I don’t like pledge drives on public radio or public television. More often than not, I have reacted to the extended earnest pleas for financial support by turning off the flow of words. When I returned to New York this morning and heard that WKCR-FM was asking its listeners for financial support, my initial response was a muffled groan. But two factors changed my thinking. One is that the station (Columbia University’s jazz station, on the air steadily since October 1941) was broadcasting Benny Goodman’s music around the clock until June 1 — in honor of BG’s hundredth birthday. And while I was listening to the flow of familiar BG sides from 1939, I heard a few Helen Forrest vocals I hadn’t heard before.
And — more to the point — the Beloved and I have spent the last week-plus in Utah. Utah is extraordinarily beautiful, even oppressively and overwhelmingly so — but we couldn’t find any good music on the radio. Seventies rock and religious music in profusion, but no Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Charlie Barnet, or Charlie Green. Even when a station such as WKCR is broadcasting music that isn’t to my taste, it seems a cultural oasis in the American landscape.
I also remember WRVR-FM and Ed Beach — a glorious aesthetic and educational experience that vanished one day because someone wanted that particular frequency for a station that made more money.
So I called 212-851-2699 and made a contribution. And I encourage blog-readers to do the same. Even if you are out of the New York metropolitan area, you can access the station online at http://www.wkcr.org. And if you did so, you’d hear Benny’s 1941 band with Sid Catlett, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Mel Powell . . . music worth supporting. Please do!