Interview with Clarke Bustard, WCRC/WDCE DJ

RCJ Tracks

 

Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Index
X
00:00:00 - Starting out at WCRC

Play segment

Partial Transcript: ZC: Alright, so when were you first involved with the radio station here?
CB: I started, uh, I was a freshman in 1967, and I started at the station almost immediately and stayed with it a little past graduation, um, up until the end of 1971. I was program director of the station in 1970, ’71, uh, actually, ’69 to ’71. And an announcer and so forth, and editor of this publication, RPM, which we distributed off-campus. It was actually a device to help us get free records, because back in those days, college radio stations had very great difficulty getting what’s called “service”, that is, free records from record companies. And, interestingly by this time, late ‘60s, ‘round 1970, we could get free albums but we still had to buy singles. It was still a singles-driven, Top 40-driven market. And the record companies figured they could sell the singles without the help of college radio, but albums, they needed our help. College radio stations including WCRC sort of pioneered what’s now called the album rock format.

Keywords: 1967; 1971; College Radio Stations; RPM; Singles; Top 40; WCRC

Subjects: College Radio Stations

00:02:15 - Closet-Circuit AM / Campus Promotion / Community DJ

Play segment

Partial Transcript: ZC: Definitely. So [WCRC] was an AM, uh, carrier signal?
CB: Carrier current; closed circuit, in effect. To dormitories and, you know, dining halls and so forth.
ZC: So these days, it can feel like students don’t really know the station exists. How was the station’s involvement [in campus activities] during that time?
CB: Well, we pretty aggressively promoted the station. This silk screen machine that I had [used to print the graphics on copies of the RPM publication] was used – I mean, we did posters, we did RPM of course, which we distributed around the campus. So we pretty aggressively promoted the station, and the staff was quite large. If you’ll look up at those pictures [points to WCRC staff photos on the wall] which are from the yearbooks of 1969 and 1970, uh, we had a staff pretty much as large as the staff is now, only it was all students. So just extending – you know, multiply by 4 each one of those people there, you know, their friends, their roommates, whatever. We were able to sort of build an audience from the extended family, if you were.
ZC: Awesome. And then, uh, when did you come back to DJ [as a community DJ]?
CB: Uh, that was, um, the summer of 2014, if I recall correctly. I will have been here 3 years this summer.

Keywords: AM; Carrier Current; Community DJ; Promotion; RPM

Subjects: College Radio Stations

00:04:02 - WCRC Within the Institution / Financing

Play segment

Partial Transcript: ZC: So a major subject of this paper is the role of the station within the institution of UR. How did things operate and how did the station interact with the school then, and is it a similar situation these days?
CB: Pretty much, although we weren’t as, um, generously financed. In fact, I and several other people on the station staff finally went into student government politics to – how should I put this… make our presence felt. I mean, it wasn’t a straight up, you know, kind of bribe-type situation, but, you know… And we were hardly the only on-campus group to do that. The fraternities and sororities, you know, had been doing that for years. And other campus organizations got clued into how that worked pretty quickly. But even once we – I mean, at one time I was the Vice President of the student government and there were I think 3 members of the – 3 station staffers on a 7-member senate – Richmond College senate. But even then we weren’t all that generously – you know, somebody had said – I think I read in that article (the 1977 article by Bustard on the first broadcast of WDCE-FM) - $10,000 to start up the FM operation; my lord, we were lucky to get $700 a year.
ZC: Wow. And was that mostly spent on albums?
CB: Mostly. We had to pay the firm that maintained the carrier current transmission. But other than that, it was – and, of course, we had space that the University gave us in the building – I don’t know what it is now, it used to be the student center. It’s the building with the post office in it.
ZC: Yeah, I think-
CB: We were in the attic of that building.
ZC: I think that was Weinstein Hall?
CB: No, it’s not. It’s next door to Weinstein Hall. I don’t know what it is. But anyway, we were up in the attic and the Collegian was up the hall from us.

