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Reminder: No Show Saturday, October 3rd

Larry Flint and The Road Scholars at Sallie O’Brien’s, 19Apr15

Hillbilly at Harvard is making room for WHRB’s 75th Anniversary celebrations tomorrow.  See HERE for details.  Get out and hear some live music—as Ol’ Sinc used to say, “You owe it to yourself!” (see the Country Calendar page). Back on the 10th!  /CL

HAH Featured in Harvard Magazine Article on WHRB

HARVxCV1x0915_1xHarvard Magazine, which is circulated to an astonishing 240,000 alumni, faculty, and staff of Harvard University (Wikipedia), in its Alumni section for September-October 2015 (Vol. 118, No. 1) featured an article by Craig A. Lambert on WHRB (pp. 63-7).  The article, entitled “A Broadcast Cornucopia,” focused on WHRB’s history and principal music departments (Classical, Jazz, Rock—nothing about its once-prominent News and still excellent Sports Departments), but notably for us, gave prominent attention to Hillbilly at Harvard:

In 1948, Dwight Benton Minnich ’51 (“Pappy Ben” on air) launched Barn Howl on WHRV (the AM predecessor of WHRB-FM), feeding the appetite for country music shared by many Southern World War II veterans at Harvard. His early effort evolved into the longest-running, most highly regarded country/bluegrass program on Boston radio, Hillbilly at Harvard, a Saturday morning fixture now hosted by Lynn Joiner ’61 (“Cousin Lynn”).

Joiner arrived at WHRB as folk music was taking off in 1959 and came to host the weekly Balladeers program—one night featuring a local teenager named Joan Baez. “We may have been the first to air her,” he says. Typifying the playlist, he says, are artists like “the Stanley Brothers [a bluegrass group, floruit 1946-66] and George Jones, the greatest singer in the history of country music,” Joiner adds, “with the possible exception of Hank Williams.” Joiner co-hosted with Brian Sinclair ’62 (“Ol’ Sinc”) from 1976 until Sinclair’s death in 2002. Their formula was one bluegrass, old-timey, or Cajun cut for every two country numbers. “Now it’s just me,” Joiner says.

He has carried on with gusto plus input from a loyal, knowledgeable audience. Hillbilly promotes local concerts and often brings in musicians for live interviews and performances. Joiner plays contemporary country artists, but doesn’t do “pop country” with its lush arrangements, sticking to the fiddles rather than the violins. In 2014, the International Bluegrass Music Association gave Hillbilly its Distinguished Achievement Award, its highest honor outside Hall of Fame induction. . .

Considering that HAH occupies a lonely four hours of Saturday-morning air time, and is at this point a historical legacy of WHRB’s past, rather than an integral part of its current programming, it was a distinct honor to get so much ink from Mr. Lambert.  Certainly listeners who continue to enjoy the show will be grateful to WHRB for faithfully providing a home for this fixture (Craig Lambert’s term) of country and bluegrass on Saturday mornings.

The whole article is HERE. /CL

PS Correction: I never hosted Balladeers; I was the Producer.  Hosts included Bill Wood, Alan Katz, and Tom Rush (who of course went on to an illustrious performing career).

Howdy Old Soldiers!

Soldiers Home

The Soldiers Home in Chelsea (photo from, HERE. © infoUSA.)

A week ago Saturday I received this delightful e-pistle:

From: Debbie [email deleted]


Sent: Saturday, September 5, 2015 12:18 PM

Subject: Thank you

I am a second generation fan of your Saturday broadcasts. My father, a devoted and looong time listener, is 97 years old and is a patient at the Chelsea Soldiers Home 2 Center. One of my dad’s nurses, Jeff , often plays your station for my Dad. You wouldn’t believe how many of the “guys,” all Veterans, will gather at his bed and listen. Many seem disconnected and unaware of much UNTIL Hillbilly at Harvard broadcasts!! I feel I’m with my Dad in our kitchen listening with him when I listen in as well.
I have been concerned for the health of Cousin Lynn over the last couple of months and so happy that you are playing prerecorded shows. I hope this stalwart effluvianado of Bluegrass is well and that you keep the beat going. We love you all and your show lights up the day of the staff and Veterans at Chelsea Soldiers Home 2 Center! Thank you for everything.
Sincerely, Debbie O’Connor, daughter of Walter Edmonds.

To which I responded,

Howdy Debby–
Many thanks for your heart-warming note.  I am glad to report that I am well, but had to spend some time away from the show to help clean out my parents’ house so that it can be sold (my mother passed away this spring at the age of 101).  I’ll be back next Saturday.
I can’t tell you how gratified I am that many of our veterans are gathering in your father’s room at the Old Soldiers’ Home to listen to Hillbilly at Harvard.  I know we have had listeners there for many years (a gentleman named Bill Hughes used to write often with requests), but it is wonderful to have your first-hand account.  Let me know of some of your father’s favorite songs, and I’ll try to work them into the show in weeks to come.
With all best wishes for you, your family, your father, and the guys in Chelsea,
/Lynn Joiner

And I asked her for permission to reprint her letter here.  It was gratifying to get her assent:

I am thrilled to receive your wonderful reply to my email! I would be honored for you to publish my letter.
Your show this morning is exceptional and I called the Chelsea Soldiers Home  2 Center, to tune in for Dad, staff and guys! Just returned from errands so looking forward to rest of show, hopefully.
My Dad’s favorites include anything Hank Williams (especially Honky Tonk Blues, Jambalaya, Cheating Heart.  Lonesome Whistle?  He loved also Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Tex Ritter.  The songs “Found Her Little Footprints in the Snow,” Little Jimmy Brown?  Something about a chapel ????
You’d be heartbroken to know how many precious 78 records my dad tossed years ago!!! A treasure trove I would’ve been happy to give you. :(
All the best in this time of loss and transition.
Thank you again!
Debbie O’Connor

I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to hear from listeners who enjoy the show, and it is especially gratifying to know that many of our elder veterans like to listen.  I’ll make an effort to feature more of the older country classics for them.  Of course there are others who like more bluegrass, and still others who need a does of Sturgill Simpson; the watchword is always a mix of old and new, familiar and unfamiliar—but always leaves on the tree nourished by country roots.

