Live from the Underground

A History of College Radio

By Katherine Rye Jewell

Live from the Underground

480 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 2 tables

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7725-5
    Published: December 2023
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7620-3
    Published: December 2023

Paperback Available December 2023, but pre-order your copy today!

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
Bands like R.E.M., U2, Public Enemy, and Nirvana found success as darlings of college radio, but the extraordinary influence of these stations and their DJs on musical culture since the 1970s was anything but inevitable. As media deregulation and political conflict over obscenity and censorship transformed the business and politics of culture, students and community DJs turned to college radio to defy the mainstream—and they ended up disrupting popular music and commercial radio in the process. In this first history of US college radio, Katherine Rye Jewell reveals that these eclectic stations in major cities and college towns across the United States owed their collective cultural power to the politics of higher education as much as they did to upstart bohemian music scenes coast to coast.

Jewell uncovers how battles to control college radio were about more than music—they were an influential, if unexpected, front in the nation’s culture wars. These battles created unintended consequences and overlooked contributions to popular culture that students, DJs, and listeners never anticipated. More than an ode to beloved stations, this book will resonate with both music fans and observers of the politics of culture.

About the Author

Katherine Rye Jewell is professor of history at Fitchburg State University.

For more information about Katherine Rye Jewell, visit the Author Page.


“Jewell . . . chronicles the rise, fall, and legacy of college radio in this sprawling and richly detailed account. . . . [Live from the Undeground] offers both an animated homage to college radio as a microcosm of American culture and reassurance for readers that the medium isn’t dead. It’s a fascinating deep dive.”—Publishers Weekly

"Detailing the evolution of what was once an extracurricular school activity into a daring pursuit of generation-defining programming, Live from the Underground vividly places you in the control room of a college radio station, behind the mixing board and turntables, ready, with teen spirit, to change the world with every spin of a new record."—Bill Stephney, Broad Market Media

"Without college radio, indie labels like Sub Pop would not have thrived, and bands like Nirvana might not have gained initial traction. Katherine Rye Jewell has offered us a uniquely valuable reference that covers an impactful but overlooked moment in US cultural and musical history."—Bruce Pavitt, Sub Pop Records

"Katherine Rye Jewell has given us what will be the history of college radio. Animated by the voices of those who lived this story, Live from the Underground clearly and energetically gives a sense of the vibrancy and diversity of college radio and the campuses where it broadcasts."—Michael Stamm, author of Sound Business: Newspapers, Radio, and the Politics of New Media

"A former DJ herself, Jewell's name belongs among several historians whose recent work on music history draws on their own experience of cultural production and fandom, including Grace Elizabeth Hale and Kevin Mattson. Bringing together histories of the music industry, the culture wars, and university politics to expose the contradictions of the college radio culture, Live from the Underground redefines this history."—Elena Razlogova, author of The Listener's Voice: Early Radio and the American Public