Keywords: Finance; Institution; Student Government; Weinstein Hall

Subjects: College Radio Stations

00:06:49 - Relationship with Collegian / School Year / Tuition

Play segment

Partial Transcript: ZC: Was there a relationship between-
CB: Between the station and the newspaper? Sort of. I mean a few of the staffers from the station did some writing for the newspaper – but they were not under the same management or anything like that. The big difference between the station then and the station now, I would say, is that when I was here – and I think Fred will tell you the same thing, although he wasn’t quite as – he didn’t live on campus and he was married, and so on. But, um, it was more like a combination fraternity/sorority. I mean, we partied with each other, we lived with each other – on and off campus.
ZC: Yeah, that’s definitely not-
CB: And, um, my observation is that – and part of it, too, is the way the school year is set up now. When I was here, the school year was pretty much like it was in high school; you know, you started a little after Labor Day and, with a week or two at Christmas and a week at Easter, you were there the whole year. Six days a week. We had Saturday morning classes. And, um, now the school year is way shorter, and I assume because it’s probably a more academically demanding school now than it was then – I’m not sure about that but anyway, it’s an academically demanding school. I would imagine when you’re here, you’re up to the gills in schoolwork.
ZC: Yeah that’s true.
CB: And I understand you have classes that go into the evening, and, you know, two or three hours long and so on – we didn’t have that. We had one-hour classes, three times a week. And also – this gets into socioeconomics but the students who went to the University of Richmond in my day were not as well off as the students now. I mean, if – I’m sure that when the alumni from my time come back and look at the parking lots, they’re thinking, “WTF?” You know, because we were lucky to have a junker. And now you’ve got people running around in Audis. And if you’re running around in an Audi, chances are when you’re on break, you’re in Biarritz or something. You know, the idea of “let’s go to Virginia Beach for the weekend” is a little downscale for this generation I think. Just an impression. And, of course, most of the students those days were from Virginia. I mean, at one point, this place developed a reputation of being the University of New Jersey on Westhampton Lake – nobody from Virginia went here, ‘cause it didn’t make any sense. The tuition was so high, and if you could get into Richmond, then you could get into UVA or William & Mary – at state rates. As opposed to, what is it now, somebody was telling me the other day, it’s like $70,000 a year to go to school here?
ZC: Yeah, without any aid it’s like $70,000 but almost everyone I know is majorly on aid. I-
CB: Yeah, you think? You know what it cost me to go four years here?
ZC: How much?
CB: $4,000. Now I wasn’t an on-campus student; I was a townie. But, I mean, the tuition was a thousand bucks a year.
ZC: My local community college is $3,500 a year these days.
CB: Of course, I mean, you know, there’s been inflation and so on and so on, but even so – It’s way more expensive than it used to be. And I think the tuition at UVA or William & Mary is probably a third what it is here. So you not only had a longer school year, but you had people who either lived here, or lived nearby a lot more than you do now. And so - and you had shorter breaks. So people didn’t go off for three months, or a year abroad, or half a year abroad, all that sorta thing. So it was a more tightly knit group of people than it is now, and that made a big difference in a lot of ways.
(recording paused for on-air announcement).

Keywords: Collegian; Labor Day; School Year; Socioeconomics; Tuition

Subjects: College Radio Stations

00:12:28 - Late 1960's / Vietnam / Counter-Culture

Play segment

Partial Transcript: CB: I gotta go into a little old history now – remember, we’re talking about the late 1960s. So, I don’t know how much you’ve read about the ‘60s, but you had the rise of what was called the ‘counterculture’ – which, in many ways, was a thing. It was for real. Um, and you also had the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, um, and that affected even a college campus as insular and Southern as the University of Richmond was in those days - because we were subject to the draft! You know, I went into the army after I graduated from college, and if I hadn’t been colorblind, they might’ve sent me to Vietnam. Fred went into the army straight out of college. Um, and a number of other – you know, fellow alumni – I don’t think anybody got killed, but I’m not sure. So it was a for-real thing hanging over what was going on, and so you had some campus activism, you had some anti-war things going on on the campus. You had, um, a good deal of political awareness, both at the national level and at the state level as well, because Virginia in those days was going through a big transition out of the ‘Old South’ kind of way of doing things into a more ‘New South’ kind of way of doing things. And the students, some of them anyway, were active in that aspect of what was going on. And the station – to the extent that we had a news department; it wasn’t an extensive news department but we did some of that, the newspaper did some of that. So we had people on the air, we, you know, tried to cover that aspect of what was going on – and it was certainly, it was part of people’s lives. It’ll be interesting to see in the age of Trump – I mean, you’ve already seen, you know, mass protests and so on. It’ll be interesting to see how, or if, that filters onto a college campus like this.
ZC: Yeah, definitely. I think it definitely has the potential to give students a voice as far as their opinions about current events.
CB: Well, and you have one thing that we didn’t have – you have the vote. That was another thing we were active in, was the 18-year-old vote. I wasn’t able to vote until I was 21.
ZC: Interesting. When did that change?
CB: It changed about – well, I was 21 in 1971, so I think it changed in 1972. Um, and it was a direct outgrowth of the Vietnam War; the rationale was, if you’re old enough to go off and get killed in the army, you were old enough to vote. You’ve got skin in the game. Why that hadn’t registered with anybody before that – I mean, people had been drafted into World War II and Korea, and, you know, the draft was nothing new. In fact, the draft had disappeared by the time the 18-year-old vote came in. So, as I say, you have – you have more power than we did in that sense. Now whether you use it – judging by the statistics, you don’t.
(Clarke descends into a rant about the new generation and “the million-pound sh*t hammer” that has nothing to do with the history of WDCE).

