Foothill college radio station plays more than 100 straight hours of vinyl

Liz Clark
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
DJ Liz Clark, known as “Maybelline” on-air, lists the songs she just played for KFJC 89.7 FM listeners Thursday.

When Jennifer Waits first heard about Vinylthon, an annual event that challenges college radio stations nationwide to play only vinyl records, she thought Foothill College’s radio station might be able to go for 24 hours straight.

As soon as she started telling the other Foothill DJs about the idea, it quickly became clear that the station could go longer – much longer.

Foothill’s KFJC 89.7 FM is aiming to play only vinyl records for seven straight days, ending at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. As of the Town Crier’s Monday print deadline, the station was going strong.

The challenge is a good way to mark the station’s 60th anniversary and bring attention to KFJC, according to Waits.

“Vinyl is something that we celebrate every day, so it seemed like a perfect fit,” said Waits, also the station’s publicity director.

Participating in Vinylthon was “something that’s really easy for our DJs to do since we have nearly 45,000 pieces of vinyl and our DJs play vinyl regularly anyways,” she added.

Once it became clear that the station could surpass 24 hours, KFJC took aim at playing 60 hours of straight vinyl, a nod to this year’s anniversary.

As more and more people volunteered to participate, the idea grew. Soon, the goal was to play 89.7 hours, marking the FM frequency the station broadcasts on.

Then a group of excited DJs began a night early, pushing the total runtime beyond 100 hours.

Once that proved possible, the goal became to do an entire week.

Despite this being the first year KFJC has participated in Vinylthon, it appears the station set a record. Rob Quicke, who initiated Vinylthon four years ago as the creator of the nonprofit College Radio Foundation, said KFJC’s feat is unprecedented.

“Doing 24 hours alone is a significant effort,” Quicke said. “However, when you’re talking about doing 60, 100 hours, it goes into the realm of absolutely mind-boggling.”

Radio stations needed to play only one hour of vinyl last Saturday to participate in Vinylthon. Those that played 24 straight hours won an award.

Vinyl variety

When KFJC DJ Liz Clark was told that the station was going to take part in Vinylthon, she wasn’t initially that impressed.

“When I first heard about it, I just thought, ‘Oh, 24 hours, everybody’s doing that,’” said Clark, who goes by “Maybelline” on-air.

However, as the plan grew, Clark got excited. Part of what made her confident the station could pull it off is the large collection of vinyl it has amassed. Of the 76,925 items in KFJC’s music library, 44,775 are vinyl records.

According to Quicke, that makes it one of the largest collections of vinyl at any college radio station in the country. And the collection isn’t stagnant; the station adds new records each week.

“Since we’re constantly adding music, we’re just overflowing,” Waits said. “Recently we have overflowed into our lobby.”

The records are carefully sorted into tall shelves, many of which nearly reach the ceiling. There are separate sections for 7- and 10-inch records, which the station has 8,709 and 710 of, respectively.

Because the collection is so extensive, Waits said DJs aren’t limited by only being able to play vinyl – it’s already a normal part of most DJs’ routine.

For Clark and Waits, part of vinyl’s attraction is how it sounds. Unlike a CD or MP3 file, when a record is played, the listener can often hear cracks, pops and skips.

“To me, it just sounds so authentic,” Clark said. “Not everything is pristine. When you go to a club, you get all kinds of sounds. So, (vinyl has) a more alive feeling.”

The vinyl selection is extensive enough that Clark and Waits created shows using only particular parts of the station’s collection.

Waits did a show previewing Vinylthon using only 10-inch records. Clark created a program of only albums in the “B library,” which is the station’s collection of lesser-played recordings.

“The range, the amount that we have is incredible,” Clark said. “Just talking about all of the vinyl that we have and have collected over the years, it’s really special.”

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