While most professors have hefty books on their shelves, Jason Samuel, associate professor of communication, has filled his office with CDs.Samuel was bitten by the radio bug early on. The first music he ever listened to was “probably my parents’ records,” Samuel said. These included popular rock and country bands and artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s such as The Beatles, The Kinks, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins, to name a few.
“I can remember listening to a lot of Motown [growing up],” he added.
In his Cub Scout days, his mother took him and his denmates to visit Q102, a radio station in Philadelphia that played popular music. “We went on the air… and I was enthralled,” Samuel said. “It was like being behind the curtain, like ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”
The man who was DJing while young Samuel visited Q102 would go on to host “The World Cafe,” a program that 91.1FM The Globe (WGCS) would begin broadcasting 25 years later.
In fifth grade, Samuel began curating mixtapes from the radio.
“Mixtapes were a labor of love,” he said. “You could record the songs off the radio [with a cassette deck]. I remember one time in high school, U2 were releasing ‘The Joshua Tree.’ It was gonna be huge. One of the local stations was going to play four cuts from that album in a row. So I sat there and recorded those four songs, and the next week, I brought that tape to school. Man, was it popular!”
Another method Samuel described was copying songs from one tape to another on a dual cassette deck. Most tapes had 60 minutes of space (30 minutes per side), so one had to plan out the tracklist with precision: What was going to fit on the tape?
“You didn’t want to have a bunch of wasted space on the end,” Samuel explained.
In middle school, Samuel listened to Michael Tearson’s “Tearson Til Two” show on WMMR on weeknights. He would lie in bed with the radio turned low and listen until he fell asleep.
Samuel appreciated how Tearson had the freedom to speak for a longer period of time between sets, engaging with listeners more than most daytime DJs could. “It felt like I was getting insider knowledge about the music and the artists,” Samuel said.
Listening to vinyl was an enduring pastime for Samuel. “Sometimes, [my friends and I] would just sit around and listen to the turntable, and do nothing but listen to music in a room.”
Vinyl led to his discovery of classic rock groups such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Van Halen. “I went over to my buddy Brian Kelly’s house after school, and he had a little turntable. The lid was the speaker. He played Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix for me for the first time. That blew me away. I was like, ‘I’m all over those two.’”
To this day, Samuel gathers with friends and colleagues, including fellow professor of communication, Kyle Hufford, to listen to LPs on “an irregular regular schedule.”
A few of Samuel’s all-time favorite artists include Led Zeppelin, the Psychedelic Furs, Jason Isbell (and the 400 Unit), Anne McCue, and the Four Tops.
On the impact of music on his life, Samuel said: “I love the discovery of new music, and I think a lot of the artists that are my favorites were introduced to me as a teenager.” Some newer artists that Samuel has been listening to recently include Glass Animals and AJR.
“Music for me is just as much about the familiarity and the feelings that it conjures up as it is about the discovery.”
“For instance,” Samuel said, “‘Radio Free Europe’ by R.E.M. and ‘The Price I Pay’ by Billy Bragg remind me of my first year at Goshen College. Those are two songs that immediately take me back to my dorm room in Coffman on the third floor. When I hear those songs, that’s the first and almost the only thing I can think of.”