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A big milestone for a 'Big Broadcast'



Today marks the 104th anniversary of Russ Columbo's birth, and music is the subject of today's entry.

Carole Lombard never fancied herself much of a singer, but she did love music. I'm not sure what kind of record collection she had, but from all accounts, she probably owned her share. We know she was an avid fan of both Columbo and his good friend/rival Bing Crosby, likely owned some records by Louis Armstrong, and probably had a few from the Boswell Sisters, too. (Like many in the Hollywood set, she followed Gus Arnheim's orchestra, at the time the best known on the West Coast; both Columbo and Fred MacMurray were in his band at the start of the 1930s.)

If you're into the films of the 1930s, chances are you're into the music, too, as it was an integral part of so many movies. And there is no better way to immerse yourself in it than by listening to a program that has aired virtually every Sunday from 8 p.m. to midnight (Eastern) for close to 40 years. It's called "The Big Broadcast," and for most of those years it has emanated from WFUV-FM, the station owned by Fordham University in the Bronx. And this Sunday night's program will be its 2,000th.



Rich Conaty, its host from day one, occasionally quips that the show is "for the old, and the old at heart," but his knowledge and enthusiasm for the music help the show transcend generations. Marshall Crenshaw, who gained fame as an '80s rocker, is a regular listener, and I wouldn't be surprised if Paul McCartney checks it out from time to time...as you can online at http://www.wfuv.org. (McCartney, who has long loved classic pop and jazz -- think "Honey Pie" from the Beatles' "white album" -- is soon to release an album of pop songs from the '20s and '30s.) The legendary Les Paul, a guitarist on more than a few of the '30s records Conaty plays, was a longtime friend up to his death in 2009.

Conaty says he isn't planning anything particularly out of the ordinary for Sunday's milestone show, just the usual highlight tributes to performers or composers having birthday anniversaries that week (he did Columbo on last week's program), plus some listener requests in the 10 o'clock hour emailed or phoned in the previous week (including a few that go back to the pre-1925 days of acoustic recording).

Conaty began his show at a time when many of the performers who made these records were still with us (he interviewed Connie Boswell before her death in 1976, for example, and later interviewed the last surviving sister, Helvetia or "Vet"). It's this knowledge of the music -- not as a campy nostalgia trip, but as important (and enjoyable) music in and of itself -- that makes the "Big Broadcast" big fun.



Conaty has compiled and annotated several "Big Broadcast" collections of music from the era (Volume 4 is shown above), and the fan base has several sites to discuss the show and the music, including a Facebook group with nearly 1,500 members as of this writing (http://www.facebook.com/groups/35066591007/).

Do give the show a listen -- both it and the music will grow on you.
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