The UNT Willis Conover Archive is now online

Willis Conover, The Voice of America (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a huge fan of the late Willis Conover. I just learned, via the Arts Journal blog, about an amazing collection of Conover audio archives that are now being shared online:

“The music program at the University of North Texas has graduated hundreds of jazz artists who went on to successful careers as professionals.[…]

Under Maristella Feustle of the university’s library, there is an archive devoted to the late Willis Conover of the Voice of America[…]. Conover’s VOA programs sent jazz around the world. For a quarter of a century he was one of the nation’s most valuable cultural diplomats. As of today, parts of the Conover archive are online and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Grammy Foundation.[…]”

Click here to read the full Arts Journal article.

Many thanks, Maristella, for championing and finding funds for the Willis Conover archive!

Click here to browse the list of recordings and listen to the tapes via the UNT Digital Library.

The WSJ features Willis Conover

Willis Conover, The Voice of America (Source: Wikimedia Commons)(Source: Wall Street Journal via Any Sennitt)

The Radio Broadcaster Who Fought the Cold War Abroad but Remained Unheard at Home

By DOUG RAMSEY

During the Cold War, listeners in captive nations behind the Iron Curtain huddled around radios in basements and attics listening to the imposing bass-baritone voice of the man who sent them American music. His greeting—“Good evening, Willis Conover in Washington, D.C., with Music U.S.A.”—was familiar to millions around the world. At home, relatively few people knew him or his work. A proposal for a postage stamp honoring Conover may give hope to those who want the late Voice of America broadcaster to be awarded a larger mark of distinction.

For 40 years, until shortly before his death in 1996, Conover’s shortwave broadcasts on the Voice of America constituted one of his country’s most effective instruments of cultural diplomacy. Never a government employee, to maintain his independence he worked as a freelance contractor. With knowledge, taste, dignity and no tinge of politics, he introduced his listeners to jazz and American popular music. He interviewed virtually every prominent jazz figure of the second half of the 20th century. His use of the VOA’s “special English”—simple vocabulary and structures spoken at a slow tempo—made him, in effect, a teacher of the language to his listeners.

Countless musicians from former Iron Curtain countries have credited Conover with attracting them to jazz, among them the Czech bassists George Mraz and Miroslav Vitous, the Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera and the Russian trumpeter Valery Ponomarev. On the Conover Facebook page established in 2010, Ponomarev wrote that Conover had done as much for jazz “as Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.” Conover’s New York Times obituary said, “In the long struggle between the forces of Communism and democracy, Mr. Conover, who went on the air in 1955 . . . proved more effective than a fleet of B-29’s.” In his publication Gene Lees Jazzletter, the influential critic wrote, “Willis Conover did more to crumble the Berlin Wall and bring about the collapse of the Soviet Empire than all the Cold War presidents put together.”[…]

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal…

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a huge fan of Willis Conover. Much like VOA’s Leo Sarkisian, Conover represented some of the best diplomacy this country has had to offer. [I’ve actually had the honor of meeting and interviewing Leo Sarkisian at his home in Maryland, a few years ago–one of the highlights of my career.]

Are there any SWLing Post readers out there who listened to Willis Conover from behind the “Iron Curtain?” Please comment!

Shortwave Radio Recordings: Voice of Greece

greeceFor your listening pleasure: the Voice of Greece.

This was recorded on 29 June 2015 starting around 01:50 UTC on  9,420 kHz using my WinRadio Excalibur and my horizontal delta loop external (wire) antenna.

I’m very pleased with this off-air recording because it contains several minutes of multi-language station IDs in the last 10 minutes or so of the broadcast.

Click here to download this recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Socotra Island: Myke posts tracks from 2013 travels

MykeMyke Dodge Weiskopf, over at ShortWaveMusic, writes:

“Hello friends: Long time no see. I’ve finally posted the final 21 tracks from our 2013 season on Socotra Island: transmissions from Eritrea, China, Iran, and Tajikistan. Enjoy.”

For more information about Myke’s on-going project, ShortWaveMusic, check out his website. Great to see a new post from you, Myke!

Shortwave Radio Recordings: The Mighty KBC

KBC-On-TitanSDR

The TitanSDR’s narrowband scope tuned to the KBC

For your listening pleasure: three hours of The Mighty KBC.

This broadcast was recorded on May 24, 2015 starting around 00:00 UTC on 9,925 kHz.

I used the TitanSDR Pro hooked up to my skyloop antenna to capture this recording–in truth, though, the signal was so strong it could’ve been easily received on a portable here in eastern North America.

Click here to download the recording as an MP3 or simply use the embedded player below:

Music discovery via shortwave radio

SX-99-Dial

A few days ago, SWLing Post reader LondonShortwave posted a playlist on his blog; it’s a great playlist of music he’s been exposed to via shortwave radio broadcasters over the years. I was quite inspired by this playlist (of all absolutely brilliant songs, by the way), not to mention, by the clever concept.

So this morning I jotted down a few artists and songs I’ve also discovered via shortwave radio. Here are a just a few I could find on YouTube:

Ariane Moffatt’s “Montreal,” via former CBC North Quebec Service:

Istanbul Oriental Ensemble’s “Burhan Öçal” via Voice of Greece:

Ania’s cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” via the Polish Radio External Service:

Novika’s “I Depend on You” also via the Polish Radio External Service:

Shiny Toy Guns’ cover of “Major Tom” via the pirate radio station All Along The Watchtower Radio (note this video is actually a car commercial featuring the song by STG; a strange combo):

Boards of Canada album “Tomorrow’s Harvest” via the pirate radio station BOCHF:

Have you made any music discovery via shortwave radio?  If so, please feel free to comment.

Pirate Radio Recordings: Radio Casablanca

Poster - Casablanca_13

Thursday night at 00:00 UTC, I was pleased to hear the interval signal of one of my favorite pirate radio stations: Radio Casablanca.

“Rick Blaine” fired up his AM transmitter and pumped out some amazing WWII era music on 6,940 kHz for well over one hour and a half. This is the first time I’ve been able to catch Radio Casablanca in well over a year (click here to listen to previous recordings).

Close your eyes and imagine what it must have been like to hear the great bands of the era over the shortwaves…

Click here to download an MP3 of the full recording, or simply listen via the embedded player below: