Columbia University Radio Club, the WKCR ancestor, 1942
The station was enduring the same radical transformations as the University at large (and the culture, for that matter). When I arrived in 1969 the station was justly proud of it’s traditions of classical and folk music, news gathering (they’d received a ton of awards and attention after the campus riots of 1968), and a smattering of jazz and rock. My generation came in and tossed the place upside down, with jazz replacing classical as the station’s raison d’etre (my classmate Phil Schaap, one of the world’s great jazz scholars and crumudgeons, is still on the air there), and a rigid heirarchy of stuffy student management in turmoil.
I was determined to serve the greater and high minded cultural aspirations of the station (I produced several jazz, blues, and progressive music shows) and, at the same time, to use it to my own high minded ends. That meant using the equipment in every way possible to further my ambitions to produce records.
Whether it was absconding with remote equipment I had no official access to, or pushing the studios beyond their limits to make live music broadcasts (all the stuff had been idealized for news gathering), I commandeered the place in service to the upper classmen who needed recording help (thanks, David Reitman). When a particularly well done recording (if I do say so myself) for David’s radio program of the avant-garde composer/performer Gunter Hampel, showed up as an independent LP with my engineering credit, I was completely hooked and determined to get onto more LPs as an engineer or, better yet, as a producer.
Starting in 1971, with the recording of 'Mississippi Fred McDowell: Live in New York' (Oblivion OD-1) and continuing through our release of a WKCR live broadcast on the Sharif Abdul Salaam (neé Ed Michael) show of vocalist Joe Lee Wilson (Oblivion OD-5) we made most of our records in Studio 3 in the front of the station. Whenever possible I cajoled the station into improving our technical lot (we replaced all the mono equipment with new stereo decks in late 1972). And I locked anyone and everyone out of the place whenever we needed to make a release deadline.
During these years, I ran into some student opposition (they felt I had no right to use university facilities for my own stuff), but more so some lifelong friends, and made a lot of enduring recordings. I daresay, we probably recorded some valuable cultural history. Thanks Columbia. Thanks WKCR.0 comments Tagged: Blues from the Apple, Columbia University, Friends, Joe Lee Wilson, Marc Cohen, Mississippi Fred McDowell, OD-1, OD-3, OD-4, OD-5, WKCR, origins, Live in New York, Livin' High Off Nickels and Dimes,.