WFDU Archives: Jerry Treacy

Host profile: Jerry Treacy

Since the early 90's, Jerry Treacy has been the host of “Crash on the Levee,” WFDU’s eclectic and unique mix of weekend Music America. The program takes its title from the legendary “Basement Tapes” recordings from Bob Dylan and The Band, whose sessions were typical of the spontaneity and unbounded enthusiasm that Jerry has for the music. Although the listener can always count on hearing the latest singer-songwriters, the playlist covers the span of the folk, blues, country, cajun and zydeco genres from its beginnings to the latest releases.

One of the most popular features of the program is the “10 O’Clock Long Set,” where the music plays uninterrupted for “as long as the set feels complete”, states Jerry. The listener is treated to a free-form mix of artists that veers away from the standard “format”, encompassing jazz, gospel, and world music. A typical recent set included Bessie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers, Fats Domino, Mahalia Jackson, Miles Davis, Phil Ochs, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Peter Rowan, XTC, and David Gray. “I’ve always intended that the hallmark of the show be its diversity, highlighting a range of artists that embody the spirit of American roots music.”

That premise is evident in the list of past guests of “Crash on the Levee,” with live in-studio performances and interviews being a trademark of the show since its inception. These include Richie Havens, Maria Muldaur, Steve Forbert, Linda Thompson, Martin Sexton, Dar Williams, Dan Bern, Jane Siberry, Buddy Miller, Chip Taylor, Jimmy LaFave, Tony Trischka, Lucy Kaplansky, The Nields, Susan Werner, Ellis Paul, Slaid Cleaves, Dave Carter, Tracy Grammer, and many more. Among the most memorable interviews include Bottom Line owner Allan Pepper, Billy Joel’s drummer Liberty DeVito “waltzing in-studio” with WFDU colleague Lynn Crystal during a live session with Terri Binion, Dan Bern arriving on campus with his trailer, full band, and his dog Gidget before playing live, and songwriting great Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing”, Angel of the Morning”) performing just weeks after calling Jerry while listening to his show. Listeners have also been able to attend hundreds of shows over the years courtesy of ticket giveaways to venues ranging from Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden to the Turning Point. Local concert information and ongoing requests add to the spontaneity of the show.

Jerry’s fate as a DJ was sealed during his early childhood days, spent playing 45’s on his Superman record player in a vain attempt to entertain family and friends. He also spent many a night listening to WABC-AM and WCBS-FM, during the days when stations played Aretha Franklin along with the Beatles and Johnny Cash. “Music was always present in my house,” Jerry recalls. “My mother grew up with '50s R&B, doo-wop, and plenty of Elvis, and we then wound up growing up with the sounds of that era.” However, it was an early folk song that may have left the most indelible mark in Jerry’s mind. “My Mom had this 50’s greatest hits compilation, and among these songs by The Coasters, Sam Cooke, and Dean Martin was The Kingston Trio’s 'Tom Dooley.' Here was this very stark imagery being created with powerful lyrics and three-part harmonies. It also struck me that the popular songs of that time were a combination of folk, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, standards...all of these various genres. I think it was a precursor for how I would present 'Crash on the Levee.'

Jerry would eventually attend the University of Scranton, where he was the Sports Director and Assistant Music Director for student-run WYRE (“20 watts of flame-throwing FM power!”). The station would later grow (how could it not??!) into a full-fledged commercial outlet (WUSR), where it continues to emphasize the alternative programming that Jerry’s colleagues helped build. After returning to New York, Jerry subsequently performed marketing research for WPLJ, occasionally filling in as a producer as well. Upon witnessing first-hand how commercial radio compiled their playlists, a quest for greater creativity emerged. A former co-worker at Jerry’s day job at the time had a jazz show on ‘FDU, and encouraged him to send his tape and resume. Several months later, after doing news and sports, as well as filling in for Danny Quinn’s “Celtic Traditions,” a slot on every third Saturday morning opened up. “There was mostly folk and bluegrass being played during that time slot, but I slowly began discovering and then gingerly playing all of the other styles that were part of Music America. I’m happy that we’ve been able to keep a good part of that original audience while adding new listeners over the years, even as the show’s playlist has expanded greatly.” Eventually, Jerry began to host on a biweekly basis, and subsequently every week by 1993, due to family and other obligations of the former hosts.

“I can certainly relate to that issue these days,” Jerry states, referring to the recent birth of his son. Nevertheless, it is the response from listeners to those events, and to the program in general, that provides such ongoing satisfaction. “We have a wonderful group of listeners…enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and who are extremely involved in the program.” Jerry has also extended his duties as program host to emceeing at dozens of concert events in the area, creating the “Circle of Friends” concert series at the Turning Point, and most recently, being part of the “Gift of Music” concert at the Bottom Line to bring out listeners following the events of September 11. “Through all of the emotion of that night, I eventually realized what the mission of “Crash on the Levee” is…to present music in a way that can touch, heal and inspire others…to give back to the community… this is what the program is truly about.”

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