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WRUW: 50 + Years On

An Exhibit Celebrating Case Western Reserve University’s Radio Station
Illustrated image of exhibit title.
Illustrated exhibit subtitle
A photograph from 1947 of a woman  from Flora Stone Mather College singing in a radio sound booth and their instructor, Miss Bishop, engineering the broadcast from outside of the radio booth.

Miss Bishop of Flora Stone Mather (FSM) College for Women (now part of CWRU) Directing the FSM Radio Club in 1947

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

Black and white photograph of a woman named Jean Miller in the WRAR sound booth.

Jean Miller On-air at WRAR in 1955

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

A black and white photograph of students playing records on-air at WRAR in 1957.

Students On-air at WRAR in 1957

Swingin' Sounds

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

Black and white photograph of a woman with a radio transmitter decorated as a robot in 1957.

Martha Wagner and 'Blinky,' A Mobile Transmitter Decorated Like a Robot, in 1957

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

 

WRUW 91.1 is the campus radio station of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). WRUW is non-profit, commercial-free, all volunteer staffed, and operates 24/7/365. Though a student radio station, numerous community volunteers and alumni are involved, giving WRUW a continuity not found at most college stations. This exhibit will explore the origins and operations of your college radio station, WRUW.

In the early 1940s students from Flora Stone Mather (FSM) College for Women started a radio enthusiast club in the basement of the Mather Memorial building. By 1946 the ladies of FSM were broadcasting as WFSM and the young men from Adelbert College were eager to join this popular student activity. The student radio station was an important source of information and entertainment for the campus.

In 1956 the call letters switched to WRAR 590 on the AM (Amplitude Modulation) dial. A Cleveland Press article from February 11, 1955 described the programing on WRAR  as ‘dreamy, Dixie and Bop tunes maneuvered by student disc jockeys.’ The broadcast was piped directly into the dorms; transmitting via closed circuit. This method did not, and currently does not, require Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensing. However, WRAR could broadcast remotely from different places on campus with a mobile unit made up as a robot named ‘Blinky.’

 

 

 

 

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Pink cover image of a WRAR programming guide with a illustrated image of a picket fence from 1966.

WRAR Programming Guide Cover for April 24th to 28th of 1966

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

 

 

A purple and pink WRUW Programming Guide from the early 1970s with schdule and a cartoon image of early 20th century women dancing to a phonograph.

WRUW Programming Guide from the Early 1970s

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

 

 

A blue and black paper cover of a WRUW Programming Guide with an illustration of the sun from 1972.

WRUW Programming Guide Cover from 1972

Groovy

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

 

Black and white illustrated  cartoon image of a person walking down a street over a record player used for a WRUW programming guide in 1973.

WRUW Programming Guide Cover from 1973

Keep on Truckin'

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

A black and white image of the WRUW Programming Guide from the mid 1970s depicting cartoon images of people with a transistor radio.

WRUW Programming Guide Cover from the Mid 1970s

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

 

 

Black and white illustration of a graph depicting WRUW programming schdule with cartoon decorations from the mid 1970s.

WRUW Programming Guide from the Mid 1970s

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

With the changes brought by CWRU’s federation in 1967, it was deemed financially feasible to switch the radio station to the FM (Frequency Modulation)  format. At this time FM was becoming the preferred method of radio broadcast. On February 20th, 1967 the FCC approved the University’s use of the call signal WRUW at 91.5 MHz, with first broadcast on February 26, 1967. Almost 1/3 of the programming was devoted to talk and public affairs, as stated in the 1967 application to the FCC.  The music genres reflected the conservative tone of the campus; symphonic, jazz, and show tunes. Less than 14% of the programing featured popular genres of the era like R&B and rock. In fact, the September 1968 issue of Esquire proclaimed CWRU as one of the most conservative campuses in the U.S. 

Response to this culture of traditionalism is the spirt of WRUW and propelled the station’s growth and greater ubiquity into the 1970s.  An Observer article from February 20th 1987  celebrating WRUW’s 20th anniversary  and history declared the WRUW staff  in the 1970s as ‘the radicals of the University.’ In 1971 the broadcast schedule was extended 7am-2am Monday-Thursday and continuously Friday-Sunday. By 1974 the broadcast switched from mono to stereo. In 1977 the station’s tagline became ‘WRUW- Your Spectrum of Sound.’ The programming truly was a broad spectrum of musical genres: blues, reggae, pop, world, country, and new emerging  genres into the 1980s; like punk, rap, metal, EDM, and hip hop. Importantly, the disc jockeys had full creative programing control and still do.

