WELCOME TO "RFD: Radio Free Delmarva," says host Va Williamson, "the show that rolls up its own sidewalk after it's done and goes peacefully home
Just a little more than a year ago, it began as a 20-minute live jazz session on WSCL (89.5 FM), a public radio station based at Salisbury State University on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Today "RFD: Radio Free Delmarva" has grown into a two-hour live radio program that draws on the lore, occupations and talent of those inhabiting the Delmarva peninsula and celebrates the region's unique, agri- and aqua-cultural community.
The station's signal does not transmit beyond the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but radio buffs anywhere can always venture to Salisbury for the program's monthly live broadcasts. And tomorrow night in a special presentation, "RFD" will be presented live from the Avalon Theater in Easton, where the audience will be restored to an era when corny humor, radio serials and a homey musical palette formed a wholesome evening of entertainment.
As WSCL's news director, Williamson envisioned something grand for the studio's state-of-the-art 16-track recording studio built in 1987. He had recently moved to the Eastern Shore from San Francisco, where for 17 years he had worked as a news anchor, reporter and a professional guitarist in a classical music quartet. "You're just aware if you live in the city, of the tremendous possibilities for serious art endeavors," Williamson says.
The live jazz sets featuring Williamson and friends expanded to include film reviews, poetry readings and other artistic offerings. A small audience also crowded into the studio for moral support and to cultivate the ambience of an old-fashioned live radio program.
The program "just sort of slowly grew," he says. Williamson, himself, browsed through antique stores, finding old books about radio announcer school, eccentric recipes, dusty Delmarva Peninsula ditties; all elements that would lend a geographically-specific persona to the program.
Williamson also scoured the peninsula for artists. "There are a lot of talented artists around here," he says. "I've been blown away by how well people can play, how smart and intelligent people are given the chance to do something like this. People are enthusiastic as all get out."
When describing "RFD," Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" comes most quickly to mind. But Williamson looks back to live radio's heyday for a comparison:
Eventually, "RFD" moved to the Caruthers Hall Auditorium at Salisbury State. Last month, the full-house audience listened to classical, folk, harmonica music, jazz and the first episode of the program's new serial, "Bif Delmar: Detective at Sea," co-written by Williamson and Baltimorean Jack Purdy.
As usual, the show was hosted by the glib Williamson and was peppered with references to Delmarva icons: muskrat, soybeans, seafood, tomatoes, as well as barbed remarks about national issues including the embattled National Endowment for the Arts.
Those in attendance tomorrow night may expect a comment or BTC two about Gov. William Donald Schaefer, no friend of the Eastern Shore these days. Among other guests, the program will feature the Medics Jazz Quintet, a group of Sussex County physicians, the bluegrass band Bitter Creek, and the Bellows Babes, an accordion duo.
"RFD: Radio Free Delmarva," takes place at 8 p.m. at the Avalon Theater in Easton. The show will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on 89.5 FM Saturday night. Admission is $3. For more information, call the radio station at (301) 543-6895,