Early WRCT broadcast, when it was still on the AM dial and heard only on campus
By Adrian McCoy Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The year 1974 was a good one for community radio stations. It saw the launch of WYEP-FM (91.3), and a move to the FM dial for Carnegie Mellon University student station WRCT-FM (88.3).
Both stations are marking these 35-year milestones with a series of special events.
Carnegie Mellon station WRCT-FM is actually 60 years old. It went on the air in 1949, but its move to the FM dial, which enabled it to reach a larger, off-campus audience, happened in 1974.
WRCT was born as an experimental radio station at then-Carnegie Institute of Technology. The student project broadcast to campus buildings for several hours a day. In 1950, Radio Carnegie Tech (that's what the RCT in the call letters stands for) covered half the buildings on campus, and became an official student organization.
In 1974, the station moved to the FM dial and extended its signal beyond the campus to nearby areas. In '94, it was granted a power increase and could be heard up to 15 miles away, giving it a more significant community presence.
WRCT maintains an eclectic free-form format -- indie, electronic, experimental, jazz, hip-hop, blues, international, musical theater, along with public affairs programming such as "Democracy Now," "Free Speech Radio News," "Rustbelt Radio" and programming for the black and Hispanic communities.
In addition to its student-hosted programs, several veteran DJs have weekly shows on WRCT, including Kevin Amos' "One to One," Zombo's "Zombo's Record Party," Jay Thurber's "Radio 9" and the family program "Saturday Light Brigade."
WRCT is celebrating its growing presence in the community with a night of music at two popular East Liberty venues -- Shadow Lounge and AVA. WRCT DJs will be providing the music in both rooms.
The lineup at AVA: Zombo, Jason the Underwater Culprit, Shawn Watson, J. Malls and DJ Thermos.
In the Shadow Lounge, it's Tina, Kimmy+Sandi, DJ Sanspoof, Arsenal+JTS and DJ Firefly.
In the Shadow Lounge's Blue Room, there will be performances by Steve Boyle of "Radio Free Radio" and Alex and Sal.
The neighboring Waffle Shop will be serving waffles to the post-dance crowd. The Waffle Shop is another Carnegie Mellon venture -- a student-run late-night waffle shop that also records video of patrons talking, and plays them as an ongoing "talk show."
The station is launching a revamped Web site this week to coincide with the anniversary celebration.
Hours for the WRCT bash are tomorrow from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is $5.
In April 1974, WYEP-FM, an all-volunteer community radio station signed on the airwaves, broadcasting from a South Oakland basement. It grew over the years, evolving from a free-form format into what is now the city's adult alternative station.
WYEP is presenting a series of special events and tie-ins throughout its 35th anniversary month.
This month's Third Thursday/WYEP Open House is a free open house and concert with Joe Grushecky, Bill Deasy and Ben Hardt. It runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at WYEP's Community Broadcast Center, South Side.
WYEP Music and a Movie: WYEP and Pittsburgh Filmmakers present the Wilco concert film "Ashes of American Flags." The screening is April 18 at 6:30 p.m. in Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room, Oakland.
"This American Life Live -- 2009": The simulcast of public radio's "This American Life" on movie screens nationwide is April 23 at 8 p.m. Local screenings are at the Cinemark Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills and Showcase Cinemas West in Robinson. "This American Life" airs on WYEP and also on WDUQ-FM (90.5).
WYEP's Essential Songs Countdown: The station has been conducting a listeners' poll to come up with 913 songs that define the WYEP listening experience. In May, the station will begin playing music from that list.
The station will broadcast live from Art All Night in Lawrenceville on April 25 from 5 p.m. to midnight.
In the anniversary edition of "The WYEP Music Taste Test," the station will give visitors a look at how hosts choose the music played on the station. The Taste Test is April 30 at 6 p.m. at the Community Broadcast Center.
On May 1 at 6:30 p.m., there will be a concert CD release party for the 11th edition in the "Live and Direct" series, which features live performances recorded by WYEP in the past year. Jennifer O'Connor & Band and Donora will perform at the Schenley Plaza concert.