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WPRB History - The 1970s
The following anecdotes, newspaper clippings and other WPRB memorabilia from 1970-1979 are taken
from the book WPRB's 50th Anniversary: A History of Princeton University Radio 1940-1990,
edited by Adam M. Rosen '91.
I frequently did interview shows, either live or taped, with prominent concert artists and
musicologists. Among those who appeared on my programme were the composer Roger Sessions,
the organist Carl Weinrich, the discographer and critic David Hall, and perhaps most importantly
the pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, then as now (at the age of 98!) the last active pupil of the
great 19th century pedagogue Leschetizky. Bill Scheide visited twice a year for a Bach cantata
evening. During the spring of my senior year, Bill made available private recordings of the
Bach Aria Group, which he had founded and directed. Thanks to his generosity, 'PRB had the
world broadcast premiers of several Bach cantatas that were not available on commercial
recordings in those days and the honor of airing private recordings of Bach cantatas and arias
made by such distinguished singers as Erna Berger, Marian Anderson, Cesare Siepe and Jennie
Tourel. In addition, there were interviews with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the pianist
Robert Casadesus that, because of scheduling changes compelled by the campus unrest after
the Kent State tragedy in May, 1970, were never aired.
Some of these tapes, all of which are now on deposit at the Rodgers and Hammerstein Sound
Archives at the Lincoln Center, have proven invaluable, as it happens, to musicologists.
For example, in the interview with Casadesus, it came out that, at the composer's request,
he, and not Maurice Ravel, recorded the lion's share of the piano rolls that bear Ravel's
signature and that have appeared on long playing records as examples of his art. That
information is available nowhere else. And, Horszowski's reminisces and evaluations of
Busoni, Paderewski, Enesco and their recordings are also of great historical importance.
Still, the bomb scare in May of 1970 may well be the event that is most memorable in the minds
of those who might actually think back on my days as a classical music DJ at WPRB. That, at
least, made the Daily Princetonian. John Bongiovanni '70 was also in the control room when the
call came in. I remember it vividly. It came during an installment of 'The Recordings of
Pablo Casals.' 'There is a bomb in the Coke machine at WPRB, and it will go off in 20 minutes,'
the obviously disguised male voice said. Certain that the call was a prank, since my outspoken
views about the cancellation of finals and comprehensive exams were by no means popular, I
courteously thanked the caller and hung up. Bongo asked me what the call was about. I told
him. Quite rightly, he notified the proctors, who, understandably evacuated Holder Hall.
I, however, declined to leave, and Bongo chose to stay in the studios with me. First of all,
if it had not been a prank, there was a three-foot wall between us and the bomb, and we would
have had to walk past the Coke machine when leaving the station. Furthermore, if the fecal
matter had collided with the ventilation system that night, we could have escaped through
the basement window behind the control room. Bongo and I sat it out. I will always remember
that, during the bomb scare, I played the Karl Engel, Sandor Vegh and Pablo Casals recording
of Beethoven's 'Piano Trio in D, Op. 70, No. 1.' The work is commonly known by the nickname,
'The Ghost Trio.'
- Teri Noel Towe '70
I joined WPRB in my freshman year of 1969-1970 and trained on WPRB-AM before serving as a
newsman at the May Day protest demonstration in Washington (1970) and the election night
headquarters of Nixon and McGovern (1972). In Princeton, I took on the folk and blues shows
on WPRB-FM, served as Traffic Director and assistant Business Manager and finally served
on the Ivy League Board of Directors.
I have many memories of WPRB, including lighting fluorescent lamps by the radiated antenna
power on Holder Tower, talking with stoned listeners who called into the studios, organizing
the Beach Boys, Fish, Jean Shepherd, Weather Report and Poco concerts and the first WPRB T-shirts
(blue shirts with a yellow smudge at the bottom which was supposed to represent a voice print).
The story that I've retold the most times, however, must be the 'WPRB arrests in Washington.'
