Monday, February 20, 2017

Campus Voice Encounter

Campus Voice Encounter was a pre-packaged college radio show produced by Whittle Communications Campus Voice Network, and distributed by Thirsty Ear records on LP in the 1980s. An advertising industry trade magazine Marketing & Media Decisions was enthused about this new platform for marketing to college-age consumers. They described it as an "avenue used to catch the attention of this surprisingly affluent group."

Their promotional garbage claimed it was distributed to 1.3 million "dorm students".  I suspect that's the number of college radio stations on their mailing list, multiplied by the on-campus populations of their respective universities. This is of course "magic math", and not a calculation to be respected by grown adults. But the number of listeners was not inconsequential. And the limited pressing LPs are collected and traded by enthusiasts.

Despite it's cynical origins, the timing of the series swept up a slew of now iconic indie bands, authors, and  iconoclasts. Topics included politics, cartoons, live music, film, PSAs, sports, comic books, interviews, comedy, books, and various oddities. Each disc had multiple programs, intended to run for 5 minutes a day on weekdays. they were not always consistently numbered, and we are reliant on radio stations hand-written dates for much of the discography. The above logo was registered in 1987, giving the series a probable start date.

It's producers were Jim Omastiak, Keith Bellows and hosted by Peter Gordon. You will notice the program numbers skip, add, subtract, repeat, overlap and loop. These are not typos. It may have been accidental, deliberate, or bad copy-editing but the odd numbering adds to the discographical fun. It's possible these represent different years or even seasons of the program which are not identified. Below is an incomplete discography:

CVE-1 (Programs 1-5)
Robert Krolick, The Saints, Lizzie Borden, Redd Kross, Jan Brunvad
CVE-2  (Programs 6-12)
Richard Rhodes, Scott Johnson, Tama Janowitz, Royal Crescent Mob, Dr. Jusith Resiman

CVE-3 (Programs 11-15) [tentative 1987] [CONFIRMED]
Clive Barker, Lou Reed, Mpho Tutu, Easterhouse, Eric Bogosian
CVE-4 (Programs 16-20) [CONFIRMED]
Bill Murray, John Fusco, Joey Skaggs, Carol Leifer, Stas Namin

CVE-5 (Programs 21-25)
Greg Lemond, Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper, Prof. Howard Pollio, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
CVE-6 (Programs 26-30)
Brian Bosworth, John Lurie, David Lynch, The Dead Milkmen, Stan Lee

CVE-7 (Programs 31-35) [CONFIRMED]
Barrence Whitfield & The Savages, Joe Davis, Lynda Barry, Jad Fair & ½ Japanese, Bret Easton Ellis
CVE-8 (Programs 36-40)
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jonah Houston, Clive Barker, Peter Collier, Brian Brain

CVE-9 (Programs 41-46)
Motorhead, Ricky Jay, Sinead O'Connor, Peter Yarrow, Flesh For LuLu
CVE-10 (Programs 46-50) [tentative 1987] [CONFIRMED]
Brian Cullman, The Balancing Act, Allan Zullo & Bruce Nash, Cabaret Voltaire, Kevin Seal

CVE-9 (Programs 41-45) [tentative 1981]
Richard Lloyd, Jim Jarmusch, Art Speigelman, Flaming Lips, Joseph Kennedey II
CVE-10 (Programs 46-50)
The Fall, Lorette Miller Ruppe, John waters, Peters Jenkins, Jason & The Scorchers

CVE-13 (Programs 61-65) [CONFIRMED]
Leaving Trains, Richard Horrow, Peter Gabriel / Amnesty Int'l, Adina Wrobleski, Golen Palaminos,
CVE-14 (Programs 66-70) [CONFIRMED]
No artist, Alan Rabinowitz, Richard Berry, Janet Constantinides, Peter Murphy

CVE-15 (Programs 71-75) [CONFIRMED]
Saqqara Dogs, Ray Brown, Unknown Artist, Chris Brown, Julian Cope
CVE-16 (Programs 76-80)
Dr. Andrew Weil, Andy White, Dan Cassidy, Bowie Kuhn, The Chameleons


I have found a number of references to more episodes or segments I've been unable to corroborate.
  • CVE-9? Jello Biafra, Nancy Lieberman, Gene Loves Jezebel (1988)
  • CVE-?  Week 11 (Programs 51-55)
  • CVE-17 Divine Horsemen, Throwing Muses, Billy Bragg, Descendents 
  • CVE-?  Coffee Achievers
  • CVE?   Swans, Negativeland, Pere Ubu


