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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.

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.

“The Princeton Freedom Station is On the Air!”

[By Warren Fales ’43. Pictured: Unknown WPRU Engineers]

I started out with The Daily Princetonian and, in early 1941, part of my news-writing assignment was to cover the new student-operated radio station, WPRU. I became more and more interested in the station’s operations and even began to fill in as an announcer from time to time. My superiors at The Prince, pointing out that WPRU was a competitor to the newspaper, told me to make up my mind who I wanted to work for, so I finally quit the Prince.


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.

Oh God, My God, I Left my Key to Heaven at Home

By Teri Noel Towe
[aka “TNT” or Teri “The Animal” Towe]

The late 60’s were a Golden Age for classical music at the station. WPRB was blessed with a string of committed and sensitive Classical Music Directors: Jeff Schaefer, Hal Abelson, Greg Petsko, and Alan Konefsky. I myself had the pleasure of serving in that capacity for a year and a half. The Classical Department had four hours every weekday evening (7 to 11) and several hours on Sunday afternoon. As a record collector and classical music nut, I found at WPRB the perfect forum for the grinding of my personal axes. For two years (my junior and senior years), I did two shows a week (Tuesday and Thursday evenings). In addition to series devoted to all the recordings of the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska and the cellist and conductor Pablo Casals, I regularly presented “The Age of Shellac”, a series devoted to historic 78 RPM recordings, which I transferred to tape on my own equipment in my dorm room, first in ’41 Hall, and then in ’03.


WPRU Remote Broadcast Mystery

This is one of the oldest original photos we’ve discovered in the station’s archives, but no details as to the subjects, location, or year it was taken have been revealed. The mic setup suggests a remote broadcast, the WPRU banner places it somewhere between 1940 and 1955, and the combo’s setup indicates a live jazz gig at a… University eating club? Some long-shuttered venue in Princeton?

Do you recognize any of the subjects in this photo or have any information on the event it depicts? Please comment below and help us unravel this mystery!

UPDATE: Rob Schuman says: “I don’t, of course, recognize the group, but the station aired live jazz from very early on in its existence. I doubt its the same group, but here’s a clip from the Princetonian, October 9, 1941.”


(Re-)Introducing WPRB’s 1980s House Band: The Funstigators!

By Steve Buratowski ’84

DOWNLOADS: The Complete Funstigators WPRB Tapes (.zip file) and the original Funstigators bio (.pdf)

One by-product of WPRB in the early ’80s was a band called the Funstigators. The band consisted of Steve Buratowski, Mark Crimmins, Ray Gonzalez, Kevin Hensley, Chuck Steidel, and Charles Sullivan. All were class of 1984 and, and except for Charles, joined the station as DJs soon after arriving at Princeton. Mark, Chuck, and Charles were roommates, and as far back as freshman year one of their favorite things to do on weekends was to get some cheap beer and play music. Chuck and Mark had guitars, and Charles played one of those tiny squeaky Casiotone keyboards that were popular in the ’80s, using an overturned trashcan as a stand.


“WPRB and Me”

[By Chris Fine]

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


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.


WPRB as “The Voice of the Campus”, by Paul Dunn


Working at WPRU or, in fact, having anything to do with broadcasting was the farthest thing from my mind the first time I entered the station in the early fall of 1954. I was simply fleeing from a group of sophomores who were trying to steal my beanie, which all freshman had to wear then. Holder Hall was the sophomore dorm, but we had to pass through this enemy territory to get to the Commons to eat. A month or so later, a few of my friends and I came up with the idea that WPRU, which, at that time, didn’t sign on till 8 pm Sundays, should have a classical music program Sunday afternoons. We had met some members of the station — Art Hulnich ’57 comes to mind — and we proposed the idea of a Sunday afternoon program called Sunday Sketchbook, and it was eventually accepted. It was not long till I was thoroughly addicted to life in the basement of Holder. (more…)