In 1970, as a member of WPRB, I did not yet have the official color photograph State of New Jersey
Press Pass approved by the South Jersey Police Chiefs Association which I obtained in 1972 as a
more senior member of the station. For this reason, when I went as one of three newsmen to cover
the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice May Day demonstrations, I had only the standard
orange WPRB ID card. We arrived by bus in Washington, D.C., and had been walking down the
street no more than five minutes when a police patrol stopped us and placed us under arrest
for blockading the Arlington Street bridge. We objected, pointing out that the bus tickets
which we still held in our hands proved that we had not been in town long enough to be
involved in any such illegal activities and that, furthermore, we were members of the press.
The officer only responded that he was sure that if we hadn't blockaded the bridge, we probably
wish we had, and were under arrest anyhow. Our explanations seemed to fall on deaf ears and
my colleagues' official press passes with their fine print were equally useless. I, however,
showed my bright orange and black unofficial WPRB ID card. The large block letters WPRB RADIO
served their purpose well and I was released while the others went off to jail! For the next
couple of days, I called in reports by phone to the station, postponed my history term paper,
dodged tear gas attacks, watched military helicopters land at the Washington Monument and
asked the station to locate the others and arrange legal representation. Eventually, the
demonstrations ended, the others were released on bail and we all returned to Princeton.
A few weeks later, we all returned to Washington, D.C. for the trial and hearing. We went down
early and met at the Lafayette Square offices of a law firm with a Princeton connection to
review the facts of the case and prepare a defense. Naturally, the attorney was astounded
to hear the story, although the news reports that Richard Nixon had demanded that Attorney
General Mitchell prosecute all of the demonstrators did explain how it was that some 17,000
arrests had been made and that students were now returning from all over the country to defend
their names for $50.00 or so bail money. We went to the hearing and some 300 other demonstrators
were there. The young judge called up the first defendant and then called out for the arresting
officer, 'John Lyons.' The prosecutor responded that the officer was not present. When the
judge demanded to know why, since the defendant had come all the way from Minnesota to defend
his name, the prosecutor explained that there had been so many arrests that day that they had
lost track of the arrests and a fictitious name had been used for the arresting officer. The
judge, naturally, was furious and dismissed the case. This process continued for each of the
defendants and, late that day, we returned home. - Douglas B. Quine '73
What would Freud say about the meaning of this 17,000 watt protrusion? And how did such a
thing come to be a roommate of the Holder gargoyles? I am told some subterfuge was involved.
It is said that when the students showed the University what the proposed antenna would look
like atop Holder Hall, they neglected to mention that the two drawings used a different scale.
Final erection was scheduled for a holiday weekend and the real appearance was unknown to the
Trustees until the last guy wire had been tightened.
Holder tower and antenna were the first things I saw when I got to Princeton. My whole family
drove me to school. I remember seeing the looming tower through the Buick windows. 'What's that?'
my mother asked. 'The Chapel? The library?'
Looking at my map, I uttered in disbelief, 'That's my dorm!'
Living in Holder sealed my fate. I told my parents I was majoring in engineering. Truth be
told, I majored in Radio Station (except for my senior year, when I majored in Student Pub; but
that's another story). To this day, the smell of mildew brings back memories.
No doubt, my mouth was open as I carried my boxes into the Holder courtyard and heard the speakers
blasting, playing live 'PRB, all freshman week, for the students on their way to Commons.
I saw a remote board, a DJ and an engineer. I don't remember how much I understood at the time,
but I do remember thinking, 'I want to do THAT!" And I did. Like hundreds before me, and hundreds
after me, I labored in the racks, behind the mics, over the UPI machine (in those days, a noisy
monster which smelled of machine oil), swapped records, hammered and sawed and soldered and
And I remember Reunions when the old 'PRBers, beery, doddering old farts, would wander in and look
around. They'd sit on the dilapidated, mismatched (but free) lobby furniture and eagerly tell
old-timer stories to the new generation of long-haired students. Yes, these old gents of 35 or 40,
they had some tales to tell. We would listen a while, perking up when we heard a name that was
hanging on a plaque on the wall or scratched into the side of some home brew gear we never
could get to work. Then, too bored to be polite anymore, we'd sneak away, to do our WPRB jobs,
leaving the alumni, sitting in the lobby, telling lies. Which, at that point, was their WPRB job.
