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playlist from college radio station WUVA

A Glimpse of College Radio’s Past in Playlists from the 1970s and 1980s

An exciting envelope recently arrived in the mail, containing a stack of vintage college radio station playlists from the 1970s and 1980s. Mostly handwritten or typed on typewriters, the “music surveys” capture lists of the most recently added music to these station’s libraries. Sometimes broken down by genre or divided by different types of rotation (heavy/medium/light), the playlists are a step back in time, when artists like the Grateful Dead, Lou Reed, Thompson Twins, Gary Glitter, and Siouxsie and the Banshees were mainstays of the college radio charts.

WSGR music survey

WSGR Music Survey

Compiled by college radio music directors, these playlists were sent off to record labels to keep them apprised of which albums were getting played on the air. Sometimes the playlists contained brief updates or personal notes to record label personnel. For example, College of William and Mary’s WCWM-FM (1600 watts stereo 89.1 in Williamsburg, Virginia)’s Music Director Janet Kirkley wrote in her February 14-March 6, 1984 update,

Whew! Just returned from the IBS convention, and what a cain-raising time that was. Thanks to all I talked to for making it all so much fun. Sara and Mark L., my two Tontos, had a kicky time as well and can hardly wait for next year’s get together. Special thanks to Fred E. of CBS for the Psychedelic Furs preview; I’ll be chewing my nails in anticipation until the lp comes in…”

1984 playlist from WCWM

1984 playlist from WCWM

One of my favorites is WRPN’s November 27, 1973 playlist from Ripon College in Wisconsin (read about the station’s history and the end of its FM broadcasts here), which is titled “Nifty sounds and sensuous notes from the 10-watt powerhouse.” The purple-hued playlist (remember ditto machines which allowed one to make copies featuring purple ink?) is a mix of typed and handwritten updates and includes a note addressed to Steve. Here’s the note:

Steve – We’re in desperate need of Croce’s ‘I Got a Name’ album. Any chance of our receiving it in the near future? Thanx for any help. Yours, Warren Blahm Program Director”

college radio station WRPN playlist 1973

WRPN playlist from November 27, 1973

A few playlists in the stash were addressed to Steve Resnick at ABC Records in Los Angeles, so it’s possible that this is who the WRPN note was for.

Another interesting playlist from November, 1973 hints at KZSU Stanford’s programming direction at the time. The new Music Director Francis Dickerson writes in the playlist,

There have been some more changes at KZSU. There has been a change in the music management here, and with it will come a change in our direction…We will be playing more of the familiar stuff than we have in the past and will be aware of all product that reaches us – albums and singles…”

The November, 1973 KZSU playlist’s top albums includes releases by Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Chicago, Kris and Rita, and others. Among the newly added albums were an eclectic mix of artists, including Herb Alpert, Yoko Ono, Curtis Mayfield, Frank Sinatra, Lou Reed, and George Carlin.

I was also amused by KZUU‘s July, 1984 playlist (the station is at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington), which includes the categories “Screaming at the Top” and “Knifing Them in the Back,” instead of the usual “heavy” and “light” rotation. Have you ever seen old playlists like these?

WUVA playlist

WUVA playlist

The Airheads Radio Survey Archive (ARSA) compiles information from all kinds of radio surveys, including some from college radio stations. Thanks to one of their volunteers for passing along this stash of radio surveys!

Eastern Oregon playlist

Eastern Oregon Playlist from 1984



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5 Responses to A Glimpse of College Radio’s Past in Playlists from the 1970s and 1980s

  1. Jerry Drawhorn May 8, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    I’ve got a ton of these from the 1980’s…but apparently KDVS was reporting to Gavin back in 1965 or so and would love to see those!

  2. Mark Mollineaux May 8, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    We have a nice archive of these old playlists at KZSU, but we’re looking to make it as complete as possible– would it be possible to have us check these out and make copies?

    • Jennifer Waits May 11, 2015 at 10:04 am #

      Hi Mark, That’s great that KZSU have been collecting them. Speaking of which, it would be great if we could sign KZSU up as an affiliate collection as part of the Library of Congress’ Radio Preservation Task Force. Contact me and I can get you more information. The same goes for any radio station with archival materials! I only have one KZSU playlist in this stash. It’s from November, 1973 and has 3 pages. The first page has the date on it, the second page lists releases from Bell (Texas, Donovan, Dawn), Buddah, Capitol, etc. and Jazz albums. The final page lists singles and then a note from Francis Dickerson about oldies shows. Let me know if you don’t have this particular playlist.

  3. Wayne Davis May 10, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    How cool to see one of the ol’ WRPN playlists I used to create as the Music Librarian at the 10-watt powerhouse digitized for posterity. Each week’s design was different, and I still have a half dozen of them. The “Steve” Program Director Warren Bluhm (not Blahm) was writing to was one of the WRPN staff.

    I have a web page with a photo of the mostly longhaired staff (Warren Bluhm is partially hiding behind Tom Broman in the back row with the knit cap) and an an on-air promo and several musical numbers from the WRPN All-Staff Caroling Kazoo Choir at It was a great time back then; so sad to hear they gave up their FM license.

    • Jennifer Waits May 11, 2015 at 9:58 am #

      Thanks so much for the comment, Wayne. Many of the playlists in this stash that I got have address labels on them. Some from the 1970s were addressed to Steve Resnick at ABC Records (including the November 1973 playlist from KZSU) and others from the 1980s were addressed to Motown Records. In any event, that Croce note is one of my favorites!

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