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Radio Radio by Matt McGann '00

An MIT ’09 emailed me today and asked if MIT had its own radio station. The answer is yes! WMBR 88.1 FM, former winner of Best of Boston radio stations. Originally, it broadcasted officially as WTBS (“Technology Broadcasting System”), but things changed in the late 1970s:

Ted Turner, who intended to distribute his TV station in Atlanta (then called WTCG) over satellite to cable operators across the US, wanted to use the call letters WTBS [now TBS] for his station, and contacted the MIT radio station with an offer to buy them. Since the purchase of call letters was not yet allowed by the FCC, Turner and the lawyers for both stations found a legal loophole made possible by the MIT station’s recently-obtained non-profit organization status: $25,000 would be donated to the station by Turner under the condition that WTBS-FM would apply for and receive new call letters. Turner would then apply for WTBS, and would donate an additional $25,000 if the FCC granted him the call sign. The deal became reality: WTBS-FM became WMBR (“Walker Memorial Basement Radio”) on May 24, 1979, Ted Turner got the WTBS calls, WMBR received $50,000 from Turner, and WMBR signed on its new 200-Watt signal [now 720 Watts, heard throughout eastern Massachusetts] on November 10, 1979.

You can actually listen live right now to WMBR — go here for the stream, good to listen to while you’re studying. The schedule can be viewed here.

One of the interesting shows on WMBR’s schedule is on tonight and every Wednesday throughout the spring at 6pm: Dinnertime Sampler, which each week has MIT faculty and administration as guest DJs. Tonight’s guest is Professor Sheila Widnall of Aero/Astro and former Secretary of the Air Force.

Previous guests have interesting playlists… here’s a sampling:

Marilee Jones
Dean of Admissions
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

* You Got Me Rockin’ (Rolling Stones)
* Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry)
* Prof. Sadoway’s Ukranian liturgical chant
* Heatwave (Martha and the Vandellas)
* Locomotion (Little Eva)
* You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog (Elvis)
* Candy Man (Roy Orbison)
* He’s So Fine (Chiffons)
* The Times They Are a’Changin’ (Bob Dylan)
* If I Had My Way (Peter, Paul and Mary)
* Night and Day (Fred Astaire)
* Good Morning Heartache (Diana Ross)
* All of Me (Diana Ross)
* Our Love Is Here to Stay (Diana Ross)
* Crazy (Patsy Cline)
* Layla (Eric Clapton)
* Oh Danny Boy (Eva Cassidy)
* Carey (Joni Mitchell)
* You’ll Never Make a Saint of Me (Rolling Stones)
* Free Man in Paris (Joni Mitchell)
* You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones)
* Please Forgive Me (David Grey)

Linda G. Griffith
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biological Engineering
Director, Biotechnology Process Engineering Center
Wednesday, January 26, 2005

* Sonic Youth – “Tunic”
* Camper Van Beethoven – “Tina”
* Pixies – “Where’s My Mind”
* The Breeders – “Drivin’ on 9”
* Liz Phair – “The Divorce Song”
* John Cale – “Fear”
* Eno – “Baby’s On Fire”
* Shivaree – “The Fat Lady of Limbourg”
* Little Feat – “Willin'”
* Allman Brothers – “Revival”
* Bryan Bowers – “Scotland”
* Jimmy Buffet – “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”
* BB King – “It Takes a Young Girl”
* Tom Waits – “Grapefruit Moon”
* Light Green Leaves – “Uh Oh It’s Morning Again”
* Frank Zappa – “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast”
* Dead Kennedys – “California Uber Alles”
* Joy Division – “Isolation”
* Violent Femmes – “Blister in the Sun”
* Keith Jarrett – “My Wild Irish Rose”
* Tom Waits – “Closing Time”

Harold Abelson
Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
Wednesday, May 7, 2003

* Chuck Berry – “Maybelline”
* The Supremes – “My World is Empty Without You”
* The Cranberries – “Forever Yellow Skies”
* Tom Lehrer – “The Subway Song”
* Bob Dylan – “Maggie’s Farm”
* Velvet Underground – “Run, Run, Run”
* Dixie Chicks – “Goodbye Earl”
* Nora Bayes – “Over There”
* Nora Bayes – “You Made a Chicken of Your Mother, but You Can’t Make a Goose of Me”
* Bob Dylan – “When the Ship Comes In”
* John Dowland – “My lady hunnsdsons puffe”
* Igor Stravinsky – “Chinese March”
* Igor Stravinsky – “The Wedding”
* Modeste Mussorgsky – “Pictures at an Exhibition”
* Unknown – “Boray ad Anah”
* Benjamin Britten – “This Little Babe” and “Deo Gratias”
* Jefferson Airplane – “Young Girl’s Sunday Blues”
* Indigo Girls – “Closer to Fine”

Henry Jenkins
Professor of Literature and Comparative Media Studies
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

* Asmodius Specter – “Zero Tolerance”
* Phil Ochs – “There But For Fortune”
* Phil Ochs – “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”
* Garmarna – “Werewolf”
* Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – “Zoot Suit Riot”
* Slim and Slam – “Chinatown, My Chinatown”
* Hollywood Chamber Symphony – “The Brady Bunch”
* Julia Ecklar – Genesis – “One Final Lesson”
* Raymond Scott – “The Penguin”
* Yma Sumac – “Monos”
* Ghengis Blues – “What You Talkin’ About”
* Oceania – “Union”
* Archie Roach – “Took the Children Away”
* Sheila Chandra – “Ever So Lonely”
* Apache Indian – “Make Way for the Indian”
* A.R. Rahman – “Bombay Awakes”
* George Gershwin – “Rhapsody in Blue”
* Alison Krauss – “Down to the River to Play”
* Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Izithembiso Zenkosi”
* Hesperus – “Cotton-Eyed Joe”
* Alloy Orchestra – “Escape from the Underground City”

Barbara Imperiali
Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biology
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
* Jimmy Cliff – “Sitting in Limbo”
* Elton John – “Made in England”
* The Beatles – “Penny Lane”
* Simon & Garfunkel – “Sound of Silence”
* Nina Simone – “I Shall be Released”
* Jimmy Cliff – “You Can Get it if You Really Want”
* The Chieftans with Sissel – “Si


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