A memento from the early days

I was tidying some paperwork at home and came across this letter, sent twenty- five years ago today; it must have been one of the first letters I received at the station. I have redacted the identifying details to protect the innocent, and appended the text of the letter below the image for clarity:

1987 listener letter

July 30, 1987

Flavian Wallace WNUR Evanston Campus Northwestern Unlversity Evanston, Il

Dear Mr Wallace:

For almost 2 hours this morning you contaminated the airwaves with eternally long monotonous musical marathons, which merely showed the technical proficiency and endurance of the various performers.

I am aware that the term “jazz” has a broad spectrum, but to extend it to the ridiculous with cacophony causes irreparable harm and damage to the memory of such giants of Jazz as Armstrong, Goodman, Basie etc.

I am aware that all people cant be pleased at all times, but if the sounds you are sending over the airwaves the majority of time constituted the basis of our history of Jazz, 1t would never have gotten off the ground.

I suggest that 1f Armstrong and Lester Young were playing in one saloon, and Parker and Gillespie were playing in another the Armstrong and Lester place would be filled forever simply because they reach the people and their sounds are compatible with the common man.

This is an over simplification, of course, and I took 4 of the of the best, but the point 1s that bebop, contemporary and other forms of mutilated music called Jazz, has never and w111 never match or compare with the great traditional sounds of Jazz, which extend from the Dixeland, to the Honk Tonks and nite clubs, and from the small combos to the b1g bands.

Come back home. Maybe with this kind of music we can once again bring Jazz back into the mainstream of our popular music.

Sincerly yours,

I really do appreciate hearing from listeners, even when they have negative comments (of course the positive ones are nicer, but hearing the other side is good too). I wonder if this gentleman gave up and went elsewhere, or if he stayed listening to my show to see if I would come round to his point of view. I hope he’s still around somewhere enjoying the kind of music he likes best; he’s right that the old masters were indeed great, even if I can’t agree with him that everything from bebop on is necessarily inferior (Sturgeon’s Law notwithstanding).

My thanks to all of you who have ever taken the time and trouble to call or write, it is always nice to know that there’s someone out there listening. Here’s to the next twenty-five years of listener feedback!

XXV and counting

It’s amazing to think that five years have passed since we moved into our new studios; that move roughly coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of my association with the WNUR jazz show. That means that I must now have clocked up a quater of a century of jazz shows! So that such a milestone did not pass totally without notice I did a couple of week’s shows (1, 2) entirely comprised of music from 1987 or before (I briefly considered making it only 1987, but that seemed a little restricting). Shades of the, now seemingly defunct, WNUR Dillo Day tradition of the Flashback Weekend when the station would play nothing recorded after 1970 (at least that was the date when I started, though the cutoff moved forward over the years).

Farewell Tony

Dezso ‘Tony’ TolnaiWNUR is all student run and all the on air staff are volunteers — students, alums (like me), and other hangers on from the local community. The only exception to this are the technical staff: the chief engineer and the technicians who maintain the transmitter and equipment work for Northwestern. Not surprisingly the FCC requires people who know what they are doing, and who have the licenses to prove it, handle the details of keeping the transmitter safe and legal. Since I started at the station Tony Tolnai has been the chief engineer (and much else besides); he actually started in 1985, the year before I came to WNUR, but as far as I’m concerned he has always been there as a benign guiding force. He has been in charge of keeping our old equipment functioning, and the planning of two new studios and the moves into them (see here for a little the story of the moves). Here’s a brief, if somewhat out of date, profile of Dezso ‘Tony’ Tolnai, Director of Media Technology for Northwestern’s School of Communication (or School of Speech as it was always known), and WNUR’s long time chief engineer from the October 2002 edition of the [Northwestern Observer Online](http://www.northwestern.edu/univ- relations/observer/stories/10_31_02/tolnai.html).

Tony is retiring after serving us long and well; we’ll miss him.

It was twenty years ago today…

20th anniversary show, March 30, 2007, in Louis Hall
At the studio in Louis Hall
Well, probably not to the day, but close. I realized a few days ago that the start of spring quarter at Northwestern marks the twentieth anniversary of my presence on the WNUR jazz show. I started as an apprentice in the spring, then had my own show by the summer; though there have been a few quarters over the intervening years when I didn’t do a show, I have been a steady presence ever since. It has been great treat, and I have enjoyed it immensely.

I’m excited to start my third decade of WNUR jazz in the new studios. They are still tidying up the loose ends and fixing a few bugs, but it is already a treat to work in the new space. The picture may not make it seem that different from the old space, but the changes are immense. The inaugural/anniversary show featured old music, nothing recorded after 1987 — indded a lot of old favorites going back to the twenties. Two and a half hours isn’t really enough to even begin to hit the high spots, but it was good fun.