John Diliberto is a nationally published writer and award-winning radio producer who has spent many years exploring and exposing new music. He currently is the host and producer of "Echoes," a nightly music soundscape on Public Radio International heard on over 170 public radio stations.
Diliberto was born in Worcester, Mass., and grew up in Tewksbury, Mass. A "child of the British invasion," he remembers his first music awakening coming with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Animals, Kinks and Zombies. By the time he hit junior high, he had two passions: Marvel comics and "underground" rock. When his parents got a console-style stereo, he remembers putting on The Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow," lying with his head beneath the console where the bass speakers were located. Even today, he is always found with music playing nearby — with the possible exception of during scuba diving!
Inspired by Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson and The Blues Project's Andy Kuhlberg, Diliberto began playing flute in 9th grade. He had to give it up at the end of the school year because he would not join the marching band. He enjoyed marching music, but it was too difficult to change from his football uniform into a band uniform at halftime. That nice soothing voice listeners enjoy belongs to a former marauding All-Conference defensive center for the Tewksbury Redmen.
"It wasn't your usual jock mentality team," he recalls. "We'd have football practice until 6 p.m., and then we'd bomb into Boston or Lowell to catch Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Yes and King Crimson." His first-ever concert featured The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Soft Machine and the Eire Apparent at the Framingham Music Tent in Framingham, MA.
In the meantime, John had gotten a flute and started learning on his own, picking up licks from Rahsaan Roland Kirk and trying to make a flute sound like a distorted guitar. His football playing earned him a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. That's when things really began to happen. In his sophomore year, he got involved with the campus radio station, WXPN/Philadelphia. It wasn't long before he was hosting "Diaspar," a high energy show that included space music, avant-garde, jazz, and new wave sounds.
In 1975 John created "Star's End," a "journey to the outer limits of your aural universe," a seamless soundscape of ethereal music. "Star's End" is still on the air and in the same time slot, Sunday morning 1–5 a.m.
Upon leaving the University in 1976, Diliberto worked in various record stores while starting to write for the local alternative paper the Drummer." His editor was David Fricke, now music editor of "Rolling Stone." In 1979 he began writing reviews for "Audio" magazine. He continued hosting shows at WXPN, and in 1981 he and the station's music director, Kimberly Haas, began producing programs for national distribution. Their first was a five-part series on the electronic underground called "Electronic Minstrels," half-hour documentaries profiling David Borden, Helen Thorington (now executive producer of New American Radio), Woz, The Ghostwriters and Michael William Gilbert.
More documentaries followed — "The Mythic Worlds of Sun Ra," "Bird Flight: A Portrait of Charlie Parker" and "Edgar Varese's Liberation of Sound." The latter was a runner-up for the prestigious Armstrong Award. All were funded by The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.
Then came "Totally Wired: Artists in Electronic Sound." Originally conceived as a 26-part series, it evolved into a weekly documentary series, highlighting artists working at the cutting edges of music. In all, 88 "Totally Wired" programs were produced from 1982–89. The series has won the Armstrong Award, the Ohio State Award and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters Golden Reel Award.
"Totally Wired" ended when "Echoes" began in October 1989.