Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tufts Radio Back in the Days of Hendrix

A former DJ remembers his glory days from WTUR/WMFO

Congratulations on your story about Tufts Radio. It’s a wonderful piece that brings back memories of my days on the Hill.

I started working at WTUR as a DJ in my freshman year in 1968. Tommy Hadges, A69, was the station manager, and it was a great place to be in that year of the “Summer of Love.”

John DeGioia and I were on the air every Saturday afternoon as “The Ghost Riders,” spinning a mix of oldies and newies—John was the oldies expert, and I contrasted his picks with the best of the “modern” artists like Cream, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds and Janis Joplin.

At that point, the studio was in its original digs high atop Curtis Hall, and the broadcast studio was a glorified closet overlooking the intersection of Boston and College avenues out one window and the famed railroad tracks out the other. Hot days made opening the microphone a challenge, as the traffic noise through the open window or a passing train was likely to drown out the voice of the DJ.

The next year, I was made music director, followed by program director under station manager Harry Levy, E72, who oversaw construction of our new studio facilities across the hall, which coincided with the transformation of WTUR to WMFO-FM.

The station was in continuous operation throughout my tenure at Tufts, from September 1968 through January 1973, and was the communication center of the school for events such as the Beatles’ “Paul Is Dead” mystery and the announcement of draft lottery numbers, when the draft was ended in favor of the lottery system. We also presented live interviews with visiting national musical acts, and offered a wide mix of musical tastes from a large number of eager student DJs.

I think the railroad track story is urban legend, or perhaps more a case of “telephone.” I remember that at one point, the engineering crew decided that it might benefit our 10-watt transmission signal to run a wire to the metal fence that surrounded the campus, and it proved to be good science when we started getting phone calls from listeners throughout the Boston area. I think that was the event that drew the ire of the FCC, and if I remember correctly, they did shut us down briefly.

I congratulate WMFO on reaching its 40-year milestone, and am gratified to see that the station that we loved so much continues to bring information, joy and creativity to its staff and the students of Tufts. Rock on!

Jeffrey Kawalek, A73

President, Kawalabear Productions, Inc., Maplewood, N.J.

Do you have a story about the Tufts radio stations? Send it to tuftsjournal@tufts.edu and we’ll publish it here.

Posted November 19, 2010