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75 Performers for 75 Years of WERS

Corinne Bailey Rae sits smiling while holding a guitar
Grammy Award winning musician Corinne Bailey Rae played at WERS. (Photo from Ashley Cavalieri, MA ’19)

A LOT, and we mean A LOT, of performers have played in the WERS studios throughout the last 75 years.

After all, WERS started broadcasting on November 2, 1949. Fun fact: WERS began broadcasting from 88.1 and moved to 88.9 in 1950 to increase power to 330 watts. WERS made its home at 130 Beacon Street until 1998, when the new WERS studio on Tremont Street was built in the Ansin Building.

Livingston Taylor plays guitar
Livingston Taylor performing at WERS in 1990. (Photo from Emerson College Archives and Special Collections)
Connie Kaldor performs at the 6th Annual WERS Acoustic Music Festival
Connie Kaldor performs at the 6th Annual WERS Acoustic Music Festival on March 24, 1986. (Photo from Emerson College Archives and Special Collections)
A classic WERS T-shirt listing musical acts that performed in studio. (Photo by Patrick Murray ’93)

Through the years, musicians of almost every genre imaginable came into the WERS studios to perform. From reggae artists like Shabba Ranks to folk/country singers like Willie Nelson, jazz musicians like Branford Marsalis and teen heartthrobs New Kids on the Block. Pick a genre, and someone has plucked strings, tickled the ivories, blew a horn, and sang their heart out for WERS listeners.

A photo of the Pixies that says they played live at Emerson in January 1987

In celebration of 75 years of WERS, and Boston’s 617 Day, which spotlights local talent, we asked the Emerson community to provide who they enjoyed hearing perform at WERS. By no means is this an official list, and it’s in no particular order (we don’t even have dates for some acts), it’s just an amazing array of some of the musicians to grace WERS.

Who did we miss? Email and we’ll make the list 75+ performers.

Branford Marsalis at WERS with students
Branford Marsalis played at WERS in 1997. (Photo from Emerson College Archives and Special Collections)

An * denotes the performer(s) are/were New England-based musician(s) or got their start in Boston.

  1. Pixies * performed at WERS in 1987
  2.  Willie Nelson performed with the acoustic duo Folk Uke (his daughter Amy, and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter, Cathy Guthrie)
  3. Nirvana never played at WERS, but was interviewed on September 24, 1991 by Kerri Savage ’91 and David Gwiazdowski ’92
  4. The Spin Doctors 
  5. Dizzy Gillespie came in for an interview at WERS
  6. Dave Matthews Band 
  7. Branford Marsalis performed in 1997
  8. Jewel
  9. Vance Joy performed in 2014
  10. Steve Earle performed in 2017
  11. Ice Cube visited the WERS studios for an interview in 2013
  12. Guster * performed in 2015
  13. Bon Iver 
  14. The Revivalists performed in 2012
  15. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings 
  16. Regina Spektor performed in 2008/2009
  17. Belly* performed in 2018
  18. The Kooks 
  19. Daphne Willis 
  20. Acoustic Junction
  21. Blues Traveler
  22. Widespread Panic
  23. Little Stevie
  24. Carlos Santana
  25. Suzanne Vega
  26. Letters to Cleo *
  27. Mary Chapin Carpenter
  28. Shawn Colvin
  29. The Cars *
  30. Tracy Bonham *
  31. Bela Fleck & Paul McCandless
  32. Alison Krauss
  33. Aimee Mann*
  34. Dar Williams*
  35. Tracy Chapman*
  36. New Kids on the Block *
  37. Hootie & The Blowfish
  38. Donny Osmond
  39. Stanley Jordan
  40. Tom Rush*
  41. Jane Siberry
  42. Yellowjackets
  43. Bill Morrissey*
  44. The Dillinger Escape Plan
  45. Knut
  46. Haste
  47. Cephalic Carnage
  48. Julianna Hatfield *
  49. Jade Bird
  50. Corinne Bailey Rae
  51. Buffalo Tom *
  52. Air Traffic Controller *
  53. Lori McKenna *
  54. Michael Hedges
  55. Tom Chapin
  56. David Clayton Thomas
  57. Rory Block
  58. Mary Lou Lord *
  59. Ani DiFranco
  60. Aztec Two Step *
  61. The Lemonheads *
  62. Human Sexual Response *
  63. Shabba Ranks
  64. Livingston Taylor*
  65. Ellis Paul *
  66. Shockra *
  67. Our Lady Peace
  68. Medeski Martin & Wood
  69. Sam Kiniger
  70. Onyx
  71. Mr. Lif *
  72. Gillian Welch
  73. Kenny Hadley Big Band *
  74. Vampire Weekend
  75. Joshua Redman
  76. Taj Mahal (former WERS Music Director and Program Director Joel Schwelling ’76 let us know about this one)
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