When I was four years old, I made my singing debut at my father's family reunion in southwestern Virginia. I sang Hank Williams, Sr.'s "Your Cheatin' Heart."
I've been singing ever since.
My father took me to my first coffeehouse somewhere around 1960--the Golden Vanity. It was magic. The performers actually played the music I loved, from traditional to topical songs. Add to the equation the fact that my father, whose Virginia roots took him to the music of the Carter Family, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, and Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, to name a few, and the seeds for "Singing Along with the Radio" were sewn.
During high school in the 1960s, I became interested in contemporary folk songs--Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, the Kingston Trio, the Weavers, the Brothers Four, Bob Dylan. Sure, I loved the Beatles, too, but it was the music with a message that moved me. Those were turbulent times, and many of my contemporaries and I were using music to fight the Vietnam War and to promote civil rights.
When I went to Boston University in 1966, I was a fair guitar player (for those days), and I went to Boston's many coffeehouses and music venues, auditioning to perform and make a little extra money. I auditioned at the Boston College coffeehouse, Middle Earth, and became involved with the students who worked there. I also frequented the other coffeehouses in the Boston area at the time--the Unicorn, the Golden Vanity, the Sword in the Stone, and the legendary Club 47. I had the chance to see and hear so many incredible performers--Tom Rush, Eric Andersen, Pete Seeger, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Judy Collins, Carolyn Hester, the Greenbriar Boys, and so many more.
But then, of course, life happened. I did not graduate from Boston University, but instead was working as a secretary at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and still singing on the side. I finally finished my bachelor's degree in English at Northeastern University in Boston.
In 1973, I married Bill Fischer, whom I had met at Middle Earth. He went to medical school at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, and that's where my life took a dramatic turn (for the better, I hope). I was working at Clark University and decided to volunteer at a small community radio station, WCUW-FM, to help them with the program guide. When they found out how much I knew about traditional and contemporary folk, blues and bluegrass music, they sat me in front of the microphone and gave me a show! I was on the air at WCUW for almost four years, then we moved to upstate New York so that Bill could do a residency in family medicine.
We had a young daughter, Becky, at the time, but something was missing in my life--radio. Sure, I still did a lot of singing, but the radio element wasn't there. In 1982, just as we were preparing to move back to Massachusetts, WAMC-FM, a major force in public radio in the northeast, offered me a folk music show on Saturday nights, directly following "A Prairie Home Companion." Great lead-in!
Now, more than 20 years after I began doing "The Hudson River Sampler" on WAMC, I have had the opportunity to finally realize a dream that began more than four decades ago. That is, to make a recording. And that's what "Singing Along with the Radio" is--the fulfillment of a dream that goes back to standing on the picnic table at the Adams family reunion and belting out lyrics about walking the floor and feeling tears coming down like falling rain.
This CD has an added element, one that I can only thank my radio career for bring me, and that is, some of the most fantastic folk musicians who are currently making their living by doing music have joined me on this recording. I worked with Christopher Shaw, John Kirk, John Kribs, Artie Traum, Amy Fradon, JoAnne Redding, Kim and Reggie Harris, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen, David Roth, Scott Petito, Brian Melick, Bob Franke, Ben Murray, Siobhan Quinn, and Steve Stanne. Eric Erickson, Matt Watroba, Nick Barr--fellow D-Js or former D-Js--also join me on the songs about radio.
This CD has 12 of my most favorite songs, from the traditional "Duncan and Brady" to "Family Hands" by Mary Chapin Carpenter. There is only one original song--"Kansas City Prime"--which offers the story of how I met Bill in 1966.
Every Saturday night, I go to WAMC in Albany, New York, and play music for the listeners of WAMC. Every Saturday night, I meet new people, thanks to the magic of radio.
Every Saturday night, I sing along with the people whose music I love.
I'm the person you see, driving down the highway, singing at the top of her lungs. This music keeps me alive, keeps me thinking, and keeps me young. I hope you'll sing along with this recording.
--Wanda Fischer, Schenectady, NY, February, 2003