The antenna has been replaced. The students are different (yet, I wager, the same). Certainly
the music has changed. Most of the equipment I knew is gone (though I understand the Gates board
still lives). But the technical, business and social skills I learned at WPRB have stayed with me,
along with the memories. - Moe Rubenzahl '74
My experience at Princeton was defined by my participation at WPRB. Quite simply, my radio show
meant everything to me. My social life and 'spare' time revolved around my show. It was an
exciting experience to be part of the growing movement offering 'soul' music on FM during the
early seventies. I remember being one of the very first to prominently play soul albums by
persons and groups who would become major acts in the '70s, such as Roberta Flack, Valerie
Simpson, Ashford and Simpson, Barry White and Earth, Wind and Fire. My three-year show at
WPRB kept growing until it occupied the airwaves from 1:00-7:00 p.m., on Saturdays. I believe
it was the longest show at the time. I would have gladly hosted a show every day of the week
I loved my audience. As I grew up in Trenton, I felt much kinship with the audience. Many of
them were not only my classmates at Princeton, but my friends, acquaintances, siblings, cousins,
neighbors and high school classmates. To walk into a grocery store or shoe store and have someone
say, 'I recognize your voice. Aren't you...?' would immediately put me on top of the world. I
also enjoyed responding to the myriad requests from my audience. I still miss them.
One thing I learned very quickly in 1971 was the power of a media personality. Simply because
I was an announcer, people respected me. Especially young people. It made me very aware that
I had a responsible position and that I could be influential. I always remembered this and used
my opportunity on the air to speak about peace and understanding. I always tried to stress
the importance of an education and spoke out against drugs. Of course, I did all of this in
the context of the music I played and my intros and extros.
WPRB, I miss you. Even today, twenty-two years later, I still occasionally dream that I am on
the radio. WPRB will always mean Princeton and my youth to me. My experience with WPRB was a
major highlight of my life. - "JB" a.k.a. James E. Butler, Esq. '74
After years of silence during the July and August vacation months, WPRB became a full-year
operation in 1973. The trustees approved the summer broadcasting proposal when an advance
sales quota was achieved. In addition to a full-time, six-man station staff, the 1973 summer
schedule included play-by-play of the New York Mets. The 1973 summer staff consisted of: David
Kurman '75, Don Oakley '75, John McClave '75, Marshall Millsap '74, Brew Mitchell '74 and Moe
A moment we wish we had on tape was Fred Lloyd '75 reading a Saturday night newscast by
the light of the VU meters after every other light in the station had been extinguished by
Mike Rosenberg '76. - David Kurman '75
Although I spent most of my freshman year in the news department of WPRB, I was a witness to
a major programming upheaval in which the long-standing classical format gave way to progressive
rock, following a protracted debate among the staff and trustees. The format gained success
under the wing of Program Director, Chuck Mitchell, one of the station's most successful alumni
in the entertainment business, and Station Manager, Scott Gurvey, now a television reporter on
the 'Nightly Business Report' on PBS. Marshall Millsap succeeded Scott Gurvey in 1973 and along
with his Program Director, Brew Mitchell, for the first time helped WPRB score in the Arbitron
ratings as the new format established itself as the most progressive sound in central New
Jersey. The station was able to enjoy the fruits of this attention by the fortuitous arrival
at that time of Dave Kurman, now with CBS radio, probably one of WPRB's first bone fide
supersalesmen. Through Dave's unrelenting effort over a period of years, the station was
not only able to purchase a new antenna and a new main board, but also for the first time
pay a staff and maintain operations over a summer.
I succeeded Marshall Millsap in the spring of 1974 as Station Manager, due mostly to my
willingness to do lots of gritty jobs like cleaning up, running concerts and writing reports
to trustees and because I was not already burned out from the summer of 1973. Don Oakley was
the Business Manager; John McClave, Program Director; Dave Kurman, Sales Manager and Mike
Rosenberg, Technical Director. For me, this was the best of times, running a prosperous operation
with my best friends, improving the station for the future and growing through my knowledge of
music of all kinds.