Friday, February 17, 2017

All the Opry's in the Land

We all know the The Grand Ole Opry. It's been on 650 WSM-AM for 92 years. It was originally called WLS and WMC in Memphis, TN. Hay was key to the renaming of the barn dance into the Opry.
"The WSM Barn Dance." At that time is was broadcasting live from the fifth-floor radio studio of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company in downtown Nashville, TN. It's first airdate was November 28, 1925. They had hired announcer George D. Hay 26 days earlier.  He had already worked at

The program was re-named on December 10, 1927. That year on NBC the barn dance was preceded by NBC Red Network's Music Appreciation Hour. It was a schlock program of classical music and opera presented conductor Walter Damrosch. Damrosch however was no stuffed shirt. His father and brother were also conductors, and his mother was an opera singer. He studied at the Dresden Conservatory, and was conducting himself in New York and New Jersey by the age of 19. Damrosch was the National Broadcasting Company's music director under David Sarnoff, from 1928 to 1942. Yet critic Theo Adorno wrote that the Damrosch approach towards popularizing classical music was infantilizing and authoritarian. Anyway back in 1927 Damrosch stated "there is no place in the classics for realism." George Hay decided to make hay of it. Hay responded as follows:
" Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the "earthy"... For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on, we will present the "Grand Ole Opry".
He followed that up with a performance by DeFord Bailey who played "The Pan-American Blues," which is a semi-improvisational and impressive series of train noises played on harmonica. By December newspapers were using the new name. Sociologists have oft remarked on this expression of "rural values" in a Southern City. We can skip that. The story is apocryphal, but it is notable that the word "opry" was thus born. But the word didn't stop here. Other barn dances took up term and the original Grand Ole Opry finally trade marked the word in 1950. They further trademarked "Opryland USA" for their theme park in 1974 and "Opryland Talent Agency" in 1981. But the word "Opry" not until 1982.
  • Country Shindig Opry (1979 - 1982)
  • Myrtlebeach Opry (1970-1973)
  • The Ozark Opry (1954-1980)
  • Austin's Nashville Opry (1954)
  • Austin's Ozark Nashville Opry
  • The Carolina Opry (1986)
Legal action ensued. WSM sued for trademark infringement. There were numerous cases but three in particular put the question to rest. WSM, Inc. v. Hilton in 1985, and before that WSM, Inc. v. Bailey and
Rainwater in 1969.  That same year was WSM, Inc. v. Kansas City Industries.  But let's start with Bailey. Donald Bailey had recorded a record released by Jay Rainwater which in part bore the name Grand Ole Opry. Actually they had named their recording company "Opry Records." WSM had never used their brand in that manner, but Bailey and Rainwater didn't have the right to misappropriate it either. They got shut down.


In 1970 the court went the other way. Lee Mace operated the "Ozark Opry" and registered that trademark in 1962. Then in 1962 Austin Wood licensed the Opry name from WSM and began operating "Austin's Ozark Nashville Opry" in Branson Missouri. Lee Mace objected in 1962 and Austin changed the name to Austin's Nashville Opry. WSM got around to suing in 1969, and the parties settled. Lee was prohibited from using the name "Ozark Opry" in Kentucky and Tennessee but was licensed for the other 48 states.

The Hilton case was more interesting. The central issue was whether or not the word "Opry" was a generic term for country music entertainment. The Federal Circuit held surprisingly in 1982 that the word "opry" is generic! At the core was not George Hay's first use of the word but it's etymology as common vernacular. For that I'll quote the court:
"Certain persons who reside along the mid-Atlantic seaboard, in Appalachia and in the Ozarks have adhered to a rule of pronunciation under which words ending with the letter "a" are pronounced as if the word ended with the letter "y". The word "opera" is among at least 175 words to which this rule of dialectic pronunciation applies. For example, "opera" is pronounced as "opery" or "opry". The horse, medicine and jig operas were often respectively referred to as "horse opry" or "hoss opry", "medicine opry" or "med-opry", and "jig opry."
More problematic was that the word "opry" is listed and defined in Webster's New Third International Dictionary as a dialectic variation of the word "opera." The American Thesaurus of Slang lists "opry" as a "musical performance," describes an "opery house" as a "theatre," and includes "horse opera" and "hoss opry" among terms referring to a "circus." So the court applied the Lanham Act, which provides that if a registered mark at any time becomes generic, it provides for the cancellation of that mark's registration. George D. Hay died in 1968 and was unable to make his case. The court for what it's worth was correct. The term "horse opry" appears in every John Wayne biography, and a dozen 1940's-era issues of Billboard hocking disposable C&W 78s.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Headphones and Polygamy

