provocative new sonic realms whenever possible. Tuning to 91.3 FM became a nightly ritual. I completed many a homework assignment while being serenaded by Accent on Jazz. What a treat all these years later to share reminiscences with some of my favorite announcers from bygone days!
Special thanks also to longtime Accent host Maurice Robinson and Program Director emeritus Sue Terry for their written recollections. WWUH has been blessed since 1968 with many dedicated, knowledgeable jazz volunteers; Maurice, Peter Michaelson, Doug Maine, Terry Weichand and Stuart Feldman have each been with the station over 20 years. Every ‘UH announcer is allowed complete freedom to choose the music they play over the airwaves; therefore our listeners are presented with 10 unique takes on the jazz spectrum each and every week. We are very proud of our long-standing commitment to provide the area with quality jazz programming, artist interviews, live broadcasts and our Jazzline service (860-768-5267). Jazz in the Wilde and Sounds of Hartford are two live recordings made in recent years which attest to the wonderful creative variety of musicianship in our region, and to the key role which WWUH has played in bringing the music to the attention of listeners everywhere.
Any survey of WWUH jazz history would be incomplete without mention of Mort Fega. Mort was already a veteran DJ when he joined our staff in 1976, having been a major voice on New York City radio stations for well over a decade. His bopster slang and staunch commitment to straightahead swing during fusion’s heyday made him a distinctive figure on the Greater Hartford jazz scene.
"I’m a confirmed bebopper," he laughs. Mort is not shy when recalling his impact on the station’s jazz block. "I brought a rich life experience with me," he proudly proclaims. Indeed, at time when most ‘UH broadcasters were students, Mort was literally a pro; besides his Big Apple experiences, he also worked at commercial radio stations in West Hartford (WMLB) and Manchester (WINF). Among his fans was Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, then President of the University of Hartford, who had grooved to Mort’s shows while a student at Columbia University.
Mort’s in-your-face style was not for everyone. He admits to "kind of a contrived arrogance" regarding his refusal to take listener requests: "If people liked what I played, solid." He relied primarily on his own voluminous record collection for material to play on the air. Despite his detractors, Mort actually did two shows a week for some time, one on Saturday afternoons and one Tuesday evenings. Fega and his wife have long since retired to Florida, but he still fondly remembers his ‘UH years. "The station did a great deal for me," he recalls.
Mort’s New York connections undoubtedly helped him persuade a number of noted improvisers to play Hartford’s 880 Club. The DJ produced concerts at the 880 by Chico Hamilton, Tal Farlow and Lee Konitz, among others. He also emceed shows at Paul Brown’s popular Monday Night Bushnell Park Jazz Series, many of which were - and continue - to be broadcast live during July and August.
Mike Crispino was also involved with many of the Monday Night shows during these years. His tenure at WWUH was from 1977-81. Mike is still involved in broadcasting, although, as many are aware, he moved to television long ago; first with Connecticut’s Channel 30, and for the past six years as a commentator and play-by-play announcer for the MSG Sports Network.
Mike had gotten his first taste of radio during his college days on Long Island; he chose to come to ‘UH when he returned to his Connecticut roots, determined to ultimately pursue a career in communications. He cites his broadcasting experiences in West Hartford as an important stepping stone, but just as importantly as a time for ample musical education and enjoyment.
"The thing that sticks out in my mind is being able to talk with these jazz giants - the best in the business." Among Mike’s happiest ‘UH memories are his saxophone jams with fellow announcer Peter Michaelson and the interviews he conducted with Bill Evans and Toots Thielemans.
Crispino’s frequent partner-in-crime at the outset was onetime WWUH Program Director Roger Stauss. The two collaborated on an interview series known as Conversations; subjects for the half-hour program included Elvin Jones and Eddie Jefferson. "At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of what we were doing," he admits. The pair also did a "morning comedy rock show" as part of the station’s FM on Toast block; Roger points out only half-jokingly that this program was a precursor to the team-DJ approach which currently dominates morning FM programming on the commercial airwaves ... another example of WWUH in the broadcasting vanguard!
Roger joined the ‘UH staff in 1971 while a University of Hartford student. He started out as a pre-med major, but once he’d had a taste of radio he switched to communications. "WWUH was my first and most important professional experience," Roger attests from his home in Vermont, where he now runs Noteworthy Recording Studios and Shiretown Records. He recalls how, during his tenure as PD, "one of the big pushes was to get the station on the air consistently." Perhaps our listeners take our 24/7 schedule for granted nowadays, but it was thanks to the efforts of folks like Roger Stauss that the station has achieved such a fine reputation within the region.
Another 91.3 1970’s jazz alum, Mark Smith, sums up his experiences at ‘UH in a way which will resonate with many other former and current volunteers.
"I’ll always treasure the creativity and experimentation we were allowed ... and all the camaraderie and relationships I built ... above it all, it was lots of fun!" says the former Development Director. Mark was a U of H student when he joined the station. "It was the first time in my life I got a taste of what it was like to run something, to have that challenge and that control," he continues, adding that his stint at WWUH allowed him to hone the management skills he now uses daily in his computer software career.
Mark claims "I didn’t know anything about jazz when I started ... I was exposed to a whole new world." In retrospect, he views his naiveté as a plus, since it bolstered his urge to experiment with different combinations of songs and artists; one of his trademarks was playing two pieces of music simultaneously ... ah, those were the days....
