Who Stole My Country 60 – WBAI Programming 

imagesThis post may be long and tedious for many of you, but I wanted a record of Pacifica’s programming during the Elsa era.  These notes were prepared by reviewing WBAI’s program guides for all of 1965, but they generally reflect Pacifica programming during the Elsa era.  The range of topics and interests is astounding. In 2015, there is simply nothing else remotely like Pacifica’s programming during this phase. (For a quick, good sense of what it sounded like, listen to the BBC Documentary posted on my Web site.)

A WBAI Broadcast Day

7:00 am – news, weather, parking information, music, “New York happenings for the day.”

8:00 am –  classical music concert

9:00 am – rebroadcasts of previous  evening’s programing.

10:00 am  – classical music concert

11:00 am – radio stories(for example): a performance of Stringberg’s Pariah from the BBC; a reading of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf in sixteen part series; dramatic portraits of George Orwell, Dylan Thomas, D. H. Lawrence; a thirteen part reading of Thackeray’s novel Pendennis and another of Richard Huges’ High Wind in Jamaica).

12:00 am – more adventuresome music programming (for example): works by the serialist musician Ginastera, experimental music by Lejaren.  Anthony Boucher’s long running, knowledgeable series on Opera, called Golden Voices.  Charle Hobson’s “Negro” music, from Jamaican Calypso to high church gospels).

1:00 pm –  poetry by (for example): Denise Levertov, Steven Spender, Jackson MacLow, Richard Eberhardt, Jean Valentine, Charles Oldson, Robert Creeley, Cecil Hemley, Randal Jarrell, Aaron Kramer, Galway Kinnel, Jean Garrigue, John Ciardi, C. Day Lewis, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, Ann Sexton, X. J. Kennedy, and Lee Hatfield.

2:00 pm – Classical and folk music.

3:00 pm  – more radio stories (a dramatized murder trial, a portrait of King Henry II, five women criminals, all from the BBC.  Isaaac Singer reading his own short stories.  A lengthy series on insects. A series on Yoga from an Indian guru).

4:00 pm – more classical music (only a tiny portion of our classical music reflected standard play lists of classical music stations).

4:30 pm – a kids show.

6:00 pm – a final music concert.

7:00 pm. – a news hour with commentaries and reviews by (for example): Catholic layman Thomas Francis Ritt, Soviet apologist William Mandel, conservative Ayn Rand, Marxist historian Herbert Aptheker, a Wall Street commentator, Neo-liberal Seymour Martin Lipset, a regular UN correspondent Betty Pilkington, press reviews by Nat Hentoff, and Leroi Jones with a series called Tell It Like It Is.

8:00 pm to 11:00 pm.  Prime time where we premiered our major programs (see below).

11:00 pm  A variety of late night programs (for example): Poet Paul Allen did a series with American poets. A folk music program with Irwin Silber, editor of Sing Out, the folk music magazine.  The premier show featured a new-comer, Bob Dylan.  Frank Brady began a show in April on “The Hip 400 that included Ralph Ginzburg.”  One night, Friedrich Durrenmatt gave an inspired performance in German from his play, Herkules und der Stall des Augias.

Talkback began in 1965 in the late evening, our first show in which the audience could call in and be on the air with a new technology we had installed.

Prime time ended with a daily news report by broadcaster Edward P. Morgan.

1:00 am – By the end of February, 1965, Bob Fass was on the air with Radio Unnamable, beginning at 1:00 am and running through the night.  It was throw-away time to serious radio people.  We had no idea what we had unleashed!

It would be impossible to give a comprehensive list of WBAI programs.  Here are highlights from 1965.  Some of the programs had been produced earlier.  We did a lot of rebroadcasting.

Documentaries.  Big blockbusters, 60 to 90 minutes programs on major events

  • Freedom Now!  Dale Minor’s documentary on the 1963 Montgomery Movement.
  • The Winds of the People on the Spanish Civil War.
  • My 13 part series This Little Light on Mississippi in the summer of 1964.
  • Prison reform.
  • The Rebellion in Berkeley broadcast on January 19th, 1965.
  • A documentary on the The Quebec Independence Movement,
  • A dramatization of the life of Simon Bolivar.
  • Charlie Hayden whose program Big Head, Obituary for a Junky caused waves.  Hayden followed it up with a series on underworld homosexuals, heroin addicts, child molesters  and sex changers.
  • A remarkably intimate series on the Ku Klux Klan produced by our folio editor, Marsha Tompkins, after a visit to her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
  • Five nights in the Ghetto, produced from tapes made by Leonard Brown in Los Angeles.
  • A retrospect on Malcolm X that I produced from tapes we’d recorded over five years.  We followed retrospect with a panel discussion with historian John Henrik Clarke and James Forman, who was then the leader of SNICC.
  • A series on the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley. The series ended with a debate between Hal Draper, who supported the students, and Nathan Glaser who did not.
  • A commemorative piece on the anniversary of the Sharpsville Massacer in South Africa.
  • Vietnam including interviews conducted in Paris with Jean Lacouture, a correspondent for Le Monde and Phillipe Devilliers, another French southeast Asian expert.
  • Richard Lamparski began his series, Whatever Happened To …, which he later parlayed into a successful television franchise.

