HAH History: The Committee Saves the Show!

sinc

Ol’ Sinc

Back about 1965 or 1966, Cousin Dave Schmalz was living in an apartment on Upland Rd. in Cambridge, which of course he called Upland Downs.  At one of his weekly poker parties, a WHRB member (whose name escapes me) turned up with the news that there was no one left at the Network (as the station was then called—it was part of the late-lamented Ivy Network) to host Hillbilly at Harvard.  This led to great consternation, much discussion, and ultimately a rescue mission to keep the program going, with long-time veterans and associates: as it turned out, a Committee!

There was Cousin Dave himself, who alone amongst the crew had ‘real radio’ experience (at WMEX, then a popular top-40 AM station in Boston); Uncle Ed Simpson, who had hosted HAH for a couple of years; Old Sinc (Brian Sinclair), who as Uncle Ed’s roommate and high-school friend had provided many of the records the show used when they were undergraduates; Byron Marshall, who had been my roommate and often helped behind the scenes; and for a while (before I left for other climes), me.

The show, which then ran from 10 AM to 12 noon, was joined in the Control Room by David Gesner (known as DurG), who spun the records and faced a withering competition through the glass to see which side made the most mistakes.

At the time, as they may do still, the Cambridge Trust Company in Harvard Square offered its Massachusetts Avenue windows to organizations for promotion.  After I departed, about 1968, our friend ‘Cousin Gwendolyn‘ took it upon herself to create a display for the resurrected Hillbilly at Harvard.  Somehow I inherited the poster, which has lived remarkably unscathed in a closet for all this time.  Just last week, I was cleaning out the closet, and thought: time for a little HAH history.

Of course the show goes back to Pappy Ben Minnich and ‘Barn Howl’ in 1948, but for those of us in what may laughably be called the younger generation, the Modern History of Hillbilly at Harvard begins with The Committee:

hahposter_sm

Cambridge Savings Bank display (poster and photographs Copyright © E. B. Boatner [‘Cousin Gwen’] 1968; used by permission).

Here’s The Committee closer up, resplendent in. . . well, hats:

the-comittee

Left to right: Cousin Dave, Uncle Ed, Ol’ Sinc, and Byron

And here they are, at their most professional, hard at work:

The Boys Review.jpg

Eventually Ed and Byron moved away, so by 1970 or so Sinc and Dave settled down to regularly hosting the show.  An hour for old-timey music was added at noon, and eventually incorporated into HAH.  Another hour was added, much later, to create the current four-hour show from 9 AM to 1 PM.  More about that anon. . .  /CL

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7 Responses to HAH History: The Committee Saves the Show!

  1. Melissa says:

    That is a fantastic bit of interpretive history. Great poster as important archival material, and excellent photos of the team. Do I understand by your (c) credit that “Cousin Gwen” was the photographer of the black and white photos? Thanks for your always cool HaH blog posts.

  2. Steve Bartlett says:

    I First met Ol’ Sinc and Cousin Dave back about 1973 on my first
    visit to HAH. Also made the Live Folk Orgy for that year, remember
    Durg from those visits. He and his brown leather jacket were memorialized by Dave Misch when Dave introduced and sang his great song “Somerville” on the LFO.

    I wish I had found the program sooner, but I did not have an FM
    receiver until then. I found HAH totally by accident and have been a listener ever since.

    Bring Back The Hillbilly At Harvard Bumper Sticker!!!

  3. Cousin Dave says:

    Actually, by the time we’re talking about here I may have already moved out of the Upland Downs and settled down in the Highland Flat.

  4. Steve Bartlett says:

    Yeah, mine faded too. But so did my MBTA railroad crossing safety bumper sticker; it completely faded out.

    I liked the tag line in the also famous PR spots by various country artists;
    “Remember, you can’t lick a Hillbilly At Harvard Bumper Sticker.”

    Steve Bartlett

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