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The Big Broadcast

Rest in peace, Rich Conaty.

Rich Conaty discovered the timeless music of 'The Big Broadcast' in 1971 as a high school junior living in Queens, when he stumbled upon Mark Adler's show 'Genesis of a Record,' broadcast from Hofstra University. "I'd stay up late, fiddling with the dial, wondering what was out there. All of a sudden, I'm hearing this crazy music from the '20s," he remembered. And he liked what he heard. That summer, the enterprising Conaty got himself an internship at Hofstra's WRHU, thus beginning his radio career - and his love affair with classic pop and jazz.

When he began attending Fordham University the following year, Conaty wasted no time in joining the staff of WFUV and finagling his way into co-hosting a Sunday night program called 'In the Mood.' "It started out as a forum for student government, but as they ran out of things to say, they started spinning old records," he recalled. By January 1973, Conaty found himself sole host of the still-evolving show and renamed it 'The Big Broadcast.' He and the program were on the air in New York through 2016.

Throughout his radio career, Conaty had several opportunities to meet some of the artists whose records he plays on the air. "Over the years, I got to see Bing and the Mills Brothers in person, interviewed the two surviving Boswell Sisters, got drunk with Cab Calloway, and spent an evening listening to Tin Pan Alley tales from "Star Dust" lyricist Mitchell Parish," he recounted. We hope he's swinging in heaven with his old friends now.

 

The Big Broadcast: A musical spotlight on the classic sounds of the 1920s and '30s, Sunday nights from 8pm-Midnight.

"The Big Broadcast was a pretty unusual show, content-wise, over 35 years ago. It's almost unique today," Conaty observed in 2010. "I haven't heard any other program that blends classic jazz with the pop vocals and dance bands of the same period."

"I'm pretty typical of the people who listen to my shows," says Rich. The music is "strictly one piece of the puzzle. It's important to keep some balance."

This may be why fans of The Big Broadcast are so loyal. At least one listener claims never to have missed a show in more than 22 years. And when Conaty left WFUV in December 1992 "to see if The Big Broadcast would succeed on a commercial outlet," his loyal listeners followed. Despite his success elsewhere, however, Conaty found the working environment in commercial radio to be less than ideal, and by July 1997 he was delighted to return to the station where it all began. "I think the experience polished my act, but also gave me a deeper appreciation for FUV," he said.

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Collecting notes:

At any moment, there are around 7,000 78s at auction on eBay. But keep an eye out on Feedback scores - many sellers have no idea how to grade records. A few confess to not being able to play them! I subscribe to VJM, a quarterly magazine with plenty of 78s and LPs. Online, you might want to visit Alan Cooperman's site [jazz78s.com], Warren Hicks' Records for Collectors, or Kurt Nauck [78rpm.com].

Once you've picked up some records, you'll need to play them. A vintage machine, like those you'll find at the Mechanical Music Extravaganza, is nice to look at, but rough on records. Kevin A. Barrett has a range of contemporary three-speed turntables and, most importantly, the right-sized needles for old sides [kabusa.com].

Rich's Links:

  • Archeophone Records - Put out wonderful, most acoustic (pre-1925) material, including their "Phonographic Yearbooks," Bert Williams and Marion Harris.
  • Frog Records - Wonderful transfers of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Miff Mole and King Oliver.
  • Hep Jazz - Alastair Robertson's label is expansive, and embraces modern jazz and big bands, as well as Cleo Brown, Isham Jones and the Tennessee Tooters.
  • Jazz Oracle - A great label out of Canada.
  • Mosaic Records - Well-produced, limited edition CDs. Bix Beiderbecke, Venuti & Lang, Bunny Berigan, Prima & Manone.
  • Rivermont Records - Bryan Wright’s label, the company that works with me on “The Big Broadcast” CDs.
  • Vocalion Records - A seemingly inexhaustible source for British Dance Bands, but they’ve also done Leo Reisman, Rudy Vallee and Paul Whiteman.

Extra Credit:

Schedule

Off-Air
Sun: 8:00 pm-12:00 am
Mon - Sat: Off-Air