Throughout 1970s WRCU was predominately a “Progressive Rock” station. Bill Schwartz, GM in 1979, remember the programming being modeled after WNEW FM in New York City. In 1970, station management was working to decide the sound of the station. They sent out a survey to students that revealed the most popular music among Colgate students was hard rock; however, “[t]he final decision was to give WRCU-FM a sound not available on any other station within range” (Gandelman for The Colgate News).
College radio during this time was treated like a first-alert system for the music industry. Groups that were popular on college stations would be the next big groups. For this reason, record labels facilitated strong relationships, through college reps, with stations like WRCU and sent newly released records. DJs played these new records on rotation – 4 per hour. WRCU played an important role in keeping Colgate aware of new music, “Colgate’s location made it difficult most times to listen to over-the-air radio stations from Syracuse or Utica, and thus WRCU became a lifeline for current music” said Al Yellon, GM in 1978. As a testament to this is the fact, WRCU was able to secure station IDs from a number of artists who visited Colgate while they were just starting out: Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band and many more. “The station was very important for students and the community. You have to remember: Over-the-air radio was the only way to listen to your favorite music, except if you had a way to play vinyl records in your dorm.”
WRCU was also a “lifeline” for the community in respect to its news coverage. The station staffed a team of newscasters that read Associated Press wire-service news and did on-campus reporting to broadcast every day at 5PM and 11PM.
One show that has left a lasting impression was that of Professor Robert Blackmore, an English professor, jazz aficionado and the station’s long-time advisor. GM in 1977, Thomas Pratt recalled that Monday nights from 7-10PM “belonged” to the professor. Notably, Blackmore donated his collection of “thousands” of records to the University which is now digitized and available in Case Library. The current station is named after this notable figure, who surely shaped its history.
The programming in the 70s ran 24/7, with 7 shows per day. Less experienced DJs were given the “graveyard shifts” in the early hours of the morning. The most coveted time, according to Yellon was 2-5PM on Fridays. Because of the schedule, the station became an important hang-out space for its +100 participants. Fussner recalls: “I remember one January it snowed every day so I took to cross-country skiing to classes. I would ski up the hill and leave my skis in a storeroom at WRCU until I was ready to ski back to my apartment.”
(Gabrielle Woleske ‘18)(Interviews with Al Yellon, Bill Schwartz, Thomas Pratt; The Colgate News; Maroon News; Salmagundi Yearbooks)