WMBR operates out of the basement of Walker Memorial. Credit: WMBR

If it has been awhile since you listened to WMBR, MIT’s campus-based broadcast service, this is a suggestion to tune your radio dial to 88.1 FM if you’re near Cambridge, or direct your browser to wmbr.org if you’re anywhere else. The station continues to provide a dazzling array of aural treats, everything from trance/dance to free speech radio news.

Today, meet Joan Hathaway, WMBR DJ and longtime host of the Three Ring Circus, a show that airs weekly on Friday afternoons from 4-5:30 pm ET.


What kind of show is the Three Ring Circus?

JH: Three Ring Circus (3RC) is a multi-genre music program heavy on roots music (Americana, Blues, Country, R&B, Rock and more). I like to say “playing music to make your soul sway, your hips shake, and your heart break.” Kind of your personal music assistant for roots and rock music. In the last year, I’ve been booking guests almost weekly and mostly from Boston’s local roots scenes which is full of amazing talent.

What distinguishes it from other programs on WMBR?

JH: WMBR has over 70 programs, most of them music with a handful of public affairs programming. The music shows are heavy on indie rock, punk rock, 60s rock, jazz, with a smattering of R&B, electronica, ambient, and garage shows. We all have some crossover with each other, but 3RC’s focus on roots music and the local roots and rock scene is unique. Additionally, live musical performances on 3RC is only surpassed by Pipeline, WMBR’s weekly live local music program.

How and when did you get involved with WMBR?

JH: 1991. I was a production intern at WBCN. I hit the glass ceiling, so of speak, and was looking for a place that would allow me to be more creative. Then, WBCN DJ and former WMBR DJ, Albert O suggested I get involved with WMBR. My first show was a 1/2 hour weekly news parody show called “Have You Heard the News Lately? (HYHTNL?)” Three Ring Circus came a season later and HYHTNL? was retired in 1994. I worked with some really funny people on that show, but man what a lot of work.

What do you like about your work?

JH: I feel a huge sense of pride when local bands get traction outside of Boston. Local bands Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles, Girls Guns & Glory, and Eilen Jewell come to mind.

Also, the cross pollination that the local roots community has with each other brings about musical introductions I may have missed in the weekly CD deliveries (there’s so much!). For example, a Reva Williams performance at a Sarah Borges show introduced me to her band Gretel [HEAR RECORDING, SEE PHOTOS BELOW]. Gretel’s appearance on 3RC has me very interested in Melissa Harper’s solo efforts (Melissa is the other singer in Gretel).

Of course an appearance on 3RC does not make or break musical careers, but I like to think the program is one of the many links between artist and audience. A link that is unique and a joy for artist, audience, and myself. I’m grateful that MIT continues to support original programming like 3RC as well as all the others. You’ll be hard pressed to find the variety and quality, elsewhere.

What’s coming up?

JH: January 15th Christian McNeill performance/interview (with Melissa Harper of Gretel coincidentally) at 5pm

January 22nd Barrence Whitfield plays guest DJs and brings gems and deep cuts from his personal collection 4:00-5:30pm


Learn more about Hathaway’s show, view playlists, download archives, and subscribe to the 3RC email list at wmbr.org/circus.

A recording of Gretel’s live studio appearance (mentioned in the interview above) is accessible here. Also, check out a few of the beautiful photos that Hathaway snapped during the performance (below).

Gretel live on WMBR's 3 Ring Circus, Credit: Joan Hathaway

Credit: Joan Hathaway

Credit: Joan Hathaway