The first summer operation of WPRB was in 1973 under Marshall Millsap. Because of limited funds
and a stretched staff, the operation was not a happy one for all. With the help of Dave Kurman
and Fred Lloyd, though, the summer of 1974 turned out to be much better, with a regular payroll
and better housing helping maintain morale. Our staff that summer included Fred Lloyd, John
McClave, Daisann McClane and myself, among others, and the time was a memorable one for all.
Ned Nalle succeeded me in the spring of 1975 as Station Manager, along with a team which included
John Haber as Business Manager and Allen Furbeck as Programming Director.
WPRB has certainly been an integral part of my Princeton experience and taught me things I can
never forget. Most importantly, it showed me how exhilarating and rewarding hard work can be
when you are with friends, having fun and making a positive contribution to Princeton and the
community. - Dan Dye '75
A phrase was taught to me by Chief Engineer Jay Hunter '71 before I was Station Manager,
apparently taught to him by a long line of Tech Directors and Chief Engineers: 'When force
doesn't work, you're not using enough.'
During my reign as Station Manager, we had two especially unusual sales accounts. First, the
sports broadcasts were sponsored, in part, by Carter Products, the makers of Rise Shave Cream.
I was told that WPRB had the only radio ads for that company (which undoubtedly had a Princeton,
and possibly WPRB, alumnus in a position to make that happen). Second, we ran a series of spots
promoting Great Adventure's Sunday evening Country Music concert series. Great Adventure
understood that we did C&W programming. The only problem was that the only C&W programming
we had was on Sunday nights. We rationalized this on the grounds that Great Adventure must
have been looking for an audience which liked many different kinds of music.
The most amusing incident which I am free to divulge occurred immediately after Reunions in
1976. I pulled the rug from the main control room out into the Holder
courtyard to dry out. After two days in the sun, the rug began to sprout literally hundreds
of small marijuana plants. I wonder how that could have happened. - Larry Field '77
There actually was one summer where I spent my vacation doing the 6:00 a.m. morning show.
It seemed like a cushy enough job, and no one else wanted to do it. I soon found out why.
With only a skeleton crew of students around, and most of them here because they partied too
much during the semester, some late nights sort of tended to develop. Soon I was dragging
myself out of bed just to make it to the station in time to play the opening cart with all
those fascinating statistics (how far does 100,000 watts go, anyway?), never mind shoving
a cup of coffee down me first. But then I developed a system. There were a few eclectic
German bands in the rabbits with some 22 minute tracks (boring avant-garde gibberish), but
just long enough to let me make it to the deli just off the main drag, grab a donut and
One morning, 'it' happened: The man at the deli had been a little slow today, so I race
back to the studio. I return, sticky-handed, coffee spilling onto the side of the brown
paper bag and dripping to my pants. I glance quickly at the side of 'Magma' I had put
on the turntable. What a relief. No dead air . . . only halfway through. But I'd been
gone for twenty minutes. What the heck? I think this thing is skipping (it's hard to tell).
I notice that the phone is ringing off the hook. Think fast, Ted. I elegantly knock
the turntable arm with my hip as I answer the phone.
'What the heck is going on there?' Oh, no, the Program Director! I do the only thing I
can in the situation. I lie.
'Um . . . I was in the bathroom, and there's nobody here to cover.'
I sit back with my bag of goodies and turn up the monitors. The quiet isolation and warm
dry smell of electronics gives the impression of being some lone deejay out in a remote desert
outpost. I glance at the spinning 'Magma' album. With this music, it'd have to be a lone
desert outpost on Mars! Good, I've got four minutes of this crap left. Bon Apetit! - Ted Stern '76
The WPRB open house in the basement of Holder Hall was a hot and crowded and noisy affair. Station
members making sales pitches were abundant. So were my fellow freshmen-some of whom just wanted
free drinks and food, others of whom had been convinced before they even walked in that they would
want to join the station. I was one of the latter, but it did not hurt to see one very calm
person in the midst of this din. It was Steve Eckert, who has since become an award-winning
TV reporter. As I learned in the years that followed, nobody would better embody what
WPRB could be.
