EAST SYRACUSE — Aug. 20 was National Radio Day, and to celebrate, East Syracuse-based vinyl radio show “The Wax Museum” devoted an episode entirely to records with a local connection.
That Sunday night over the airwaves of WSIV The Voice 106.3 FM/1540 AM, the curators of the weekly exhibit for lost and wayward vinyl spent the better part of the hours of 7 to 10 spinning singles originating from Syracuse for a special summer program called “Syracuse Rocks!”
That trio of disc jockeys—Ronnie Dark, Mike “The Night Owl” Adams and John “The Commander” Walsh—took the liberty of bending their own rules a bit too by mixing in Cortland, Rochester and Buffalo selections, though in such cases, those songs were also popular requests in the 315.
The release dates for the tracks chosen went back as far as 1952 with Syracuse saxophonist Jimmy Cavallo’s “Rock the Joint,” which came out on the Auburn label BSD Records, and as recent as this past fall with a cut from “The Truth Doesn’t Live Here,” the newest arty post-punk album by three-man band Trauma Cat.
In between were record hop floor-fillers from the 1960s like “Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket” by The All Night Workers and rocking tunes from the ‘70s and ‘80s courtesy of acts like Jukin’ Bone, 805, and The Tearjerkers, whose surfy power pop staple “Syracuse Summer” capped off the evening’s program, its black-and-white 45 picture sleeve taken in front of Heid’s of Liverpool right around Memorial Day weekend in 1980.
The “Wax Museum” crew also welcomed into the studio Joe Sawmiller of Don Barber and the Dukes during the show to chat about “blasts from the past” and “some of the people who made Syracuse music happen.”
Sawmiller recounted memories of playing with a group called The Vikings before getting together with now-deceased rocker Don Barber and forming the Dukes, not to be confused with Geneva, New York R&B band Wilmer and the Dukes, whose Billboard Hot 100 hit “Give Me One More Chance” was another given airplay that night.
As the on-air guest, Sawmiller also talked about the months at a time spent touring on the road, the types of guitars he used and was most fond of, and the local places he performed like the Cortland County Junior Fair, the basement of the War Memorial, and the Fayetteville Inn once located in Limestone Plaza.
He further mentioned that he had the chance to meet heavy metal and punk pioneer Link Wray but never became acquainted with Lou Reed pre-Velvet Underground or Felix Cavaliere before his days with The Young Rascals when both were studying at Syracuse University.
This month’s Syracuse-centered episode was the second installment of “The Wax Museum” to fully take on the local theme, the first occurrence having been in 2012.
“I like celebrating the history, and we have a ton of Syracuse music that we’ve amassed among the three of us,” said Walsh, who brought in every volume he owns of “The History of Syracuse Music” compiled by aficionado Ron Wray. As the oldest of the three “Wax Museum” hosts by a hair, Walsh said he remembers when a good amount of the records they shared that evening were first released.
Adams said having a show focused on Syracuse music lets he and his co-hosts get previously overlooked songs out there for the listeners.
“There’s a lot of talent in Syracuse and a lot of great records that came out of Syracuse that never get played,” he said. “Some community stations play local and are exceptions, but they’re too few and far between. We try to play one local record per every other show at the least.”
Dark said it would be a “wonderful idea” and a benefit to the community for someone to host a show that exclusively delves into Syracuse music, since the Aug. 20 “Wax Museum” special “only scratched the surface.”
“We could’ve easily just done all ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s stuff with a little bit of ‘80s, but throwing in some newer things from the last 10 or 15 years shows that there’s still music that’s alive that people should check out,” Dark said.
Dark has been a member of local musical groups himself, including The Monterays, Walrus and Darkroom.
Broadcast online and found with a turn of the radio dial to WSIV, “The Wax Museum” goes live on Sundays starting at 7 p.m. Eastern. Stepping into a one-off time slot on Thursday, Aug. 24, the three hosts switched it up again with three hours of commercial-free progressive rock and a dash of psychedelia.