 

 

 

 

Black and white photograph of a man playing records at radio station WRUW in November 1980.

Mario Chioldi Playing Records On-air at WRUW in November of 1980

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

A black and white WRUW fund raising postcard from 1981.

WRUW Donation Mailer Postcard from 1981

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

 

Newsprint cover of WRUW programming guide in tabloid journalism format from 1984.

WRUW Programming Guide Cover from Winter/Spring 1984

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

A newsprint cover of WRUW programming guide depicting a cartton illustration of and man sitting with a radio from 1986.n from 1987.

WRUW  Programming Guide Cover from Spring 1986

Totally Radical

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

A newsprint cover of WRUW programming guide depicting a woman from 1987.

WRUW  Programming Guide Cover from Summer 1987

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

A black and white image of newsprint from 1992.

‘WRUW Celebrates 25 Years of Diversity,' The Observer, 1992

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

WRUW Studio-A-Rama Promo Poster from July 18, 1992

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

Newsprint cover of WRUW programming guide with image of cartoon dog in the desert from 1993.

WRUW Programming Guide Cover from Summer 1993

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

Newsprint chart with WRUW proggramming guide for spring 1997.

WRUW Programming Guide from Spring 1997

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

In 1981 WRUW began to broadcast 24/7 and the transmission power was increased to 1,000 watts, permitting over a 30 mile audience radius. WRUW traditions like ‘Studio-A-Rama,’ a festival of live music, and ‘Live From Cleveland,’ where live local bands preform on air, began in the early 1980s. By 1983 WRUW received an Arbitron rating of market share. This directly correlated set lists from WRUW to music sales. Record labels, mostly indie, representing the musicians played on WRUW  noted sales at least  10% higher in the  Cleveland market compared with other and often larger media markets. WRUW remains the premier region wide college radio station and is recognized nationally as an influential taste maker. 

The 1980s and 1990s were truly the golden age of college radio. Before the predominance of internet based media and streaming, college radio was the place to discover the new, the avant-garde, and a way to revisit the once over looked. By the 1990s mainstream broadcasting, though always commercial, was rapidly redeveloping to a far more corporate and controlled model of programing. Different genres of music were no longer broadcast together and disc jockeys lost control over programming choices. College radio was the antithesis of this; WRUW’s tagline became ‘WRUW-The Sound Alternative.’

 

 

 

 

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Purple flyer promotion

WRUW Flyer Promoting 'The Spandex Years' Radio Show from 2000

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

Newsprint cover of WRUW programming guide depicting a wrong way road sign altered to display our way.

WRUW Programming Guide Cover from 2001

Our Way or the Highway

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

Newsprint cover of WRUW programming guide depicting bumper stickers from fall 2004.

WRUW Programming Guide Cover from 2004

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

Poster for WRUW Studio -a-rama concert from 2004

WRUW Studio-A-Rama Concert Poster from September 11, 2004

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

WRUW DJ recruiting poster printed on purple paper.

'Be a Programmer on WRUW 91.5' Recruitment Flyer from 2005

Image courtesy Case Western Reserve University Archives

In the over 50 years operating as WRUW, the station has acquired a library featuring 100,000+ albums and 45s and 100,000+ CDs. In 2002 WRUW increased its broadcasting capacity to 15,000 watts, permitting WRUW to be heard in parts of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ontario. Additionally, WRUW can be listened to worldwide through live webcasting (wruw.org) and through an on-demand archive of shows.

In the 21st century independent college radio matters more than ever. Over 90% of Americans of all demographics listen to traditional AMFM broadcast radio. Most of this programing is delivered by commercial stations that are controlled by a monopoly of media conglomerates with mandated and derivative playlists. In an article from April 9th, 2004 The Observer interviewed Ron Cass, WRUW public relations director at the time, he stated, ‘WRUW offers access to music commercial radio stations won’t play in combinations they won’t play.’ WRUW  prides itself on presenting a diverse range of music not found on commercial radio stations. Each disc jockey (the modern term is programmer) is free to choose the content of their own radio show. In the 21st century WRUW’s official motto has evolved to ‘More Music, Fewer Hits.’ Here’s to more music and fewer hits for another 50 plus years!