WFMU Articles

1980, 1982

WHERE
FREE-FORM
REIGNS

    There  is  an  interesting spot on the FM
dial,  at 91.1,  to be exact.  Known to North
Jerseyites as WFMU,  the  station  originates
from  the  grounds  of Upsala College in East
Orange  and  has  been  described  by  critic
George  Kanzler  as, "Fresh...inventive...un-
usual."
    Great!  But,  what  goes on there?  Spec-
ifically,  everything  that  doesn't on other
stations, for this is "Free-Form Radio," where
broadcasters aren't forced to spin the latest hits
but can create their own format.
    This  valuable  opportunity  has  been
exploited  by  such  broadcasters  as  Irwin
Chusit,  who holds the 12 to 4 a.m. slot  on
Fridays. Chusit's shows are a bizarre mixture
of absurdities, dual mixes, and oddities of all
kinds, punctuated by occasional phone-ins and
airings  of  New Jersey's  finest unreleased
recording artist,  R. Stevie More.   Another
interesting group  favored  by Chusit is the
Residents, who employ the electronic hell of
the recording studio for effects that out-Zappa
Zappa.   Many  of  FMU's broadcasters have a
similarly  anarchic  manner of broadcasting,
but none match Chusit.
    Perhaps, the prime aid to FMU's style is
its listener-funded-status. There are no com-
mercials,  but  an  occasional  PSA is read,
usually  in  tongue-in-cheek  manner.   Not
having to answer to commercial sponsors allows
the staff the freedom to produce FMU's unique
programming.
    Other  attractions  of  FMU include: Lou
d'Antonio, a classical music expert with a Jean
Shepherd Fixation.  His  show,  "The Hour of
the Duck,"  preceeds Chusit's at 9 p.m.  and
concludes with a rousing "Quack!" amidst the
booming  horns  of  the  "William Tell Over-
ture."
    For Jazz Fanatics,  Ralph Burton beams a
fine hour of music and reminiscences at 8 p.m.
on Fridays.
    "Earplay"  is  a  drama series hosted by
another  unusual  man,  Jim  Price,  and  is
produced by National Public Radio. It airs at
8 p.m. on Tuesdays, a good example of radio's
creative possibilities.
    Also,  during the listener pledge-week,
listeners have a chance to win radio spots.
    Those, in my opinion, are the highlights
of FMU. For sure, if you tune in any evening,
you will find something to catch your interest.
At any rate, it would be a welcome alternative
to disc-jockey radio.

–Pat Berzinski
(all typos left intact (SIC),
Piscataway High School "Chieftan", spring 1980)

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WFMU Staff Photo, circa 1978-79





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NEWARK STAR-LEDGER (Apr? 1982)
'N' ALL THAT JAZZ

Free form is key to WFMU's appeal

    "I know people get weary of public broadcasters asking for money," says Bruce Longstreet, station manager of WFMU (91.1 FM), "but unlike other stations, we only ask for money twice a year and $60,000 is far less than most stations ask for. We try our best to make every nickel go as far as it can and to not ask our listeners for more than we absolutely need."
   WFMU is not a jazz station, but it has a format that is kindred in spirit to jazz improvising. That format is called Free Form Radio, and it is an endangered species.
    Free Form Radio is exactly what it sounds like: radio free of programming and format constraints. When you listen to WFMU you never know what you might hear, as sounds from all over the musical map constantly erupt in no logical order. But that's the charm of WFMU. It's a station that constantly surprises you.
    It's also one of the only radio stations I know with a real sense of humor, a sense of humor that is not afraid to poke fun at established music or at listeners.
    WFMU is in the midst of its annual Marathon fund drive, featuring non-stop broadcasting through next Sunday featuring prizes and premiums for pledges of financial support to the station.
   There will also be live music specials during the Marathon, including a session Saturday at 3 p.m. by jazz guitarist Jimmy Ponder.
   Other live highlights include a guitar duel after midnight on Tuesday featuring R. Stevie Moore and Fred Frith and a live set of Christian folk music Saturday morning.
    A series of benefits for the station will also take place at the Dirt Club in Bloomfield, with the first one scheduled for Tuesday night from 7 p.m.
    That concert will feature four original rock bands from this area, including The Jitterz, The Individuals, Khmer Rouge and Band of Outsiders.
    The concert will be taped and highlights will be played on WFMU during the Marathon.
    Three other benefit concerts are also scheduled for the Dirt Club in May.
    On Friday, May 7, El Futuro, The Humans from Earth, Quake at Lima and the Whyo's will perform, beginning at 8 p.m.
   On Saturday afternoon a special benefit for fans under 19 – with no alcoholic beverages sold – will be held at the Dirt Club at 2 p.m. Performing will be Adrenalin O.D., Ambulance, Network, and Ted Stilles & Bhang.
    The last benefit will be at 8 p.m. that night, and will feature Blind Dog Stares, Kid Eldeen, Shox Lumania and TV Toy.
   If you believe that radio can be creative and formats can be free form, tune in to WFMU this week, listen to what can happen on truly free radio, and consider supporting it.

–George Kanzler, Star-Ledger

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