Another 50th Anniversary

My college radio station, WSUP in Platteville, Wisconsin, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. Apart from an open house today, it doesn’t sound like they’re planning anything extravagant—although some of the alumni got invited to call in with birthday greetings.

When I called, I was surprised to be handed off immediately to somebody who was prepared to record me (as opposed to making an appointment for later, which is what I expected). I visited for a moment with a very pleasant young woman while she fiddled with whatever she was using to record me. When she asked me to do my bit a second time because she’d had a problem with her machine, I laughed and said, “You know, in my day we’d just back up the tape and start over.” She chuckled. Then I said, “I’ll bet there’s not a single tape machine anywhere down there anymore.” She thought for a moment and said, “I think there’s one, but nobody knows how to work it.”

This doesn’t make me feel as old as it could—there are only a couple of tape machines at my radio stations today, and lots of people there couldn’t work them, either.

WSUP collected celebrity greetings for the station’s 13th birthday, back in 1977, a couple of years before I got there. The station got celebrities including Walter Cronkite, Wisconsin’s then-Senator William Proxmire and other politicians, some of the DJs from WLS in Chicago, and various musicians, “all just by pestering them into doing it for Wisconsin’s oldest student radio station,” according to one of the guys who helped collect them. Some of them were used on succeeding birthdays—and a tape of them still exists. (The owner of the tape says he has nothing to play it on.)

I have a collection of old pictures somebody pulled together for the 40th anniversary celebration, covering mostly the 60s and 70s. It’s surprising to see the number of women on staff, several in management positions, at the very beginning. It is not surprising to see the remarkable amounts of hair on many of us by the late 70s.

I have blogged about my various experiences at WSUP occasionally over the years, so I’m not going to rehash them here. There were some very good times and some very bad ones; I learned a lot, although I didn’t know as much as I thought I did when I left in 1982. It’s been many years since I’ve been back inside that place, but it’s always inside of me.

Recent Highlights From the Twitter Machine: Somebody has analyzed the most common rhymes used in popular songs and broken them down by rhyme and by artist. The process involved mining the lyrics from every song to make Billboard‘s year-end Top 100 from 1960 through 2013. (You can tell they didn’t go back much farther, because “moon” and “June” don’t make the list.) The results are broken down in a myriad of ways, and you can probably kill an hour just wading through it. While doing so, listen to the isolated guitar and vocals from “Layla,” in which the naked vocal makes the desperation of Eric Clapton’s yet-to-be-requited love for Pattie Boyd much easier to hear. Then turn your ears in the direction of this inspirational dot-matrix printer.

After that, go see what’s new on the fabulous Hits Just Keep on Comin’ companion Tumblr site.

2 responses

  1. They trained you well Jim but they didn’t give you your outstanding talent. Great story.

  2. Was badgered by UW-Oshkosh to do the same for the same reason- preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the student radio station, WRST-FM, next year. I was a faculty adjunct at UW-O way back when, and collected a few tapes of student projects, and even kept a few. I asked if they had reel-to-reel capability and the student who was volunteering as 50th Anniv. coordinator said they did. Sent them off, got a note saying they had a reel-to-reel machine but couldn’t manage to figure out how to dub the tapes I sent. I had them send ’em back, I racked them up on my trusty ancient Akia 220 GXD (for which a local production house has offered me $250, sight unseen), fed them into the Adobe Audition program I use, burned them to CD, and sent the CD’s off to the Oshkoshians. Never heard why the tapes “wouldn’t work” on their machine, but I suspect the young lady volunteer had no idea what I was talking about when I initially asked if they had reel-to-reel capability and she cheerily replied in the affirmative.

    Like the commenter (Gene) above said – you brought the talent; the folks at the college supplied the training. As a teacher, I always felt the same way – you could pretty quickly identify the kids who had talent for this schtick, and you did your best to help them develop it.

    Kinda like the basketball coaches say: you can’t coach height.

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