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Newly-discovered 1970s Jean Shepherd promo

Jean Shepherd Princeton

Former WPRB DJ Douglas Quine ’73 recently submitted a small pile of early 70s WPRB aircheck cassettes for our review. We’re now in the midst of digitizing them, and the audio goodies are practically throwing themselves at us already. Witness: this great promo for the annual WPRB-sponsored Jean Shepherd gig in Princeton.

For the sake of convenience, we’re pairing it with the above image of a Shep gig poster from around the same time, which someone anonymously donated (OK, “abandoned” is actually a better word for it) during the station’s 75th Anniversary banquet last year. Stay tuned for more audio from the WPRB/Quine archives in the coming days!

WPRB in the Early 1970s

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.


Text: Rob Schuman

This is one of the first coverage maps from WPRB, produced shortly after the station went to full 17,000 watts of effective radiated power. Mapping radio reception is a tricky business, even today. FM waves don’t go around objects the way AM signals do. You just don’t know how far your signal will go until you actually go out and measure it. This is therefore an approximation of signal strength based on a 50 microvolt signal contour, which, I am told, means that you can still get it some places with a strong antenna, and a good FM tuner, and the luck of good geography.

Probably the most interesting thing about this map is the fact that there is a blank space where New York City is located. It’s almost as if New York didn’t exist (and it didn’t so far as WPRB was concerned, since it was probably overwhelmed by the neighbor stations on 103.1 and 103.5.  In any event, it was designed to be used by the sales department to show how powerful we were.


WPRB in the Daily Princetonian: Recruiting

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Does modulation excite you? Asking for a friend. WPRB has used all sorts of different methods over the years to lure new student DJs. This slideshow documents some of the best from the 1940s-1970s.

Rob Schuman ’74 sifted through The Daily Princetonian‘s extensive archive, looking at all 8,000 unique mentions of WPRB. He’s compiled the most interesting into this series of slideshows.

WPRU Bulletin + 75th Anniversary Message from Paul Dunn

Here’s the second (and final in our existing archives) WPRU Bulletin. Paul Dunn ’58 was the Bulletin’s managing editor as a Princeton Undergraduate, and continues to play an important role on WPRB’s board of trustees today. You can download the complete bulletin (.PDF) by clicking here.

Below, an important message from Paul about WPRB’s 75th Anniversary Membership Drive.


Announcing WPRB’s Public Exhibit!

We’re thrilled to announce the long-planned second phase of WPRB’s 75th anniversary celebrations (the first being the launch of this website): a physical exhibit of station history and esoterica, which will be on display at Princeton University’s Mudd Library through May of 2016, and which is open to the public!

Titled “WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse”, and curated by WPRB’s Mike Lupica and Princeton University Archivist Dan Linke, the exhibit is a meatspace version of the kind of materials we’ve been highlighting on this website. On display are vintage photographs, playlists, documents, selections from WPRB’s vinyl record library, vintage broadcast equipment, and much more. There is also an interactive content station that allows visitors to browse audio selections and WPRB-related news clippings from the last 75 years.

“WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse” is a free exhibit which is open to the public. The exhibit is housed in the Wiess Lounge at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, in Princeton, New Jersey. (Right around the corner from Hoagie Haven!) Viewing hours are Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 4:45 PM.

More info.


1949 WPRU Sign On—Awaiting “the Magic Hour”

[By Nelson Runger ’53]

I drew the job of morning man in September of my freshman year, 1949. I had about an hour’s instruction the day before my debut—all about how to turn the station on in the morning, etc. There was no separate engineer. I was the whole staff on duty.

I cajoled my three suite-mates to get up and listen to my debut (which was a three-hour stint that began at 6:00 a.m., as I recall.) I showed up about a half-hour early, turned on all the switches and gauges I had learned the previous day, selected the records I would play during the first hour, read over the FCC announcement that had to be read aloud at the beginning of the broadcasting day, cued up the Star Spangled Banner, and awaited the magic hour. (Ed note: The routine steps of morning sign-on, then as now, are required to be chronicled on every radio station’s daily programming log. See above for example from roughly the same era referenced in this story.)

At 6:00, I played the national anthem, read the FCC announcement, and launched into my three hours of recorded music, zippy banter, occasional news items, (mostly read from that morning’s Daily Princetonian), and frequent solo work on the Jew’s harp (also called a mouth harp and a jaw harp.) At the end of my three hours, I turned the station off, there being then a period of some hours before the station went on the air again.

I rushed back to my room and found my three suite-mates staring glumly at me. They hadn’t heard a thing, the one switch I had forgotten was the one that turned the transmitter on.

Welcome Back—Fall of ’83

By Henry Yu
(Above, L-R: Yuval Taylor 85, Nicola Ginzler 85, Colin Iosso 84, Henry Yu 84, Bob Bruce 85. On the road to an REM/Hüsker Dü gig in WPRB’s VW Rabbit. Photo by Kristin Belz ’84))

1980-1984 was such a great time period musically. First generation punk rock may have already been declared dead by the cognoscenti, but those four years would mark the heyday of the post-punk and hardcore eras, the advent of college rock, and the birth of what would come to be known fondly as 80’s rock. To have been at WPRB when so many incredible records were coming out, while clubs like City Gardens and Maxwell’s played host to these bands tours, and their records could be bought at the Princeton Record Exchange or a Saturday bus ride to NYC from in front of Nassau Hall, was an incredible experience. And to have shared it with fellow DJs who became lifelong friends has made WPRB much more than a four year experience.

I began my DJ-ing as one half of the self-proclaimed “no future glimmer twins”, since neither one of us was competent enough to both talk and engineer at the same time, it took both of us to get us through a show. We even walked around campus handcuffed together on occasion. Eventually, we got our own shows.