Extravaganzo On The Hudson

Almost exactly a year ago, I put together a post (The Hip Spot On Your Dial) about anachronistic wonders of WHVW in New York’s Hudson Valley. We have family up that way, so it’s always on mind (and on my radio) when we come to visit. And I always record a little.

Just a little AM station with a little signal, WHVW is the vision of Joe Ferraro (AKA Pirate Joe), a guy who likes his music musty– old, funky, swingin’, stompin, and rockin’. Music that makes you wanna beat on something. In a good way.

WHVW – 11-28-08 part one  58:24
(download)
You can certainly read more about who, what and where of WHVW in my earlier post, but suffice to say that other than weekday drive time and certain hours over the weekend, WHVW is an automated affair. Which doesn’t bother me. In fact, it’s just about the best radio automation I’ve ever heard. And that’s what you get in these two files from last week– “Murray the Machine.”

Last year after I wrote about WHVW, I stopped by the studio for a short visit. I met Pirate Joe, who was very gracious. And every bit the unique character I expected to meet. Boring people don’t create magical radio stations that shouldn’t exist.

One thing that puzzles me. I recall taking a few pictures while I was there, and I haven’t been able to locate them on any of my stray hard drives here at headquarters. It’s too bad. Because I got a look at Murray, the “machine” that fills most of the hours of programming on WHVW. It’s a set up that would make a lot of sense, if it was 1992 (when Pirate Joe bought the station). In a small hot little closet at WHVW there are three 100 CD changers all hard-wired into a vintage late 1980’s computer running some DOS based radio automation program. And I asked Joe about it, wondering in particular about the hard drive in that thing. And you guessed it, the tiny old thing is just about as old as the computer itself. Of course it could blow any day and as I recall I think he said he doesn’t have a back up. Ouch.

WHVW – 11-28-08 part two  62:01
(download)

I remember a friend of mine had a pirate radio station for a while in the mid-90’s and he filled all the hours without DJ’s with a 100 CD machine, and I thought it was quite an amazing device. Then again, nowadays you could fit over 100 albums on a micro memory card as big as a fingernail. That is, if you compressed them as MP3’s. I happened to mention to Pirate Joe that he might wanna get that library converted to MP3’s and run it all off of a more contemporary machine (with back-ups of course). But he would have none of it. He said MP3’s just sounded horrible.

Now I know a thing or two about MP3’s and I’ve done quite a bit of encoding and listening, as well as reading a thing or two about MP3 compression. I’m no scientist, but I can tell you that if WHVW switched to MP3 music tomorrow, as long as they were encoded at appropriate bitrate (I’d say at least 96K mono, w-high quality set) that no one could ever tell the difference (even Joe). Specifically after going through the WHVW audio chain and the AM transmitter, nothing would ever be missed. In fact, I’m sure you probably encode much lower and most ears would never notice. However, as an opinionated curmudgeon myself, I knew better than to question Pirate Joe’s ears or expertise. Not a chance in hell I could change his mind, and that’s okay. He runs a wonderful radio station– creaky old DOS box and all.

The studios are in a small office in the center of Poughkeepsie. While downtown Poughkeepsie isn’t all that appealing, the WHVW studio and office were quite fine. I guess they’re in newer digs since the New York Time’s article a few years back. Although small, it was quite a modern little two or three room affair Pirate Joe has for his radio nest.

And I asked him about his great show (AKA: “Pirate Joe’s Country Music Show and Blues and R&B Extravaganzo”), which has been on hiatus for a few years. A damn good show. Heavy on the 78RPM. Anyway, he had some convoluted technical reason he couldn’t do the show. Problem with playing the 78’s he said. Something about the needles or cartridges or something. Seems to me that it wouldn’t be all that hard to fix or figure out. But who am I to question Pirate Joe…

In my intermittent recording of WHVW I did catch most of one particular Extravanzo broadcast, which I offer you here. And it’s one long piece of radio, over an hour and a half in one file.

WHVW – Pirate Joe Show 12-03-03  102:48
(download)

What a great meandering prosaic style Joe has on the mic. And the music is top notch. Rhythmic and raw. And as it comes from almost exactly five years ago, the seasonal topics are appropriate to the time this post is planted atop the blog. And as far as Joe’s Christmas music phobia… Can I hear an amen? It’s already driving me insane. Nothing chases me out a store faster than some holly and jolly shit spewing from the speakers.

