Some of the 60s WRGW stalwarts gathered in 2002 in the new WRGW studio. From left, Mike Patrick, Marc Leepson, David Melendy, Paul Johnson, Mike Berry.
In the spring of my freshman year at GW, in April of 1964, a notice ran in The GW Hatchet announcing that WRGW, the student radio station, would be reorganizing. Those interested in working on the then-nonfunctioning station were asked to call a number. I did, and when asked what I was interested in, I replied: Sports.
The first week of school in September 1964 another item appeared in The Hatchet, this one announcing an organizational meeting for WRGW in Studio E in Lisner Auditorium. I trudged up four sets of stairs to the meeting room and took a seat with a couple of dozen others.
Three students sat at a desk in the front. One of them asked, Is there a Marc Leepson here? I raised my hand. He said, Youre the sports director.
That was the beginning of my extracurricular career at WRGW. I had had no experience in front of a microphone. I loved sports, though, and I loved rock and roll, and I loved radio. By the time Id graduated in the spring of 67, the WRGW studio high atop Lisner had become my second home on campus. I spent countless hours there happily learning the radio biz.
Like most of the other students there, I did a wide variety of things. I had a nightly sports show, did live play-by-play football and basketball, hosted a folk music show, and, with my co-conspirator Dave Miller, did the wild and woolly Willie Lomax rock and roll show on Sunday nightsamong other things. Id also decided that I wanted to have a career in broadcasting.
An unplanned two-year tour of duty in the Army derailed my broadcasting plans. But a surprising number of others who worked at WRGW in the mid-60s did go into broadcasting; several went on to big-time careers. Dave Miller, for example, spent 15 years as an award-winning reporter at WRVA radio and five years as a reporter for WXEX-TV in Richmond. Mike Berry went to work at NBC Radio and TV in Washington after he graduated from GW in 1969, and stayed 27 years before moving to the fledgling Fox News operation where today he is the director of operations and engineering.
Paul Johnson recently retired after a 30-year career at the Smithsonian Institution, where he headed the division that produces the museums TV documentaries and radio programs. David Melendy has been a producer, writer, editor, and announcer for AP Broadcast Services in Washington for the last two decades. Tim Ashwell spent 14 years as the radio voice of the University of Massachusetts football and basketball teams, and has taught communications at UMass, Iowa State, and the University of New Hampshire. Michael Delugg, one of the countrys top recording engineers, has been the music production supervisor for the Late Show with David Letterman since 1987.
And Mike Patrick, who took his first radio job in 1966 after his GW graduation, has gone on to a career at the highest level of sports broadcasting. He is the play-by-play voice for many top sporting events on ESPN, including Sunday Night NFL Football, where this fall he began his 16th season in the booth with his partners Joe Theismann and Paul Maguire.
The success of those WRGW alumni is even more remarkable in that none came to GW to study broadcastingbecause the University did not offer a broadcasting major. Whats more, our radio station was a small-potatoes operation that didnt even go out over the air. It was relayed to transmitters in the dorms and in the Student Unionthe only places people could hear what we put on the air.
WRGW turned out to be a breeding ground that launched people on their careers even though it was totally extracurricular, said Paul Johnson, who grew up in Bethesda, Md., and came to GW as a freshman in the fall of 1963.
WRGWon the air in the 1960s.
GW Cherry Tree, 1967
When Johnson learned that GW had a radio station, albeit one that was off the air that year, he checked it out. The station was barely functioning, he said. There were three or four people there kind of just hanging around. In short order Johnson got together with three other engineering studentsCharlie Jekofsky, Michael Shapiro, and Mel Walburgand convinced L. Poe Leggette, the stations faculty adviser, to set aside funds to get the station going again.
We had a meager budget, so we contacted record companies and local distributors to beg for donations of vinyl, said Jekofsky, a Washington, D.C., native who had enrolled at GW in 1962. When Lloyd Elliott became president, we persuaded him to grant us a thousand dollars to purchase several carrier current transmitters and to rent phone lines to the dorms. He agreed, and we got underway. Jekofsky, Johnson, and company began installing the small transmitters in the dorms in the spring of 1964. By the start of the school year in September, the station went live at 680 AM. It was a bare-bone operation. For news, the station picked up NBC Radios hourly newscast. The staff solicited a few paid ads. One was the G Street drinking establishment, the Campus Club, which bought a school years worth of spots for $100.
Education major Rick Moock, almost by accident, became an integral part of the group rebuilding the station. When I came to GW in the fall of 1963 I had no interest in radio whatsoever, he said. But Moock soon discovered that Paul Johnson, a high school classmate, was involved with WRGW. So Moock signed up.
