January 2016 - WPRB History
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January 2016

WPRB in the Early 1970s

1973_press_pass
Text: Rob Schuman ’74

I started at WPRB in the fall of 1970. During the previous spring, four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State in Ohio. When President Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia in late May Princeton, along with many other schools across the country, went on strike and officially shut down the University in protest.

The WPRB news department was deeply involved in covering the protest demonstrations and “Teach-Ins” on campus. We were the only instant communication outlet for the community, and took our mission seriously. Our news and actualities from both students and professors were fed to an ad-hoc network of Ivy League radio stations as well directly to the newsrooms of the major commercial radio networks.

I vividly remember crowding around the WPRB UPI ticker machine with others in my class waiting to see what my draft lottery number would be. With student deferments cancelled, if you got a low lottery number you could be plucked out of Princeton and conscripted to fight in Vietnam.

In 1972, I sold commercial airtime to the George McGovern for President campaign. (Cash in advance of course). We covered the Presidential election, crowding into studio A to broadcast election returns in between musical breaks. We also sent station reporters to the New Jersey candidate’s headquarters to cover the election night speeches. That’s how I learned that the open bar for the press closes as soon as your candidate is declared the loser.


I have lots of other memories of WPRB including a sports road trip when the PA announcer boomed to the entire arena, “WPRB—call your station, you’re off the air”. There was also the first summer on air, paid for in part by joining the New York Mets radio network. And I still have the now useless skill of being able to “slip cue” a record album.

Robert Blizard Recalls Early Days at WPRU

Text: Robert Blizard ’44

I don’t think I had joined WPRU before the opening on December 15, 1940, but it wasn’t long after that when I was recruited by Lloyd Schaefer and went to work under Jim Robinson, the Chief Engineer. As I remember, the studio was in H. Grant Theis’s (didn’t we call him “Hank”?) dormitory room on the top floor of Pyne. When Theis gave it up, the room and the adjacent one were rented by Harry Bonner, Bob Cheney, and me. The studio remained where it was, and we lived in the other suite. Theis was a high powered executive, and we young fellows were a little afraid of him.

We designed and built most of our own equipment. Schaefer was the RF guy. I specialized in power supplies. The transmitter was in the basement and was coupled to the University’s power lines, which pretty much limited radiation to the campus, but there was some reception in the town.  We did broadcasts of sporting events, but I’m damned if I can remember how the signal got from the remote location back to the studio – I guess we must have used telephone lines. The operating engineer in the studio always had a soothing piano recording by Carmen Cavalero to put on the air whenever the regular programming failed.

After we got the Royal Crown Cola advertising account, we always had plenty of pop to drink.  That’s about what I remember, except for sitting at the controls with stupefying awareness that we were on the air, and any screw-up that I made would be heard by hundreds of people.

LISTEN: Fugazi Interview from April of 1989

Here’s a very early Fugazi interview which was recorded at WPRB on April 6th of 1989. This recording was made in advance of their gig at the Terrace Club in Princeton, which took place later that same evening.

LISTEN: Fugazi interviewed by WPRB’s Ethan Stein, 4/6/89.

[Right-click to Download]

This interview was recorded squarely between the release of the band’s debut and “Margin Walker” EPs on Dischord Records. (WPRB’s copy of the first is seen above.) All four members of the band join the discussion, and hold forth on matters including their rigorous touring schedule, the genesis of their legendary $5 door price policy, the metamorphosis of the DC music scene, and how they were verbally harassed by some local idiots on their way down to WPRB’s studios.

The Terrace Club gig which took place later that evening is available for download as part of Fugazi’s Live Music Series.