The late sleeper enjoys morning music
Regular readers of these essays know that, back in May, I returned to the airwaves — after a 20-year-hiatus — as the Tuesday morning deejay (8 a.m. to noon) on WRDV FM 89.3 in Hatboro. As I’ve said on the air a few times since then “it’s the most fun I could have without being arrested” (liberally adapted from the “most fun with my clothes on” line).
From my three past decades as a deejay, I have a substantial personal collection of vinyl records; however, I have burned many of them to CDs and use them instead on the air. It’s easier to take a case of CDs than a case of vinyl, but turntables are available at the station and some of the deejays still play the old records. In fact, collectors of vinyl are, once again, on the rise. New artists are starting to release 33 1/3rd RPM records again because, when there’s a demand, there will always be someone looking to supply it.
Shawn Nakkula, co-owner of The Rail Stop on Spring Avenue in Elkins Park, told me during a recent visit that he is now turning his book shop into a record store. He’s renovating now, but when he re-opens in September, he’ll have more than 20,000 LPs for enthusiasts to pour over (the executive editor of this newspaSHU LV D KuJH IDn RI YLnyO; yRu’OO finG KLP there for sure). Shawn actually bought one collection recently of more than 15,000 LPs, many of them still factory sealed. There’s a shop in North Wales selling vinyl too. In fact, there are several doing so within driving distance of this newspaper.
People often ask me, “Where do you get such great music?” And I tell them that as a music collector, besides going to vintage record stores, similar to Shawn’s, I also haunt thrift shops and yard sales — from Rio Grande, N.J., to Warminster — looking for, and often finGLnJ, JHPV IURP WKH HUD , SODy HDFK week. You can buy them new on Amazon, of course, but it’s better (and less expensive) to buy them used. CDs, unlike a vinyl record, seem to resist damage if handled correctly.
OK, so doing a morning show means that I have to get up around 6 a.m. (and I am a notoriously late sleeper), but I get to play music each week from the big band and swing era (1930s through the early 1960s). To the point, that means the songs that my parents danced to and the ones in life’s soundtrack that took me through high school and college. Is that cool or what? Listeners of all ages call in and tell me they, too, like hearing those great tunes.
There’s Perry Como, whom my mother and most of the ladies of her generation swooned over from his big band days until he was a huge star on TV. Vocalists and groups like The Andrews Sisters, The Four Aces, Johnny Desmond, Johnny Mercer, Kay Starr, Doris Day, Patti Page (whose hit tune “Old Cape Cod” launched a million vacations — and became our honeymoon destination), Jo Stafford, Frankie Laine, Vaughn Monroe, Hoagie Carmichael and, of course, the crooner’s crooner, Bing Crosby.
Still topping among the big band leaders is Glenn Miller, not only because he died serving his country in World War II at the peak of his popularity, but also because of his wonderful arrangements. He is a listener favorite, and his band is still playing and is now under the direction of vocalist Nick Hilscher and continues selling out venues all over the country and the world. Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton also enjoy popularity among multiple generations. Many area high schools have jazz and swing bands. Lots of kids like this music better than their other choices.
WRDV FM is a public radio station licensed to Warminster/Hatboro and with multiple network connections to stations in Bucks County and Center City Philadelphia. Everyone working there — from the big brass to the guy who empties the trash cans — is a volunteer, as in no one gets paid (unlike some public stations that “out salary and out luxury” the commercial ones). To EH D GHHMDy WKHUH, fiUVW yRu KDYH WR SDVV Dn eight-week course. Pride runs deep among the station’s staffers.
The deejays are from all walks of life. We’ve got a lawyer, engineers (of all stripes), teachers, administrators, salespeople, both men and women. Some are retired; some are not. The oldest is 86 years old, and he still pulls a weekly fourhour morning shift and plays some of the rarest music on the air.
Thanks to streaming Internet (Live365, wrdv.org), we also have listeners all over the country and the world. We can track listener numbers, and the web audience is impressive. Since the big band format isn’t widely copied, music fans in California, Texas, Mexico and Florida are among my weekly listeners.
When I played an assortment of early 1940s tunes around Memorial Day, I got a call from an 87-year-old man in Warminster who said, “I love the music; I used to dance to it at the USOs during World War II.” It’s a family connection because it links the generations. On my July 2 show ,I played marches from the original big band, John Philip Sousa, and the switchboard lit up.
A sage once said “Music tames the savage beast,” and I guess it does. I know it tames me and makes me look forward to Tuesdays like I never have before. Life continues to be good.
Listen to Ted Taylor Tuesdays on WRDV FM (89.3) from 8 a.m. to noon or contact him at email@example.com.