Forty-three years ago, the first words heard on the University of Delaware campus radio station were, “WHEN is Now....and you ain't heard nothin' yet!”


Forty-three years ago, the first words heard on the University of Delaware campus radio station were, “WHEN is Now....and you ain't heard nothin' yet!”

Plagiarizing Al Jolson's famous line from the first "talkie" in 1927 probably was not the subtlest of gestures that General Manager Greer Firestone could offer this honor-bound campus, but my guest that day - UD President Arthur Trabant - remained cool and composed.

Today 's WVUD 91.3 FM has come a long way from the carrier current (phone lines) of that maiden year, an era which "carried" on into the decade of the '70s .- 6,800 watts away! Now with a capital campaign successfully completed, the reach of the FM station now extends past Newark and its suburbs and well into the nearby environs of Maryland and Pennsylvania. A new transmitter, new antenna tower and fiber optics will do that.

It was 1969 - that first year when me and my "hand-picked" (read: friends from the dorm) staff took to the airwaves. It was like one-armed Civil War Major John Wesley Powell strapped into his wooden rowboat navigating the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. That took place in 1869.

During the first year we had no clue what we were doing, but we had fun doing it. I do recall that we were bequeathed a particularly arrogant advisor, Bob Blake. Blake loved to say he had no enemies. That may have been true, but he was intensely disliked by his friends.

One of the perks of being GM was the opportunity to introduce entertainment acts on campus. This included Bill Cosby (an hour late at The Carpenter Field House but within three minutes had the crowd in the palm of his hand), Iron Butterfly (and their eight-minute drum solo) and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. They're top song was "Young Girls." After the concert I went to Puckett and asked him to do a promo for the station. It went like this: "This is Gary Puckett of the Union Gap wishing all you young girls would listen to WHEN Radio!" I was told that promo lasted for a decade!

While today WVUD is a student-run organization of approximately 70 volunteers, Steve Kramack, '93, is one of two paid staffers. Kramack attended Alexis I. du Pont High School and as a senior, began his career at the station.

“I knew what I wanted to do," he recalled. "The undergrads were not too keen about a high school kid hanging around. But, there I was, hanging around!”

Four years of sports and morning shows, some training and a stint as programming director later, and now Kramack is the salaried station manager, married with kids.

In addition to the HD FM station, WVUD has a second station called The Basement, entirely run by students.

“A few students do join, for they wish to have a career in studio," Kramack said. "But far and away they enjoy this extracurricular as a hobby.”

Every musical genre is touched in the block format instituted by Kramack. Student announcers follow the sports team.

“We can see how popular the sports shows are by the online streaming," he said. "Football is off the charts and this year, with our successes, both men's and women's basketball are having a resurgence.”

There are some old timers who have had their regular programs for decades. This aspect weaves a wonderful tapestry of tradition and knowledge. George Stewart has been on the air for over 40 years with two shows: SideTwo and Crazy College. Ron Smith recently celebrated the 33 1/3 year (get it?) of his blues program.

WVUD has been a feeder for regional radio stations, predominantly Delmarva Broadcasting's WDEL, WSTW and Graffiti Radio. Company president Pete Booker was a former GM at the station.

Says Booker: “When I was a student at UD, we had a less structured operation and we got to do pretty much what we wanted, but we tried hard to make it like 'real radio.' The experience and the ability work with and eventually lead other dedicated performers gave me a real education in our business at a real young age.

Delmarva employs several grads including Robin Bryson, Sean Green, Mike Nigro and Brian Smith, among others.

The station's annual radiothon is coming up. Visit www.wvud.org or listen online at http://www.wvud.org/listen_online.htm.