Comments? Suggestions? Requests? Use the Paper and Pen Open Page!

Have requests?  Comments?  Suggestions?  Post them on the Paper and Pen page.  To comment on the Pen and Paper page, go to that page (click on the Pen and Paper menu heading, below the picture of the studio at top), scroll down to the end of the Comments.  You can, of course, also post relevant comments under any individual post.

NOTE: All content in this weblog, except where indicated, is entirely my own, and not that of WHRB or Harvard University.  See the About page for more information. /CL

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We’re Back!

Two weeks pre-emption over, and we’re back home on the river in Saxonville! And HAH is back on the air! Tune in!

I think I heard my name!

Posted in Administrivia, Hillbilly Journal, Program Notes, Radio Talk | 3 Comments

In Powhatan, Pre-empted for Two Weeks

Just in case you missed my earlier note, HAH is pre-empted by two Orgies®, someone named Billy Bragg this Saturday (May 7th), and part of a mammoth Schubert Orgy® next Saturday (the 14th). After that I presume we’ll be back to two hours, 9–11 AM.

Apologies again for the erratic program last week, with the surprise ending midway through. Hope you all realized it was a false alarm. We were in Charleston, SC, hitching up to leave for North Carolina, and now Powhatan, VA, where daughter Sarah and family live. Back to New England next week.

We had a couple of real Summery days here, with storms predicted tonight and tomorrow. Got this quick shot of a Summer Tanager high up in a far tree:

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, so here’s Merle:

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Update from the Road

We’re in Monte Santo State Park, near Huntsville, Alabama. Much to report, but no time now. We’re heading out tomorrow for the DeSoto Falls Campground, in northern Georgia. Hoping to take in a stop in Dalton, Georgia where there is a well-known railfan site, and the Bear on the Square Music Festival in Dahlonega this weekend.

I expect many of you understood last week’s show was an Archival show from March 29th, 1986. Unfortunately, the preceding and following announcements did not get run, for which I apologize. This week, we should have another edition of Hillbilly Home Recordings. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of our new (to us) 2019 Escape 21 travel trailer, our current home-away-from-home:

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Home-Brewed, Archived, Pre-empted

I’m continuing tomorrow with the current spate of home-brewed Hillbilly Home Recordings, two-hour shows that I’m recording here at home. Listeners tell me they don’t sound too awful, and I am getting better at manipulating this little mixer.

Next week, for Saturday the 16th of April, I’ve edited an Archival HAH from March 29th, 1986. That was Easter weekend in 1986, so appropriate for Easter this year. Sinc and I played a few songs for the occasion, including a couple that will surprise you, courtesy of Gordie Brown. Unfortunately, I’ve had to chop off the last hour of what was then a three-hour show.

Then for the 23rd and 30th of April, we’ll have some more Home-Brewed shows (I like ‘home-brewed’ better than ‘home-made’), assuming the computer at WHRB and its operators can get the programs to run on time—we’ve had some problems recently, as you’ve doubtless noticed. On the first two Saturdays in May we’re being pre-empted by Orgies®; I don’t know which, as the schedule hasn’t been published yet. By May 21st, we should be back in town, so HAH will resume.

I should thank Ken Ward, down in Memphis, who hosts a country show on WEVL and sent me a hard drive full of songs. He writes,

My show is called “Back to the Country” and it airs Thursdays noon-2 central. There’s a live stream at www.wevl.org, and the two most recent shows are archived here: https://spinitron.com/WEVL/show/220741/Back-To-The-Country

We’re leaving Monday for Union, Kentucky to pick up our new-to-us 2019 Escape 21C molded fiberglass trailer, and then heading to Huntsville, Alabama to visit the Space Museum there. Unfortunately we’ll miss Memphis and Nashville this trip. Check out Ken’s show for more good country music.

From Huntsville it’s off to the North Woods of Georgia, where we’re hoping to catch the free weekend old-timey ‘Bear on the Square’ festival in a place called Dahlonega. Plan then is to head to Charleston, South Carolina, which some say is the most beautiful city in America, and thence up to coast to daughter Sarah’s family in Virginia.

What does the future hold? We’ll see when we get back to New England. In the meantime, we may get close to Chattanooga, with the late, great Dave Evans:

UPDATE 9Apr, 10:20 AM: For some reason the first Home-Brewed HAH has run today, not the program I specified. Oh well: maybe some of you missed it the first time it ran, some weeks ago. Good tunes, at any rate! /CL

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Hillbilly Home Recordings Continue. . .

“No news is no news,” Sinc used to say, taking off on the old “No news is good news” line. I really have none, but it was a frustratin’ day, when after I successfully completed HHR hour no. 8 this morning, I realized that I had recorded the wrong cut at the end, and foolishly tried to cut in the correct one. The Studio One 5 software I’m recording with unaccountably wrote over two earlier tracks, leaving me hopelessly bereft with bits and pieces of a recording.