The website Earlyradiohistory.us make a reference to the Baldwin Radio company. As usual, the reference is well-cited. It comes from two good sources: A 1911 memorandum from a radio division under the Bureau of Steam Engineering, and a transcription of recording by Admiral Arthur Japy Hepburn [LINK] made by the Office of Naval History. I've condensed the quote for brevity.
"One day, while opening his mail, Hepburn came across a letter from Salt Lake City... The writer, a Mr. Baldwin, stated that he was sending a pair of telephones, which he had patented, and requested that they be tested... They weighed about a pound, and were of radically different construction. The headset consisted of a piece of clock spring affixed to each phone and loosely bound together by hemp twine. Dr. [Louis Winslow] Austin, of the Navy's Radio Research Laboratory, looked at them and laughingly took them for the requested testing. A few days later he informed Hepburn they were about twice as sensitive as any he had tested and advised him to obtain more for quality tests..."
The original headphones were uncomfortable, and some redesign was still necessary based on feedback from the Navy. Nathaniel Baldwin came up with a set of two leather-covered spring-wire rods dangling from each end. These each had an earphone on a spring clip so they could be adjusted vertically. Baldwin did not patent this design element and it consequently was stolen / became a standard. But the Navy needed to buy in quantities that Baldwin couldn't make in his kitchen. When offered, Baldwin refused to relocate from Utah to a navy yard to use their facilities. Ultimately, Hepburn brokered a deal with John Firth at the Wireless Specialty Apparatus Co. to handle the manufacturing for Baldwin.

In 1914, he started a the The Baldwin Radio Company in East Millcreek, UT. The plant was powered (apocryphally) by a hydroelectric generator on East Mill Creek which he made out of bicycle wheels and piano wire. Most contemporary sources state this factory The company peaked at 150 employees. This website pegs it at 300.  Different sources put their annual sales at $2 million in annual sales in the 1920s having moved about 200k units in 1922.

Baldwin was an odd duck. He was a fundamentalist Mormon who studied at Brigham Young Academy (later renamed Brigham Young University), and eventually earned an electrical engineering degree from Stanford University. Subsequently he began teaching at his alma mater.  In 1905 Baldwin lost his professorship for speaking out in favor of polygamy. The practice was then illegal in the United States, and formally banned by the LDS Church in 1890. Firing Baldwin did nothing to cool his ardor for sister wives.

After landing his big contract with the Navy in 1911, he built his Millcreek factory. He actively hired other polygamists. He financed construction of twelve bungalows for his employees, known then as "polygamy alley." Some of the structures still line Evergreen Avenue. Some of those employees founded polygamous sects that are still active today. (Polygamy has been effectively legal in the U.S. since 1983)  Some of those employees included Lorin C. Woolley, John Y. Barlow, Israel Barlow, Leslie Broadbent, and Lyman Jessop. (Among the groups was the FLDS... they've had multiple arrests of note.)

But that begets other questions. At different times, Baldwin employed Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television and James B. Lansing, founder of JBL speakers. Were they polygamists? For Lansing I can only say probably not. But Farnsworth was the real deal. Philo was actually married to 4 different women: Margaret Yates, Margaret Adams, Agnes Ann Paterson and Mary Priscilla Griffith. More here. Farnsworth was arrested in 1886 for polygamy but since the authorities couldn’t prove the charge, he was acquitted.

By 1924, Baldwin was bankrupt. Competition in a rapidly expanding tech market undid his company. He made some bad decisions and fell for some scams as well. Baldwin himself was convicted of mail fraud in 1930 and served two years at McNeil Island Federal Prison. He died in 1961. His factory became an art, retail and performance space in 1996.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Radio Liberia

Radio in Liberia is quite different than in the US. According to Building Markets [LINK] "40% of Liberia’s population of about 5 million people are illiterate. In a national survey conducted in 2008, less than a quarter of Liberians said they read a newspaper or watched TV even weekly. But 91% said they listened to the radio weekly." In the US, radio only optimistically reaches 59 percent of the country’s population. As you might imagine in the US the trend is moving away from radio and toward PC and mobile platforms. More here. If you are trying to reach people in Liberia, radio is the way to go.

