First Sunday Gospel program mines musical memories

If you can't sleep or you rise early, there's Gospel on the radio the first Sunday of every month, courtesy of aficionado Bob Marovich.

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By Robert Felton

Fans of Gospel music have a new reason to rejoice on Sunday mornings.

Gospel Memories, a monthly radio program on the Loyola University-based station WLUW 88.7 FM gives listeners an opportunity to hear gospel music from the early 1920s through to the middle 1980s, and provides valuable commentary on many gospel artists that time has since forgotten.

Bob Marovich, host of the program has been researching and collecting Black Gospel for over 30 years.

"I've collected over 2,100 singles, 45s and cassettes of Gospel music because of my immense love for the artistry involved in making it," said Marovich. "However, it didn't make sense for me to keep it all to myself; I felt it should be shared. Doing this radio program provided me the perfect chance."

But you have to be either a night owl or an early riser to hear it. The program runs the first Sunday of every month from 2 to 6:30 a.m.

"I generally will play the song and afterward provide a brief excerpt about the artist's history," said Marovich. "I play predominantly '50s and '60s gospel, as these are the eras that I feel many listeners may not be as familiar with."

Every quarter hour, Marovich brings out a record "From the Vault" which spotlights recordings made in the early 1900s.

"One of the earliest records I've played is a very rare recording from the Standard Quartet from 1893," said Marovich. "They are a wonderful, yet little known gospel group from the early century."

However, who is listening to the program at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning?

The listeners of this radio program usually fall into two categories," said Marovich. "They are either people who are old enough to remember many of these early pioneering Gospel acts and therefore have the appreciation for the music's cultural impact and artistry, or they are people from outside of state who just happen to be fans of the music."

Marovich adds that Gospel music was especially popular in England where the first true gospel discography was released in the late 1980s. Currently, this guide is out of print in the states.

"The station server is not nearly as powerful as I'd like it to be, but many people who listen to the show do so via the on-line feed and wind up recording it anyway," Marovich noted.

Despite being a member of the Catholic faith, Marovich said his religious ties play very little role in his motivation to do the program.

"I am Catholic, but I do no sermonizing on the show," he says. "My show is about recognizing the artistic influence of Gospel music; however, if people feel that the show can also play a role in their own spirituality, I consider that a bonus."

Marovich rarely plays anything later than 1980s.

"Recently, I did a 'Technology in Gospel' segment on the show in which I played songs that used metaphors reflecting technological advancements like an atom bomb or a telephone to describe the Lord," said Marovich. "This was present in many Gospel songs released in the 1950s, as television and telephones allowed songwriters to describe God in new ways."

Bob Marovich was raised in northwest Indiana and acknowledges that his love for Gospel music is unlikely, given the fact that he heard little, if any, growing up. His fascination with the music didn't fully blossom until 1981 when he was in college and heard the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Gospel Choir for the first time.

"I had always been very interested in black music," recalled Marovich, "in particular R&B, Blues and Soul, but when I first heard this group, it had an enormous impact on me."

This interest prompted Marovich, who works at Loyola, to contact Craig Kois, station manager of WLUW and Shaun Campbell program manager of the station and propose the Gospel program. His extensive knowledge of Gospel music and previous experience in radio allowed him to receive the green light to do the program in May 2001.

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