WVXU alumni celebrate 51 years broadcasting on 91.7 FM
Former WVXU staffers swap stories about the early days of Xavier University's public radio station.
A few were from WCXU ("Cincinnati's Xavier University"), the student-run closed circuit station heard in campus buildings and dormitories in the 1950s and '60s.
Most of the 50 people attending the 50th anniversary dinner at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse Saturday night – a year late, due to COVID-19 – worked at WVXU ("Voice of Xavier University") long before the Jesuit school sold the station to Cincinnati Public Radio in 2005.
They reminisced about how the little 10-watt station in the basement of Alter Hall gradually grew under Fr. Lawrence Flynn to 6,500 watts in 1976.
Alum Jay Adrick, a broadcasting engineer who helped transition the station from closed circuit to over-the-air broadcasting, presented a PowerPoint on the station's history. Among his photos was one of the late Harry Traynor, the first student manager and longtime WKRC-TV assignment editor, doing one of the first remote broadcasts on campus in 1970-71, and a photo of the new 1967 audio console.
"All we ever got was hand-me-downs, used equipment," Adrick says.
Adrick explained how the station chose the WVXU call letters in 1970 because the operators of the FM station on 105.1 called WCXL (now WUBE) protested that WCXU would confuse Cincinnati listeners.
In the early 1970s, when no Cincinnati commercial station wanted to broadcast XU basketball games, WVXU sports director Tom Stevens did the games on the station.
The student DJs played rock and pop music in the 1970s. Iron Butterfly's 17-minute "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was the No. 1 song (to play when the DJ needed a bathroom break). And when WVXU would air Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music White Boy" the DJ would get a call from Fr. Flynn who thought he was hearing a different F word in the title and refrain.
Kathy Myers, former station manager, told of working on Larry Ashcraft's LiveLine, and Steve Overbeck's call-in auto repair show. Kevin Wolfe, Gary Burbank's former sidekick on WLW-AM, told about co-hosting Everybody's Cooking with chef Jimmy Gherardi in front of a studio audience in the Herald Avenue building when a caller asked how to cook squirrel.
Wolfe told the caller to make sure you leave the tail on, so you have something to hold on to when you deep-fry it.
While part of Xavier University, WVXU was known for airing old-time radio comedies and drama, including X Minus One, a half-hour 1950s science fiction show. The WVXU veterans noted that radio drama was part of the schedule in the very early 1970s, when Tom Flynn wrote and produced The Flying Dutchman of Space. Adrick played an excerpt from the series, which had been performed by several in attendance Saturday night.
The reunion began Friday night with a gathering at Listermann Brewing on Dana Avenue, across from the campus. On Saturday, WVXU alumni toured the Xavier campus and WVXU's current studios at Cincinnati Public Radio in the Crosley Telecommunications building, 1223 Central Parkway, before the Boathouse gathering. The group toured the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting on Sunday.
I posted this anniversary story last year, "Happy 50th Birthday To WVXU." And here's a link to The History Of WVXU on our website which includes audio cuts about the station by Adrick, Stevens, Read and Larry Holt, the reunion organizers.
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