There are many things I learned to do, and NOT to do, at WPRB. I learned to enjoy jazz for
the first time, and classical and bluegrass too (thanks for that to the great John Weingart),
and I was not at all shy when the mood struck to segue all of them plus rock and roll together
within a half-hour's time. When done well, it is still my favorite kind of radio. It has
hardly ever been done better than at WPRB. The list of things not to do includes cracking
up while reading the details of a murder during a newscast. It was a stabbing with a
screwdriver-blessedly an odd event in Princeton. I have never made that mistake since.
In 1976, WPRB made the best call of an election that I have ever heard. About a dozen of
us had worked all evening reporting returns in the Carter-Ford race. At 3:00 a.m., UPI
called it. We gathered, and-in unison-delivered the news, all craning our necks to read
the tiny piece of wire copy together. DJ Michael First then played 'Georgia on my Mind,'
and we signed off, our job done.
By then, what I will call my WPRB 'Frankenstein' blackout period had begun. I would play
Edgar Winter's rock opus on the air, and the lights would go out. The first time, it was an
October lightning bolt in Princeton that knocked us off the air just past midnight. The
second time, 'Frankenstein's effects were much more far-reaching. Just past 9:00 on the
evening of July 13, 1977 (or maybe it was 10:00), the phone rang as 'Frankenstein' blared
from the Control A speakers. It was a listener asking whether I knew about a blackout
that supposedly had hit New York.
I checked the UPI machine, and returned to tell the caller that the wire had nothing about
a blackout. Of course I soon figured out WHY the machine said nothing. At :15 past the
hour, the ABC network scrambled onto the air from Washington. Its New York operation, and
who knew how much else, were in the dark. The fun at WPRB was underway. So was what
may have been the greatest audience coverage in the station's history. Without power, New
York stations that neighbored us on the FM dial were off the air. Station members David
Kurman in Mineola, Long Island, and Chris Fine near the Connecticut border in Harrison,
New York, called to say I was booming in. I put Chris on the air with a report on his
blacked-out but very peaceful neighborhood. John Shyer reported from the top of Holder
Tower, 'To the southwest, there is a glow in the sky. It is Philadelphia. But in the
direction of New York, the sky is black...'
The temperature was in the 90's that night. The station's air conditioner was a joke. At
about 2:30 a.m., I put 'Frankenstein' back on, hoping in vain that it work in reverse. By
6:00, when Gene Chamson discovered me still on the air in what ordinarily would have been
a dark silent station, I was wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a sweaty glow. I
wish we had had a camera.
When our blackout coverage was just minutes old, the phone rang a second time. It was a
listener who said the whole thing was incredible, and that he was taping my show. I thanked
him, and hung up, cued the next record, and then said to myself-why didn't you ask him for
a copy of the tape? Looking back, I am sure that asking on the air would have caused no
harm, but at the time I felt sure that it would not be 'professional,' so I didn't. Four
months later, another election night. Station members Bob Ellsworth, Rick Milin and I
drove to what would be the very happy headquarters of Governor Brendan Byrne. As we left,
Rick asked whether a friend of his could join us and help with the coverage. If you know
Bob Ellsworth, you know that his Lincoln Continental Mark Something-or-Other could always
accommodate one more. On the way back to Princeton, a discussion about great moments at
WPRB began. I mentioned how I had enjoyed the '76 election, and of course I did a show
on the night of the blackout. The friend said, 'That was you???' to which I replied,
'That was you?!!?!!!?!!' Days later I had the tape.
When I arrived at Princeton, I was warned that the equipment at WPRB was something less
than perfect. No item veered from specifications further than the Collins mixing board
in Studio B, the production room. It was state of the art when we bought it, I was told.
It used light to raise and lower the volume, instead of the usual more-mechanical method.
As best I can recall the way our techies described it to me, lights from one mixer were
shining into adjacent mixers, and sounds we wanted stifled were leaking out onto our
recordings. It was a disaster, and we knew it had to go. We bought a board of a more
proven, if less trendy, design-and as we tore the console apart to install it we found
a note inside. It was from the people who had installed the now-despised Collins board
eight years earlier, addressed to those who would to the next installation-whoever they
might be. We install this board with great hopes, the letter said, and trust that when
its time has passed it will have served the station well. We wished they had bought a
better board, but we found it very difficult after that to dislike them.
