Join John Tully & Toril Fisher for Part 3 of a 4-part series on WDRT’s Songs to Memory Program.
In recent years, station volunteers have been putting energy into organizing and cataloging our own collection of ‘shellac.’ WDRT Board Member and volunteer Bob Hill has spearheaded the organizing and curating of our 78 library.
What do find special about WDRT’s 78 collection, and 78 records in general?
As I work through the donated 78s and those that I have purchased and donated to WDRT, I was not surprised to see a large amount of post WWII pop music. What I was impressed by and still find hard to wrap my head around is the sizeable collection of early Vaudeville artists who were drawn to the medium as a way of extending the experience of their performance. In these records I find myself lost to some degree because I did not have a first hand experience with seeing the Vaudeville performance that the record represents. The
pacing is slow and some of the references lost. The hard part is making the leap to the fact that these recordings are, in many cases, more than 100 years old. It is amazing to hear work from this time period in history, before WWI and well before motion pictures and many radio shows. Live performance ruled the day and the “record” was an
extension of that experience. It was not until later that artists recognized the recorded medium as a mode of expression all its own. To listen to early Vaudeville recordings without the aid of research and study can leave the listener confused and questioning how this was entertainment at all. We have to be reminded that these artists assumed that the reason you bought the record is so that you can remember / relive the performance. In all of the records that I have listened to and collected, only this period of recording creates that
dissonance and wonder. Will I ever fully understand these recordings without the possibility of ever experiencing the live performance.
Do you have any favorites or specific 78’s you’ve found in the collection? The expression of Jazz on 78 is pure. I love listening closely to the record and hear the occasional distant side talk between musicians, clearing of throats and other sounds that modern recording would never allow. Keep in mind that these early Jazz recordings were the result of capturing one take of musicians playing live in a studio. There were no tracks or tape to isolate and layer the music together. In most cases it was a single microphone capturing
everything. As artists and producers, you kept the one you thought was the best. In some cases it was the only one you could pay for. Many of these early artists did not transfer over to 45 and 33PM formats, either because they did not have the following or they had passed on. In many cases the only way to hear this music is to play the old 78s.
Those are my favorite, finding an early Jazz artist that only recorded on 78.
What is the process for organizing the records?
With such a large and varied collection, it is important to get all of the records into a database and at the same time sort out the best copies of what we have. Ideally, to make the collection useable, you want to ultimately store them by genera and artist. Since artists jumped between labels, it makes it difficult to categorize and ensure that all duplicates are found. In my opinion, following the steps below provides WDRT the best opportunity to catalogue and manage a collection of this size.
1. Secure a space with tables and chairs for sorting
2. Get all known 78s in one location
3. Take all records out of books, bindings, sleeves and boxes (Save all books and sleeves)
4. Sort all discs by label (Clean as many as possible)
5. Work one label at a time and sort by number
6. Enter information about each record into a DB (Still to be built) Note condition of best copy and list number duplicates
7. Repair any damaged books and group by artist
8. After all records have been sorted and entered into the DB,
Complete as many books as possible by populating the books with the correct records from the collection (Use duplicates first)
9. Enter information about the completed books into a DB. Note condition of the best copy and list duplicates
10. After all books have been entered into the DB, Re-Sort the books and records by genera and artist
11. Store the best copy if possible as an archive and make duplicates and completed book available to DJ’s for use in shows.
12 As new stock (Donations) come in, Look them up in the database, update DB with information or add a line to the DB if the record does not exist. Clean the record, check to see if it competes an open book and place it in the collection by genera and artist.
As you can see, this is a big task and we are working with very old and fragile discs that if dropped will shatter. To accomplish the effort, people will need to be dedicated and careful. As with any large collection, it is easier to manage after it is organized.
Sound like something you might be interested in helping with? Patient hands are still needed to sort discs, enter titles into a database and build shelving. We’re also still taking donations of records. Email email@example.com for more information.
With Fall right around the corner, WDRT is gearing up for a big month of fundraising, outreach and celebration.
Our Fall pledge drive is September 11th-17th. We’ll be kicking off the Drive on Monday, September 11th in a big way. Organic Valley will be matching all pledges, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000 for the whole day. That means for every dollar you donate, WDRT gets two!
Go Macro of Viola will also be throwing down a generous $2,000 cash match on Thursday, September 14th. Every dollar donated to the station will be doubled by Go Macro until the match is met!
We’ll be closing out the pledge drive on our 7th birthday, Sunday, September 17th, with cake from the Cakery Cake & Bake Shop and a $600 matching grant from William Neil’s LPL Financial.
There’s lots of great thank you gifts, too. Like maple syrup? We’ve got quarts and half gallons of local maple syrup, as well as Localvore Gift Bags and WDRT Stainless Steel Insulated Mugs. Keep it tuned all week for our special ‘super premiums’ as well.
We’ll be offering up 1-year of Internet Service from Vernon Communications, ½ Pig from Mulefoot Farm, and a whole bunch of other great incentives to donate.
If you’re really interested in helping WDRT in a lasting way, take this pledge drive as an opportunity to become a Sustaining Member. Your membership will automatically renew each year, with payments deducted from your bank account each month.
This is the best way to support the station. It lowers operating costs, provides a reliable source of income and reduces our reliance on pledge drives. It’s simple and easy, and you can cancel at anytime.
Listener contributions make up the majority of our operating budget, and there’s a $20,000 goal for the Drive. Show your love for the station and donate!
The Vernon County Fair will also be taking place during the pledge drive, and will be open September 13th-17th. WDRT will have an outreach table at the Fair all week, and we will be having some special remote broadcasts from the fairgrounds.
We’re also excited to be competing in the Vernon County Demo Derby on Saturday, the 16th. This year’s vehicle is a 1998 Honda Odyssey and is being driven by seasoned demo derby driver, Sam Leighton (son of WDRT’s ‘Blueshound,’ Greg Leighton.)
As you can see, we’ve got a lot going on this month. Help us celebrate our seventh birthday by making a pledge, eating some cake and swinging by the Fair to see our very own community radio crash car smash its way to victory!
WDRT is sad to announce the passing of former WDRT show host and staff technical coordinator, Todd Fisher-Wallin. He was an early member of the station and helped to bring Heavy Metal music to the late night Saturday rotation with ‘Driftless Doom.’ Todd was a strong advocate for Open Source computer applications and helped tremendously in patching together the signal through all sorts of challenging conditions.
Todd was also a huge supporter of community radio and helped to set up the Low Power station with the White Earth Reservation Niijii Radio in Callway, Minnesota. He also co-founded Phantom Machine Works, a small company that helped assist community radio stations with technical operations nationwide.
Todd was a devoted family person and his children were often with their dad in the station, leaving us all sorts of drawings and art work. His wife Heather helped write and report news. Todd’s son Ben did one of the very first Radio Free Space shows at the age of 14.
He will be missed by the many people he touched in the radio world, both at WDRT, and nationwide.
Information on the memorial service and how to show support to his family here.
WDRT’s Toril Fisher and John Tully interview Dr. Dale Taylor on the power of music and memory with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and talk about WDRT’s Songs to Memory Program.