Additional Public Affairs programming 

  • Excerpts and interviews from the Asilomar Negro Writers Conference.
  • A tribute to 1st Amendment Advocate Alexadner Meikeljoihn.
  • We read Jean Paul Sartre’s refusal to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964.
  • A regular series on the rights and responsibilities of college newspapers.
  • Interviews with (for example):
    • futurist Alvin Toffler;
    • General S.L.A. Marshall on Vietnam;
    • author Bernard Fall on the French in Vietnam;
    • Che Guevara;
    • Richard Albert and Timothy Leary;
    • Felix Green on his return from China;
    • Paul Krasner of the Realist;
    • one of the first interviews ever with a new group called Amnesty International;
    • a seven part series called Cyberculture, that anticipated the future computers would release twenty years later.
    • a conversation with Bayard Rustin and Dinah Shore on the Negro Revolution;
    • a tribute to Albert Schweitzer;
    • New York Times journalist Harrison Salisbury with guests talking about the Soviet Union.
    • Robert Williams on a trip to Cuba.
    • an interview with a series by the director of the Hayden Plenetarium
    • Marcus Raskin
    • Paul Goodman
    • James Baldwin
    • Robert Theobold, author of Free Men and Free Markets
    • Charles Silberman, whose provocative book Crisis in Black and White had just come out
    • Rolla May
    • David Bazelon, author of the Paper Economy
    • John Dos Passos, author of Manhattan Transfer among others
    • Diana Arbus talking about her photography
    • Linus Pauling
    • Jacques Barzun
    • Irving Howe who attacked the student movement
    • Ernst Van der Gaag who defended the Vietnam War
    • Alduous Huxley
    • Jules Feiffer
    • Ruby Dee
    • Susan Sontag
    • Helen Gurley Brown, who had just been made editor of Cosmopolitan
    • Arthur Koestler
    • Jacques Ellul,

Recorded talks and lectures

  • Dr Bruno Bettleheim on raising children;
  • Saul Bellows on the contemporary novel;
  • Indian mystic J.Krishnamurti on Intelligence and Hatred;
  • Lectures on the Greek classics.
  • Talks  by Alan Watts

Drama and Literature  

  • Dylan Thomas reading  Return Journey
  • David Ossman in an LA produced biography of e.e.cummings.
  • A documentary montage on the last days of Hart Crane,
  • An original WBAI production of The Tragic History of Doctor Faustus.
  • An evening with Carl Sandburg.
  • An original production of Gogol’s The Overcoat, followed by the complete version in the original Russian.
  • A production of Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman.
  • A Memorial to T.S. Eliot.
  • Lillian Smith reading from her new novel Our Faces, Our Words, an ode to the non-violent resistance of the civil rights movement.
  • Dale Minor and New York Times book reviewer Maxwell Geismar explored the work of the emerging Austrian writer Jokov Lind.
  • Theater and drama critic John Simon leading a panel discussion on the challenges of translations.
  • A complete production of Euripides, The Hippolytus.
  • British critic Kenneth Tynan on American theater,

The Music Department

  • A study of  the preparation and performance of a major work by Stockhausen in Buffalow, New York.
  • Music Director John Corigliani’s interviews, with the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola in his hotel room,
  • a documentary on the Stride Piano,
  • a continuous presentation of the uncut performances of the entire Wagner Ring Cycle from the 1964 Beyreuth Festival.
  • Judy Collins in a prime time series with the Clancey Brothers, Malvina Reynolds, Charles Ives and Charles Ruggles.
  • Gunther Schuler’s Contermporary Music in Evolution.
  • Phil Ochs in a show about the involvement of performers and artists in political life, “The Age of Involvement.” 

One response to “Who Stole My Country 60 – WBAI Programming 

  1. There’s so much here that looks familiar! 1965 was my last year at KPFA before I came to London, and it was indeed remarkable. Chris, we are both dedicated to preserving so much that must not die! If we are indeed living within a self-perpetuating series of virtual worlds, perhaps our respective websites will make some small positive contribution.

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