I am very sorry to report that Henrietta Yurchenco, my friend and co-creator of Down Home Radio, died on the morning of Monday Dec. 10th at the age of 91. Although she had not been feeling well for some time, her death was never-the-less sudden and shocking. She was an extraordinary person, incredibly full of life, energy and love for people and for music. Henrietta leaves behind untold numbers of friends, devoted students and people who she influenced in any number of ways. The value of her work documenting and promoting the indigenous cultures of Mexico, the United States and many other parts of the world is extraordinary.
The Down Home Radio project was not Henrietta’s first time around with radio, it was more like her fourth or fifth, and yet she approached it with all the zeal of someone a quarter her age. Henrietta started her radio career in late 1939 as a producer at WNYC here in New York. She produced a series of programs featuring American folk music and music from around the world, and was also the producer of Leadbelly’s radio program. She worked closely with Leadbelly preparing the scripts for the show and doing whatever else producers do! She arranged for Pete Seeger’s first radio appearance as well as Woody Guthrie’s first radio appearance in New York. It was not easy to find foreign ethnic bands at that time or even to get recordings, so in order to get talent for her world music radio shows she would hit the streets, casing ethnic community houses and restaurants, union halls and other places to find musicians to put on the air. Henrietta was back on the air for a short time in the late 50’s on WBAI, and then for almost all of the 1960’s on WNYC where she did a show called “Adventures in Folk Music.” On this program she did the first, or one of the first, radio interviews with Bob Dylan. Name almost any folk musician (and many “non-folk” musicians and other artists) of the last 60 years and Henrietta had them on a radio show at one time or another. That or they came to one of her famous parties, or appeared at a concert she produced or all of the above.