Thursday, June 15, 2006

A BG bio for Neil Russ

In the mid-1980s, Neil Russ became one of the co-hosts of The Magic Of Bluegrass. Here's his recollections of the time, and how he got on the air at WHUS:

During a visit to the UCONN Library for information that my wife was seeking, I was waiting in the car and flipping through the FM stations searching for something I didn't expect to hear...Bluegrass!...on the radio, and I didn't have to "hang" a special antenna from the highest Connecticut mountain to receive it. What was this newly found wonderful show? I listened a little more, and Bud Godreau was there with his own Magic of Bluegrass. How great a feeling it was to be listening to "Grass" on a campus radio station knowing it was right there! My real job as an aerospace process/tool design engineer was relatively new, but the thirst for playing and spinning Bluegrass music had been "nipping at my heels" for a long time. I also wanted to use my former Connecticut School of Broadcasting experience and FCC license. So, while I listened I decided to call the radio station to see if I could be of some help to The Magic of Bluegrass.

In August of 1985, I did just that. I met with Bud during album spinning. Bud and I had a great conversation in the "on air studio." I found out that he was looking for someone to alternate with. We agreed to alternate Sunday afternoon coverage for The Magic of Bluegrass. Through Bud's unfailing, awesome help he convinced the very helpful and experienced WHUS FM Station General Manager, John Murphy, to let me start right away in the "on air studio. How lucky was that? I worked on the show up until approximately 1990. Running a three hour program can be very taxing at times, but the love for one's favorite music makes one strive harder to carry it on. I certainly didn't do this all alone. I had very fine people to encourage and help me along.

The first person who helped was my extremely understanding wife, Jennie, who watched me head out the door for the WHUS FM facilities when I should have been taking care of her or my wonderful son, or just stayiing home and starting that home project that kept getting pushed aside for the Love of Bluegrass.

Other helpful people I should mention are:

  • Bud Godreau, obviously the starting torch and inspiration of The Magic of Bluegrass, and, a huge part of why we're all celebrating 25 years of Bluegrass on WHUS FM.
  • Glenn Huffer, who then headed up the Connecticut Friends of Bluegrass and came on our radio shows to speak of important upcoming events in Bluegrass.
  • Robert Allen, who was then, DJ'ing both WTCC, Springfield Technical C.C. and filling in periodically for Dave Helman, and his own bluegrass show at WMUA, The University of Massachusetts, and occasionally filling in for me at WHUS. Dave Helman, is still at WTCC with Country Corner and Country Corner Productions, another great DJ.
  • Kevin Lynch, who was then with Traver Hollow, and now at WWUH Bluegrass on Saturday mornings in West Hartford, as well as with the Bluegrass band, TrueGrass.
  • Sean Brennan, who was then with WWUH Bluegrass.
  • Kim Cyr, with the Connecticut Bluegrass Association. Kim Cyr, Bud Godreau and I alternated working on The Magic of Bluegrass show a few years before Bud Godreau left the show.
  • Marcel Huguenin, the guitar pickin' "Bluegrass Coyote," who alternated hosting the show with Kim and I until I left in 1990.
  • John Thomas, who would fill in for all three of us in emergencies.
  • Cathy Bumgarner - excellent bluegrass fiddler and WHUS FM DJ.
  • Nick Anderson - Shady Creek Bluegrass Band
  • Susan Hansen - one of the premier WHUS FM DJ's, who also headed up the Sunday Night Folk Festival, immediately following The Magic of Bluegrass [note from Amy: Susan's still on the air at WHUS following the Bluegrass Cafe every Sunday night, 7-10PM].
  • Richard Guilbault, my personal friend and 5-string banjo player in several of our band evolutions.
  • 25 Years of Record Company Help. Of course there wouldn't be any wonderful Bluegrass sounds, or music of any genre, if it weren't for unyielding help and supplies from record companies like Rounder and Flying Fish, to name a very few. Without them, we would not have had nearly 25 years of the very up-to-date albums, tapes, and CDs that are played on the air to the WHUS listening area.

One of the shear advantages that WHUS FM provides is having great studio facilities. Whenever time and band appearance dates would not conflict, we would have live area Bluegrass bands play right in our "on air studio" sometimes around Bud's "Lonesome (omni-directional) Microphone," and sometimes around my mics/equipment. Bud and my shows included, (and if I forgot someone, I'm sorry), the Wynn Faye Band, Grassroots (now known as the Grass Routes Bluegrass Band), Traver Hollow, Bill Hall & Northwind Bluegrass, Southern Rail, and with the technical help of Paul Harvey (lead singer/excellent guitar player at the time for Traver Hollow) in our on air studio, my band, at the time, the New Cumberland Homesteaders. I recall one occasion when Southern Rail played in the "on air studio." Robert Allen (who happens to be an FCC Class I license holder, an excellent Dobro/banjo player, and was in our earlier Bluegrass band) did such a professional job mixing that show that the group's bass player/singer, Sharon Horovitch, later told Bob that the group used the on air recording for demo recordings. Now, that's impressive. Bob and Southern Rail did a great show that day.

It has been a pleasure to know people from the past as well as the present who promote Bluegrass music on the radio. Because of dedicated people like Myrna, and great facilities that WHUS FM provides to the community, Bluegrass music will remain an extremely potent facet to the Connecticut airwaves and beyond.

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