Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spinning Indie 50 State Tour: Stop 16 - South Carolina's WSBF

After a too long hiatus, the Spinning Indie 50 State Tour returns with an all-new virtual trip to a college radio station somewhere in the United States. The aim of this series is to bring to light some of the intriguing radio stations located in both expected and unexpected places in every corner of the U.S.

The 15 college radio stations that I've featured thus far include stations in Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, West Virginia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, California, Nebraska, Idaho, and Tennessee.

The time around we venture to South Carolina to learn more about Clemson University radio station WSBF. In existence for more than 50 years, the initial idea for WSBF was conceived by Clemson freshman Van Fair in 1956. After writing a paper for his English class about why Clemson should have a radio station, he began the process of making that desire into a reality. In 1957 he teamed up with other interested students, including one who was running a pirate AM station out of his dorm room. In late 1957 the call letters WSBF were selected and the carrier current campus-only station was built in 1958 and went on the air on May 1, 1958. WSBF then began the process to transition to an FCC-licensed FM station and began FM broadcasts in 1960. In his accounting of the early days of the station, Fair writes, "I know that my experiences at WSBF prepared me as much for life as my Clemson education did." The WSBF website's history section includes reminiscences from a number of former DJs and it's a nice way to get a flavor for the place. There's also a section containing WSBF alumni biographies.

Today WSBF airs an alternative music format with a mix of new music and specialty music shows. They also produce a live music show called "Live Sessions" that is also filmed with the help of their campus TV station and posted to the WSBF You Tube channel.

According to WSBF's General Manager Joe Dubrowski, new music (or "rotation") shows are required to play at least 75% material from the station's new music section and also cannot play material by artists who have had a top 100 Billboard hit or a Gold album.

Dubrowski said that there is still music in the library from the early days of the station. He told me, "We have an extensive library of music dating back to the early days of the station. Our vinyl collection is not in perfect alphabetical order, but if you spend some time looking through it, there are some gems. I like to spend some time reading the reviews and seeing what people had to say about the early works of now legendary artists." He also mentioned that there are some long-running shows on the station, including the Sunday night "Protogressive Show" hosted by Joe Della-Fera for 22 years.

In his email interview with me, Dubrowski also talks WSBF's annual Spring Music and Art show and how the station fits in with the local music scene in Clemson, South Carolina.

2007 Live Sessions Flyer
(courtesy WSBF)

Spinning Indie: Your station has a lengthy history. What are your favorite tidbits/scandals from your station's past?

Joe Dubrowski, WSBF General Manager: My favorite part of station history is the infamous “ball gag” incident. A few station DJs decided they would express themselves in a rather unusual way at the Clemson University First Friday Parade. Their dress and antics at the event got us banned from the parade until just recently.

Spinning Indie: Do most students at Clemson know about the station? Do a lot of students listen to the station? Is the staff/DJs mostly students?

Joe Dubrowski: Clemson is a big school and there are a lot of activities to get involved in, but being a part of WSBF is the best choice any student could make. When I first came to Clemson 5 years ago, I would say that most students did not know about WSBF. However, some big promotional efforts in the last several years have raised awareness. Currently, I'd say that most students know that we are here. Most of our staff is made up of students but we do have a group of graduate students and community members and we have had professors and other Clemson University staff in the past. To my knowledge, we are the only student organization on campus that allows and encourages membership by non-students.

Spinning Indie: What's the local music scene like and how is WSBF involved with that scene?

Joe Dubrowski: The local music scene in Clemson is, let's say, developing. The biggest challenge in Clemson is the lack of any dedicated music venue. The only choice for artists is a handful of bars, none of which have an ideal set up. Anytime WSBF puts on a show downtown, we bring our own equipment and sometimes we even rent and assemble a stage for the performers.With that said, we have a unique role in our community because of the lack of an established scene. In many ways, we really ARE the music scene. WSBF has developed a loyal following and many people will come out to our shows regardless of the genre. It's pretty cool to see the diverse crowds at our shows. It feels good to see a dedicated group of people who enjoy supporting live music and their local radio station.

Spinning Indie: Can you tell me a bit about the festivals that you've produced?

Joe Dubrowski: The WSBF Spring Music and Arts Festival is currently in its 4th year and I'm always excited to see the growth of the event from year to year.  This all day event showcases national and local musicians, artists, vendors, and businesses. WSBF Spring Music & Arts Festival is a service-oriented event that aims to collect donated goods to be provided to the neighboring communities where it is needed most... WSBF Spring Fest IV... [took] place on Friday, April 13th at Tiger Park in Clemson, SC.

Spinning Indie: Do you listen to other college radio stations? Who do you admire?

Joe Dubrowski: I love WUSC in Columbia at the University of South Carolina. A lot of us listen to them and we have a good, friendly relationship. In the past we have co-sponsored some shows and events. Last year, we invited the DJs at WREK at Georgia Tech up to Clemson and had a fun time hanging out with them. We are also jealous of their 100,000 watt output power! I think it is important that college radio stations support and learn from each other, especially with the current state of college radio.

Spinning Indie: Anything else?

Joe Dubrowski: I'd just like to mention our recent partnership with RadioFlag. RadioFlag is an Internet social media website that connects radio stations with a focus on college, community, and independent radio. With their help, we have seen our listenership increase. We are one of only a few stations to receive an award from them as a "Spirited College Radio Station". In addition, we are the southeast representative on their College Radio Advisory Board. I am excited about our future collaborations and can’t thank them enough for their continued support.

I'd also like to extend a big thanks to Spinning Indie for this interview and featuring us in the 50 State Tour Series. For more info on WSBF you may visit our website at or We are also on twitter @WSBF_FM.