Gary James' Interview With Richard Fusco Of
Woodstock, New York. A name and place that conjures up all types of Rock memories. Did you know there's a radio station called Radio Woodstock? The station broadcasts from the Utopia Studios in Bearsville, about two miles west of the village of Woodstock. To talk about the station and Woodstock is Richard Fusco.
Q - Richard, what is your position at Radio Woodstock?
A - Well, as one of the original founders, I'm kind of a do everything. I'm involved with the programming part, sales, expanding into digital, creating our video channel, just a whole variety of different things. As I'm sure you're aware, radio is changing a lot. It needs to go beyond the limits of traditional broadcast radio and included your website, Facebook, interaction, video channel, YouTube, concert promotion. We do all of those things.
Q - Concert production?
A - Yeah. We do an annual festival called Mountain Jam. We've had everyone from The Allman Brothers Band, Warren Hagnes from Government Mules, Bob Weir, Phil And Friends. A lot of the classic artists. The radio station plays both Classic Rock and new music. We bring in the younger, new groups too like The Lumineers. We're in Woodstock. We're in Todd Rundgren's old video studio here. So we have a 40 by 40 soundstage. We'll do probably two to three a month. We'll bring in a new artist. Sometimes a classic artist too. We'll invite somewhere between 80 to 100 people and do kind of an intimate little concert and broadcast 'live' over the air for two or three tracks and then record the whole concert and play it later. Right next to us is The Bearsville Theatre, which is about a 400 to 500 seat theatre and we do concerts there. We've got Peter Wolf and J. Geils coming in. We do probably 40 or so concerts a year and then we'll also shoot the sound checks and do interviews and post those on our sites as well.
Q - What was your intention when you started Radio Woodstock? Did you only want to program the music of the Woodstock era?
A - Radio Woodstock was originally Woodstock Radio. It started well before the FM station started, probably four or five years before. I was living in Woodstock and I had a business that I would shut down on Halloween and re-open on Memorial Day. Most years I would go away to Mexico or something like that. One year I didn't. Woodstock has a public access television station, like many cable systems do, that reaches only Woodstock. There were two ways you could get it: one, you could turn on Channel 6 on your TV or because the audio band for TV is right below the FM band, if you just gave one click before the FM dial, you had your stereo hooked up to the cable and you could hear the audio. So, I requested from the town to have four hours a day to do Woodstock Radio and they granted me that time. I had a little studio in the town hall and I programmed a really eclectic mix of not only Woodstock artists, but just a whole variety of different programming. A gentleman heard it who lived in Woodstock and said, "I'm actually trying to start a radio station in Woodstock and my first task is to get the frequency moved from Delhi, New York to Woodstock 'cause I want it to be actually licensed in Woodstock. But this is the kind of eclectic mix and interesting programming I want to do, so I'd like to meet you and stay in touch. When we're actually ready to go on the air, I'll give you a shout." It took him about two or three years to get the frequency moved from Delhi, New York to Woodstock. Once it was there, anybody could apply fro the license. He didn't have the lock on it just 'cause he had the frequency moved. So, it took him another year or so and he contacted me late in 1979 and we started putting the station together in January, 1980 and went on the air in April of 1980. When we first went on the air, we were a very eclectic mix of block programming. We actually went from a contemporary morning show, a contemporary morning music show of two hours of talk, to three hours of Classical. Woodstock, even though everyone usually thinks of the Festival, it's been a creative town for over 100 years. In fact, the Maverick concerts are the longest continuous 'live' Classical music concert series in the country that they have every year here. We had Classical music, Oldies, Folk music, Jazz, old-time radio shows and it was really an eclectic mix of radio programming. Over the years we kind of evolved the station a little bit more and really went for a combination of the Classic Rock tracks to new and upcoming artists that had the image that was compatible with the Woodstock image.
Q - Could you have a radio station that just programmed the artists that played Woodstock '69?
A - Our Radio Woodstock is distributed online by CBS Radio. We're an independent station. We knew a couple of execs at CBS and they liked what we did and thought it was an interesting radio station to have as part of their mix. We're the only non-CBS station on their player. One of the other things that we had as well that we were able to do with them is program two other channels. One is called Radio Woodstock '69, which doesn't exclusively feature the music from artists that played at the Festival, but it focuses on artists from that time frame, '67, '68, through '72, with heavy emphasis on the artists that played at Woodstock and live in Woodstock. The other radio channel we have is called Radio Woodstock 'Live', which kind of plays on the theme of the Festival where we have exclusively 'live' music tracks recorded here at our studios, at our festivals, at the original Woodstock Festival and other 'live' performances around. So, we do have those channels. They're just only available online, those two. Woodstock is a great town. When I was on the radio, I remember one Saturday afternoon I was on. I heard a knock on the door, went downstairs, looked through the window and there was Rick Danko of The Band. He had his guitar with him. I knew Rick since I moved here. I went to the original Festival and never left. Rick knocked on the door and said, "Hey Richard, I want to hang out with you and play a couple of songs on the air. I brought my new neighbor," and damn if it wasn't Jorma Kaukonen from the (Jefferson) Airplane. I had those two boys come and sit with me and play whatever I wanted all afternoon. Those wonderful experiences, Todd Rundgren coming in. Just so many wonderful artists that live in this area. Still we have Graham Parker lives here. Natalie Merchant lives here. It's just a wonderful, wonderful area and an incredible creative energy. We do a lot of concerts here like I told you and what's really interesting is that artists revere Woodstock. There's an energy here when they play. They feel relaxed when they're here. They feel comfortable here and they play differently. It's a whole different thing.