As CEO of Sirius XM, Joseph P. Clayton ’71 was in charge of a satellite radio system with more than 50 million listeners.
But as a Bellarmine freshman in 1968, he could be found weekly in a tiny office in the Administration Building Tower, spinning the hits on a low-power station that could be heard only on campus—all eight buildings of it.
The Bourbon Hour was broadcast on Bellarmine Campus Radio “on a Wednesday or Thursday—I can’t really remember, to be honest—from 6 to 7 p.m., sometime around there,” said Mr. Clayton, now a Bellarmine trustee. “I played the songs of the day—Motown stuff, I liked a lot—and talked about where the mixers were for the coming weekend, whether at Nazareth in Bardstown or Ursuline… even some of the nurses had mixers at some of the hospitals around town.”
And, as a native of Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World, he also talked about bourbon. “My father was a liquor retailer, and later on I worked in distilleries in the summer and on holidays. I knew a little bit about bourbon, but not like they do today. Back in those days you drank whatever was cheapest.”
Bellarmine Campus Radio ran on carrier current, a form of transmission that uses AC electrical wiring to send a low-power AM signal to a relatively small area, such as a building or a group of buildings. According to Hobby Broadcaster.net, carrier-current transmission was especially popular during the 1960s and ’70s, when equipment manufactured by a company called LPB Inc. allowed colleges and universities to have campus radio stations without an FCC license. Carrier-current systems are still used at drive-in movie theaters and for traveler’s information systems.
“I didn’t know anything about the technical stuff; I just had fun putting on the headphones and talking into the microphone,” Mr. Clayton said. “I still do. When I was at Sirius, they humored me by letting me do some of the interstitials on the Bluegrass station. ‘Welcome to Bluegrass Junction – Channel 61. Let’s do some pickin’!’ That’s me.”
At the time, though, Mr. Clayton wasn’t looking for a career in communications. “It was just for the fun.” He’s not even sure how he found out about the campus radio station. “I think one of the other dormies [in Newman Hall] listened to it.” Occasionally, Mr. Clayton said, his roommate, Ron Cregier ’71 of Chicago, would come on air and help him out.
Mr. Clayton, who started out majoring in Accounting, quickly moved to Business Administration. After graduating from Bellarmine, he earned his MBA from Indiana University. From there, he became a trainee at RCA in New York, he said, “and it just took off from there.” Over a 42-year career in in the consumer electronics, telecommunications and satellite communications industries, most recently as the president and CEO of DISH Network, he was instrumental in the discovery and implementation of consumer electronic innovations including the VCR, DVDs, satellite TV, HDTV and satellite radio.
Bellarmine Campus Radio, meanwhile, like other carrier-current university stations, soon faded out.
Today, Bellarmine Radio streams 24/7 bellarmineradio.com/, meaning that in theory, anyone in the world can listen to it at any time. It features music from the 1990s and today, as well as local artists; covers Bellarmine athletics and events; and sponsors concerts.
No longer confined to a hole in the wall in the Horrigan Tower, the 20 or so staffers and DJs broadcast from spacious digs in the School of Communication building. That building was renamed in February of this year. Its new name? Joseph P. Clayton Hall.
Carla Carlton | firstname.lastname@example.org