Rediscovered Radio
WYSO’s Lost Tapes

Julia on the microphone Photo: © Courtesy of WYSO

Listen to this story on how an act of benign neglect transformed Southwest Ohio based WYSO from a small public radio station into a community. 

Jocelyn Robinson

Listen to this episode: APPLE MUSIC | SPOTIFY | PRX | MP3

In the past, few radio stations invested much of their time or precious resources in recording and preserving the programming that they broadcasted. But WYSO did – their students and community volunteers somehow knew they were documenting an extraordinary time when they made reel-to-reel recordings from the late 1950s into the early ’80s. They made thousands of recordings, capturing voices from historical eras like the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Afterwards, these tapes were packed into boxes and left in a musty storeroom where they spent almost two decades, largely forgotten, a mistake that could have led to their destruction.

When Neenah Ellis was hired as station manager in 2009, she rediscovered the tapes and realized they were a treasure trove of local and national history – ultimately, they became the catalyst for WYSO to adapt a new direction and relationship with the community it serves. The WYSO Archives were born, about 300 of the 3,000 tapes were digitized, and a lot of these recordings are remarkable. They contain the voices of local people, of students and faculty, but also famous voices like Martin Luther King Jr., President Lyndon B. Johnson, Black Nationalist Kwame Ture, poet Robert Bly, writers Alice Walker and Susan Sontag, jazz musician Cecil Taylor, oral historian Studs Terkel, and many more.

This cautionary tale reminds us that we neglect the past at our own peril. Listen to this episode of FEHLER to find out more!


You might also like