One of the few places you can hear bluegrass music on the radio today in many cities is on college or university radio stations that are generally staffed by students, professors, and community volunteers. DJ Richard Gordon has a lot of experience with this format. As a former broadcaster at the University of New Haven’s WNHU and currently with the University of Delaware’s WVUD, Gordon says that he loves stations like that.
“Both of them are examples of a dying breed, stations that blend the vitality of college radio – students on the air! – and the diversity of community radio,” he says. “It’s important for us “independent” stations to stay on the air, providing the diversity of programming that supports a wide variety of community interests and music.”
Gordon got his start in radio about six years ago, hosting the Black Diamond Show on WNHU. Things with that show were actually based from his home studio – “well, my living room,” he says, “in Newport, Delaware, including phone and Skype interviews with various artists.” However, he was interested in radio long before that. Growing up as part of the baby boomer generation, he frequently listened to the radio as he fell asleep at night. “It’s not bluegrass, but Lionel Cartwright’s I Watched It All On My Radio pretty much tells the story,” he says.
Since 2012, Gordon has broadcasted from WVUD, where he is also employed in the university’s IT office. He hosts two interview-based shows. The first is Campus Voices, a public affairs program that presents interviews with members of the University of Delaware community, as well as with visitors to campus. The Music Room, his second show, features guests from the bluegrass, folk, and old time genres, among others. According to its website, the show’s goal is to provide a mix of conversation with and music by the featured artists. Gordon is also involved in several other WVUD programs, regularly subbing on bluegrass and traditional country show Fire on the Mountain, folk-music based Roots, and Java Time, a morning drive show.
One of Gordon’s favorite things about working in radio is helping artists introduce themselves to his listening area – in this case, the Delaware Valley. “I had a blast talking with Sarah Harris of the Trinity River Band recently while subbing on WVUD’s Roots program, and I’ve loved doing interviews for The Music Room,” he says. Past interviews are available for streaming at http://sites.udel.edu/tmr. Gordon recommends checking out the one featuring Della Mae’s Kimber Ludiker. “That one was a hoot!” he says.
We recently had the chance to ask Gordon a few questions about his thoughts on bluegrass music. Here’s what he had to say.
How would you define bluegrass music as a genre?
“Banjo + (fiddle or mandolin or dobro) + guitar = BLUEGRASS (or so the definition has been the couple of times I’ve judged contests!). In reality, I hate to pigeonhole music with a specific label. But that definition should be broad enough to cover a lot of great music.”
What form of bluegrass do you most enjoy?
“All of the above.”
What artists would you consider examples of the form you most enjoy?
“John Reischman and the Jaybirds, Del McCoury Band, Big Medicine, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, Larry Sparks.”
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
“Well, heck. Only one? How about the original Will the Circle Be Unbroken triple LP – Doc Watson, Jimmy Martin, Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff, Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis, Vassar Clements, Junior Huskey, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, etc., etc. Why? The music was great, there was a good variety, and it was very cool to have newer artists and some of the greats collaborating on that project.
If naming a 3-LP set is cheating, then how about that 1969 compilation that came out on RCA, Early Bluegrass? I about wore that one out as a teenager, and I used to scare people to death singing The Goins Brothers’ (dba The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers) No Curb Service at jam sessions in the 70’s.”
What album or artist is currently in your car stereo?
“The Rail Splitters (a relatively new band from Colorado).”
Artists who are interested in sending their music to Gordon for airplay or interview consideration can mail a physical copy to him. “Airplay Direct is fine with me too,” he says. His address is:
Richard Gordon, The Music Room
Perkins Student Center
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716
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