WYEP 40th Anniversary: Call for Submissions
WYEP is a Pittsburgh icon, and in 2014 they’ll be celebrating forty years of independent, innovative public radio. If you’re like us and can’t stand corporate radio, 91.3FM is probably your go-to station. Right now they could use your help. They are currently gathering as much station archival materials as they can find and they’re calling on their loyal listeners for some support.
We spoke with Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director & Midday Mix Host to learn more about why they need our help. Sauter explains, “Although some listeners have the notion that radio stations record everything that gets sent out over the airwaves, that’s not true. Most broadcasts are as ephemeral as a theater production, unless we make a point to record and save a copy. And, being a station that has been mostly staffed by volunteers over our 40-year history, a lot of recordings of the station have been saved by the individual DJs and not archived by the station itself. So, as DJs have come and gone, WYEP only has a very limited audio archive, especially of material from the mid ’90s and earlier.”
Here’s a breakdown of things they’re seeking:
- Recordings of WYEP from the 1970s, 1980s, or early 1990s
- Photos of the station from that time, or of station events in the community
- Old WYEP station guides or other memorabilia
- Anyone involved with WYEP in its early years to be interviewed for an oral history project
They’re requesting that if you have any recordings or photos, to make a digital copy and send it to Mike at Mike@wyep.org. If you’re not sure how to make a digital copy, still hit them up, they’ll help you figure it out.
So far a few gems have been submitted, “We received a couple of great tapes of the late Harry ‘The Wire’ Wagner spinning some terrific new wave and punk from the early 1980s. There’s also a 1979 recording featuring the DJ known as Concrete Window. One of the oldest that we have in the archive is a 1977 tape of blues DJ ‘Big Al’ Smith,” explains Sauter
We also asked Sauter what his favorite moments have been working at WYEP, “I moved to Pittsburgh and started working at WYEP in 2003, and I’ve had a lot of great memories in the past nearly eleven years. A lot of them involve interacting with the musicians that it is my privilege to meet in the course of my job. It was pretty special back in June of 2007 when Sinead O’Connor performed at the WYEP Summer Music Festival. After her set was completed and she and her band were back at their hotel, I got a panicked call from her tour manager that an expensive mandolin had been left backstage. I retrieved it and drove it over to them while the band moe. was onstage closing out the festival, and Sinead’s tour manager insisted on buying me a drink to thank me (he, Sinead, and her band were all enjoying a post-show libation in their hotel bar). While chatting, they found out that my wife and I were expecting and Sinead and her whole entourage toasted the impending birth of my daughter. That was cool.”
Some of his favorite memories are more comical than idyllic, “There was a time in, I think, 2005 when Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith’s longtime guitarist, sat in with me on the air and played guest DJ. He inadvertently picked a song that had a very bad word in it, and when we realized it after the song had begun playing, the scene in the on-air studio suddenly turned into a slapstick sitcom of scrambling to get another song ready before time ran out and the non-FCC-friendly word went out over the air.”
Perhaps the funniest involved a local sports icon, “There was also the time when we had the groundbreaking ceremony for the station’s Community Broadcast Center in January 2005. The event was memorable for multiple reasons, but I vividly recall one small part of the ceremony. Steelers legend Lynn Swann had very graciously agreed to wield one of our ceremonial shovels, but an errant gust of wind blew dirt from another shovel up into Swann’s face. I was just an observer, not an active participant, and I remember having a sudden sinking feeling as the thought crossed my mind, ‘Oh, no! We’ve blinded Lynn Swann!’ Fortunately, he was
The 40th Anniversary festivities kick off on January 25th from 10am-2pm at their studio in South Side with an Open House. You can tour the studio while learning about their colorful history, explore their archives, enjoy some refreshments, and check out the Live & Direct Session with Corey Harris at noon. And feel free to bring along pictures, memorabilia, and stories to share with the crowd! They have plenty planned throughout the year to celebrate, and here’s a full list. After the open house, they will also begin airing a feature called the “WYEP Time Capsule”, which will be short pieces focusing on the people and events that are important and interesting in the station history. Plus, save the date for their WYEP 40th Anniversary Concert featuring Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings at the Byham Theater on April 13th!