WHRO to give away one of state’s largest music collections

Barry Graham looked down at the loaded wagon as if it were an enemy.

A WHRO folk producer summoned a box cutter when he lifted one box onto the radio station boardroom table.

“Well, these things are heavy,” he said. “No one gets a hernia.”

he cut into the box. The dust fooled the smell of musk. It was jam-packed with over 100 old vinyl albums of his.

Over the decades, WHRO has amassed one of the largest music collections in the state, perhaps the East Coast, with over 20,000 albums and CDs in its vast vaults. . However, the music that is currently playing is digitally archived.

To create a newsroom for 10 journalists, WHRO will distribute hard copies of all the music on Saturdays. A security guard was hired.

Bert Schmidt, President and CEO of WHRO Public Media, said:

The first 1,000 people who sign up will receive 50 albums or CDs. The spots disappeared in 4 days.

Last week, the room was lined with tables: jazz, classical, easy listening, soundtracks, show tunes, blues, 1970s folk, 1980s pop, and the hidden pearls of rock and roll.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Graham, looking anxiously at the dozens of boxes still sealed.

A box near the entrance contained a pile of Duke Ellington. Next to it was a pile of Thelonious Monk masterpieces, Charles Mingus’s “New Tijuana Mood,” “Mingus at the Bohemia,” and “Something Like a Bird.”

Five vinyl discs shared one dust jacket.

“Mercy, mercy, mercy!” Read the cover of “The Cannonball Adderley Quintet” album.

On the central pillar was an original copy of Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds” waiting to be discovered, and on the cover was a watercolor image of the singer holding a red lily. A hodgepodge of cassettes containing perhaps a mile of rolled tape was tossed into a white bin on the floor.

It took hours just to move the collection from the warehouse to the conference call center.

“Can you imagine how long it would take our staff to go through and evaluate everything?” Schmidt asked. “Was it this or did you throw it in the trash?”

At one table, Don McLean gave a big thumbs up to his fingers painted red, white, and blue before his “American Pie.” Barbra Streisand appeared to be asking, “How are you today?” She parted her lips slightly on the album cover. A few feet away, Johnny Mathis shone to the fore with his self-titled release.

Bessie Smith’s music was everywhere. Radio staff spread rumors that Led Zeppelin was scattered all over the place.

“There are definitely some gems here,” said Graham. “They just need to be found.”

Colin Warren Hicks, 919-818-8139, colin.warrenhicks@virginiamedia.com

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