I close with great affection as I closed my yearbook blurb, which contains a line with
which I ended many commercials I produced. As far as I know it remains true. There's
always plenty of free parking just across the street from the U-Store. And there will
be forevermore. "May there be a WPRB forevermore." - Rob Forman '78
Some of my fondest memories of Princeton come from announcing football and basketball games
on WPRB from 1975 through 1978. One story still makes me chuckle...it was probably during
the 1977-1978 basketball season. Princeton was playing Penn or Villanova at the Palestra.
I was preparing to call the play-by-play for the game and was joined by Dan Lesser '78 and
Cliff Rechtschaffen '78 who were handling the color and stats.
Martin Pensak '78 was engineering back at the studio.
We established contact via our phone line with the station and, after Martin told me that he
had started playing our theme song (a Brian Auger tune), I proceeded to connect the phone
line to the board for our broadcasting of the game through our headsets. The Palestra is
generally a very noisy arena, made louder by the Big Five doubleheaders that packed them
in there. We were literally surrounded by fans and announced the game in our usual
animated, gesticulating style. The crowd was tightly pressed together and seemed to be
enjoying watching and hearing us doing our thing. With five minutes to play in the first
half, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and told me that she had been told by her neighbor
who had been told by his neighbor and so on and so on from someone up at the top of the
section, that we had been off the air for the past ten minutes. Martin had called some
listed number at the Palestra to get word to us that our line had been disconnected. We
had been babbling for ten minutes into a dead phone line.
For some reason I now cannot recall, we could not simply call the station on our courtside
line. I quickly jumped up to look for an available phone and was directed to a pay phone
in the lobby. I pleaded my case with the three people waiting in line who were unsympathetic
but, nevertheless, allowed me to place the next call to Martin. The problem identified,
I went back to our location and re-established contact with the station, apologizing to
our audience for lost time. It was nearly flawless broadcasting in the inimitable WPRB
style. - Scott Kobler '78
I first got involved with 'PRB in the spring of my freshman year (1978). It was an
'interesting time' for the station. Though there were a lot of talented individuals
in areas like engineering and programming, other areas like sales, training and scheduling
were a bit shaky to say the least.
As best as I can remember, the station had only one sponsor, the University Store, and
one ad, the 'These Are My Favorite Things' spot. Thank God it was a good spot because we
played it twice an hour, every hour. And we didn't log that many hours. It wasn't unusual
for the station to sign off after Morning Classical at 10 a.m. due to lack of DJs.
The details of what happened the next year when the new management group took over could fill
a book. It was a complex situation. As an organization, 'PRB had to be rebuilt from scratch.
We had very few members and new people had to be attracted, brought in and trained fast.
There was also a major ideological split among the managers. We had one group that wanted
the station to have a Top 40 sound and another group that wanted the station to be an
alternative to what was available on commercial radio.
I was one of the ones who wanted the station to offer an alternative to commercial radio.
I believed then, and I still believe today, that it's a waste of talent and opportunity for
the students of a school like Princeton to put their energies into duplicating what can easily
be found all over the dial. They should be taking chances, creating new approaches, bringing
something different to the airwaves. Students who plan to go into the media business have a
whole lifetime to conform to the realities of the industry. Why start this process prematurely
when you have free rent, free power, no payroll to meet and no owner to please?
The first of our many big battles was over a new slogan for the station. 'Stereo 103,' the
old slogan, just didn't cut it any more. The Top 40 group wanted WPRB to be 'your music,' a
phrase to be repeated at every opportunity ('and it's a sunny 75 degrees here at your music...,
coming up next on your music..., your music would like to remind you to drive safely this
holiday season...'). The whole idea of an empty phrase repeated over and over really galled
the alternative group and we fought it every step of the way.