Mark’s favorite WWUH anecdote may give our listeners some idea of the lengths our volunteer staff has been known to go, in its quest to give the area the finest jazz on the airwaves. The year was 1978, WWUH had begun broadcasting live jazz events from the 880 Club and Bushnell Park. On a nasty February night, the Pat Metheny Group was scheduled to perform at Hartford’s now-defunct Mad Murphy’s Pub. Mark and John Ramsey loaded up a station wagon with broadcast equipment and set off for the club. Unfortunately for the two intrepid travelers, Storm Larry had arrived to wreak its havoc upon an unsuspecting state. Three hours later, they arrived at their destination, which under normal weather conditions should have taken about 20 minutes! Needless to say, the band never made it to the gig, nor did any patrons. Mark and John ended up spending the night sleeping at Murphy’s and lugging the equipment back to the station the next day. "We were the only car on the road," Mark remembers; the governor had closed down Connecticut’s roads in the storm’s aftermath!
More recently, WWUH has collaborated with the Beanery Bistro in Windsor to produce outdoor jazz concerts, and with the Connecticut Jazz Confederation to present the New England Jazz Ensemble on our West Hartford campus. The station has also begun to annually broadcast an evening of the acclaimed Hall High School Pops & Jazz series. We look forward to bringing the Jim Cifelli New York Nonet to Wilde Auditorium October 9 - and to working with the University of Hartford’s Hartt School to produce a major concert and recording next year. The ‘UH jazz department also has a new association with the Gavin Report, which will assure improved CD service - in other words, even more variety on the airwaves at 91.3 FM. Our commitment to bringing listeners the finest jazz available remains as strong as ever. Thanks to all of you who tune in every week; to those who provide us with feedback and moral support; and to everyone who shares our passion for this splendid music.
by Sue Terry former Program Director and Jazz Host
I was introduced to WWUH while in my second year at Hartt. Chris Watson was on a recruiting drive for the station, and he figured what better place to look for radio announcers than a music school. I started hanging out at the station and soon caught the radio bug, from which I have not yet recovered, thank God. My first job at ‘UH was taping frayed album covers. This was back in 1978 B.C.D (before CD’s). I gazed with admiration at the "senior" announcers like the legendary Burrito, who sadly, is with us no more.
I studied the FCC manual and passed the test for my license (which you needed in those days, before radio deregulation), and soon began my first weekly All Night Show on Tuesday from 3-6 AM, eventually graduating to Morning Jazz, and even acting as Program Director for a short time.
My tenure at ‘UH lasted till I left Hartford for New York in 1982. It’s great to see that several of my former colleagues are still working at the station. Sometimes I dream at night that I’m back in the air studio doing my show. Chuck Obuchowski says that maybe we can make my dream come true during this 30th anniversary celebration. Hey, I’m ready!
Note: Sue Terry is a highly-regarded saxophonist and flutist who has worked extensively with the likes of Clifford Jordan and Charli Persip. She and her husband, keyboardist John di Martino were among the participants on ‘UH’s Jazz in the Wilde recording.
By "Country Crash" Jim Douglas, UH Radio Bluegrass Host 1978-1987
My first experience with 91.3 FM was May 1969. A classmate, Jack Chamberlain told me that he was going to do a radio show over U.Ha's radio station after school. "A ninth grader on the radio? C'mon!" But I listened to Chamberlain in the afternoon and was hooked. I got to hear "Nick Danger" by the Firesign Theater in its entirety. As time progressed, UH-FM became my station of choice, (although, like John Ramsey, I too listened to Isadore Spitz and Dexter Peebles over WRTC Sunday nights and actually won a free ticket.") As time progressed, I got to meet staffers at marathon functions and concerts; folks like Clem Infante, Ray White, Roger Stauss, Micki McClusky, Marcia Simon (for whom I did an audition tape in 1974) and many others. In the fall of 1977, I was working in a West Hartford restaurant, when the manager introduced me to a new hire, Paul McGuinness. I recognized his voice and asked him "Were you on FM on Toast this morning?" Paul exclaimed "Wow, a fan; this is super!" Over time Paul introduced me to Steve Nichols and Walt Miskin. He convinced me to audition for Walter who cleared me to begin on "Evening Dinner Classics" after getting my third class ticket. On my first night on the air I received a lot of encouragement from Paul, Jim Fifield (the "Burrito" now deceased) and Steve Nichols. Within a few weeks I was doing Wednesday All Nights and Tuesday Evening Dinner Classics, when Burrito was going to give up Saturday Bluegrass. I had been a fan of the Bluegrass program since "Cowboy" Bob Gross. With Walter's blessing I took over the show and began the process that has culminated into the program enjoyed today. During my tenure, the program was eventually expanded to four hours. "Live Radio Boogie" was begun to broadcast live bands before a studio audience, to replicate the era of live radio from which the music was born. I even managed several interviews with the father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe which were shared over the air. These days two friends, Kevin Lynch and Steve Brechter, have taken the challenge to "Keep it pure," as Monroe once told me to do.
I wish to extend my congratulations to WWUH on their 30th Anniversary. May good fortune continue to smile upon their mission to be a beacon of excellence in a sea of mediocrity. God bless you always.