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Looking back to the past

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WFUV just recently celebrated it’s 60th anniversary! It might be mind boggling to some of you to think that WFUV is 60 years old, especially those of you who may have just recently found the station. But, 60 we are! WFUV signed on the air for the first time at 90.7FM on July 7, 1947. On October 26, 1947, the station was formally dedicated. Initially, the studios and offices of WFUV were built into a section of the third (top) floor of Keating Hall, on the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University in the Bronx. For 58 years, WFUV made it’s home in that cramped space. Then in 2005, WFUV moved for the only time in it’s history...down to the renovated basement of Keating Hall.

All this looking back in WFUV’s history has caused me to think a lot about my time at WFUV. It is really amazing to me to think that I have been at WFUV for over a third of the station’s history and more than half of my life! I strolled into the third floor hall of WFUV for the first time back in September 1983. I was 18 years old and just starting my first year at Fordham University. I still remember seeing the mixing console in the main studio for the first time and thinking that I could never figure out how to use all those knobs, buttons and sliders! But it looked so cool! Back then, WFUV was a full blown college radio station. The entire staff, except for the General Manager and Chief Engineer, were students. That meant the Program Director, Music Director, News Director, Sports Director, Classical Music Director, etc. were all students. To join the staff of WFUV, you had to be a Fordham University student (obviously) and have some kind of raw talent that could be molded into something that would be presentable on a 50,000 watt radio station in New York City. My ambition was to be an on air disc jockey. To do that, I would have to become a licensed engineer capable of using the station’s equipment and capable of keeping the station on the air. I also needed to be trained in the basics of announcing. I would also have to be willing to host classical music programming as well. If my memory is correct, the engineering was taught in two lengthy workshops, the first lasting at least ten weeks. The announcing was taught in two three week workshops. I spent the fall and winter of 1983-84 attending most of these workshops and hanging around the radio station trying to make friends and make my face known. Like anything else, I needed to try to pry myself into the operations, and the cliques, that were already firmly in place long before I arrived. I remember hanging around a lot on Friday nights. I remember feeling like a groupie trying to get staff members to like me and “take me under their wing”. While still being trained on the equipment, I completed the announcing end of my training and now I was required to put together an audition tape to submit to the Program Director. I have little memory of working on that tape, but I am sure I had a staff member guiding me and doing the engineering. I must have done it right, because I seem to remember “passing my audition” quickly. Back then, newly approved announcers were scheduled to make their very first appearances on the air on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 - 8:00AM...the final two hours of the free form overnight rock music program. You know, when no one is listening! When the February 1984 new announcer schedule was posted by the Program Director, I had the final spot! My radio announcing debut would happen on Sunday morning, February 26, 1984 at 6:00AM! I still remember the day before...strolling around Manhattan with my (first) girlfriend Debbie. I remember buying the cassette tapes to record the show! We had dinner at a diner back in the Bronx on the corner of Bronxdale and East Tremont Avenues, near Castle Hill Avenue. I went to bed ridiculously early the night before. The next morning, minutes before 6, Ed Ferrigno closed his four hour overnight shift off by announcing my name, saying that two more hours of commercial free rock was ahead. Unknown to me at the time, my career as a broadcaster and my unprecedentedly long career at WFUV was about to begin. My first words were the station’s ID, spoken nervously in a very thick Bronx accent, including a “New Yawk”!  The first songs I played were “Venus And Mars” and “Rock Show” by Wings. In fact, I just recently located those two cassette tapes preserving that first show, hopefully forever. Here is the playlist from that first show: ”Venus And Mars” Wings, “Rock Show” Wings, “Stick It Where The Sun Don’t Shine” Nick Lowe, “Down On The Farm” Little Feat, “We’re An American Band” Grand Funk (Railroad), “For Your Love” Fleetwood Mac, “American Woman” The Guess Who, “Canto De Los Flores” Santana, “Life Is Anew” Santana, “Give And Take” Santana, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” U2, “Happy Man” Chicago, “Hold On” Chicago, “Empty Pages” Traffic, “Hello, It’s Me” Todd Rundgren, “Cymbaline” Pink Floyd, “21st Century Schizoid Man including Mirrors” King Crimson, “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” The Alan Parsons Project, “Moondance” Van Morrison, an audio drop in from “The Honeymooners”, “Still Crazy After All These Years” Paul Simon, “All Lovers Are Deranged” David Gilmour, “Doctor Wu” Steely Dan, “Midnight Rider” The Allman Brothers Band, “Up On Cripple Creek” The Band, “Barracuda” Heart, “Golden Slumbers” The Beatles, “Carry That Weight” The Beatles, “The End” The Beatles. By 8:00, “The End” was faded early (bastard!) and David Kiley did the news. If memory serves me correctly, the religious music program “Joyful Music”, with host Joe McKenna, followed at 8! That first show was marred by one huge, embarrassing blunder! While back announcing the Chicago songs, a friend of mine showed up unannounced to sit with me during my first show. He had been out all night and came to the station to see me before going home. I was distracted by his presence and forgot to shut my microphone as I went into Traffic’s “Empty Pages”. Our whole conversation went over the air...”You were out all night? Does your mother know? EXCELLENT!!”