For reasons not fully understood, even to me, I have taken on a very special project called Peter Choyce. I first became aware of Peter during his days as a college-radio disc jockey for WZBC in Boston. Today, he’s a recovering addict living in Knoxville, Tennessee, subsisting on the generosity of the taxpayer and a few dear friends, who like me, see something very special in Peter, and who think the world would be a lesser place without a voice like his. I’ve taken on this project purely for selfish reasons. I get access to Peter’s fantastic archive of radio shows, and I get ground floor access to what might become one of the most amazing come-back stories ever.
My fascination with college radio began, ironically enough, just about the time I left college. The early 1980s saw the beginning of the end for “progressive rock” radio, a time when musically savvy DJs enjoyed some autonomy in the studio. Much of the nascent “New Wave” movement got airplay on these stations, but those that played someone as “radical” as Elvis Costello soon became as rare as hen’s teeth. By the mid-1980s, the commercial radio landscape had devolved into the wasteland of classic rock and top-40 schtick that still festers today.
So, if you loved music, and sought out new music, you sought refuge in college radio. Western Massachusetts, as it happened, provided a fertile music scene thanks to the many colleges up and down the Connecticut River valley, especially from those centered around Amherst-Northampton. When I moved to Boston in 1984, I mistakenly believed things would get even better. College radio in western Massachusetts consisted mainly of relatively low-powered, student-run stations that rarely stuck to any particular format. The kids played what they wanted for the most part in two-to-three-hour blocks. Their inexperience was part of the “charm” of it all, but from this I discovered some amazing music. Continue reading