The republic of Liberia at 43,000 square miles is about the size of the U.S. state of Virginia. Virginia (for reference) has about 580 radio stations including AM and FM, Liberia has less than 100. But it's difficult to tell. Wikipedia keeps a list but notes the list is incomplete. Liberia does have an an equivalent to our FCC, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA). But it was only created in 2007. They do not maintain an online database. Liberia suffered a civil war in 1990 and 2003 both of which shut down much communications and regulatory infrastructure. More here.

But those approximately 80 stations are a great success story in Western Africa. According to researcher Bruce Girard in 1988, there were only ten independent radio stations in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. In that era and earlier, almost all radio was owned by the state. The book Broadcasting in Africa by Sydney Head published in 1974 a more promising scenario noting  that "Liberia houses the largest concentration of radio-transmitters power relative to it's size of any country in Africa." Sadly it's immediate examples were for ELWA and Christian missionary radio, VOA and the BBC. But in 1988 this was all still under the Bureau of Radio Frequencies Regulation, which had formerly been the Ministry of Posts and telecommunications founded in 1977. The book Liberia Communication by Sam Watkins is a great source on this info.

But radio staged a recovery after the civil wars. In 2016 the Liberian Observer counted 70 radio stations and reported good news from BBC African Media Development Initiatives research. They state  "...across 17 sub-Saharan countries, found that local commercial radio grew by an average of 360 percent between 2000 and 2006 and that community radio grew on average by a striking 1,386 percent over the same period." (Please note the term Sub Saharan Africa includes 46-48 of Africa's 54 countries. [LINK] The term is so broad as to be almost meaningless in the context of media. I use the term her only because it's unavoidable in the academic literature.)


Radio in Liberia began in 1949 as the hobby of an American doctor (S. Head opted not to name him) who broadcast from his residence in Monrovia. ELWA debuted in 1954. Ham radio experienced a small boom as a hobby. In 1959 the first state-owned broadcaster was founded, the LBC, the Liberian Broadcasting Corporation. The British firm Radiodiffusion was contracted to build and operate the station. It's call letters were ELBC. The short wave relay station of the Voice of America was built in 1962. More here. But that was over 50 years ago. The first truly private station, 92.1 Radio Monrovia only signed on in 1991. Things progressed quickly.

Only a few weeks ago the Wallstreet journal wrote up an article on a Liberian radio tradition of call-in programs discussing their lunches on air. Elbow Benji asks about callers lunches at Truth Radio 96.1 in Monrovia.  Cyrus Watson, on 101.1 FM is host of “Lunch Time.”  Big Nat hosts "Lunch Time on LPR TV. Already Liberian broadcasting is developing a culture of it's own.

Friday, February 03, 2017

INTERVIEW: Wilfredo Seda


Wilfredo Seda is a genuinely inspirational figure.  His career has literally made history in bringing Latin radio and TV programming into a historically white and conservative region of the country. He is a man who needs more than a blog post, he needs a biographer.

Seda has been the host of Jazzarama on 91.3 WLCH since 2013. His love of music and of Latin jazz in particular makes him a natural for the station and a boon for the radio waves of Lancaster country.  The county has three Spanish-language radio stations including 1390 WLAN-AM and 1580 WVZN-AM. But it is his station, WLCH that speaks most to the local Hispanic community. In Jazz and in Lancaster his is a name people know. But his career was even more storied than you might guess.

1. How did you first get into radio?
I was one of the first to have a Latin radio show in central Pennsylvania... Part of it is growing up in new York.  You had Latin Music, you had Jazz, you had different genres that were a part of it. Now what I do is a program at a 91.3 WLCH in central Pennsylvania that's called "Jazzarama" that embraces Jazz and Latin Jazz.

2: What station was that first show on?
That was WGAL-AM and it was interesting. There was a family [The Steinman family] that controlled the Newspaper, [Intelligencer and New Journal] controlled the TV station [WDEL-TV and WGAL-TV] and controlled local radio, FM and AM. It was one of those communities. It was later decided by the FCC they controlled too much media, and eventually they had to divest some of their interests. But I came in at a point where they still controlled Newspaper, TV and radio. The radio program was two fold. During the week a Spanish language news program then on the weekend: Spanish Language Salsa and Latin jazz... it was "Impacto Latino", it means Latin Impact. That was in 1976. [WGAL-AM became WDDL in 1977]

3: Was WGAL your First Radio gig?
Yeah. I went to school for communications at Queens College, University of New York.