Our differences, deeply felt as they were, never got in the way of attracting new people to
the station and turning them on to the incomparable fun of doing live radio. We all wanted
the station to succeed and the 'PRB we passed on to the next group of managers had a large
staff of well-trained DJs and a healthy sales department. We even rebuilt the studios. I
don't think it's an exaggeration to say that if we hadn't immediately and dramatically reversed
the condition of the station, there might not be a WPRB today. Things had gotten that bad.
When I started at 'PRB, we had classical music from 6:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., jazz from 10:15 a.m.
to 12:15 p.m., and rock from 12:15 p.m. on. When the new management cam in next year, had there
not been such a dramatic shortage of rock DJs and such a solid corps of classical and jazz DJs,
classical and jazz would have been eliminated from 'PRB and it would have become an all-rock
station. Classical and jazz had to fight to preserve their air time the whole time I was at
The jazz department did a lot to support the local music scene and was involved in helping to
produce on-campus concerts. One of the most successful featured two soloists, pianist
Anthony Davis and guitarist Stanley Jordan '81. This was one of the first opportunities
Stanley had to present his music in a concert setting, years before he enjoyed any kind of
commercial success. As an undergraduate, Stanley appeared on 'PRB many times as a guest
and performer. He also spent one summer as a jazz DJ at the station. In 1987, his first
album became the best selling jazz record of the year worldwide. - Kenneth McCarthy '81
The Magic of Radio was a late-night, sometimes all-night, program that aired once a week from
about 1977 to 1980. It was a mix of music, juvenile nonsense, brilliant satire and pathetically
bad taste. We tried to stay as close to the legal and moral edge as possible. We had a weatherman
with a speech impediment that rendered him entirely incomprehensible. We had a substitute
weatherman who was sentenced to stand at an (imaginary) outdoor phone booth in Kingston whenever
there was significant snow, or his personal favorite, freezing rain. We had a sports reporter
who never once made it on the air; he always seemed to be delayed at a bar across the street.
The news was read by Gus Gil, whose booming voice made the acts of a New Jersey state magistrate
seem like the coming of the Lord.
The Magic of Radio was a group effort and it was enraptured by the idea of format changes.
Nearly every week, a dour-sounding program manager would take the microphone to announce that
WPRB had no choice but to succumb to the entreaties of consultants and accept a format switch.
One week it was Classical Top 40, a brisk maniacal program scheme in which a group of 'PRB
staffers stood in the studio chanting jingles ('Blast from the Past!' 'Num-ber 1!') while
60-second bits of Mahler and Mozart sputtered out over the station. Another week it would
be All-Cooking Radio, in which delicious-sounding dishes were prepared right in the studio.
When the chefs ran out of ingredients, they ordered pizza, then interviewed the delivery man
on the air.
One week, we called a Trenton strip joint and invited a stripper to join the program. To our
great surprise, she did, arriving in the studio at 2:00 a.m. and playing along as we presented
Radio Striptease. It was, to the great dismay of listeners who got out of bed to hustle down
to the basement of Holder Broadcasting Complex ('12 great stories of radio'), only a fully-clad
woman describing her act.
Listeners visited the studios one other late night, as the Magic of Radio presented a dramatic
performance in which an obviously (we thought) fictitious campus extremist political group
staged a coup after losing university elections by a landslide margin. The coup took place
in our studios and involved the guerrillas taking over the airwaves and locking the DJ in a
hot and airless studio. Someone took this a bit too seriously and half an hour or so into
the DJ's plaintive pleas for help, some actually arrived-the proctors and the town police.
It took some explaining, but the station license was never in jeopardy.
In Berlin last October, I was covering the German Unification Day ceremonies (I'm the bureau
chief here for The Washington Post) when someone asked me if I was the guy from the Magic of
Radio. I've been recognized by old acquaintances before, but I must admit this was the first
time someone had remembered my voice. It was a nice moment.
Credit is due to my Magic of Radio cohorts-Jason Meyer '78, Alex Wolff '79, David Remnick '80,
and a cast of dozens. - Mark Fisher '80
To read a decade-by-decade history of WPRB, click on the links below.
1940s - 1950s - 1960s - 1970s - 1980s - 1990s