As for the 78s, Debbie: At WHRB we have not had turntables that play 78s for some years now.  I don’t even have one here at home, and I fact I left my father’s in Maryland last week, after finding that the 78 cartridge was missing.  We donated a heavy pile of 78-rpm classical albums to the Friends of the Montgomery County Library Store (they actually take them!).  The 78-rpm singles that WHRB had many decades ago, when I was an undergraduate, have disappeared. Some, I regret to say, were used as Frisbees; some ended up in Ol’ Sinc’s mother’s house; others with Pappy Ben in California.  Fortunately, most of them were popular recordings, so most of the songs have been reissued on LP and CD over the years.

Note: I touched up a few of Debbie’s hasty Internet typos, like lower-case ‘i’.  I am a little puzzled by what seems to be a new word: ‘effluvianado’.  ‘Effluvium’ generally refers to an unpleasant emission of some sort, but since we know Debbie meant it only positively, I will take it to mean ‘scintillating purveyor’.  Perhaps I should add it to my business card: ‘Bluegrass Effluvianado Par Excellence’.

Thanks, Debbie, for the terrific feedback.  /CL

The Fall Football Chopping Block—and Pre-emption for the 75th Birthday of WHRB

Harvard AthleticsEvery fall Hillbilly at Harvard suffers some curtailment because of Harvard football.  This year there are three night games (two on Fridays), and two mid-afternoon games (including The Game at Yale!) so only five shows will be affected: see below.  For late risers and those of you in earlier time zones, remember that you can record HAH and listen whenever you like.  That goes for all of you, of course; see HERE.

Football Airtimes 2015

* Sat 19Sep:  at Rhode Island— Pre-game 12:30 pm, game 1:00 pm
(HAH ends at 12:30)

* Sat 26Sep:  vs. Brown—Night game; Pre-game 6:30 pm, game 7:00 pm
(No effect on HAH)

* Fri 2Oct:  vs. Georgetown— Night game; Pre-game 6:30 pm, game 7:00 pm
(No effect on HAH—but we’re pre-empted on the 3rd; see below)

* Sat 10Oct:  at Cornell —Pre-game at 11:30 am, game at 12 noon
TIME CORRECTED! (HAH ends at 11:30 am)

* Sat 17Oct:  at Lafayette—Pre-game at 3:00 pm, game at 3:30 pm
(No effect on HAH)

* Sat 24Oct:  vs. Princeton—Pre-game at 11:30 pm, game at 12 noon
(HAH ends at 11:30 am)

* Fri 30Nov:  vs. Dartmouth—Night game; Pre-game at 7:00 pm, game at 7:30 pm
(No effect on HAH)

* Sat 7Nov:  at Columbia—Pre-game at 12:30 pm, game at 1:00 pm
(HAH ends at 12:30 pm)

* Sat 14Nov:  vs. Penn—Pre-game at 11:30 pm, game at 12 noon
(HAH ends at 11:30 pm)

* Sat 21Nov:  at Yale—(132nd playing of The Game)
Pre-game (1 hour long) starts at 1:30 pm, game at 2:30 pm
(No effect on HAH)

whrb_logoFootball aside, on Saturday October 3rd, WHRB will be in the throes of celebrating its 75th Anniversary, and as part of those celebrations WHRB alumni will gather to spend the morning  reminiscing on-air about their experiences at the station as undergraduates.  Hillbilly at Harvard will be pre-empted, and country music will be in short supply, but some long-time listeners to HAH and other WHRB programming may enjoy listening in to conversation about WHRB, stemming from the days when it was a closed-circuit campus AM station, then a metro-Boston FM outlet, to its presence today on the World Wide Web.

Off 29Aug and 5Sep, but We Have a Surprise—Ol’ Sinc!

Dr Janie and I have to go down to Maryland to help clear everything out of my parents’ home, now that both my father and mother are gone.  My mother survived only three months past her 101st birthday (see HERE for the 100th), and none of her three sons can take over the house and property (10 acres in Montgomery County), so they must be sold (see HERE for a photo of the house).

We’ll be airing what I call Generic Hours on Saturday August 29th, and again on Saturday September 5th—but, for the first time, we’re going to air two GHs that I recorded with my friend and colleague, Ol’ Sinc (Brian Sinclair).  I’m not sure of the dates; it was probably in 2000.  Sinc had (and has) a lot of fans in the Hillbilly listening audience, and even if you’re a newbie (by HAH standards), you’ll enjoy hearing some of Sinc’s razor-sharp wit and memorable quips.

Ol' Sinc and Danni Leigh at some local club (date and photographer unknown).

Ol’ Sinc and Danni Leigh at some local club (date and photographer unknown).

We’ll probably have one hour in the 11:00 AM slot on each Saturday.  Circle those two dates on your calendar, and if you’re not going to be near your radio (or computer, or iPhone), see HERE for instructions how to record HAH on your Mac or PC.

In honor of the photo of Sinc and Danni Leigh (who was clearly too country for ‘country’ radio), here’s one of the tracks we liked to play—should pull it out again!  /CL