The recording crackles to life, then bursts into fanfare. The announcer, in full radio voice, narrates the “talking page,” a 45-rpm disc included with the 1959 Buffalonian yearbook. Together, they provided “a verbal, as well as a pictorial résumé of the year’s activities.”
We hear of exciting news from all corners of the university. The football team had its best year ever. Count Basie performed at the Alpha Phi Delta Winter Dance. A scientist from the Bell Aircraft Corporation presented a lecture on rockets and the space age.
Finally, the charming 11-minute record draws to a close with an instrumental version of UB’s alma mater, signaling the end of an era for the Class of ’59, but also the beginning of a new adventure.
Chancellor Clifford C. Furnas lent his voice to the 45, offering this message to graduating students: “With the loss of hair or the graying of hair or perhaps getting just a little bit paunchy, may you always be prouder year by year of your alma mater, the University of Buffalo.”
Similar to an old-time radio show, the narrator of the “talking page” is accompanied by a gamut of sound effects, including a ringing alarm clock and a yawn; Hayes Hall clock’s Westminster chimes; footsteps falling on campus pavement; and the ka-chunking rhythm of an IBM machine shooting out mid-semester grades.
The seven-inch, 45-rpm vinyl record format was released in 1949 by RCA. Each music genre had its own dedicated color: Country songs were on green vinyl, classical releases were red, children’s albums were yellow, gospel and R&B singles were orange, and popular tunes were black—the cheapest color vinyl to produce.
On Jan. 6, 1959, WBFO-FM 88.7 hit the airwaves, reaching listeners as far as 10 miles from the South Campus. That’s more respectable than it sounds, considering it was a student-run station with a $1,300 annual budget. These days the station is owned by WNED, a binational public broadcasting organization, and broadcasts to a slightly more impressive 1.2 million people.
If you’re of a certain age, you may remember using a strangely shaped piece of plastic—known as an insert, an adapter or, more colorfully, a spider—to hold your 45s in place on a standard turntable. Today the spider serves as a visual icon for the music industry, even making an appearance on hipster T-shirts.