This is the fifth installment of the WMSP series that began here.
During the year I spent at WMSP, I got to know a bunch of the people there, some of whom I can put a name to, and some of whom I cannot. Joyce Tracy is one of the former. She was a woman of a certain age, who checked over the submitted programs to make sure there were no duplications, not only with the local programming but also with the syndicated shows that the station ran.
WMSP had a pretty firm rule that no work should be played more than once in a given month, as some folks listened to the station day and night and they didn’t want to hear, say, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony played on different programs. The station had a system that the programmers had to follow when submitting their programs to keep this from happening, but sometimes the programmers would slip up, and of course, the programmers didn’t have access to the play lists of the syndicated shows. That’s where sharp-eyed Joyce Tracy stepped in to keep everyone on their toes.
After I had been there for several months, the woman who programmed my show was moved to a different slot when another programmer quit, and I was able to start selecting the music for my own show. At some point, a new host, whose name I no longer recall and the program guides that I’ve saved haven’t jogged my memory, sat in with me as I was doing a show and I passed along a few suggestions, like pick distinctive theme music. (He did. It was heavy on percussion and short on melody and I thought it was poor as theme music; but it was distinctive.) In the course of our conversation he mentioned that he was thinking of doing a program built around music based on the Faust legend.
A few days or maybe weeks later, a new album of Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust (Szenen aus Goethes Faust) came out, and I promptly bought it and decided to build a show around it, completely forgetting the conversation that I recently had. So I submitted my program and added Wagner’s Faust Overture to the program to complete the Faust theme.
Shortly afterwards I received a call from Joyce. The other fellow had also submitted a program with Wagner’s Faust Overture, and he had submitted it before I did. Suddenly I recalled that conversation. Oops! I told Joyce to wipe it from my program and I’d find something else to substitute. No, she said. I had followed the rules, but the other fellow had not. If he had filled out the forms correctly, I would have seen that he had prior dibs on the Wagner, so by rights it belonged to me. I protested but Joyce was adamant. I should have protested more, and I’ve always felt guilty about that. I’m sure that other fellow thought I stole the Faust idea from him. Although to be sure, he still had plenty of Faust pieces even without the Wagner.
Donald VanKirk hosted the Beat of Broadway, a one hour program devoted to, well, do I really have to say? When I mentioned to him that I had way too much good interview material from my time with Ken Jennings and that I couldn’t fit it into my intermission feature on the Sweeney broadcast, he kindly offered to have me as a guest that week on his show, where we played some more Sondheim and a good chunk of the interview. He also asked me to host his show one week when he was indisposed.
I’ve already mentioned Mac Womac. He was pretty much a jack-of-all-trades around the station. He hosted his own show, and he helped me edit the Ken Jennings interview, as well as another interview that I did later on. As WMSP was a public radio station, we periodically did the money beg thing, and generally the hosts weren’t left out to dry by themselves, so one time Mac was paired with me when I had to ask the listeners to contribute. It was deemed a roaring success by everyone who listened. AJ, Sue Moore, even station manager Dave Zett, all said we had great chemistry working together. Alas, that didn’t translate into very many contributions, if any, but the 10 to midnight timeframe never did. Still, we had great chemistry!
Oh, did I mention that shortly after the Sweeney show, I had Mac and his girlfriend over to my apartment for a home-cooked pizza to thank them? She for setting up the Ken Jennings interview, and he for helping to edit it.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I was a much more social animal in those days. I wonder what happened? Oh, yes. I know things now that I hadn’t known before. (That’s a Sondheim reference) Anyway…
The show that came on just before AJ’s was Black Perspectives and the Arts which was helmed by a remarkable young woman named Roberta McLeod. AJ had me as guest on his show once, and when he went off to spend some time in NYC, I hosted his show solo, so I got to know Roberta a little bit.
When she decided it was time to move on to other things, AJ had a cake baked for her, and there was a small party for her final broadcast. AJ snapped a pic of the occasion, and you can see Roberta in the center with Joyce Tracy next to her. I’m sitting right beside the cake. There is a fellow on the far right in a yellowish shirt that I used to know fairly well, but again I can’t dredge up his name; he often filled in for indisposed hosts at the last minute. I have no idea who the other two people are.