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Andy Nagy: 40 years and still going strong on WBRS

By Katie Decker-Jacoby

Section: Arts

October 6, 2017

Andy Nagy’s “Black Jack Davy Show” has been airing weekly since the spring of 1976 on WBRS. Every Monday he drives 100 miles round-trip between Amesbury and Waltham, Massachusetts. When the clock strikes 8:30 p.m., it’s show time for Nagy.

Nagy fell in love with folk music at four years old when one day his parents turned on Irish music in the car. His babysitter played Burl Ives records, which he thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to as a young child.

His passion for folk music was reignited in the seventh grade. He began to search for performers in his area and over time gathered his own collection of music. When Nagy was a senior in high school, an older friend who attended Brandeis introduced Nagy to WBRS and offered to sneak him into WBRS’ radio broadcast booth. “I always had a passion for sharing music as well and was always bringing records to school and sharing them with friends and bringing the latest thing over to friends’ houses… so this seemed like a great idea,” Nagy added. He got 30 minutes of his friend’s show and the rest is history.

His own show started airing on Thursday mornings and then WBRS gave him Monday nights. He’s been on Monday nights ever since. “As soon as I heard my friend talking about it, I was like, ‘ooh that’s what I want to do,’ and then coming here [to Brandeis] you meet all kinds of amazing people who are really into all kinds of different music,” said Nagy.

Nagy attended Brandeis only for his first year of college. He studied music and participated in the Early Music Ensemble, as well as WBRS. “I was psyched, I was excited. I just remember being more excited about being able to do this because it seemed like the perfect outlet, the perfect extension of what I had already been doing with friends,” he added.

So what exactly has kept Nagy motivated for 40 years? “What’s kept me going is just the love of the music and the new music that keeps happening because there’s a really vibrant folk scene,” he said. “The Black Jack Davy Show” specifically highlights contemporary and traditional folk and roots-related music from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Brittany and beyond.

“The Black Jack Davy Show” is named after the song “Black Jack Davey.” Nagy loves this song and the several different versions which have been created around the world. “Just the fact that it was found in all these different places, I thought it symbolized what I was doing, which is playing music from all these different places,” Nagy explained.

Every Monday, Nagy hauls two heavy bags from Amesbury to Waltham: One is filled with CDs and the other with records, adding up to around 100 CDs and records from home. He spends a couple of hours planning the music and show in advance. “But it’s also very spur of the moment too, like one song will make me think of another… and I’ll play that, so I can go off on tangents that have no relation to what I thought I was going to do,” said Nagy. Luckily, he has access to WBRS’ expansive music library, which is located in the studio.

Once he arrives at the studio, he arranges his personal CDs and records in order by genre to help him stay organized throughout the night. He then decides the night’s theme song and pops that into the CD player or puts it onto the turntable. His show’s themes include birthdays, album release anniversaries, holidays and the progression of specific songs.

Nagy’s wealth of musical knowledge and knack for playing good sets does not solely reach Brandeis students and other community members on campus. Nagy’s radio show captures the attention of listeners around the world. At one point, he even had many fans in Australia. Some fans used to call in and sometimes the show featured other guest speakers or even live performances too.

In terms of how things are changing in the realm of music and media, Nagy thinks the present-day ways of listening to and sharing music might be altering the music landscape in the wrong direction. “I have to say, I think that social media and downloading and all that has possibly closed things down because you don’t really share as much with the records or see the new releases that come in. I mean, you can see what comes out, but not so much listening to full albums, and I think that can potentially make things less adventurous,” said Nagy.

As for the change in radio scene, Nagy has noticed a decline in interest for radio broadcasting. Students used to stay up late and even sleep on couches in the studio, but this is not so much the case nowadays. However, WBRS is making strong efforts to get more people engaged in the radio station, according to Nagy.

As for what takes up his time outside of the WBRS studio, Nagy works at a psychiatric hospital, helping patients who who deal with addictions, mental health and developmental disabilities. Although this job greatly differs from his gig at WBRS, Nagy really enjoys working with his patients.

Also outside of WBRS, Nagy used to host a show on WGBH FM. He also played in a band called We Saw the Wolf from his late twenties to the early 2000’s. His band has been on and off since then. “We did a significant performance for a two-week 50 Years of Boston Rock festival a couple of years back sponsored by MIT’s radio station, WMBR,” said Nagy. In fact, Nagy has been busy in the booth creating new music and plans on teaming up with a family music group called The Funn Family to record a full album.

Though Nagy has brilliant things in store, at the end of the day, he has continued his WBRS radio show for 40 years because of his intense passion for sharing his love of music with others. Nagy will carry on as one of Brandeis’ hidden gems on campus, and you can tune in to experience it every Monday night at 8:30p.m. on WBRS 100.1 FM.

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