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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tommy Makem "Live at The Harp & Bard" (c.1969)

This project was Joan Wilson Sullivan's idea: Record Tommy Makem "Live at the Harp & Bard" in Danvers, Mass. Later, bring him to the studio and record his favorite songs. We did both The live concert was a lot of fun, as you will hear in this 10-minute segment, Nancy Troland was the producer, I was the lucky engineer.

Tommy Makem with Eugene Byrne, guitar

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Crazy Radio Days

Photo by Jock Gill (c.1970)

Most of my Radio Days, the hundreds of yawning hours I produced and hosted at WGBH Radio and for NPR, were relatively unremarkable and almost certainly immemorable. Live radio, however, could be an adventurous and risky business – especially going solo, without a rescue net. One never knows, of course, whom, if indeed anyone at all, is listening at any given moment, particularly on a Sunday morning around eight o’clock when regular people are watching the weather forecast on TV, eating breakfast with their family, or sensibly sleeping-in.
It was on just such a sleepy Sunday in the late 1960’s at WGBH-FM, when calamity struck. It was the inaugural week of our brand-new FM Studio 4 (a combo operation without engineer) that I had the privilege of baptizing.

I had programmed two hours of Bach’s works that morning, principally Brandenburg Concertos, comparing back-to-back, standard performances of Bach’s works with jazz renditions of the same pieces – played alternately by the Modern Jazz Quartet and the Jacques Loussier Trio. I had titled the segment, “Bach-To-Bach,” and for the first half-hour or so, all went uneventfully. While sitting back nonchalantly, editing my rip-and-read teletype copy for the noon newscast, the unthinkable occurred:

THUMP. SCCRRRAATCH. Then, total silence. I whirled around to stare at the on-air turntable, not believing what had happened, and simply sat for a moment, stunned.

Dead Air. Better say something!

“Uh, ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not, the sky has fallen – fallen-in on our brand new studio – fallen in the form of a piece of ceiling acoustical tile that has just landed on our turntable, knocking the tone arm clear off the record!” (Long pause) “Clearly, the Gods are displeased – angered with my irreverence for jazzing-up Bach on a Sunday morning. Well, we better make amends – so here is the same Brandenburg Concerto, played properly now by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Neville Marriner.”

Two minutes later, the studio phone rang. “Nat, it’s Michael Rice. That was brilliant – just brilliant! Well done! I’m still laughing!” A quick moment of relief. The ‘GBH FM Station Manager was pleased, even amused. I was not going to lose my gig, and the Gods were appeased!

There would, naturally, be More Crazy Radio Days . . . forthcoming.