Garrett Stack

To see Garrett's American Jukebox ®  and Broadway Bound playlists, please click here

To read Garrett's Theater Reviews click here

WMNR broadcaster Garrett Stack can be heard Saturdays from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, alternating his two shows: American Jukebox® and Broadway Bound. Garrett has also been a WMNR theater critic since 1990.

Here's a closer look at American Jukebox®...

My love of popular music goes back to my early boyhood and to the radio that was a constant companion in our house and car and on the beach, thanks to my mother. As a teen I couldn’t get enough of weekly countdowns on WABC with Cousin Brucie, Peter Tripp on WMGM and Richard Ward Fatherly on WICC.

The fascination with rock, pop and soul continued into the 70s when I became a jukebox programmer in New Haven, CT. It was so cool to actually open jukeboxes, place records in the slots, insert new title labels, watch the mechanical parts all work together and hear the music. The dream job.


The coin-operated jukebox was invented in the late 1930s and enjoyed its heyday in the 1940s through the 1970s. Starting out with just 24 selections (12 78-RPM records), jukeboxes eventually had 200 choices (100 45-RPM records). With the advent of the compact disc in the 1980s, jukeboxes became bloated with thousands of selections and to me, lost their appeal. Since jukeboxes play the nearest song to the one “now playing” on the playlist, and not in the order they were selected, with thousands of choices your song might take hours to come around – long after you’ve left.


Today in many bars, like The Hideaway Inn in Catskill, NY, the jukebox has been replaced by a link to a server in “the cloud.” For a considerable price you can hear virtually any song in the world. Once selected, the song becomes part of that bar’s playlist and is available later at a reduced price.

Starting on December 30, 2006 with the premier edition of American Jukebox, and continuing today, when I program the show I think back and my mind recalls places, sounds, events and seasons when AM radio was king, and Seeburg was queen. Often one song or thought leads me to another and suddenly there’s a theme or a list of favorites that I can’t wait to share with listeners.


Sometimes shows program themselves. The sudden death of a legend, like Lesley Gore recently, calls for our attention. Or, the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965 demands remembering. Music as varied as pop, rock and soul reflects the times. It’s the fingerprint of an era.


You won’t find a theme or playlist in the WMNR Program Guide telling you what you’ll hear on a particular edition of American Jukebox. There’s a good reason. Like some other broadcasters, I can’t predict what events or moods will shape the program. Even the weather can play into how a show sounds.


Come behind-the-scenes and learn how you hear what you hear at 4:00 on a Saturday.

My radio workday starts about 9:00 am. I check events of the week, or of the day, and see if any of those jump out and say, “do me.” If they do, I first remember my experiences with the music related to that event. Then I check my personal database that contains 35,000 titles to get a proposed list of possibilities. The list is then sorted by year so I represent a cross section of the American Jukebox radio show era: 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I immediately dismiss some titles because I simply don’t like them – popular or not. Others may be overplayed, because I like them so much. They’re dismissed too. (My database includes the date(s) I played a song.)


With the list narrowing I start making decisions based on various factors like tempo, artist, recording quality, perfect match for theme, surprise factor, and time-length. As songs get the green light I pull the CDs and print their individual data sheets that contain the basic information you hear me talk about: title, artist, year, chart position if applicable, writer(s), and other interesting facts. On the air, I often add more personal thoughts off the top of my head.


If it’s a theme-driven program, I try to include a “Fun Test” song that is related to that theme as well as a related “Behind The #1” feature. I usually finish my research, organizing and planning at 3:00 pm. and purposely have more song choices than I have time for on the air. I fill up my canvas tote bag with CDs, theme song, program liners, “Fun Test” and “Behind the #1” features, data sheets for each song, MacBook Pro for email, music beds, blank recording media to record the show off-air, and head to the WMNR studios in Monroe, CT. At at 3:50 I set up and we’re together from 4:00 to 6:00.


The work continues on Sundays when I commit to writing the exact playlist used the day before and publish it on WMNR’s home page with a link to “Garrett Stack’s Music Playlists.” Since last September, more work continues as I edit and tweak the show that was recorded off-air the day before. The previous day’s program is uploaded for all to hear at any time online. Those free programs can be heard at Public Radio Exchange, Just put American Jukebox in the search box and up they’ll come. Choose, click and play. (Tip: Launch the “small pop-up player” and you can go about browsing the internet without losing the program link.)

It’s all for you, with a lot of personal satisfaction for me: six hours of prep on Saturday, two hours of on-air, and another five hours on Sunday. Thanks for coming behind the scenes, and thanks for listening to American Jukebox.

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