At first it was kind of a lark, he said. It gave me something to do between classes. But then I met a bunch of wild and crazy people who worked there and I was amazed at it all. I did a music show. I read the news. I organized and catalogued the record library. The radio station was a place to hang out between classesand what a great place it was to hang out.
After getting his degree in 1967, Moock taught in Montgomery County, Md., for a few years, before moving to the St. Petersburg, Fla., area where he lives today. Since 1986, he has been a full-time musician, playing bass fiddle and harmonica with the 97th Regimental String Band, which plays Civil War-era tunes in period costume at festivals around the nation. Ive done it for 18 years and couldnt be happier, he said.
The only time he was happier, Moock said, was working at WRGW. We had grand ideas and tried to be professional, he said. We kept logs, did promos. For us, it was state of the art. We had a cartridge machine. We had two turntables. Im real proud of what we did.
Paul Johnson, like Rick Moock and most of the others at the station, did some on-air work, a classical music show, and a pop music show. He also organized, scheduled, worked on the equipment, he said. We just did what needed doing. We were always tinkering with the transmitters. It was a never-ending struggle.
"I was on a track of doing what I was supposed to do with my life, and working at WRGW pushed me to do what I wanted to do.Paul Johnson
GW Cherry Tree, 1967
Johnson graduated in 1967, then received an MS in television and radio from Syracuse University. With the draft breathing down his neck, Johnson in February 1969 got into an Army program for motion picture and TV officers. He spent the next two years at the Army Pictorial Center in Long Island City, N.Y., and at a photographic unit in Germany.
A few months after he got out of the Army, in the spring of 1971, Johnson learned about a radio job at the Smithsonian. I applied on a Friday and started the next Monday, he said. I was there until February of 2002. During that time he produced the weekly half-hour series Radio Smithsonian, then went on to head the Smithsonian Office of Telecommunications, which later became Smithsonian Productions. He produced hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the PBS series The Mississippi: River of Song and the Public Radio series Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, which won a Peabody Award.
Working at WRGW, Johnson said, was the most enjoyable, rewarding part of my college experience, other than the friends I made, and many of them were at the radio station. I was on a track of doing what I was supposed to do with my life, and working at WRGW pushed me to do what I wanted to do.
That was the case with many others, including David Melendy, who arrived at GW in the fall of 1966 from Manchester, Conn. I really wanted to be a deejay, Melendy said. I did a rock and roll show using the name Chuck Reynolds. It was great fun. He later transferred to the University of Hartford to major in communications.
After graduating, Melendy took the traditional broadcasting career path: He started for small pay at a small station where he learned all aspects of the business and worked his way up. At his first station, WINY-AM in Putnam, Conn., Melendy stepped into the news directors job. From there, he went to WPOP, an all-news radio station in Hartford, then became news director at WNVR in Waterbury, doing part-time work for WCBS-FM in New York City. He joined AP Radio in Washington in 1981.
I always wanted to come back to Washington, Melendy said. I anchored the news for about a dozen years, then started doing other things, including coordinating news coverage as an assignment and planning editor, covering Capitol Hill and the White House. Today he continues to perform a variety of tasks, including producing, writing, and anchoring AP Broadcast Services news shows.
Dave Miller followed a similar path. The New York City native arrived on campus as a freshman in September 1965. He majored in history. I had no idea there was a radio station on campus, but being a deejay was all I ever wanted in life, Miller said. He achieved that at WRGW, and also did news, sports, and other tasks, including acting as the stations general manager and business manager.
During the summers of 1968 and 1969 Miller worked as a replacement film editor at WTTG-TV Channel 5 in Washington, where Ellis Shook, who taught the one radio course at GW, was program director. Miller spent some 18 months at Channel 5 as a full-time film editor after graduating from GW, and then began his radio career.
His first job paying job behind the mike was at WRON Radio in Lewisburg, W.Va., in 1971 where he quickly proved to be worlds worst deejay, Miller said. But I got hired by WINA Radio in Charlottesville, Va., the next year as sports director, where by the fall I quickly proved I would be the worst in another category, high school football play-by-play. Miller nevertheless moved up to become the stations news director in 1973 and in May of that year went to Virginias top radio station, WRVA in Richmond, as a reporter.
Miller covered politics and government at WRVA and was a stringer for NBC News. He won many broadcasting awards at WRVA over the next 14 years before moving into TV news at WXEX-TV 8 in Richmond as the senior reporter for the ABC affiliate. Miller stayed there until 1991 when he went into private business.
