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.”
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