A Rare Gift and Stewardship in Radio Land

Ideas and Issues

June 26, 2021

Little Rock     

What do you do with a brother’s huge collection of CDs, cassettes, and albums collected over decades, as you sort out his affairs?  This was an interesting challenge facing Mark Oswald and his siblings as they moved Monsignor Oswald from his rectory apartment into the care of the seminary’s housing for elderly priests, as we discussed on Wade’s WorldIf you were a co-host of a three-hour show every Saturday night from 1984 to 1991 on a 100,000-watt noncommercial radio station, like KABF 88.3, housed in Little Rock, Arkansas, you give a shout to them and see if they are crazy enough to find a home for a collection.

How could we say, “no?”  We couldn’t!

Although as we piled forty boxes of CDs and albums to the brim in two pickup trucks in 96-degree heat from a storage unit in western Little Rock and then off-loaded them for review and distribution in the building where we are housed in south Main in the city, we might have wondered if our eyes weren’t bigger than our stomachs.  We had underestimated.  There were close to twenty boxes that we had to leave for a later pickup.  The building was letting us store the collection in a little used room.  The dolly was broken.  What were we thinking?

We had estimated that there were probably 10,000 pieces in the collection.  The monsignor had collected forever.  The brothers could remember him chaperoning them to rock concerts in Memphis.  He had blues, gospel, opera, and jazz.  He had country from Hank Williams on.  Mainly though, he had rock and roll.  One of several boxes broke open, and out game Elvis collections from Sun Records and other albums from Chess Records.  He had it all.

When Mark was a KABF host so many years ago, while a reporter for the local newspapers before he relocated to New Mexico to work and write, we used turntables.  A modern board is more easily adaptable to digital recordings.  We burn through CD players within months.  How many of our hosts even know how to use a turntable anymore?  We have one in Little Rock, gifted about five years ago.  In New Orleans with WAMF and Greenville with WDSV, not so much.

But, that’s the cart before the horse.  Now with this amazing gift from the Oswald family, we have to sort through the collection.  The jazz will stay with KABF.  A lot of the R&B may end up in Greenville.  Any Arkansas artists, we all have promised to the audio collection maintained by the Central Arkansas Library Systems.  All three stations will get their fair share.  We may find some gold mines that can be sold or auctioned and help support the stations themselves.  Some will end up perhaps as premiums for pledge drives.  This will take a lot of work, but it will all be fun and worth it in the end.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

When the generosity of spirit moves donors, regardless of the circumstances, it is our reward to meet it in-kind with the gratitude that comes from being part of a community that values its listeners and our commitment to not “let the music die.”  We can also honor Monsignor Oswald remembering the lyrics to Don McClean’s “American Pie,” which I’ll bet money we’ll find somewhere in this collection, and the words that would have likely been on the monsignor’s lips as he makes this gift that….

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music
Used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while