Tim Ashwell traveled a similar road. He started at GW as a freshman in the fall of 1966. I intended to major in history and I did for a while, he said, but I always knew that I wanted to get into radio. I started out helping [Marc Leepson] and Dave Miller with football in my freshman year and then I teamed with Dave to do basketball as a sophomore. I also deejayed, not very well, and became station manager.
During the fervent anti-Vietnam-War days in 1969-70, Ashwell said, WRGW served as a communication link for out-of-town students who were staying in dorms, trapped by tear gas, curfews, etc., and who were isolated from their friends. A bunch of us stayed in the Lisner studios, fielding phone calls, passing on messages. I think we helped.
Ashwell left GW shortly thereafter for a radio career. He worked at WCAT in Orange, Mass.; WINA in Charlottesville (with Dave Miller); at WGRG in Pittsfield, Mass., and WTTT in Amherst. As a free-lancer, he was the radio announcer for University of Massachusetts football and basketball until 1990. Ashwell then went back to college, earning BA, MA, and PhD degrees from UMass. He most recently taught broadcasting at the University of New Hampshire.
Like Ashwell and Miller, Mike Berry also came to GW with a lifelong love of radio. When he arrived on campus as a freshman from York, Pa., in the fall of 1965, Berry was thrilled to be in a city with a rich radio tradition. I listened to a lot of radio in high school and loved rock and roll music, Berry said. Washington was an incredible radio town at the time. WOL had just gone soul. Felix Grant was playing jazz in the evenings on WMAL. The Joy Boys [Ed Walker and Willard Scott] were in their prime on WRC. For a kid coming from a small town this was incredible.
Berry made the trek up to WRGWs studio in Lisner Auditorium during freshman orientation. I went just to look around, he said. Rick Moock, Mel Wahlberg, Paul Johnson, and Charlie Jekofsky were there. We talked. They said, Come on in and play some records. Berry soon was hosting a weekly one-hour show. I played rock and roll, mixed with anything I liked from the record libraryeverything from Otis Redding to Frank Sinatra, he said. It was a dream come true. I loved everything, he said.
Berry, who majored in psychology, worked in his junior year as a vacation relief engineer at NBC radio and TV on Nebraska Avenue. When he graduated in 1969, NBC offered him a full-time job. I was in heaven there, he said. One day I was spinning platters at WRGW, the next I was running lights on the Huntley-Brinkley show. I didnt know much about engineering. But the people there bent over backwards to help me and teach me.
Berry went on to be the on-air engineer for Willard Scott and Ed Walker on their insanely funny Joy Boys radio show on WRC. He moved to NBC Radio in 1972 where he became a design construction engineer, designing and building studios. He also worked as a field producer. Berry left NBC in 1996.
He joined the new Fox News Network in Washington and, along with three others, put together the entire technical operation virtually from scratch. We built three control rooms and studios in New York City and three studios and two control rooms here on Capitol Hill in Washington in the summer of 96. It was a whirlwind of activity. Today Mike Berry is the director of operations and engineering for Fox News.
When I discovered WRGW, I was in heaven. I had always wanted to try my hand at radio and had a lot of fun.Michael DeLugg
© Michael Matsil
Michael Delugg of New York City entered GW as a freshman in 1966. I picked GW because I always loved D.C., and I just felt more comfortable there, he said. When I discovered WRGW, I was in heaven. I had always wanted to try my hand at radio and had a lot of fun, mostly deejaying at night.
Delugg, who plays guitar and keyboards, left GW to try to make it in the music business in his hometown. Instead he wound up working at a recording studio. After apprenticing, I worked my way into engineering and then producing, he said. After many years of making records with the likes of Whitney Houston and Placido Domingo, and doing commercials and film work, Delugg today continues his role as music production supervisor for the Late Show With David Letterman.
Mike Frankhouser started at GW in the fall of 1962 as a commuter student from Arlington., Va. His intention was to major in psychology and to play baseball. By his junior year, Frankhouserwho changed his name to Mike Patrick when he turned prohad changed his mind about both goals. I sat down in the Student Union and thought, I can either go out for baseball or figure out what I want to do with my life, he said. Thats when I decided to go into radio.
That fall he joined the newly reorganized station. It was a little intimidating at first, he said. I had no experience, but I did a deejay show and we did basketball and football. And I switched my major to speech. Patricks first job after graduating in 1966 was at WVSC in Somerset, Pa. It was a tiny station and it was a lot like WRGW. I did a little of everything, he said. I was a deejay. I did news. I did hymn time. I read obituaries. I did the farm report. And I did a lot of play-by-play of high school basketball and football.
