This Week's Show •

Studs Terkel’s Feeling Tone

This show first aired on May 31, 2018. The Studs Terkel edge on the radio was, first of all, picking guests who would sound more interesting 50, 60 years later: Mahalia Jackson, Bucky Fuller, Toni ...

This show first aired on May 31, 2018.

The Studs Terkel edge on the radio was, first of all, picking guests who would sound more interesting 50, 60 years later: Mahalia Jackson, Bucky Fuller, Toni Morrison, Bertrand Russell. Simone de Beauvoir on her Second Sex. Federico Fellini on La Dolce Vita. David Mamet on his Glengarry, Glen Ross. Aaron Copland, Dizzy Gillespie. James Baldwin from 1961, Woody Allen in his twenties. Janis Joplin, Tennessee Williams. John Cage.  The other great mark of Studs Terkel radio was that these weren’t interviews – except when Marlon Brando wanted a second hour to interview Studs. They were conversations – emphasis not on facts or even opinions but rather “feeling tone,” emotion and experience.

Radio legend Studs Terkel was the all-American listener: ears tuned, mind open, tape recorder always on.  The trick, he said, was something he’d heard – appropriately enough – from one of the uncelebrated citizens he loved interviewing.

Illustrations by Susan Coyne

That “feeling tone” is the thread of this radio hour as much as the late Studs himself.  He was the voice of Chicago between Carl Sandburg a century ago – “hog butcher to the world,” and all that – and Chance the Rapper today.  Studs Terkel compiled a best-selling vernacular oral history of city life — Division Street America — then classic social histories of the Depression and World War 2.  Home base for more than 50 years was his daily radio hour on a privately owned fine-arts station in Chicago, WFMT.  The news of Studs Terkel that we’re happy to share is that 5000 hours of that radio archive are open anew, being digitized and transcribed – an audio event on a par with the opening of King Tut’s tomb.

Tony Macaluso manages the Studs collection at WFMT. He led us into the archives this week and guided us through some of his favorite interview with folks like Muhammad AliMahalia Jackson, Bertrand Russel, and Jimmy Baldwin.

Alan Wieder wrote an oral history of how Studs got to be Studs. He helped us understand the roots of Terkel’s “soft socialist” politics through his growing-up years in the Wells-Grand Hotel as well as his early television career in Chicago.

Rick Kogan is a newspaper guy and radio voice in Chicago today.  He grew up modeling himself after his father—the great Chicago journalist Herman Kogan—and his father’s great pal, Uncle Studs:

Sydney Lewis was one of Studs Terkel’s closest collaborators in radio and literary production to the very end. She now works down the road from us at public station WCAI in Falmouth, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. With us, she discusses the joys of working with the man who wrote Working.

Jay Allison produces the NPR story-telling hour known as The Moth, which draws on a certain Studs enthusiasm… and extends it into deep into the digital cosmos: all those individual voices empowered in the podcasting era. He guides us through one of the lesser known parts of Terkel’s audio legacy: the incredible, freeform audio documentary Born to Livewhich won the Prix Italia in 1962 and which was given a second-life online thanks to Allison and the team at transom.org.

By the Way • November 18, 2013

Good news for dear friends!

We’re putting the band back together, in a new world. With the peerless producer Mary McGrath, we’re bringing Open Source back to our first radio home, WBUR in Boston. Drawing on our roots in New ...
Thanks to Barry Blitt and The Atlantic

Thanks to Barry Blitt and The Atlantic

We’re putting the band back together, in a new world. With the peerless producer Mary McGrath, we’re bringing Open Source back to our first radio home, WBUR in Boston. Drawing on our roots in New England and our interest in the wider world, we’ll be doing a weekly evening program (Thursday nights at 9, rebroadcast on the weekends), re-launching radio and online conversation as challenging, as engaging, as various, as irresistible as we can make it. 

Strange thing: all of us have changed in this mobile, digitized, smartphone and twitter world. Stranger still is what hasn’t changed:  New England as an American capital of ideas, teaching, learning and research – of thinking! – as it has been since Emerson’s heyday in the 1830’s. The Hub today is a hive of hives – in the brain sciences, health care delivery, every kind of tech and biotech, also music, poetry, security studies, economics, in all the great branches of human exploration. President Obama had it right in his speech after the Marathon: we live in an iconic American city, and our creative and intellectual diaspora excels in every field of human endeavor all over the world. Boston’s late mayor, Kevin White called it a “small town of international significance.” Our goal, drawing on the almighty human voice and the many extensions of modern media, is to make radio talk as bracing and smart as this Global City we’re living in. 

Our website, radioopensource.org, is central to our new project. We will be expanding Open Source’s online platform of podcast conversations on the widest range of solid stuff, local and global, that people talk about: books old and new, music of all kinds, culture in general, and, of course, politics. We will be sharing our podcasts with WBUR, and at the same time we’ll be counting on a growing radioopensource community, as we always have, to help shape our discussions, sharpen the questions and make connections where others haven’t even noticed the dots.

Mary, Zadie & Chris

Mary, Zadie & Chris

Will you join us in this conversation? Will you help sustain it? We’re installing our first PayPal donate button on the site. In the new media landscape it takes a community as well as a public radio station to kickstart and support a mission like this one. Please give that donate button a try! And while you’re at it, sign up for our newsletter. 
 
The sweetest discovery in the twenty years Mary and I have been working together has been that we could actually build a living chain of listeners — a pulsing coral reef of conversation on the radio and the Web. And all of us could sustain a sensibility of open-minded hunger and enthusiasm around strong call-in talk with a tuba soloist and the Tulip Lady, as well as with Eddie Palmieri and Toni Morrison. The best thing we’ve done is build that far-flung network of loyal enthusiasts. We are hugely grateful to you, and proud to have done it together. At the start of a renewed adventure, we’ll be cheered more than ever by your support and encouragement.