WWUH 30th Anniversary
In the summer of 1998 WWUH celebrated
its 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:
Ive 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 Hartfords 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 cant 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
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
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.