In 1967 and ’68 Tom Wilson hosted a free-form radio program called The Music Factory, sponsored by MGM-Verve. It premiered on WABC-FM (New York) in June 1967, before going national via 12″ vinyl discs distributed to interested radio stations. Wilson hosted 25 hour-long syndicated episodes, each of which featured interviews with musicians, producers, and engineers, as well as tracks from MGM, Verve, and affiliated label releases.
The series has been long gone from radio, but I began airing episodes on my WFMU radio program in Summer 2016, and aired the entire Wilson series on a bi-weekly basis. Wilson is a genial host, a charming broadcaster with a warm presence. His humor is self-deprecating, and he always puts his guests at ease with his robust (sometimes too robust) laughter. The episodes are interesting time capsules from a period when superior audio fidelity was helping FM radio harvest music seekers from static-plagued AM. Despite the dominance of rock, psychedelia, and folk-rock, Wilson offers a bit of genre-surfing in Music Factory content, occasionally mixing in R&B, jazz, Latin, and the token classical number. He throws down hippie parlance (“groovy”—a lot) with the conviction of a trendspotter with a master plan, and insists on pronouncing terpsichore as TERP-si-kor. He had Teddy Reig on the program, though probably none of his listeners had a clue about Teddy’s legacy. Thank you, Tom Wilson. And yes, he hosted Lou and John from the Velvet Underground (whose first two albums were produced by Wilson). The VU interview is underwhelming.
Most episodes were transferred from rare vinyl discs provided by Byron Coley, with the rest provided as digital files by Harry Weinger at Universal. Thanks to both gents. I have digitally restored the transfers (often a quixotic endeavor—these were not high-quality pressings), and in many cases replaced music tracks with upgraded audio. The episodes contain commercials for then-new MGM-Verve releases. They are the same commercials, episode after episode, and they become maddening in their repetition. You will be endlessly reminded that “Nico is beautiful,” that “Women hate war,” and that buying a Tim Hardin album “is like owning a work of art.” One of the recurring commercial announcers is Scott Muni, a longtime figure in New York rock radio. Muni had been a Top 40 anchor at WABC-AM until 1965, then gradually transitioned over to FM, eventually finding a home at WNEW-FM in 1967.
You can stream or download each episode below as mp3 audio. The opening and closing theme is “Help, I’m A Rock” by the Mothers of Invention from the 1966 album Freak Out!, produced by Wilson. I do not own the rights to any of this music, nor to the programs themselves, and these programs are NOT FOR SALE.
Program #01 — Tom Wilson
Program #02 — Odetta
Program #03 — The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed & John Cale)
Program #04 — Every Mother’s Son
Program #05 — The Cowsills
Program #06 — Paul Williams (editor, Crawdaddy Magazine)
Program #07 — Tim Buckley
Program #08 — Sam the Sham
Program #09 — Artie Ripp (producer/hustler)
Program #10 — Teddy Reig (producer/legendary character)
Program #11 — Richie Havens
Program #12 — Janis Ian
Program #13 — The Lovin’ Spoonful (Jerry Yester and Joe Butler)
Program #14 — Ultimate Spinach (Ian Bruce-Douglas and producer Alan Lorber)
Program #15 — Orpheus (Bruce Arnold and producer Alan Lorber)
Program #16 — The Appletree Theater (John Boylan)
Program #17 — Beacon Street Union (producer Wes Farrell)
Program #18 — Dave Van Ronk
Program #19 — Sandy Posey
Program #20 — Bobby Callender
Program #21 — Harumi
Program #22 — Mike Jeffery and Mark Joseph (Tom Wilson absent)
Program #23 — Recording engineers: Gary Kellgren, Phil Ramone, Sandy Lehmann-Haupt
Program #24 — Bret Morrison (voice of radio’s “The Shadow”)
Program #25 — William “Rosko” Mercer (popular New York radio voice in the late 1960s)
Program #26 — Paul Shalmy, editor of Eye Magazine (article about WFMU from Eye, Nov. 1969)
In 1968 Wilson left the show, and comedians Bob & Ray were hired to host the series, which moved to WNEW-FM in September of that year.