Joy Magazine

Man on a Mission

Bob Davy preserves media — and memories
Bob Davy of Ashland transfers old, taped recordings to CD for free.Photo by Jim Craven

It's a hodgepodge of a home recording studio — a turntable gifted from a doctor friend, dusty receivers and cassette decks, a 1970s reel-to-reel recorder all set up in this small, carpeted office around Bob Davy's main brain — his computer and monitor.

This is where the 87-year-old retired public-television producer spends several hours a day (when he's not swimming or at the YMCA or traveling with his lady friend — they're planning an Elderhostel trip to all of Utah's national parks this fall).

On this sunny afternoon, Davy's dubbing a series of "Reader's Digest Music From Films" LPs onto CDs. Davy transfers audio and video material from cassette tapes, LPs and VHS tapes onto CDs and DVDs "… for anybody "… for free.

He started this project after budget cuts killed the arts program he'd voluntarily produced at Jefferson Public Radio for 16 years. Not wanting to lose Davy's expertise, JPR executive director Ron Kramer asked him to dub all 36 years of the station's audiotapes onto CDs. Davy took the challenge and produced 2,500 CDs from his home studio.

His efforts have continued unabated ever since.

"I keep doing this because people keep asking me," says Davy. "A guy just brought me all the operas in the world on LPs; a woman had songs that she'd played on her guitar when she was young; there's a lot of family stuff — stuff that a sound studio just doesn't know what to do with."

He pauses, checks his equipment, says a few words to the monitor and searches through some piles to find the audio Christmas cards he's working on.

"At age 87, I have a lot of fun, and I keep getting calls," he continues. "Usually, what I say is I'll do five free audiocassettes then suggest paying something after that. But I'm not in it for the money; if somebody can't pay, that's fine."

Davy's services include a consultation in his home office and labels on all finished products. He also offers free CDs of anything on his list.

Davy credits his mother for his creativity. "She was very artistic and really helped me become creative," he says, moving from the office into his living room, where a 1914 portrait of her (painted by her uncle, a famous artist of the time named C.P. Townsley) hangs in a corner. "Radio was coming on strong at the time, and I wanted to be part of it. We lived in Santa Ana (Calif.), and my mother would take us up to Hollywood to watch radio broadcasts. I remember watching Walter Winchell doing a news report in a glass booth. One time Jack Benny came in and sat two chairs away from me."

A next-door neighbor had shown Davy a World War I crystal set. Before long, he was messing around and just "got it," he says. He recalls the night "War of the Worlds" rocked the country.

"I must've been in high school, and I was on my crystal set listening to the original broadcast. I knew it was a broadcast because I heard the intro, but Charlie McCarthy's weekly show was on the other station, so most people were listening to that. Then during a commercial, they came over and heard Orson Welles. They say 6 million people heard it, and 1 million people believed it."

One thing led to another for Davy: He got acquainted with ham operators, did some high-school reporting and noticed that people kept saying he had a good voice.

Eventually, Davy earned degrees from University of California, Berkeley, and University of Wisconsin. While working at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, he won a Sylvania Award for a special he produced about due process; an Emmy came his way during his employment at the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting. Davy went on to teach speech and radio courses at University of Oregon before retiring and taking on his volunteer position at JPR.

"I had the time in commercial TV and did some things there, but it was never as rewarding as public television," says Davy, who especially appreciated the "power of collaboration."

To this day, not much has changed — Davy is still producing important material for the people.

To learn more about Davy's services, call him at 541-552-1277.

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