Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Hobo's Lullaby" On WICB: Ithaca's Sonic Calendar

It's Tuesday morning and the sound on our radio is Gene Endres' program, "Hobo's Lullaby", on WICB-FM.

Gene's show has been the sound of Tuesday mornings in Ithaca for many years. It began as a fairly straightforward American folk music show, as its name would indicate, coming from a Woody Guthrie song.

Over the years, the show evolved, as a good show will. The music expanded from traditional American folk to almost every genre of music you can think of - or, more precisely, that Gene can think of, which is a lot.

Gene's playlist is not limited to music. He likes speeches, poetry and essays. He likes the sounds of nature. He likes the sound of trains. He likes both narratives and collages.

It is a gentle program, but also bold. Gene believes in his listeners' intelligence and openness. He will play the sounds of a pond at summer sunset. He will broadcast from his bike as he tours town and extols clean transportation. He will play political music, though usually it is less the politics of polemics than of common sense.

At Halloween, he will play the song "69 Hillbillies In A Haunted House". (He did that today.)

Gene's show is, loosely, a calendar of the year. He plays music to note seasonal changes. To highlight election issues. To promote local events such as GrassRoots Festival, Ithaca Festival, and other performances and events, and to note broader events: Mardi Gras, Earth Day, May Day, Labor Day.

"Hobo's Lullaby" is progressive and sometimes experimental, but fundamentally, it is basic, old-fashioned radio from the days before structured programming and playlists. It sounds like the town that it comes from, and like the week it was created.

Like a good poem, the show sounds different upon different listenings. One has the chance to experience this with the show's rebroadcast on the Sunday afternoon after its Tuesday genesis.

Not many communities are so lucky as to have a show so dedicated to both custom and creativity, to both the world at large and (foremost) to its home town. We're grateful to WICB and especially, of course, to Gene, for doing it so well so long.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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