WPRB was founded as WPRU, one of the country's first college radio
stations in 1940
, though they initially only broadcast through the heating pipes of one Princeton dorm
. In 1941 the Saturday Evening Post
featured WPRU and its founder H. Grant Theis in an article called "Radiator-Pipe Broadcasters
." This article generated a huge response, with students from Rutgers University
, Georgetown University
, Northwestern University
, University of Nebraska
, University of Southern California
, University of Florida
, University of Colorado
and others, writing to Theis and asking him for advice in setting up their own stations. In 1955
the call letters were changed and the station became the first FM
college station. When they increased to 17,000 watts in 1960 they were the largest college station in the country. Station legend
has it that it was around this time that 'prb was responsible for creating the expletive 'fucking a
"It happened sometime in 1961, maybe 1962, but no later than that I am sure. I defy anyone to find an earlier use of that lyrical profanity (don't confuse the phrase with 'A-okay' made so popular by the astronauts). It was all due to Studio A. In those days, everything at WPRB was broadcast out of Studio B, an intimate glassed-in box only large enough to hold a DJ and a few sycophants. Studio A was larger, but its console never worked. If it weren't for the fact that the large conference table in Studio A was a perfect place to set down those big boxes that pizza come in (even then!), Studio A would have been of no use whatsoever. Two members of the engineering staff, Minet and Auslander, decided to change this, though I'm not sure why. They espoused the Che Guevara school of electronics. Their modus operandi was to plug in anything on the fritz and hope that it exploded, because the sparks would pinpoint the problem. (They applied this principle to my roommate's malfunctioning stereo and in 30 minutes transformed it into scrap metal.) That's why the console in Studio A was so fascinating to them. It exploded with the persistence of a Mexican fiesta, which may have explained their predilection for working at it late at night with a case of cheap beer at hand. During one of these late night escapades, Minet was on his back under the console monkeying with some wires, while Auslander was standing up, hovering over the monster with his eyeglasses way down on the tip of his pimply nose, hoping to see the damn thing pop. I could see them through the window out of Studio B while I was on the air. I'm not sure exactly what happened next. Whatever it was, the lights flickered momentarily and Minet screamed 'FUCKING A!!!' so loudly that even with my earphones on I could hear him. And he continued yelling the words over and over, while he hopped around holding his right hand. So, when Auslander, who now was totally cracking up over his buddy's misfortune, pushed open the door to Studio B to share the merriment with me, those fateful words went out ever so clearly over the air, making my engineer blanch. And, as Minet continued to yell and Auslander continued to prop open the studio door with his doubled-over body, those words continued to go out over the air, until the engineer came to his senses and flipped the switch. Of course, we never heard a word of complaint, proving that no one, not even the FCC, was listening. I don't think Minet, after his pain subsided, ever used the words again. But Auslander did, all the time, and so did everybody else, me included. Soon, it was all over campus. From there, it conquered the nation. Tomorrow, the world, as they say. Of course, nobody knew what the 'A' was, except for the few of us there that night. But it didn't matter what 'A' was. It really had nothing to do with any 'A' in particular. The phrase lassoed the Zeitgeist; 'A' really stood for everything so maddening and so frustrating that it couldn't be put into words. What happened to Minet that day was just a happy accident, something like Newton and the apple. I mean, if he had yelled 'Fucking B,' who would have noticed? ---- Stephen Pribula, Princeton Class of '63
In the early sixties, the call numbers were changed from 103.5 to 103.3, and 'prb became one of the first college stations to broadcast in stereo, and one of the first stations in the country to broadcast rock 'n' roll in stereo. In the late '70s the programming changed, as the station management made a conscious decision not to replicate the rest of the airwaves, but to increase the amount of unique and different music. 'PRB sometimes got in trouble for their programming, most notably when they were sued after playing The Cure's 'Killing an Arab', a controversy that was covered in the New York Times and the Village Voice at the time. In the fall of 1986, Spin magazine named WPRB the best commercial college station in the country.
Currently WPRB is still among the largest college stations in the country. Among its various highlights, the station features the longest running folk show in area, John Weingart's 'Music You Can't Hear On The Radio', a weekly show by Jon Solomon, the founder of My Pal God records, who has also done an annual 24-hour Christmas show for the past 15 years, and Anil-Ki-Awaaz, a show devoted to Indian pop music, with a fervent central New Jersey following.
But for the most part, it's just a bunch of kids who love music.
So tune in to 103.3 FM if you're within a hour's drive from Princeton, New Jersey, or get the feed live at http://www.wprb.com.
Sources: wprb's extensive history pages and personal knowledge