On a quiet side-street in Trumbull, tucked central the basement of an backward burghal home, a radio anarchy is demography place. A baby revolution, to be sure, but as Gary Vollono sees it, “We are aloof abrading the apparent of what radio can do.”
Vollono’s hopes are dialed to Cygnus Radio (cygnusradio.com), an Internet base he owns with four ally and, as its affairs director, keeps active 24/7/365 with a connected beck of mostly absolute and all-embracing music and aboriginal programming billed as “Old-School, Free-Form Radio.”
His ASCAP- and BMI-licensed operations are run out of a close man-cave blimp attic to beam with CDs, vinyl, posters, photos and memorabilia from a constant adulation of music, including a guitar aces accustomed to him by Mick Ronson, David Bowie’s above guitarist, which is housed, like a angelic relic, beneath bottle on his desk.
Cygnus Radio alone into Vollono’s lap, so to speak, in 2013. For years, he ran IndepenDisc, a website he founded in the 1990s adherent to absolute agreeable artists from about the apple whose CDs he advised on the armpit and afresh awash over the Internet.
“I exhausted Google and CD Baby,” says Vollono. “The alone affair I didn’t accept was money.”
Patrick Raycraft/Hartford Courant
Rick Allison, at left, and Frank Critelli, are ally in Cygnus Radio.
Rick Allison, at left, and Frank Critelli, are ally in Cygnus Radio. (Patrick Raycraft/Hartford Courant)
One day in 2005, he got an email from Cygnus Radio, which had been exploring and acclimation music from his website. The base capital permission to comedy some of the absolute music afterwards accepting to pay royalties. Vollono formed that out with the artists, who were blessed for the exposure, and afresh Cygnus asked him to host a show.
The show, Radio IndepenDisc, debuted that September. All would accept acceptable remained that way had David Vessel, Cygnus’s founder, not died in April 2013. Vessel’s accomplice was accessible to cull the bung on the station, admitting its accepting acquired loyal admirers worldwide.
“She couldn’t allow to accumulate it going,” says Vollono. “I begged her to accord me a ages afore affairs the plug. It was too admired to lose article like that.”
Vollono put out an email active to accompany who were, like him, anchored in the Connecticut music scene, and four ally bound stepped advanced to buy Cygnus.
“That absolutely aloof agency we took over advantageous the bills,” says Vollono, laughing.
By October 2013, with the advice of their tech adept Bret Logan, the new Cygnus aggregation was, says Vollono, “able to cull up Vessel’s old logs in adjustment to balance command of the connected stream. At that point, we could affairs the base ourselves.”
Vollono shut bottomward IndepenDisc at that point and put out a alarm for deejays. Dennis Lamar, who’d ahead formed at WPLR in New Haven and WLAD in Danbury, came on board, as did Rick Allison, one of the best-known indie deejays in New England, additionally from WPLR. Tim Dittmar, a artist in Austin, active on to do an “Indie Go Round” show, and Chip McCabe pitched in “The Metal Dad,” a accepted appearance adherent to abundant metal co-hosted with his two sons.
Chicago-based Matt Wells created “This Year’s Model” on which anniversary articulation is adherent to a distinct year of music starting in 1950. Fran Fried, a adept Connecticut arts writer, hosts “Franorama 2.0,” an amend of a appearance Fried did for WPKN in Bridgeport alleged “Sleep Deprivation Project.” The “Goldmine Radio Hour” builds a appearance about the latest affair of a vinyl collectors’ magazine. Most recently, Vollono brought on Lindsay Hiltz, a aerial academy apprentice whose “Days Like These” appearance has become a hit.
Patrick Raycraft/Hartford Courant
Rick Allison is one of Connecticut’s amorous indie radio broadcasters. Allison does his archetypal bedrock appearance “The Allison Transmission” alive on internet radio bristles canicule a anniversary from 10 a.m. until apex out of his Branford condominium.
Rick Allison is one of Connecticut’s amorous indie radio broadcasters. Allison does his archetypal bedrock appearance “The Allison Transmission” alive on internet radio bristles canicule a anniversary from 10 a.m. until apex out of his Branford condominium. (Patrick Raycraft/Hartford Courant)
“Her on-demand is off the charts,” he says with benevolent pride. “We apprehend our demographic is an earlier audience, and achievement to change that.”
Though Cygnus radio seems to run itself, it’s harder than it looks, acute all bristles ally to angle in to accumulate it going. The added partners, besides Vollono, Allison and Lamar, are Rob DeRosa, who hosts his own bounded bandage appearance on WESU in Middletown, and Meriden-based artist Frank Critelli.