It’s funny. Joe’s patter reminds me more than a little bit of WBCQ’s Allan Weiner. Which makes sense, because they were friends at one time– fellow radio pirates in fact. Sadly, they had a falling out, which I once heard Allan mention in passion on his show. Apparently money was a problem and maybe some broken promises too. I don’t know the details. But it occurred to me as I was listening to Joe’s show, that if you could somehow combine WBCQ and WHVW into one radio station, it could be a killer combination. Then again, they already kinda did that, as two kids sharing an illegal frequency back in the 1970’s.

Maybe someday Pirate Joe will once again air his 78’s in the afternoon. Meanwhile he continues to host a classical music show each weeknight, which doesn’t do much for me. But I’m sure it makes someone happy.

But other than Curt Roberts excellent morning drive rock and roll show, most of the great human (as opposed to automated) programming happens on the weekends. Like Dungeon’s Serenade. A Sunday afternoon offering, and I think it’s a relatively new arrival on the WHVW roster. This recording is from March of last year.

WHVW – Dungeon Serenade 03-25-07  66:47
(download)

I’m a sucker for a good doo-wop show, and this is the real thing. Tony O has this old school nasal edge to his voice, a warm kinda crooked sound. It’s a quirky announcer vibe that goes perfect with all the boom-boom-pa-boom shoo-wah stuff.

Then right when I getting into that 1959 Buick feeling Tony kinda blew it by talking about his new friends on his MySpace page. But that’s okay. He’s on a real radio station in the 21st century playing some awesome aching harmonies from someone else’s youth. And not only is that all right with me, it’s also not WCBS-FM. If you know what I mean.

What you get with Tony O is lots of passion for the records. His playlists are well-crafted, and it’s not the standard oldies fare to be sure. I haven’t listened to the whole thing again, but I do remember an amazing old Miracles song in there somewhere. And this clip is over an hour as well. And if you’re like me, you might find that these airchecks stand up to repeated listening. Which (if you happen to like WXHD) is a good thing. Especially considering that won’t be streaming the station online anytime soon.

I recall Pirate Joe had all sorts of reasons why he was holding off on putting WHVW on the web. And you know, even though the cost to do so would be infinitesimal compared to running that megawatt sucking AM transmitter, and there’s probably quite a few people who don’t happen to within a tight radius of Poughkeepsie, New York who might wanna tune in to the hip spot now and then…

But hey, I’m not gonna argue with Pirate Joe. It can’t be easy keeping an eccentric little radio station on the air these days. And he’s doing a pretty damn good job. I do wish we could all hear it at home, live. But I have my recordings, and when I cruise up the Taconic Parkway, it’s always there waiting. And you have over four hours of WHVW. Right here. And don’t forget, there’s more WHVW archives back here.

Have fun. And thanks Joe! Keep up the good work.

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5 Responses to “Extravaganzo On The Hudson”

  1. Heidi Says:

    What a fantastic site. And great listening! I grew up in Detroit too and listened to WHND ‘Honey Radio’. I’m 38, but I really enjoyed the WHVW shows and the Tony Oren shows are awesome. I remember my dad listening to and taping (reel-to-reel) a show in the late 70s I think was called the ‘Saturday Night Dance Party’ and it had a lot of great big band songs along with songs by the Ames Brothers and other popular performers from the 40s and 50s. Thanks for bringing back memories but also introducing me to new titles as well.

  2. prof Says:

    Hey Heidi, thanks for the swell comment. Makes me happy to know these old airchecks are finding new ears. I really appreciate you taking the time to write.

    Please stop by again. There’s more old music radio in the pipeline…

  3. Dale Says:

    His site says that the station is the last privately owned and programmed station in the Hudson Valley. WTBQ in Warwick (wtbq.com) is also privately owned and programmed (since 1969), and has just expanded to an FM signal as well. They have a lot of syndicated stuff during the day (Neil Boortz, Paul Harvey, ABC News) but the music is one hundred percent DJ programmed, no Jack here. You can listen on the web or pick them up at 99.1 FM driving up. One of my new favorites is a show called Lister Live, a guy who worked at WBAI and Island records back in the 70s, doing political chat mixed with reggae music.

  4. Dale Says:

    I’ve been listening to this station all morning from my Middletown NY location (with the help of a Terk loop antenna) and I have to say it’s quite an interesting mix of music. Old jazz or big band, followed by 60s psych followed by doo wop followed by bluegrass followed by something that sounds like it’s from a Busby Berkley musical. I can honestly say there is NOTHING else like this in my listening area. Sometimes WJFF in Jeffersonville NY (only 100% hydro powered station around) will play music like this, but not as a mix. Thanks for turning me on to this Professor.

  5. em2 Says:

    Finally online thanks to WBCQ!

    http://www.wbcq.com/?p=594

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