Keeping it loose at KTRU... When it was announced earlier this year that Rice University's KTRU/91.7 FM would be hiring its first-ever professional staff member to oversee operations at the station, many listeners braced themselves for the worst. After all, KTRU is a station championed by many for its eclectic, freeform format (student DJs spin everything from world beat to folk to classical to punk to improvisational jazz, sometimes within the same half-hour) and amateurish vibe. But now, just a few weeks into his tenure as KTRU's new general manager, Will Robedee would like to put our minds at ease. As far as the music mix is concerned, he has no intention of messing with the collegiate chemistry.
"What's primarily been consuming my time since I've been here is working on the technical and legal compliance of the operation," says Robedee. "It's just a matter of trying to put in some continuity. So that way, you don't have a student leader one year working toward one goal, and then the next year's student leader comes in and says, 'Well, we don't want to do that anymore.' We also want to set up more programs where it is beneficial to the student, the community and the university."
Aside from ensuring consistent air time for campus sporting events and lectures, Robedee is also working the kinks out of KTRU's live Saturday broadcasts involving students from the Shepherd School of Music: "[We] want to formalize that a little bit more. Obviously, there are some things that the administration would like to see done, and there are some things the students would like to see done, and there is a common ground, and that's what I'm here to do -- to make that common ground happen."
Robedee officially came aboard at KTRU on July 1, and so far it's virtually impossible from the listener's end to tell what his impact might be. But one thing's for sure, the man is qualified to take on the role of the station's first professional staffer in its 37-year history. Former director of the Media Center at the State University of New York, New Paltz, Robedee was selected by an ad hoc committee headed by Mary McIntire, Rice's dean of the School of Communications. The main idea is for him to act as mentor, technical/legal troubleshooter and middleman between students and the administration.
"As far as the music programming, that's primarily up to the students," Robedee says. "If it's legal and doesn't harm the image of the university, why change it? I'm not going to come in and say, 'Here's the formula, now you fill it out.' I want to help the students to learn how to present what they're doing in a little bit more of a professional manner and do a better job of getting their ideas across. But as far as the actual content, I don't have a cookie-cutter [plan]."
Still, Robedee's hiring can be seen as another significant leap toward legitimizing KTRU's presence on the airwaves since the station boosted its wattage in 1991 to blanket the Houston metro area. And despite the suspicions of some, station manager Heather Colvin sees it as a move in the right direction. "His job, essentially, is to ensure our FCC compliance and to help us achieve goals that we had already hoped to achieve," says the Rice junior. "Not to actually come in and alter our programming. The music's still the same."
Something About Mary... No doubt about it: Former honky-tonky purist Mary Cutrufello has gone roots rock with a vengeance on her upcoming major-label debut, When the Night Is Through. Not to give away too much about the release -- which isn't due in stores until August 25 -- but the Houston singer/guitar-slinger does surround herself with some of the best players in the business on Night Is Through. Her core studio band is made up of bassist Bob Glaub (John Fogerty, Jackson Browne), Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee and former John Mellencamp-drummer-turned-ubiquitous-sideman Kenny Aronoff. Who knows? Maybe it was Aronoff's devious influence that inadvertently provoked the uncanny similarities between Cutrufello's "Sad Sad World" and the Mellencamp hit "Lonely Old Night." More to come.
Etc.... The city's most publicized underground operation, Montrose Radio Collective (94.9 FM), is holding another benefit concert this weekend to drum up funds and support. Headlining the Saturday show at Blue Iguana is Meat Unit, better known as Spunk. The Spunkers just recently made good on their threat to release a full CD of new material. Loud, lewd, fast-paced and surprisingly precise, Texas is available on CopperLoud Records, the ornery alter-imprint of Houston's power-pop-oriented Copper label. One Texas highlight is Spunk's thorough disembowelment of the Stooges' "1969," which stays as true as possible to the original's fuck-all attitude, short of including Iggy in a guest spot. Also performing at the MRC show: Gandhi in Vegas and Nobody Jones.
-- Hobart Rowland
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