Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oscar Brand's Folksong festival

Oscar Brand started as a show host at WNYC-AM on December 9th 1945. It's been 62 years and looking back at the career of the 80 year old Brand, I realize that it wasn't even his first radio gig. He was already 25 years old.

This long-time radioman is Canadian-born but served for the U.S. in the Korean War. It was there in the Air Force that he began performing and then collecting songs. It was a batch of these songs that he took to Elektra Records producer Jack Holzman. Jack decided to have Oscar perform a selection of them with the Roger Wilco Four, naughty ditties and all. That album came out in 1959.

Of course Oscar was discharged in 1945 so theres a bit of discontinuity in the official biography but let's roll with it. Suppose he sat on the songs for over a decade and that he made the connection to Holtzman at Elektra thru WNYC. Seems plausible. The record did well enough to garner a follow up. And then another 97 albums. More here.

Anyway before WNYC Brand did a little time at WNEW-AM and WNBC-AM. At the time he was selling his writing, mostly plays and satirical comedy. In radio that's high art. They didn't' keep him. Their loss. WNYC held onto him as a host, then produced a few of his plays. Hermann Neumann the Station Manager gave Oscar the Folk Program. He never left it.

Don't forget, WNYC is a public radio station. Oscar is a volunteer. He's never been on the payroll. The whole six decades he's had to work on the side to make ends meet. His albums have made a pretty penny but he's also taught at NYU, given guitar lessons, written books, done voice over, and penned songs for dozens of artists from Ella Fitzgerald, to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

His list of accolades is too long to read in it's entirety. He's the curator of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, In 1995 he Won a Peabody award. ...And more importantly the Guinness Book of World Records certified Brands as the longest running show on the air today.