When Rich Conaty died in late 2016, the WFUV DJ left behind a devoted following of listeners, some of whom had been tuning in for more than 40 years to hear him spin jazz and pop from the 1920s and ’30s on his Sunday night show, The Big Broadcast.
Luckily for fans, hundreds of episodes from The Big Broadcast’s archive are now available to stream on Fordham’s Digital Collections page, thanks to a generous donor and a collaborative effort between WFUV and the University Library.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to Rich and his knowledge and infectious passion for this timeless music,” says Chuck Singleton, general manager of WFUV. We’re grateful to our anonymous donor for his support, and to the Fordham Library team for providing a new home for these wonderful sounds to be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Conaty started The Big Broadcast in 1973, as an undergraduate at Fordham, and over the course of 43 years—almost all of them at WFUV—he attracted a dedicated fan base that listened as much for his encyclopedic knowledge and humor as for the pre-World War II playlists featuring the likes of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, and Benny Goodman. He would play from his expansive collection of often-rare records, giving listeners biographical details of the composers, singers, and musicians they heard.
When he stepped away from the program in September 2016, dealing with the lymphoma that would take his life months later, Conaty had hosted more than 2,200 episodes of The Big Broadcast and had gotten the chance to meet some of his musical idols, including the Boswell Sisters, Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers, Mitchell Parish, and Calloway.
Michael Considine, director of Fordham’s Electronic Information Center, and his staff worked through technical and legal issues on the way to getting the show’s broadcasts digitized. To comply with copyright law, listeners can drop in on a stream that plays episodes continuously, one after another, allowing users to start and stop the stream but not select specific shows or songs.
While fans may miss the voice of Conaty live on Sunday nights, the new digital archive gives listeners a chance to hear his signature “Aloha” anytime they like.
“We’ve heard from perhaps one hundred fans of the show, and they are over the moon to be able to hear those shows again,” says Singleton. “Rich’s sudden passing was very hard on his fans, including all of us at the station. There is a lot of gratitude to Rich’s alma mater for making [this archive]possible.”
You can listen to the Big Broadcast stream at library.fordham.edu/juke7.html.