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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.

WPRB in The Daily Princetonian: The Early Years

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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 a series of slideshows. This post documents WPRB’s early years. Beware those kilocycle gremlins.

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.

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WPRB’s Coverage of the Vietnam Moratorium

It was fall of 1969. Despite the recent reduction of troop levels, over 475,000 young men were still fighting in Vietnam—most of them conscripted. Young people from all walks of life were getting drafted into the army, including many Princeton students and graduates. As was the case on many college campuses at the time, Princeton experienced a growth in campus unrest in protest of the Vietnam War.

On October 15, 1969, Princeton, along with hundreds of other campuses across the nation, participated in a national moratorium against the war. The Peace Moratorium is believed to have been the largest demonstration in US history with an estimated two million people involved. At Princeton, this included a day of teach-ins, speeches, and demonstrations. WPRB’s News Department covered the event live.

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LISTEN: Late 70s Interview with George Gallup Jr.

Here’s an excellent interview with George Gallup Jr. conducted by WPRB’s John Shyer at some point in 1977 or 1978. Gallup graduated from Princeton University in 1953, and along with his brother Alec, became an executive for their father’s well-known polling company, The Gallup Organization. The interview is a fascinating window into the evolution of polling as a component of the American political process. Here’s a remarkable exchange, especially given recent developments in campaign finance law:

Shyer: [Regarding] any of the election reform bills that are taking effect now and have been passed in the last few years, do you think they’re improving the situation?

Gallup Jr. : No, it’s just hogwash. To unseat a Congressman today, an incumbent, requires… probably in the neighborhood of one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Who has that kind of money?

Right-click to download, or listen to the full interview using the player below.

 

 

WPRB DJs Arrested in Washington, 1970

[Jeff Weiser (left) and Bruce Snyder help cover the 1972 election live on the air.]

By Douglas B. Quine

I joined WPRB in my freshman year of 1969-1970 and trained on WPRB-AM before serving as a newsman at the May Day protest demonstration in Washington (1970) and the election night headquarters of Nixon and McGovern (1972). In Princeton, I took on the folk & blues shows on WPRB-FM, served as Traffic Director and assistant business manager, and finally served on the Ivy Network Board of Directors.

I have many memories of WPRB, including lighting fluorescent lamps by the radiated antenna power on Holder Tower, talking with stoned listeners who called into the studios, organizing the Beach Boys, Fish, Jean Shepherd, Weather Report, & Poco concerts, and the first WPRB Tee Shirts (blue shirts with a yellow smudge at the bottom which was supposed to represent a voice print). The stories that I’ve retold the most times, however, must be the “WPRB arrests in Washington” and “The Do Me Bird”.

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WPRB at the DNC, Sting from the Police, and Freeform vs. Format

By Jordan Becker

I started at WPRB during the second semester of my freshman year in 1979. The ability to have the entire record library—and it was still all vinyl—at my disposal was intoxicating. Unless that was the fumes from the records.

At the time, the station’s rock programming was still very much beholden to the freeform model of the late 1960s-early 1970s. In fact, to my memory, the only requirement that we had was the obligation to play a certain amount of jazz during a rock show. That all changed, though, when Ashley Ellott became station manager, and Jason Meyer became program director. They attempted to turn the rock programming into something more consistent and more rock oriented. To me, there is something to be said for listeners having a general sense of what they might hear when they turn on the radio, and having some consistency from day to day and time slot to time slot theoretically results in listeners staying with the station for longer periods. On the other hand, they also insisted that we use the slogan “Your Music,” which was generally reviled—it might have worked at a professional commercial station, but was a bad idea for a college radio station.

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“WPRB and Me”

[By Chris Fine]

LISTEN: Mic breaks and news reports from Chris Fine’s rock show on WPRB, February 25th, 1980.

 

Introduction
I write these words about WPRB because I love the station. The people of WPRB were some of my best friends during my years at Princeton. WPRB was the single best activity (including courses – as my transcript reflects) in which I participated during my undergraduate years. My interest in radio, and technology in general, dates back well before my journey to Princeton University in September, 1976. Encouraged by my father, who was an audio engineer and inventor, I started tinkering with electronics and chemistry at a young age. Predictably, a number of shocks and small fires resulted – but fortunately no major injuries, and my family was always patient with me.

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“Your Show Sucks!”

[By Ian Auzenne]

The first time I actually listened to WPRB was the night after my first appearance on (sports talk show) “Time Out”. I was listening via the webstream just to see what was on the air, and I was amazed and astounded by what I heard: Backwards records. Slowed down records. Records being played over each other—some with superb mixing; others not so much.  It was a beautiful cacophony, and it was unlike anything I had ever heard.

I walked down to the station and knocked on the door. I wanted to find out who was responsible for awakening my ears.

The DJ who answered the door was a tall, hulking young man who sounded slightly older than he was. I introduced myself and, in fan boy fashion, told him how much I enjoyed what I was hearing. That jock, Adam Flynn ’08, invited me in and let me watch him at work. I was mesmerized. (more…)