The Cornell Library has begun the digitization of North America’s longest-running live folk music show, “Bound for Glory.” The program was first broadcast in September 1967 and has aired at 8 p.m. on Sunday in the cafe in Anabel Taylor Hall for five decades since.
The show provides diverse programming in and around the folk genre, according to the program website, and is broadcast from WVBR in Ithaca.
Phil Shapiro M.A. ’69, the founder and host of the show, once led the live folk concerts and continues to participate in the program. Shapiro has entertained audience members for decades with the speeches he gives prior to every Sunday show, where he explains the proper way to promote folk music on the radio.
Prior to the digitization, Shapiro kept the nearly 1,500 shows within his home on tapes and CDs, according to Evan Earle ’02, M.S. ’14, the University’s archivist. In order to avoid the deterioration of the recordings, the Cornell University Library has begun to digitize the tapes.
“As a townie, I recall listening to the show on occasion growing up and have attended some performances in person,” Earle said.
Earle said that Shapiro wanted the collection be made available for use, rather than simply be stored.
“Since playing analog reels like this can put the material at risk, digitizing the items makes the material usable for scholarship and for enjoyment,” Earle said.
Unlike many radio shows today, “Bound for Glory” does not promote particular views within the current political climate, according to Earle. Instead, the show focuses on simply enjoying the music.
“Bound for Glory” has featured numerous musicians that have led promising music careers. Most recently, the show has hosted John Specker, a well-known fiddler, and Richie and Rosie, who are known for their work with American Old Time music.
“We very much want to continue to digitize the rest of the collection. We estimated that the entire 1,500+ show archive could cost over $200,0000 to properly digitize and preserve,” said Earle, in regards to the completion of the project. “The first batch of digitization was funded mainly through crowdfunding, and we hope we can continue to get support to make more of this fantastic collection available and preserved for the future.”
The digitized shows can be found in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in Kroch Library.