Wednesday, April 07, 2010

DJ Joe Bussard

Joe Bussard has had a connection to radio as long as he's had one to music. He was born in Frederick, Maryland, on July 11, 1936 and is world-renowned today as collector of 78-rpm records. His collection numbers more than 25,000 records, focusing on folk, cajun, gospel, old country and blues all pre-WWII. It is not the largest collection in the world, but most archivists agree that it's the best. The quality of his collection is bar-none. There are several in his library which are known to be the only extant copy. He is a legend in some circles.
He been working in radio for over 50 years. His collection alone makes him an appealing DJ. It has led to regular appearances on four different radio stations: 91.1 WREK in Atlanta, 740 WPAQ-AM in Mount Airy, NC, 89.9 WDVX, Clinton/Knoxville, TN, 690 WELD-AM in Fisher, WV, and 1450 WTHU-AM in Thurmont, MD. More here.
He started in radio at the age of 16 as a pirate broadcaster. he told the story in the documentary Desperate Man Blues. He began transmitting from his parents house intermittently and then one day got a house call from two FCC officials. They admitted they'd dawdled with his cease and desist for 6 months because they liked the music. His formal start was in 1955 at the age of 18 on 790 WSIG-AM. He explained how that happened in an interview for the Old Time Herald in 1999. Thankfully their back issues are online.
"I turned on the radio for some damn reason and there was Happy Johnny, he was a DJ down there. Johnny went around to a lot of the stations... he worked down there for a while on WSIG, Mount Jackson, 1,000 watts, right in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, covered a hell of a range. I used to do an imitation of Happy Johnny. So anyway, I went up to the station to see Johnny. Oh, we had a big reunion, we talked some on the air for a while, and this and that. And Johnny says, 'By golly, Joe, there's a fellow back there you ought to see, his name is Art Barrett. He likes this old music"
Joe and Art hit it off. WSIG-AM had only signed on in 1954 as a country station. After Joe met art he began sending him reel-to-reel recordings of home made radio shows. Art began broadcasting them. The listener feedback was so positive that it became a weekly gig. Art left the station in 1958 to work in Florida and Joe's reign was over. Joe turned around and continued doing the pre-recorded program at WELD-AM which has continued until the station was bought in 2004 and flipped to oldies.

Every Friday Joe sits down and makes another episode of his program mixing country oldies gospel and a little blues. Fybush wrote up WPAQ nicely in 2008 article here.. More here. His program continues today on many of these stations. He can still be heard on WDVX Saturdays at 9:00 pm, On WPAQ-AM Saturdays 1:30pm – 2:00pm and at WREK in Atlanta every Friday from 5 - 6 pm. They also have been kindly archiving the program online.