WSAM made this happen.

I mentioned WSAM.

WSAM was an incredibly creative place, filled with intelligent and creative people.  And me.  It was a tremendous environment in which to try things – the fact that it was a small, campus-only station meant that there were very few restrictions on what we could do, and the fact that the station was affiliated with the University and the Communications Department meant that we had a decent budget for operations, but virtually no supervision.  Our Faculty Advisor, Rod Carveth, understood the nature of how the station was run, and the value of the creativity involved, and he embraced it – we kept him in the loop as to what was going on, and he encouraged us to do our own thing, which was the best way for us to grow.

The station became a place for great music and a way to make friends outside the confines of campus.  It also became an offbeat environment where we could do virtually anything.  The people who were involved with the management of the station have moved on to some pretty outstanding things.  Art, the Chief Engineer and one of my oldest friends in Hartford, now runs his own engineering firm where he builds radio stations for a living.  Tucker, the Operations Manager and still one of my best friends, is a stage actor in Chicago who works with multiple theater companies.  Trudy, who was also an Operations Manager, married Art and has a successful career in television.  Walt, the Business Manager, is now an accountant for a large bank in New England. Sandy, the Promotions Director, is now a successful PR professional.  And my wife.

Other members of the station from that time are working in the media business, the music business, and the ad business.

Once, Art and I locked ourselves in the station, opened all the microphones, and operated power tools and smashed sheets of aluminum for an hour.  Tucker created several occasionally brilliant (occasionally not) serial broadcasts that aired once a week.  We flexed our muscles in the production studio, we booked or promoted local alternative music shows, we screwed around in the business offices but raised a ton of money for new equipment.  In 1991 we coordinated a state-wide anti-censorship day (this was in the midst of the PMRC and voluntary warning label hoopla) that included tons of giveaways, broadcasts of indecent and offensive music (on our station, at least), dozens of PSAs from alternative and independent artists, and an on-campus spoken word performance by Jello Biafra.  During the Gulf War, when radio stations nationwide observed a moment of silence in support of our troops, we observed a moment of noise – because we felt the war was unjust and silence wasn’t the way to end it.  

By the time I graduated college, I sincerely thought that if you wanted to create something, it was bound to succeed, just because you wanted it to.  It never mattered that few people actually listened to WSAM – we participated in national organizations, reported our playlists to the national charting organizations, booked national recording artists, worked on state-of-the-art equipment that we bought with money we raised from our own promotions.  If we tried something and it failed, we simply tried something different.   

So, to me, getting a job in the record business?  No sweat.  I figured I’d get married, get settled in, call someone up, get a job.  I had a ton of experience in music, in radio, in promotion.  I had a year-long internship with an indie label where I did national college radio promotions and had success in “charting” the label’s artist.  I was a General Manager and a Program Director at a radio station that was invisible on the national radar in 1988, and an award-winning, fairly well-respected station (as far as campus stations go) by 1991.  I booked national recording artists, I wrote articles for national magazines and an alternative music column for the school paper.  I worked for an online forum (that’s right, online, in 1989), writing record reviews.  I had more experience than anyoneThe world was my oyster.  

My friend Frank, a long-time buddy and computer whiz, pieced together a Macintosh computer and an HP printer and gave them to me to use when I moved home to New Jersey.  I made a list of 40 or 50 places I’d like to work, made up a bunch of resumes and cover letters, dropped them in the mail, got married, and went on a two-week honeymoon.

When I returned, I had received one phone call: from New Route magazine, a small publication that was distributed to college campuses.  They had an opening in their warehouse, loading boxes onto trucks.


A couple days later, I got another: from Albert Garzon of Community 3 recordss – one of the nicer guys I knew in the indie rock business at that point.  Community 3 had a number of artists I really liked, like Arson Garden and Grisly Fiction and Brenda Kahn.  Albert was going overseas for a month, and needed someone to babysit his label and his apartment while he was gone.  He couldn’t afford to pay me any money, but I could live in his Brooklyn apartment rent-free, and get some experience in the indie world.  Meet some people, get started.

Although in hindsight, Albert’s offer was a good one for a kid fresh out of school, I figured it would be a matter of time before a paying job in indie rock came through.  So, stupidly, I passed.

Obviously, no jobs were forthcoming.

~ by Al on January 6, 2009.

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