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|City of license||Binghamton, New York|
|Broadcast area||Binghamton, Vestal, Johnson City, Endicott|
|First air date||1966|
|Callsign meaning||Harpur College Radio Workshop (at the time of conception, the University was known as "Harpur College")|
|Owner||State University of New York At Binghamton|
WHRW (90.5 FM) is Binghamton University's non-profit, student run, free format radio station. Licensed to Binghamton, New York, USA, the station serves the New York college area. The station is currently owned by Binghamton University. The station has operational facilities in and on top of the Glenn G. Bartle Library Tower, and in the SUNY Binghamton Student Union.
WHRW is operated by the students of SUNY Binghamton, and interested members of the Greater Binghamton community. WHRW strives to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (which varies with member body size and interest), and broadcasts using a 2,000-watt transmitter at 90.5 MHz on the FM dial.
WHRW's member body is made up entirely of volunteers, who become members first by "apprenticing" under a current member for a programming season (typically a school semester or over the summer), then passing a Clearance Exam. Since 1996, station members participate in a "Station Service" program, by which they accrue hours by doing things that benefit the station (auditioning CDs for profanities; cleaning up the studios; doing production work; volunteering in the News Department; and many other things). Those hours are then used to determine the member's "slotting priority" when they request a show. This guarantees that those who give the most to the station get back the most.
Beginnings as a radio "workshop"
Details about the beginnings of "The Harpur Radio Workshop" are few and far between (in the 1950s, the college started as "Harpur College," an offshoot of Syracuse University, thus the name of the organization). In 1954, a loose organization formally called "The Radio Workshop of Harpur College" is formed, and it seems that its primary function was to connect interested college students with area commercial radio stations and get them involved in doing production work for these stations.
In October 1961, members of the Workshop began to construct their own AM transmitter. The first incarnation of a self-broadcasting Workshop started in May 1962, then called WRAF (the letters "RAF" were chosen by the Workshop because SUNY Binghamton's Rafuse Residence Hall was where the broadcasts originated). While the broadcasts were received on 590 kHz on a standard AM radio, the broadcasts are carrier-current, which is "closed-circuit" in nature, as they were transmitted through the power lines of only two residence halls. Accordingly, only the residents of those halls could receive the maiden broadcasts.
A "no rock-and-roll" policy
While WHRW's free format environment (see below) would arguably become the station's strongest suit, the days of experimental FM had not yet happened, and WRAF's days were markedly different. The station regularly polled the student body to try and tailor a programming schedule that would be acceptable to its audience. WRAF actually had a "no rock-and-roll" policy, and focused its broadcast day mostly on classical and "good" non-classical music. However, in 1965, WRAF had its first rock-and-roll show. But times were changing.
The move to FM
In 1965, WRAF's General Manager proposed moving the station to the FM band, which was still largely unused. In November of that year, the FCC approved the construction of an educational station at the frequency 90.5 MHz (the frequency the station itself requested). The station's first antenna is atop a 60-foot (18 m) pole located behind the Student Center. The FCC approved the station's request of "WHRW" as the new station's call letters. "HRW" was chosen to represent "Harpur Radio Workshop." While stereo FM had been introduced in the early 1960s, it was not an inexpensive technology, and WHRW's first transmitter was a humble 10 watts, in mono.
WHRW's first broadcast was on Friday, February 4, 1966, at 7:30PM, which was coverage of a Binghamton Colonials basketball game. The formal "inaugural" broadcast took place two days later. WHRW was only the third FM radio station in the Binghamton market.
The broadcasting followed the times and the culture in which it was steeped: Jazz, folk, classical, rock, and other forms of music; news and culture coverage that leaned progressive (Vietnam War protests and debates, news from Pacifica Radio and the BBC); and interviews with local political figures. The regular broadcast schedule ran from Sunday through Thursday, from about 5pm to 1am.
In the spring of 1967, the mayor of Binghamton, Joseph Esworthy, was interviewed on the "Open Line" show by the station's general manager, David R. Cooper. When Esworthy was asked if he favored legaization of marijuana, he answered affirmatively. The next day, the local newspaper, The Evening Press, picked up the story and Esworthy's political career was essentially ended by the publicity.
In the late 1960s, construction on the new "Faculty Tower" (later to be more famously named the Glenn G. Bartle Library Tower) is completed. It is the tallest building on campus (18 stories) and one of the tallest buildings in the Binghamton area. WHRW's antenna was moved to the top of this building in April 1968, and remains there to this day. 1969, the year of Woodstock, WHRW-FM broadcast for the first time during the summer months with local volunteers on a daily schedule of music variety shows and news under the first summer General Manager. The program schedule became enormously popular with local listeners and WHRW-FM attracted many more. From that time forward WHRW-FM has always maintained summer programming with great success.
The "old station"
While WRAF/WHRW had called several locations home before September 1968, it would be the move during that month that would find them a home for more than 30 years. University Union 266, on what is called the "Mezzanine Level" of the University Union, was WHRW's new home in 1968.