Two years later Patrick became sports director at WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Fla., where he did pay-by-play for Jacksonville Sharks World Football League telecasts and for Jacksonville University basketball games on radio and TV. In 1975, Patrick moved to WJLA-TV, Channel 7 in Washington as a sports reporter and weekend anchor. He also called play-by-play for University of Maryland football and basketball and Washington Redskins pre-season games, and later broadcast TV college football and basketball on a free-lance basis.
In 1982, he signed on with ESPN and today is one of the all-sports cable networks busiest and most respected play-by-play announcers. In addition to doing the Sunday Night NFL game, he does Atlantic Coast Conference basketball and the College Baseball World Series, along with the final two rounds of the Womens NCAA Basketball Tournament.
For Patrickand for Melendy, Johnson, Berry, Miller, Delugg, and Ashwellit all began at one of the smallest, least-well-equipped radio stations in the country. The beauty of working at WRGW, Patrick said, was that you got to do what you wanted and no one was looking over your shoulder. Plus you got to make all your mistakes with nobody listening.
Marc Leepson (BA 67, MA 71) is a free-lance writer whose article, Vietnam 101 appeared in GW Magazine in 1997. His latest book is Saving Monticello: The Levy Familys Epic Quest to Rescue the House the Jefferson Built (Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2001).
Student Radio from 1929 to 2002
Student radio at GW began in 1929 when Howard Cole, Samuel Hall, and Albert Webster organized the Universitys first Radio Club. That club purchased and operated a radio transmitting station, W3ACY, which broadcast radiogram service from October to June. The Radio Club lasted until 1934 when it disbanded for 15 years. In 1950, the University offered a radio workshop as an extracurricular activity. WRGW, the student-run station, went on the air in 1958, broadcasting a variety of programs into the old Student Union during the day.
The station was off the air during the 1963-64 school year (see main story), but has been on ever since, except for a brief period in the mid-80s. The station changed its AM signal from 680 to 540 in 1977, and in 1986 moved from Lisner Auditorium into a tiny studio on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center. In August 1999, WRGW began broadcasting from a new facility on the Marvin Centers ground floor on 540 AM, as well as on GWs Campus Cable TV Channel 22, and also on a new medium, the Internet.
Today, WRGW is a vibrant station, broadcasting from 10 in the morning to midnight seven days a week. Its first-rate, three-room Marvin Center studio is filled with all-digital, high-tech equipment. Much of the credit for WRGWs revitalization goes to the stations recently graduated general manager Jason Cohen, who was deeply involved in every stage of the technical planning, as well as the cultivation of commercial partnershipsplus student enrichment opportunitiesthat have emerged. For his lasting efforts on behalf of the University, at GWs 2002 commencement Cohen, was presented with the coveted GW Award.
WRGW is very much alive and growing in participation and visibility on campus, said Bob Ludwig, GWs assistant director of media relations. Thats been especially true in the last few years since the move from the closet on the fourth floor to the beautiful, state-of-the-art studios on the ground floor of the Marvin Center. The station, which bills itself as The Future of College Radio Today, sends its signal out on the Internet at www.gwradio.com. Dozens of students work at WRGW in the stations four departments: production, talk, music, and sports. Theres a half-hour news show every weekday at 6 p.m. that includes campus, local and national news, concentrating on GW news, said former General Manager Cohen. Ten to 15 students work on the show under a news director. The students rotate jobs, two to three per day work on each show. Its all student produced and written. The WRGW sports team covered every womens and mens basketball game, home and away, during the 2001-2002 season. Fifteen to 20 students did the work, working in teams, Cohen said. The games are assigned based on availability, experience, and other factors.The stations music format is whats known as college radio. The music categories are not for the faint of heart: loud rock, punk rock, goth/industrial, hip hop, college rock, roots rock, new music, and jazz. We play cutting-edge music, some of which will be heard on mainstream stations six to eight months later, Cohen said. Its a testing ground for new music. Most deejays, he said, dont talk a lot on the air.
WRGW, now under the new leadership of student Brett Kaplan as general manager, produces two shows in conjunction with WRC radio: American Jazz with veteran jazz deejay Dick Golden, and GWs Washington Forum, a weekly show of highlights from University-sponsored conferences, and faculty interviews. The station also features live performances by bands inside and outside of the Marvin Center studios. In December 2001, WRGW produced the Holiday Buzz outdoor concert, a two-day charity event that benefited the World Trade Center Relief Fund. Even legendary singer Tony Bennett (D.Mus. 01) stopped by this year.
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