Monday, July 18, 2005

The history and evolution of Seldom Heard Radio part two

In the summer of 1977, I spent two months at the University of New Hampshire taking summer courses. Immediately, I gravitated toward the radio station, WUNH, which I discovered was being run by a scruffy looking guy with a two day old beard who didn’t speak much but would run in every few minutes to throw on another record. When I offered to help him out, he was thrilled --- I could play any music I wanted but had to play requests if anyone called. No problem.

I felt like I had just been handed the keys to the kingdom and embarked on doing something I always wanted to do if given the chance to be a DJ --- play entire LPs at a time. So listeners to 91.3 that summer were treated to my already eclectic taste in music --- From the Mars Hotel by the Grateful Dead … Mike Oldfield’s Tubular BellsEat a Peach by the Allman Brothers … Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks … the phone rang several times a day but not for requests … people were calling thanking me for playing certain LPs or just for playing music they couldn’t hear on other stations. I was delighted.

By 1978 I was becoming a serious teenager and thinking of college, work, and more work. I didn’t have much to do with radio except for listening to WSLE, a freeform community station in Peterboro NH, where in the course of an hour one could hear local musicians, acoustic music, celtic, reggae, rock, and even jazz. It was sweet bliss until WSLE was sold in 1981 and the format changed to … disco! There was so much outrage from listeners in New Hampshire and Vermont that a non-profit was formed, Concerned Citizens for Responsible Radio, to protest the sale and see what could be done to restore WSLE to its rightful “format”. Legend has it that Tim Tobin, one of the WSLE DJs, on his last shift played “Stairway to Heaven” and drove away from the studio, letting the turntable drift out to the LP’s end grooves, and all that could be heard on the frequency (92.1) until the new station owner arrived was the steady static of ‘click click click’ at the end of the record.

The Seldom Heard Radio story picks up again in 1999 … but that’s another post.

1 comment:

Larry K. said...

Just ran into this three year old blog entry concerning WSLE in Peterboro, NH. I was the night shift DJ with that station, from 1977 to early 1979. Joel Gray (Music Director) was morning drive, Tim Tobin (Program Director) was mid-day, and Ken McKay was afternoon drive time. Debra Budreaux (sp?) was the Station and Sales Manager and Fritz Weatherbee the News Director and personality in his own right. WSLE was the first of the true east coast Indie Stations. Yes, WNEW in NYC was the major metro rules ground-breaker, and later the Boston Phoenix station was incredible. However, the Boston station's format was clearly a knock off of what Tim Tobin put together at WSLE. I can remember doing the night show, many times, when a national artist would "stop by" his/her favorite east coast station, WSLE. Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Noel Paul Stookey, Dr. John, Jorma Kaukonen, George Thorogood, Bob Weir,,,,those jump to memory immediately, but there were MANY more incredible visits and experiences in that little studio in Southern N.H. It's nice to see that someone still remembers those halcyon early days of free-form radio, which didn't last long, but arguably formed some of the bedrock for today's web based stations, such as Folk Alley and Radio Paradise.
Travel Well friends,
Larry Knutson
WSLE 1977-1979