Keywords: 18 year old vote; 1960s; Counterculture; New South; News; Old South; Trump; Vietnam War

Subjects: College Radio Stations

00:24:16 - Commercial Broadcasting in RVA / Podcasts / Future of FM

Play segment

Partial Transcript: ZC: Did Richmond’s – Did the station have any involvement with the commercial media stations in Richmond?
CB: Oh yeah – not just commercial. One of the people who was a manager of our station ended up being the manager of what turned into the public radio station – the first manager of that station. It wasn’t NPR yet – that didn’t exist yet – but, um, he and his wife who also worked at this station – it was an FM station run by the Presbyterian seminary here, and they became the managers of that and began to turn it into the public radio station. I went to work for [The Richmond Times-Dispatch] and also did shows for the public radio station here. Several other people from my generation at WCRC went into radio and/or television and/or advertising, PR, media in the larger sense. And from my part, I found the radio experience to be very, very helpful in newspaper writing, because when you write for broadcast, you have to write a lot tighter than when you write – certainly for the way the Collegian is now online, you can write 10,000 words if you want to. In a newspaper or any print publication, there is a limit to the length of story that they can accommodate. And if you have the experience of writing for broadcast, I mean, Walter Cronkite used to say the entire script of the CBS evening news – the entire half-hour script – wouldn’t take up the front page of the New York Times. So you really have to compress to write for broadcast, and you also have to write more conversationally, because you’re actually speaking to people. Maybe not face to face, but, you know, when you speak into a microphone, you should be visualizing somebody at the other end listening to you, whereas the written word doesn’t have that kind of immediate connection. And, um, you also have to make yourself clearer when you’re broadcasting, because if you’re not clear the first time in print, the reader can go back and try it again; with broadcast, it’s gone. Um, so for me it was very beneficial – I think others who went into some form of print or another would say the same thing. Um, it was very beneficial in that sense. You learned how to communicate – and also you learned public speaking. Most people who study media don’t go into media, certainly not now because the media is contracting; particularly the media that could provide you with a living wage is contracting pretty radically. Most people who study Journalism here or Mass Communication at VCU or at University of Missouri or wherever it is they are, are gonna end up either doing public relations of one kind or another – speaking for an organization, be it a corporation or an institution of, you know, University, sports team, whatever; which is going to involve speaking more than it does writing. Communicating verbally to somebody, and if you study print journalism – which most journalism curricula are still oriented to print – you know, you’re writing a paper here, you’re not preparing an audio feature, are you? I dunno, is this for a journalism class?
ZC: Um, this is for Anthropology of Music.
CB: Ok, so this is for a music class. Say it was for a journalism class. You would have to assemble this information in writing, you wouldn’t have to go out and edit this interview for broadcast, or to be listened to by somebody. You wouldn’t be adding what are called ‘actualities’, or, you know, atmospheric noises – sounds from the campus, whatever. You wouldn’t have to make an audio production out of it, and it would basically be words on a page. Well, communications, for the most part – even online – are not words on a page. I mean, I don’t know whether you’ve heard it yet or even heard of it, but the big media thing this year, right now, is something called “Sh*t Town”. It’s a podcast
ZC: Hmm, I don’t think so.
CB: Well, it’ll win whatever award is offered for that sort of thing. It will be as influential a media creation as Ken Burn’s Civil War or The Wire or Game of Thrones, or you name it. It is, you know, the future of audio media being introduced before our very ears. Everything that is done in the way of podcasting from now on will be compared – will be held up to the standard of “Sh*t Town”. It’s produced by the people who do “This American Life” for public radio, and it’s done like a radio production, but it’s not radio – it’s never gonna be on the radio. It’s on the computer.
ZC: And, so, they cannot have to worry about the rules of the FCC?
CB: Yeah, they can cuss; they can – it can be – it’s 7 parts. It’s a 7-part piece that runs, I don’t know, probably between 7 and 8 hours. It’s produced like a radio documentary, but, you know, the usual limitations don’t apply. Um, you know, so that’s really the future of radio. Radio is going the way of cable TV – and if you don’t believe me, go back to your dorm and see how many people have a radio.
ZC: Yeah, Norway is working on shutting all their FM’s down, and going the way of digital.
CB: Well, I mean, there – look, the FM band is more profitably used for commercial – for businesses, for fleets of vehicles to communicate with one another. FM stations already lease or sell their sub-frequencies to businesses.

Keywords: CBS; Collegian; FCC; Journalism; NPR; PR; Podcast; Public Radio; Richmond Times Dispatch; S Town

Subjects: College Radio Stations