WHRB to Celebrate 50 Years

Week Will Feature Famous Interviews, Music and Orgies

WHRB will kick off the celebration of its 50 years of radio airplay tonight, remembering some of its highlights--the appearance of unconventional rock bands such as the Screaming Custard, interviews with celebrities such as Winston Churchill, and the origins of its famous music orgies.

At 7 p.m., the station will reach into its archives and play two hours of music and interviews with Rodney Dangerfield, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.

Throughout the week, the station will feature selections from its jazz, classical and folk departments, as well as the recordings of alumni who are now performers.

Program organizers hope one highlight will be Thursday's 50th Anniversary Archives Special, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., which will feature seven pieces of music played by college music groups and taped exclusively by the station. The special will include a 1972 Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra recording of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," narrated by President Derek C. Bok, said WHRB alumnus David R. Elliot '64-'65, secretary of WHRB's board of trustees.

The anniversary celebrates the station's 50 year history. WHRB began in 1940 as part of The Harvard Crimson with the call letters WHCN and was broadcast only on the Harvard campus, said station members. The station broke ties with the student newspaper in 1947, and, a decade later, adopted its current call letters and frequency, said Studio Engineer Steven A. Hoey '93.

The construction of a new antenna and transmitter in 1980 boosted the station's audience to a potential 2.6 million people, according to Music Director Douglas D. Wolk '91.

Now located in the basement of Memorial Hall, WHRB is best known for its reading period and exam period "orgies", in which the station abandons its regular programming to play extended blocks of particular artists, composers, or genres.

Hoey said that one station member began the orgy tradition when post-exam euphoria inspired him to play all nine Beethoven symphonies in a row.

"He was down there for a long time flipping records," Hoey said.

In 1984, the station broke its own record for the length of an orgy, by playing all of Mozart's works in chronological order, a feat which took 204 hours.

This semester's classical orgy will feature Prokofiev. Other orgies will include a "Not the Beatles" orgy with Beatles songs covered by other groups, a James Bond theme music orgy, and an eight hour Pussy Galore orgy, said Wolk.

WHRB is currently run by "roughly 200 active members of whom 40-50 are really, really active and here all the time," Wolk added.

Other plans for the 50th anniversary include an alumni reunion the weekend of May 11, said Sarah Wigglesworth '91. Wigglesworth said the staff hopes 5 to 10 percent of the 2500 WHRB alumni will come back for the celebration, slated to coincide with its Live Folk Orgy that weekend.

And, if anything is true about the 50 years of WHRB history, at least its signal has been strong in the Harvard community, Wolk said. So strong that one year the station printed up t-shirts reading "WHRB: Medium Dark on Your Toaster Dial."