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Radio Delaware Valley finds new home in Berlin

Its genres swing from the big-band area to early blues

Radio Delaware Valley runs several stations in the area that feature what it calls “20th-century nostalgia.”

A Pennsylvania radio station has expanded its airwaves to South Jersey by connecting with Berlin Borough’s WTHA-FM 88.1.

Radio Delaware Valley’s music is described as “20th-century nostalgia” that features hits from the 1920s to ’40s, the big-band era, country, soul, rock and early blues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its vast rotation of DJs means each specializes in a certain music genre.

The station’s genre used to be classic heavy rock, something management noticed was not unique to the area and needed to change. It was a trend that General Manager Fred Rice said was too much like other stations.

“How many more classic rock stations do you need?” he asked.

Rice has been with RDV since 1994. Its musical director and on-air host, Rick Michael, said positive feedback about the station’s varied offerings is a point of pride.

“When you listen to (mainstream) radio, you can hear the same songs two, three times on a long road trip,” Michael explained. “You likely hear a new song every time you are listening to our station.”

RDV’s hosts hand select the music they play during each shift, allowing them to share their wealth of musical knowledge.

Also on staff is Rudy Sawyer, director of fundraising for the station. He became involved after hanging out with Rice and a few other music enthusiasts. That continued for a number of years. But after Sawyer got a masters in education, he was unable to keep up with on-air hours, so he took on a fundraising role.

As a non-commercial public station, Radio Delaware Valley cannot sell business advertising. But it does accept the financial support of the business community, in exchange for an on-air acknowledgement.

“I became very active (behind the scenes), staying involved,” Sawyer said. “I helped design the first two T shirts, which is how we were really able to support ourselves as a radio station. Prior to that, we (struggled).

“I was happy I was able to contribute … We have been growing financially since that time.”

With Sawyer’s help, Radio Delaware Valley will hold it annual fundraising drive from Oct. 15 through Nov. 4. It’s a time when the station’s fan base shows its support.

“About 2% of our listeners actually call in,” Sawyer related. “The fundraisers really show the love for the music … You can see by their action that they appreciate the music that we put out.”

A staple on RDV is the big-band sound of the 1930s and ’40s, a genre defined by an ensemble of musicians playing together. Big-band music includes complex harmonies and syncopated rhythms. A vocalist or instrumental soloist is often featured, adding a melody on top of the jazz orchestra.

The trio of Sawyer, Michael and Rice explained that the big-band sound started in jazz and expanded, producing some popular artists.

“In the early days of recording, (artists) would record around a horn, where there wasn’t much room for a lot of performers …” Rice said. “A lot of music evolved because the instruments couldn’t be recorded. You always had a tuba, because it was the only thing recorders could pick up.”

Michael joked that he’s still learning what “really makes music big band.”

“After all of these years,” he acknowledged, “I’m still learning, but to me, it starts in jazz then grows beyond that.”

To offer support to the station and learn about its fundraising, visit https://www.wrdv.org/sponsorships.html

To listen to Michael on air, tune into RDV from 8 a.m. to noon every Thursdays and 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Rice has one show on Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m.

Besides Berlin, RDV’s connections are:

WRDV-FM 89.3, Warminster/Hatboro, Pa., 107.3 Philadelphia, 97.1 Bensalem, Pa., 105.7 Lansdale Pa.
WLBS-FM 91.7, Bristol/Levittown Pa.

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