4. Were you involved in their College radio station, WQMC? 
I didn't even think about that at the time. It wasn't until I came to Pennsylvania. It was totally alien.

5. So where did you go after WGAL? 
I went to work for the local public Broadcaster which was WITF. I was with them at the TV station from 1980 to about 1983, then from '83 I did some work on their public radio station in Spanish as well... until about '84. During the interim I also did some work with NPR. They used to do a national Spanish language program called “Enfoque Nacional” [National Focus.] On the East Coast I used to contribute pieces; it was like a weekly news magazine.

6. Can you tell me about your interest in Latin jazz?
You have to remember that Latin music, if you're a New Yorker... you have Tito Puete, Tito Rodriguez, Machito.  Those genres that combine with jazz were embraced by the Latino community and evolved into what we now call Salsa which encompasses so many genres. When my program first started Sundays 8:00 to 10:00 PM you would ride along on a summer night and the music was blaring all over the neighborhood. That was the real connection.

Music has been woven into my life. But not only Latino music... I'm 65. I was at Woodstock. Growing up, rock was something important in my life. When Carlos Santana was on stage it flipped me out because that was my music connecting with rock music. That was part of an evolution that Carlos Santana brought to the rock scene. The percussion and his guitar playing —that was me. I am happy to say I was one of the few Latinos to be at Woodstock!

7. When I listen to your current show “Jazzarama” I always hear a wide variety of styles. Is that your personal taste or just Latin jazz as a genre? 
When you hear my program you hear jazz and Latin jazz come together. Latin jazz in the late 50s and 60s was Caribbean rhythms mixing with jazz. That has evolved, now it's rhythms from all over the world. The other thing is that if you're a Latino, you can play straight up jazz. Is that Latino jazz or isn't it? That's what I try to embrace. It's all music. It can grab you from different aspects... I expose folks to that on my program. Also, I always try to do a segment of my show on vocals: in English, in Spanish in Portuguese. But with a construction of jazz. Todo toyo. So I embrace all of that, not only instrumental but vocals.

8. Lancaster now has three different full-time Spanish Language stations and it all started with your one program. What's next?
Now WLCH has the FCC approval to move into Reading. We are working out details. As you know we have to be very precise. We have to work out the logistics. We're also working on a TV piece through an arrangement with Comcast Lancaster. We simulcast some of our programming on TV particularly our morning program “Cafe Con leche.” We're looking at similar arrangements in Reading.

9. Philadelphia didn't have any Spanish programming on the FM dial until 2006 [104.5 WUBA] Why do you think Lancaster more diverse than Philly? 
The thing about Philadelphia is just business. Years ago radio stations had little news departments they don’t do that anymore. I Heart Radio [formerly Clear Channel] owns god knows how many stations… nothing is local. That's a problem not only here in central Pennsylvania but across the country.


10. It seems like local news is very important to you
I believe in public radio; public radio that responds to the needs and concerns of the community. We have a station, the local PBS station WITF that I worked for years ago, that airs NPR programs. It's fine, I like NPR programming. But what's happening on a local basis? How does the local community accesses that and have beyond a one-minute interview to be able to talk about local issues? We've [WLCH] become it. People can come and be on the morning program, whether you speak English or not, on what out local issues beyond the one-minute; for 20, 25 minutes. That's what we've become for Latinos and non-Latinos. That we've really become the broadcasting entity for the community period.

11. Are you the same Wilfredo Seda that ran for mayor of Reading, PA in 1995? 
Yes I am. I went to Reading and I was very much part of the civic leadership there and I was part of a charter change effort. The city government was administered by an elected council, which was at the same time the executive branch. But those people had no expertise, necessarily, in the departments that they were running. Anyway, there were enough folks that decided this wasn't working out. We elected a charter change commission, which I was a part of, and then decided to change the structure of the government and then had the voters approve it. I chaired that effort. Then I decided to run for mayor under that new charter. I came in second. I got that juice out of me.

12. I would vote for you.
Thank you. I just love to share my experience. That's all I can do.