Harvard Magazine, which is circulated to an astonishing 240,000 alumni, faculty, and staff of Harvard University (Wikipedia), in its Alumni section for September-October 2015 (Vol. 118, No. 1) featured an article by Craig A. Lambert on WHRB (pp. 63-7). The article, entitled “A Broadcast Cornucopia,” focused on WHRB’s history and principal music departments (Classical, Jazz, Rock—nothing about its once-prominent News and still excellent Sports Departments), but notably for us, gave prominent attention to Hillbilly at Harvard:
In 1948, Dwight Benton Minnich ’51 (“Pappy Ben” on air) launched Barn Howl on WHRV (the AM predecessor of WHRB-FM), feeding the appetite for country music shared by many Southern World War II veterans at Harvard. His early effort evolved into the longest-running, most highly regarded country/bluegrass program on Boston radio, Hillbilly at Harvard, a Saturday morning fixture now hosted by Lynn Joiner ’61 (“Cousin Lynn”).
Joiner arrived at WHRB as folk music was taking off in 1959 and came to host the weekly Balladeers program—one night featuring a local teenager named Joan Baez. “We may have been the first to air her,” he says. Typifying the playlist, he says, are artists like “the Stanley Brothers [a bluegrass group, floruit 1946-66] and George Jones, the greatest singer in the history of country music,” Joiner adds, “with the possible exception of Hank Williams.” Joiner co-hosted with Brian Sinclair ’62 (“Ol’ Sinc”) from 1976 until Sinclair’s death in 2002. Their formula was one bluegrass, old-timey, or Cajun cut for every two country numbers. “Now it’s just me,” Joiner says.
He has carried on with gusto plus input from a loyal, knowledgeable audience. Hillbilly promotes local concerts and often brings in musicians for live interviews and performances. Joiner plays contemporary country artists, but doesn’t do “pop country” with its lush arrangements, sticking to the fiddles rather than the violins. In 2014, the International Bluegrass Music Association gave Hillbilly its Distinguished Achievement Award, its highest honor outside Hall of Fame induction. . .
Considering that HAH occupies a lonely four hours of Saturday-morning air time, and is at this point a historical legacy of WHRB’s past, rather than an integral part of its current programming, it was a distinct honor to get so much ink from Mr. Lambert. Certainly listeners who continue to enjoy the show will be grateful to WHRB for faithfully providing a home for this fixture (Craig Lambert’s term) of country and bluegrass on Saturday mornings.
The whole article is HERE. /CL
PS Correction: I never hosted Balladeers; I was the Producer. Hosts included Bill Wood, Alan Katz, and Tom Rush (who of course went on to an illustrious performing career).