Fresh Air Retrospective
FRESH AIR was a late-night radio program which aired on WKSU during the seventies. The student-produced program had its historical roots in the sixties and by the early seventies had evolved into a structured format with a rock and roll basis. What was originally called "Underground Rock" was eventually called "Progressive Rock" or "Alternative Rock" and could be one of the ways to describe Fresh Air in the early 70's. As additional rock and roll styles appeared, Fresh air evolved past Progressive music alone and into a Progressive format. By the late 70's, programmers were incorporating Jazz Rock Fusion, New Wave, New Age, Folk, World Music, Avant-Guard Jazz, Psychedelic sounds, Rock in Opposition, German techno, minimalist, 20th century classical, and Electronic sounds into the mosaic that became Fresh Air.
Rock's most popular music was often incorporated in its early days, but there was a reverence and desire to discover and present lesser known groups, artists, and musical styles. The tendency in programming was to play less of a group once they became well-known. Since each night was programmed by that night's host, Fresh Air often had a slightly different feel and sound from one night to the next. Generally, announcing was less important than the quality, selection, and flow of the music. The various styles of music were selected to complement each other, and the smooth segue between pieces was the programmer's golden ring. The musical journey, movement from one style of music to another, and one mood to the next, was the ultimate goal. This is not to say that Fresh Air was a totally free-form format. There was an unwritten understanding of the "format", though hard to verbalize, which was executed easily by the staff.
As WKSU matured as an NPR station, most of the many block formats offered in the seventies began to take notice of the developing public radio programming principles. The Fresh Air staff learned and incorporated many audience building techniques and its following grew and stabilized. Features such as: The Import Album Premier, Domestic Album Premier, Industrial Wasteland ( interview program), and the featured Artist Of The Week, established Fresh Air in local ratings books. In the early eighties, WKSU eliminated several of the block formats, including Fresh Air and others, to provide a more consistent, and less varied public radio service for Northeastern Ohio.