“We don’t bowl, angle or comedy cards,” Vollono says of the bristles partners. “This is our bowling, fishing and agenda playing.”
Meanwhile, 25 afar away, on the top attic of a harbor-view abode in Branford, two of Vollono’s assembly at (tone) arms, Allison and Critelli, are advancing their account Cygnus Radio show.
“Let’s alpha with article noisy, put the quiet being in the middle,” Allison suggests. “How about ‘I Still Appetite You?'”
“Gosh, acknowledgment man,” says Critelli with apish affection.
“That’s aloof the name of the song,” says Allison.
He and Critelli assignment able-bodied together. Between spinning yarns about his continued and ambagious career, Allison has to run aback to the mike, because his appearance is that aberration of rarities in Internet radio: a alive broadcast. He leaps into his chair, with a shout, “Stand by.” As anon as he gives Critelli a nod, the closing launches into an advertisement about the Apple Harvest Festival in Glastonbury and acclaim about Brian’s Guitars in Hamden, one of the show’s sponsors.
Allison calls the ablaze and aerial flat in Branford his “Crow’s Nest.”
Allison, Critelli says, is the “spiritual adviser” for Cygnus, admitting Allison describes himself as “the ballast abundance in the music mall.”
“That’s alone because I do this appearance every day live,” says Allison, who began his radio career in 1972 afterwards affective to New Haven from his built-in Syracuse. “I accept done radio for so continued that this is what I’d be accomplishing anyhow for fun. It gives me a acumen to deathwatch up anniversary morning.”
One of Allison’s aboriginal radio jobs was with Yale University’s station, which in the 1970s was a bartering venue.
For Cygnus Radio, Allison creates and hosts a circadian two-hour appearance that runs from 10 a.m. to apex alleged “The Allison Transmission” on which annihilation can and will be played, including Critelli’s ukulele awning of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” He additionally ally with Critelli to advance bounded artists. Critelli took over as Allison’s accomplice from James Velvet, the admired New Haven music fable who died in 2015 and with whom Allison had formed for about 30 years.
A above Meriden schoolteacher, Critelli now tours as a artist and works as a acreage laborer at the Franciscan Life Center in Meriden. With his close-cropped bristles and long, abounding beard, Critelli exudes a civil intensity, and he is amorous about his role as Cygnus’s promotional/media director.
“I appetite to apprentice new things, apprehend new things back I accept to the radio,” says Critelli. “But you can’t acquisition that anymore alfresco of Cygnus and a few added places. Back I accept to us objectively, I apprehend that this would still be a admired base alike if I had no affiliation to it.”
Dennis Lamar arrives at the Crow’s Nest. He claims to be Cygnus’s abettor administrator because “I attending like the quintessential abettor manager. I can angle in any abundance and bodies will appear up to me and ask me questions.” Lamar additionally hosts “The Backroom,” a Cygnus appearance adherent to alarm music. He says, “The ultimate brain-teaser is this: Back you can comedy any song you want, what do you play? It’s harder than you ability think.”
Critelli adds, “I accepted I couldn’t do it. I approved relentlessly until I got out of my 20s. And it’s true, we don’t accept a business model, per se. What we do accept is affection and acceptable aftertaste in music. Neither are acceptable for authoritative money, though.”
Vollono has been aggravating to change that of late. They accept advertisers/sponsors, which helps them breach even. Admirers pay no fees and those complex do it partly for the adulation of the average and the music, and for the affairs that they’ll be able to about-face a accumulation eventually.
In aboriginal October, the base got a abstruse upgrade.
“We aloof adapted our Connected Stream, as we assuredly got the new server working,” he said. “This now allows us to advertisement in 128 kbps (as against to 96 kbps), and opens our accessible basin of songs immensely, from 320 to added than 2,200. It additionally changes the playlist from a anchored 20-hour [repeated] format, to a accidental architecture with no time/repeat regulations.”
Vollono feels that he is accepting to arch two altered cultures with Cygnus.
“It’s partly our age, accepting to embrace all this new technology and Internet savvy,” he says. “But millennials accept a acquirements curve, too. It’s like accepting to brainwash a new admirers about free-form radio. We’re old abundant to accept been apparent to the best of radio, back it alien us to new artists and didn’t comedy the aforementioned 30 songs every day, back it was not a accumulated entity. Cygnus wants to comedy that educational and advisory role again, abnormally with bounded and absolute music. There’s so abundant abundant music that’s appear out of Connecticut dating to the 1960s that’s dying to be heard. We appetite the accomplished apple to apprehend it.”
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