December 6, 2014 marked the 69th anniversary of one of the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s founding Board members and curator Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival radio show on WNYC Radio in New York. He has hosted and produced the program every week since December, 1945. The anniversary is yet another milestone for this incredible program that has provided a platform for singers and performers who often would not otherwise be heard. His guests over the past 69 years have included virtually every major performer, and most of the minor ones. Since its inception, he has been hosting and producing the show, which is heard every Saturday night at 10 pm (New York time), on WNYC-AM, at 820 on the dial. It also streams worldwide at WNYC.org on Saturday at 10 pm (EST).
The 69th anniversary program celebrated highlights of the 40, 50, 60 and 66th anniversary programs. Over the years, Oscar’s notable guests have include Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe McDonald, Theo Bikel, Harry Chapin, Guy Davis, Christine Lavin, Dave Van Ronk, and on and on. There have been many performances unique to the Folksong Festival. Among them are Arlo’s first public performance of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Dylan’s first radio interview after coming to New York, Harry Chapin singing “Cats in the Cradle” on acoustic guitar without his band, and Oscar, Pete, Theo and Tom Paxton signing “This Land is Your Land”- the greatest quartet performance you will ever hear.
The show is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest-running show in the world with a single host, and no one will ever catch up with Oscar’s stunning and continuing achievement.
He is already planning his shows for the beginning of his 70th continuous year on the air with Folksong Festival; and on February 7, Oscar will be celebrating his 95th Birthday! Oscar has released 100 record albums, written million-selling records and eleven best selling books, produced and hosted more than 400 documentary films, hosted national television shows, written Broadway musicals, helped create Sesame Street and he’s a Peabody Award Honoree. However, it is this radio show, Folksong Festival, that he kept on the air during this country’s entertainment industry blacklist period in the 40’s and 50’s, while providing the only forum for those blacklisted artists, that is the accomplishment Oscar is most proud of.
So stay tuned as Oscar continues on this incredible journey, and we cannot end without mentioning the phrase he has closed every show with for 69 years; an invitation to come back, “next week, same time, same place, under the light of yon municipal moon.”