Welcome to The Midnight Special, one of the most enduring of syndicated folk music radio programs, available through the WFMT Radio Network. The Midnight Special was established in Chicago on WFMT-FM in 1953, and went national in 1971. It has stayed current through decades of change, rich in tradition and history while retaining its timeliness, delighting listeners throughout the world with gentle irreverence or touching them with candid observation.
In September, 2020, the Midnight Special welcomes a new host—Marilyn Rea Beyer! A seasoned broadcaster, educator, writer, poet and storyteller, Marilyn was on-air midday host and music director for Boston’s WUMB from 1994-2014. She has also taught speech communication and writing for the media, among her many pursuits. “I have loved The Midnight Special since my teens,” she says, and looks forward to find “new ways to envision this legendary program that has for so long been a beacon to listeners.”
In 1953, the late Mike Nichols, (then a WFMT announcer who went on to become one of the most respected stage and film directors), developed The Midnight Special as a showcase for recorded folk music. Over the years, The Midnight Special has evolved into an eclectic mixture of song and story that attracts not only a loyal following, but also new, younger listeners with each broadcast. They hear an incredibly diverse selection of artists, from the traditional to the contemporary: Pete Seeger and The Weavers, the New Lost City Ramblers, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie, Mike Cross, Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown, Alison Krauss and Anais Mitchell, to name a few, along with comedy from the likes of Bob Newhart and Mitchell & Webb. Material comes from an unrivaled library of over 13,000 CDs, 5,000 LPs and 55 years of live concert and studio recordings that began with Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy in a concert that became a Folkways album.
Rich Warren, host of the program until September 2020, has hosted folk programs for over 40 years, including over 35 years with The Midnight Special, while remaining committed to seeking out new artists and their music. He attends the international and regional Folk Alliance International conferences as well as other folk music events in search of tomorrow’s songwriters and performers. He studied folk music in college with an acknowledged authority, the late Archie Green. Warren also wrote for Sing Out, the national folk music magazine, for 20 years. He was named “Broadcaster of the Year” by the Folk Alliance International Conference in 2008.
Thousands of traditional and contemporary folk performers and comedians fill this two-hour spontaneous entertainment program that we call The Midnight Special. Original, offbeat, and always entertaining, The Midnight Special offers listeners a program of music, madness and mayhem – a lively potpourri of folk, Celtic and bluegrass, show and novelty tunes, and hilarious comedy routines.
The Midnight Special often airs live performances recorded by WFMT over the past 60 years that are not available commercially, including well-known artists appearing at Chicago-area clubs, the University of Chicago Folk Festivals, and the comedy revues of Chicago’s famed Second City troupe. Tomorrow’s folk stars are on The Midnight Special this week!
A photograph of Marilyn Rea Beyer is available upon request.