Weasel: “We played our music, talked about our politics”; WHFS tribute show this weekend

DJ Weasel looks back on the early days of WHFS – DC area musicians will pay homage to the groundbreaking FM station with a BandHouse Gigs show at the Warner Theater this weekend.

Jonathan “Weasel” Gilbert says he almost left American University because he was so focused on working on the school’s on-campus station, “which could only be heard in the dorms and the union students”.

Weasel couldn’t have known that he would soon be part of what has become – and remains – a musical and cultural phenomenon.



In October 1970, Weasel was hired at WHFS Radio, located on Cordell Avenue, in Bethesda, Maryland, during the early days of FM radio: “Until then, everything was on AM radio. And FM stations had to create their own programming.

Press photo of Weasel, for “Feast Your Ears: The Story of WHFS 102.3 FM.” (Courtesy of Feast Your Ears – The WHFS 102.3 FM Story)

A perfect fit for Weasel: “They were desperate to find cheap programs, and as college students, we were willing to work for minimum wage.”

Another DJ hired in 1970 was Cerphe Colwell.

Asked to describe the secret sauce of WHFS: “We started talking, basically, to our own people – people our own age. We started playing our music and talking about our politics,” Weasel said.

“We were a reflection of what was going on, from a youth culture perspective,” Weasel said. “And we did it in the nation’s capital, where the Nixon administration and everyone else could hear exactly what we were doing.”

At the free-form WHFS, disc jockeys had the freedom to play the music that moved them: “We never knew what was going to happen, because nothing was ever planned.”

“It was a great working environment,” said Weasel, who worked at WHFS until 2003. whole radio.

The pioneering station has introduced artists to DC area music fans including Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, NRBQ, Emmylou Harris, Tom Waits, Bob Marley and many more.

On Saturday night, local musicians will take part in a BandHouse Gigs Tribute to WHFS, 1969-1975, at the Warner Theater, in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit group has been producing themed performances since 2004.

BandHouse Gigs co-founder Ronnie Newmyer said WHFS is also a big supporter of local music.

“As a local musician, it was the greatest thrill in the world to hear our songs performed on WHFS,” Newmyer said.

Musicians and artists featured at the WHFS tribute include Eric Scott, Jon Carroll, Jenny Langer, The 19th Street Band, Kelly Bell Band, Holly Montgomery, Carley Harvey, The Sidleys, Danger Bird, The Half Smokes, Me & The Boys, Bill Starks and Greg Hardin.

Weasel will take part in the Warner tribute show, along with fellow WHFS alumni Adele, John Hall, Don Grossinger and Fred Sirkey.

“One of the unique things about WHFS is that our core still lives here in the area, just a few miles from where we started in Bethesda,” Weasel said.

Could there be another WHFS?

“There could be, but I don’t think it would be on the radio,” Weasel said. “Podcasting has taken that place – for anything you might want to listen to.”

Given the current live music radio climate, “I don’t think we could have that magic again,” Weasel said.

WHAT: Bandhouse Gigs Tribute to WHFS Music 1969-75
WHERE: Warner Theater
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, August 6
TICKETS: Available through Live Nation

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