. My girlfriend and mother frantically called me at the studio to tell me they could hear us talking. Debbie got me first and you hear me answer the phone “Hi Deb!” and ask “what’s the matter?”! Then the chatter ends. Ultimately, no harm done. I was lucky enough to land my second show that next Saturday, March 3, 1984, again from 6:00AM to 8:00AM. The playlist for that one was: ”The Road To Utopia” Utopia, “Valerie” Steve Winwood, “No Matter What” Badfinger, “Murder” David Gilmour (the first of three songs I would play from the Pink Floyd guitarist’s soon to be released second solo album About Face), “Trampled Under Foot” Led Zeppelin, “Man Of Peace” Bob Dylan, “You Never Give Me Your Money” The Beatles, “City Of Love” Yes, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” Blood, Sweat and Tears, “Midnite Cruiser” Steely Dan, “Back On The Chain Gang” The Pretenders, “You Don’t Believe” The Alan Parsons Project, “Cool For Cats” Squeeze, “When I Write The Book” Rockpile, “Every Breathe You Take” The Police, “South California Purples” (The) Chicago (Transit Authority), “She’s Not There” Santana, a bit by George Carlin, “All Lovers Are Deranged” David Gilmour, “Burning Bridges” Pink Floyd, “Crossroads” Cream, “Pride And Joy” Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” The Byrds, “I Don’t Wanna Face It” John Lennon, “Every Night” Paul McCartney, “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day” Jethro Tull, “Love On The Air” David Gilmour, “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” The Electric Light Orchestra, “Allergies” Paul Simon, “The Spirit Of Radio” Rush. I had many opportunities to do airshifts through most of 1984. Most, if not all of them were fill in spots during overnights. Being that I still had yet to become a licensed engineer, I was unable to take on any regular weekly shifts. Sometime towards late 1984, I finally took my engineering exam and passed. I was official! From late 1984 through September 1988, I was on the air numerous times a week...the most common place to hear me was Friday nights/Saturday mornings from 11:00PM until 2:00AM. During most of this time, I was WFUV’s Production Director (ooh!). Then, on Saturday, September 3, 1988, from midnight until 3:00AM, with my diploma from Fordham University hanging on my wall, I hosted my final show on WFUV...or so I thought! I said farewell with: ”Hari’s On Tour (Express)” George Harrison (my theme), “I’m The Greatest” Ringo Starr, “Silver Train” The Rolling Stones, “Touchdown Raiders” Santana, “Soul Sacrifice / Head, Hands And Feet” Santana, “Thank You For Being A Friend” Andrew Gold, “End Of The Day” Al Stewart, “I’m Your Captain” Grand Funk Railroad, “Day After Day” Badfinger, “Chestnut Mare” The Byrds, “ My Back Pages” The Byrds, “Writing” Elton John, “Elderberry Wine” Elton John, “The End” The Doors, “Ventura Highway” America, “Mama Mama” Chicago, “In The Country” Chicago, “All Things Must Pass” George Harrison, “ Brothers Of The Road” The Allman Brothers Band, “Voices In The Sky” The Moody Blues, “I’ll Be Back” The Beatles, “I’ll Follow The Sun”, “Wooden Ships” Crosby, Stills and Nash, “Deja Vu” Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Guinevere” Crosby, Stills and Nash, “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You” Tom Waits, “I Don’t Mind At All” Bourgeois Tagg, “Golden Slumbers” The Beatles, “Carry That Weight”, The Beatles, “The End” The Beatles. As it turned out, I wasn’t gone for long. By January 1989, I was back on the air, filling in occasionally for DJs who wished a night off. By June, I was asked to take my old Friday night / Saturday morning back, as no one on the staff was willing to take that shift. I jumped at the chance to be back on the air. Mind you, I still was unsure of what my future held. I had my eye on radio, but had no clue where to go and how to get there. I absolutely had no idea that WFUV would remain in my life! My second life at WFUV lasted a year. By mid 1990, WFUV was well on it’s way to transforming itself from a college radio station to a professional, public radio station. On Saturday morning, June 30, 1990, I REALLY hosted my final show on WFUV...again, or so I thought. That show was bittersweet, because not only was I saying farewell for real, but I was co-hosting the final free form overnight rock music program on WFUV. It was the end of the twenty year run for “The Rock Block”.

I never severed my ties with the management of WFUV. Late 1990 saw me called in to do some engineering work during the fall membership drive. Then, I got what could be called “the break”. I was asked to return to air to fill for the morning drive DJ during Christmas week 1990. These five shows, Monday December 24 through Friday December 28, 1990 ended up being my ticket to a career in radio...at WFUV. That week, I was asked to host the new afternoon drive music program that would debut in January. I flipped out! Of course, I took the position, and by mid-January 1991, I returned to WFUV - the new and improved WFUV! The rest is history. By January 1992, I was moved to morning drive where I would spend the next nine years. In January 2001, middays became my home and it’s where I still am today. I was the Assistant Music Director and Music Promotions Director for awhile. I got to host “The WFUV Long Player” for five and half years. Hell, I even met my future wife at WFUV!!!. It’s been one hell of a ride. Here’s to another 60 years for WFUV!

Thanks for reading,

Darren