College Radio – it’s slick, highly produced with considerable thought going into focus groups marketing and raising money. That’s the way it is now. But in the 1950s and 1960s College Radio was background music for dorm rooms and places where Broadcasting Majors could practice for the eventual real world. It was an afterthought and nobody paid too much attention to it. For the most part, the programming was dry-as-dust or went for long periods of time when nothing was broadcast at all. The College Radio station was a sort of after-thought with hidden potential.
And then came the mid-60s. With the sudden popularity of FM radio, thanks largely to Detroit installing AM-FM radios in their new cars, America started gravitating to this better sounding radio and the College Station became a hip avenue of communication to the rapidly expanding Youth Market. The adenoidal student news reader was replaced by the Wannabe Good-Guy and college radio was taking on an aura of regular commercial radio, only without the commercials and without the playlists. And like their progressive brethren, Free-form became a virtue. Your college radio station became important – so important, that in 1967 Congress passed the Public Broadcasting Act and shortly after that, National Public Radio was born. Monies were raised to increase the wattage of stations.
Broadcasting Majors became Communications Majors and having your own time slot was a huge achievement, laden with status and perks.
Record companies devoted entire Promotion departments to College Radio Stations – student broadcasters were taken on junkets to see bands the labels were promoting – tabs at clubs were handed out like party favors, stations were lavished with seemingly endless free records, t-shirts, posters, hats – anything that added to the status of the once-lowly student broadcaster.
So as a reminder of those bubbling-under halcyon days – here is an hour of KUSC, back when it was a Rock station that occasionally played Classical music in 1972. A few years later that would change. KUSC now is nowhere near the campus and has nothing resembling students actually running the station and is 24 hour Classical. How times change.
Here is a slice of KUSC (“91 and a half”) from September 13, 1972.