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What were the first songs played during WYEP's different eras?

Courtesy of the artist

The first song ever played on WYEP was “If I Needed You,” by folk and bluegrass legends Doc and Merle Watson, a cover of a Townes Van Zandt song. The recording was released in 1973 on the father and son duo’s "Then and Now" album.

One of WYEP’s founders, Jeff Smith, wrote about the debut broadcast in the station’s monthly program guide in April 1977, for our third anniversary. “We began broadcasting full-time on April 30, 1974, at 1 p.m.,” he wrote. He confirmed that “If I Needed You” was the first song played, and added, “We didn’t know then whether you needed us, but we hoped you would.”

“Someone did make a recording of that first broadcasting event,” Smith explained in 1977, but unfortunately, “it has since been lost to eternity.”

The 1977 printed confirmation of the first song was welcome news to WYEP’s staff. In 2014, for our 40th anniversary, we had conflicting recollections from early staff about which was the inaugural song played. At least three different Doc Watson songs were offered as candidates, so the actual song was a mystery for years. Special thanks to longtime WYEP volunteer and board member Peter Rosenfeld who discovered the nearly contemporaneous report in the April 1977 program guide, when memories were still fresh.

But “If I Needed You” wasn’t the only inaugural song in WYEP’s history. The station has had four locations over the past half-century with a first song at each. When WYEP moved in 1987 to our second location, at what was then Chatham College, the first song played was by Sheila Chandra, an English singer with Indian heritage who combined Western and Indian pop style in her music. Her 1985 track “The Awakening” kicked off the Chatham era of WYEP.

WYEP moved again in 1994, this time to the South Side in rented space near the Birmingham Bridge on East Carson Street. However, the first song played on the air from this location seems to be lost to history. None of WYEP’s staff at that time contacted by current station staff can recall the debut song played at these studios.

The fourth and still current location of WYEP is the Community Broadcast Center, also on the South Side. This era of the station began at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day, as 2006 began. We had asked listeners for suggestions on what we should play first to begin this new phase of WYEP, and the song chosen was Elvis Costello’s “Radio, Radio,” from his 1978 album "This Year’s Model."

Read more of our 50th anniversary coverage here.

Mike Sauter started at WYEP in 2004 and held various positions, including Midday Mix host, music director, program director, and station manager.