WRDL Nesbitt

Ashland University senior and WRDL production director Tom Nesbitt shows off the station's vinyl collection in advance of Vinylthon. 

ASHLAND -- Ashland University's radio station is digging out the turntable and dusting off the vinyl records. 

WRDL is taking part in the College Radio Foundation's Vinylthon for the second consecutive year. Listeners can expect 24 hours of vinyl originals on April 21, which coincides with National Record Store Day.

Derek Wood, a 2017 alumnus and the station's general manager, brought the Vinylthon tradition to Ashland last year as a senior.

His vision prompted the department to buy a turntable -- the station hadn't used one in over 20 years -- and to bring out the collection of old records past DJs at the station played on the air.

A longtime vinyl collector, Wood explained his love of records began at age 14 when he received a turntable/CD player combo for Christmas.

"I remember the first time I put down an album. It was Kiss 'Dressed to Kill,' at least that was the first one I ever bought myself ... For me, it feels like when you listen to the vinyl you're closer to the music."

To pull off the first Vinython, Wood had support from adjunct professor Scott Saunders, operations manager John Skrada and department chair Dave McCoy. He also connected with local record store owner Jack Kelley as a partner in the event. Kelley died last month. 

WRDL was one of only about a dozen stations to pull off a full 24 hours of vinyl last year. 

"I think you have to be about half-crazy. It's very hard," Wood said.

He and the team had to reconfigure the studio, wire in the turntable, create a plan and line up people to help, both with cuing up records and running the radio program for 24 hours. 

The hard work paid off as the first year was a huge hit. 

"We got a lot of feedback from alumni, those who worked at the station when it was only vinyl, and from our older listeners as well," Wood said. "The target demographic that day kind of changes to an older generation of listeners, but now that vinyl has made a comeback and is a billion-dollar industry once again, we see a lot of college-age students on this campus that are secretly collecting vinyl."

McCoy said the comeback of vinyl caught him by surprise. 

"In 1983 or 1984 when CDs came out, I thought vinyl was dead," he said. "Why would you ever need vinyl again when you had CDs with no pops, no scratches, no storing of a big vinyl record?

"How would we ever know then that vinyl would outlive CDs?"

Skrada said he believes both the sound and the aesthetic of vinyl records has made them endure. 

"It's definitely a warmer sound. It's (digital music is) too perfect. And then you have the liner notes on it and the artwork."

Wood said Vinylthon aligns with College Radio Foundation's mission to celebrate college stations as a unique alternative to commercial radio.

"There's a wide audience for a day like this because we have the freedom to do something no other station around here is doing," Wood said. "I dare a commercial radio station to try."

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