The facility was built specifically for the station, with two control rooms (which were named "Control Room 1", or "CR-1"; and "Control Room 2", or "CR-2"), a place for extra people to be hosted for group broadcasts (dubbed "Studio A"), rooms for records, and office space. There was also a "lobby," an open room that had couches and chairs, bulletin boards with station news and current events, and WHRW's broadcast piped in through speakers.
In the late 1960s, station members began to augment the normal decor of a college radio station by writing and drawing on the walls. This "graffiti" gave the station an even more enigmatic feel, and by 2000 nearly every inch of the facility had been "personalized" in one form or another.
In 2002 (see below), the station was forced to move to the new University Union after Binghamton University decided they were re-purposing the original Union building. However, the budget for the project was misappropriated, and the project ran out of money before the old building could be re-purposed. The shell of the "old station," as it was called, existed in exactly the condition in which it was left after the move for five years, until mid-2007, when renovation work finally began.
In the early 1970s, a strange graffito started to appear on campus. A picture in the 1973 yearbook shows "Moe Loogham Is Coming!" spray-painted on the plywood walls surrounding the School of Engineering building construction site at Binghamton University, which was then known as Harpur College. From the mid-1970s onward, Moe Loogham was referred to frequently on WHRW's programs, in station publications, and all around campus. In fact, Moe's name has been seen in such diverse locations as at the top of the Washington Monument and in downtown Prague.
Moe appears to be an enigmatic folk legend whose name is derived from the name of a social club at a Hicksville, Long Island high school. (Moe's last name is believed to be a re-working of the name of the Rolling Stones' record producer, Andrew Loog Oldham). First word of Moe came to the third floor of the dormitory Delaware Hall on September 10, 1970. He was thought of more as the "Bringer of all Rightness" than anything else. In ensuing months, "Men (and Women) of Moe" would engage in "slapping missions" where simply-printed stickers with the words "Moe Loogham is Coming!" printed on them in plain block letters would be pasted in prominent locations on and off campus (like Lecture Hall-1, a popular meeting place for classes and student organizations on the Binghamton University campus).
"Moe" was said by some to be a drug dealer (which in those days meant a counterculture figure who functioned more like a neighborhood grocer or bartender than a criminal nuisance) or a shipment of drugs (which in those days usually meant marijuana ("Moe's Loogs"...), hashish or the odd tablet or sugar-cube of LSD). According to legend, he was supposed to have "so many drugs that no one would ever need to get drugs from anyone else again," and "drugs of many kinds and colors, drugs beyond one's wildest dreams." In later years, Moe was the nostalgic icon for the euphoria of the 1960s. But regardless of the times, the popular saying on campus was that "When Moe gets here, everything will be All Right!"
In more recent years as new generations have called WHRW their own, Moe has become sort of a godhead to long-standing station members, a metaphor for the free spirit of WHRW. Moe's name is now often used as a way to describe the euphoria often felt when good radio happens just right.
The golden age of FM
In the early 1970s, some adventurous FM stations (such as KSAN-FM and WNEW-FM) began experimenting with programming based upon album tracks, not only from established artists but from more obscure bands as well. Many of these stations played records by bands few AM radio listeners had heard of at the time such as Led Zeppelin, The Chambers Brothers, Iron Butterfly, and spoken-comedy acts like Firesign Theatre. As in the early days of rock and roll, DJs would play a record based mostly upon their own judgement.
Experimental programming was also becoming popular, especially among college stations, and this time period is also where the term "progressive" or "underground" radio was born. It was the 1960s description of what we now call free-form radio. A DJ could play whatever he or she wanted as long as it did not violate Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations (some DJs played things which most certainly did!), and a station's popularity depended upon how well its DJs knew music and how they applied that knowledge on the air. Classical was played alongside jazz; rock against folk music or folk-rock, and so on. Shows were often semi-scripted, using tape production to introduce both commentary and comedy rather than simple turn-table seque-ways to press disparate sound, culture and music into a holistic collage that sometimes became art, but often challenged mind and senses in ways nearly painful for the thrill. In the mid-1970s free-form radio fell out of vogue, and many formerly progressive FM stations adopted an AM-like playlist and rotation schedule, though unlike today many of those stations would still offer specialty programming such as live concert simulcasts (most notably the King Biscuit Flower Hour) and comedy shows such as the National Lampoon Radio Hour and Dr. Demento. WHRW decided to preserve this format throughout those years and beyond, perhaps not intentionally, but simply by sticking with a style that suited its DJs and listeners.
Since the collapse of free-form commercial FM, the commercial radio market has become more and more stringently formatted and automation-driven, leaving no room for experimentation or the possibility that any artist would ever become popular without the official imprimatur of major-record-label or broadcast-industry focus groups. It has been said time and again that even Elvis Presley or The Beatles would have had a difficult time succeeding if the radio industry of the 1950s and 60's were like the current ultra-conservative climate of radio. But four decades after going on the air, WHRW has bucked current trends and retained its free-format philosophy.
- "Call Letter Origins". Radio History on the Web.
- "WHRW Facility Record". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division.