Bits and Pieces of HHR No. 8, Exported to Audacity to Put Together

It’s a poor workman who blames his tools. I’m sure that the Studio One 5 software is powerful and useful stuff, but for simple two-track recording and editing for someone who learned on analogue reel-to-reel machines, software aimed at multi-track recording of live bands, its talk of ‘Events’ and ‘Loops’ is way over my head. The free Audacity is more my speed, as it combines simple computer techniques with basic analogue visuals. But Audacity doesn’t like the music and voice output from the Allen and Heath mixer I’m using, so that’s why I’m recording in an unfamiliar world.

But enough complaining; I’ve got today’s hour fixed in Audacity, using my old friends Copy and Paste, missing out on the Spring weather this afternoon while Dr Janie got our 2013 Casita travel trailer ready for prospective customers this weekend. We’re getting a larger, 2019 Escape 21C trailer, also a molded-fiberglass camper (see my post on how our Casita got its name, HERE). So we’ll be heading down to Union, Kentucky next month to pick up the Escape, and then we’ll probably do a little traveling before heading back home. So my plan is to get enough HHR and Archival hours in the can before we leave, so we can keep HAH going in this limited way. No doubt I’ll get faster at it; I’d better.

We need some entertainment. Something about computers. Like this, from Brad:

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More Hillbilly Home Recordings. . .

I have to apologize for the long periods of ‘dead air’, as we say in radio jargon, during last week’s show. I can’t explain it, except to say there was some problem getting the files I upload to the computer at WHRB onto the air. Thankfully, HAH was allowed to run over to make up for the lost minutes. It should work better this week. Thanks to everyone who persevered to catch the full two hours.

I’ve got two new hours of HHR for this week. I was able to get a new dual CD player, thanks to quick delivery from an outfit called zZounds.com. ‘Dual’ means it’s really two CD players (not recorders) in one, side by side, with identical controls. They are really DJ-friendly, playing single (versus continuous) tracks if you want, showing time remaining (not just elapsed), and offering accurate (to the tenth of a second) cue start. You may not need these features, but I really do. It makes life much easier!

This gizmo comes in two parts, intended for rack-mounting. I don’t have a rack, so I just screwed the two onto a couple of 2×4 pieces, and there she sits (the arms belong to an ancient Griffin laptop stand, which fits nicely onto the bottom part).

Of course these players are aimed at club DJs, who like to change pitches, loop tunes, and play other audio games of which I am totally ignorant, sorta like the knobby mixer I’m using in lieu of a proper broadcast board. But that’s OK; I can play radio guy with this setup. With a little practice, I might get good at it.

Not that these technical matters are of any importance to you, but it’s fun to get some new hours on the air. With any luck, we can keep Hillbilly at Harvard going for a while yet. When I got exiled, I brought all the CDs I had on my regular cart home. That’s only a small proportion of the Hillbilly library at WHRB, but I’ve also got a fat shelf full of ‘to-be-listened-to-and-rated’ CDs, which will be plenty for a while.

Tune in tomorrow, and let me know what you think. I’m trying to come up with something radio-topical, and of course this came to mind: Alan Jackson’s ‘Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song’—

Yeah, timing is everything. /CL

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Hillbilly Home Recordings (HHR) is on the Air

At long last, I have attempted to record Hillbilly at Harvard at home. Once or twice in the past, when I attempted it, I quickly gave up in frustration. When I was in the studio at WHRB, I knew the board and the equipment (turntables and CD players in recent years) intimately. I programmed ‘on the fly’, scanning for the next track from CDs, LPs, and singles on a cart I rolled in from the library. I didn’t need to spend time figuring how to get a selection on the air.

Sure, it was living dangerously, and many times I ending up cueing (queue-ing, in proper spelling) up a record or CD while on the air, filling if necessary, but I could generally do it seamlessly. When you work ‘top-40’ style, breaking after every song, you have to rely on ‘muscle memory’ to keep things working without having to think about them.

Here at home I don’t have a proper broadcast board. I’m using an Allen-Heath mixer that I bought from Sweetwater after my Exile from WHRB in August, 2020. To record, I’m using a free copy of Studio1 software, designed for recording multi-track musical groups; the instruction manual is mostly foreign to me. My CD players are ancient multi-disk hand-me-downs, and the turntable a home Technics unit that jitters if you bump the desk and takes over half a turn to get up to speed.

I’m not complaining; just explaining why I was deterred from trying to replicate what I could do in a real broadcast studio. I do have a decent, but fraying pair of headphones, and a serviceable but limited Sennheiser microphone. You can see this Mickey-Mouse setup in the accompanying photograph.

Still, listeners keep asking me when I’m getting back live, so I thought I’d better give recording new shows a try. True, if recorded, they’re not really live, but at least they’ll be fresher than the Generic Hours I’ve been using, recorded in the studio for use on vacation days, and a change from the Archival shows, that mostly remind me how much fun it was in the old days.

It’s pretty awkward, but I’ve got a couple of hours that I’ll inflict on radio-land tomorrow. The two CD players are mismatched, with the select and play controls in different places, so I mess up a lot. I have to confess I edited out some complete disasters. And you will hear what I hope is an unfamiliar degree of uncertainty during the breaks. I did cheat a little by piling up a stack of CDs and LPs so I wouldn’t have to go looking for them; but I still had to decide on the song—tempo and content matter in my radio universe.

Let me know if you think it’s palatable. I can buy a modest imitation of a professional broadcast board for about a grand, a better mic, and two matched CD players that will actually play single songs without automatically continuing on to the next one on the disk. We’ll see—or we’ll hear. HHR tomorrow! Forewarned is forearmed. And I could use four arms! /CL

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UPDATE: ‘Maple Sugar Sweetheart’

Back when I posted about Ward Allen‘s wonderful fiddle tune ‘Maple Sugar’ and the lyrics Hank LaRiviere (‘Hank Rivers’) penned for it, there was no video available of Hank’s original 1960 record, ‘Maple Sugar Sweetheart’. I linked to a version from Doc Williams and the Border Riders, but that has since been withdrawn from Youtube. However, Hank LaRiviere’s single on Rodeo International has appeared on Youtube, posted by ‘HillbillyBoogie1’ (many thanks!):

Quick! Give it a listen! You never know how long these treasures will stay available.

And for a little more on Ward Allen and Hank LaRiviere, go to the original post and the comments, including a note from Hank’s own son, also a Hank: HERE. /CL

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Pappy Ben Minnich Is in the Studio, on December 14th, 1985

ERRATUM 9:30AM 12FEB22: WHRB PLAYED BLUES TILL 9:10, THEN RAN WRONG HAH ARCHIVE. APOLOGIES TO LISTENERS WHO TUNED IN TO HEAR THE SHOW SCHEDULED FOR TODAY. MAYBE NEXT WEEK? /CL

ANOTHER ARCHIVAL HILLBILLY AT HARVARD

By the late ’50s, early ’60s, none of us knew Pappy Ben Minnich; he was a legendary figure, reputed to have started playing country music at WHRB with a show called ‘Barn Howl’, in 1948. The story was that many veterans on the GI Bill at Harvard came from the South, and were partial to hillbilly music. WHRB at that time was closed-circuit AM only, distributed (‘broadcast’ was not really the right term) by modulating the AC current to the dorms. But by the time the FM transmitter was inaugurated in 1957, Hillbilly at Harvard had become a fixture on Saturday mornings, and Pappy Ben was, as Sinc always said, “The acknowledged Founding Father of Hillbilly at Harvard.”

‘Pappy Ben’ Minnich, without hard hat, but with streetcar in background, taken at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum in 1986. Copyright © OERM.

It was a surprise, therefore, when Ben Minnich turned up at the door of 45 Quincy Street, underneath Memorial Hall in Cambridge, where WHRB was then located. I’m not sure when it was; maybe 1979, when an article written by Howard Litwak on Hillbilly at Harvard appeared in The Boston Phoenix (January 9, 1979; I mistakenly called it the Globe in the recorded intro to the show). Pappy, who lived in Perris California, said that a friend had told him HAH was still on the air. After that he came to visit, maybe two or three times a year. He was an enthusiast at finding and transporting antique trolley cars for the Seashore Trolley Museum, and would often show up wearing overhauls and a hard hat. In later years he would call me the night before, and ask, “Are we performing tomorrow?”

I haven’t figured the best way to resurrect old 1 7/8 IPS tapes from the late ’70s, and I don’t have recordings of HAH from the early ’80s (Sinc recorded them, but his tapes were unceremoniously cleared out of storage by his landlord when Sinc died), so today’s show from December 14, 1985, is the first show I have available with Pappy Ben. Turns out that day Sinc was on vacation, but Pap and I had a good time. I think you’ll enjoy hearing him on the air.

There is more to be said, and I have long intended both to write more about Pappy Ben, and also to collect some of his stories and observations he shared with us when, as it turned out, he visited the show. Now that I’m listening to old tapes, I may be able to begin this research, incidental to producing these Archival shows.

But for now, tune in tomorrow, from 9 to 11 AM, the last two hours of a three-hour show. I should only mention that Dwight Benton Minnich, born in 1924, whom we knew as ‘Pappy Ben’, passed away in California in 2005. It was a treat to know him, and have him join us from time to time on the air. /CL

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Remember Part II with Tish

ANOTHER ARCHIVAL HILLBILLY AT HARVARD

Second half of the show from May 15th, 1999, featuring Tish Hinojosa at 9 AM this morning. Tom Pittman of the Austin Lounge Lizards makes a brief appearance, too.

Turns out old friend and photographer Jennie Scott was at ‘Hillbilly Central’ that morning, too. She sent a couple pages of snapshots, which she has given me permission to post here. Thanks Jennie!

All photos copyright © Jennie Scott Photography

Should have mentioned that John Lincoln Wright was there, too. He brought down a live recording of all three parts of ‘Same Old Wind’, performed at what was probably the first of Terry Eagan’s Healing Garden Patio benefits, in memory of his wife. /CL

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