FUV Essential Artists: Staff Picks

It comes down to this: Who are the musical artists you wouldn't want to live without? We asked you in our Essential Artists Listener Poll, so we made our staff members list theirs.

Scroll down or jump to:
Claudia Marshall | Julianne Welby | Darren DeVivo | Dennis Elsas | Corny O'Connell | Rita Houston | Russ Borris | John Platt | Pete Fornatale | Ben Jones | Rich Conaty | Ceol na nGael | Kathleen Biggins | Bob Sherman | Cara Tobin | Maria Watson | Janeen Shaitelman | Laura Fedele | Alisa Ali | Joey Delvecchio | Shari Rosen Ascher

Blog discussions: Underrated Artists | Overrated Artists

Claudia Marshall

FUV Weekday Morning Host

  • Django Rheinhardt
  • Billie Holiday
  • The Beatles
  • Wilco
  • James Taylor
  • Paul Simon
  • Joe Strummer
  • Mavis Staples
  • Neil Young
  • Stevie Wonder

Most Underrated: Anders Osborne
Most Overrated: Bruce Springsteen
Claudia says: You listeners have changed my mind about Springsteen being overrated! Now I have to select somebody else!
Essential New Artist: Feist

Julianne Welby

News & Public Affairs Director/FUV Weekday Morning Host

  • Beck
  • James Brown
  • Johnny Cash
  • Ray Charles
  • The Pixies
  • Radiohead
  • Simon and Garfunkel
  • Tom Waits
  • Gillian Welch
  • Wilco

Most Underrated: The Essex Green
Most Overrated: Rush
Essential New Artist: The Arcade Fire

Darren DeVivo

FUV Weekday Host

  • The Beatles, together and solo
    If you know me, this is absolutely no surprise! Keep in mind that I grew up in the '70s, so my initial exposure was to the four as individual artists, with an immediate attraction to Paul McCartney and Wings. In fact, I was a Wings fan first! I then worked my way backwards to the Beatles as a group.
  • Pink Floyd
    The funny thing is that there was a time I hated Pink Floyd - when The Wall was at its commercial peak. As that buzz quieted down, I became intrigued. I borrowed copies of The Wall, Wish You Were Here, Animals and even Obscured By Clouds (on 8 track) and I became hooked. By 1982, when the movie "Pink Floyd The Wall" came out, and a year later when The Final Cut was released, I was absolutely obsessed.
  • Steely Dan
    There weren't many 12-year-olds into Steely Dan, but I was! Totally blown away by the television commercial for the 1977 album Aja, intrigued by strange and exotic titles like "Aja", "Peg" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and really curious about those strange album covers, I became a Steely Dan addict. For my money, they have yet to release a bad album.
  • Chicago
    If you grew up in the '70s and listened to AM radio (WABC!), you knew Chicago. They were the soundtrack to my youth. When I hear those songs, I go back to my days growing up in the Bronx and feel specific moods that remain vivid today. I still remember hearing their new, comeback hit "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" on the radio, on the afternoon of my first date with my first girlfriend! I drifted away after Peter Cetera's departure in 1985, but have grown a bit more tolerant of their most recent material.
  • Santana
    I am not sure what exactly pulled me towards the band fronted by guitarist Carlos Santana, but I am sure my father had a lot to do with it. My Dad liked Latin music and was a fan of Tito Puente. Dad also had a very eclectic record collection, and in there was Santana's first album and the live album by Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles! By the early '80s, a friend played the album Marathon in his car, and my cousin sang the praises of Carlos' solo album The Swing Of Delight, and I became a follower. I will say, though, I am not terribly thrilled with the recent collaboration albums. The last album that really captured my attention was the 1993 live album Sacred Fire - Live In South America.
  • King Crimson
    I'm either four or five years old and I am at an older cousin's house in Bayville, Long Island. I'm in his room with his friends. They turn out the lights. It's pitch black. Suddenly I hear the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's frightening song "Fire" been played on the record player (you know, the song that starts with that demonic voice yelling, "I am the god of hellfire and I bring you... Fire!")! A flashlight is turned on and it shines on that screaming face on the cover of King Crimson's first album In The Court Of The Crimson King! I ran screaming downstairs to my Mommy, scarred for life. Fast forward to 1981. I'm 16, It's late at night and I'm flipping through the FM band on the clock radio. I stumble upon this cool, overnight voice on a new station I've discovered - WFUV. He's talking about King Crimson. Their reunion album is called Discipline, and he plays an entire side. Cool! When I started working at WFUV in 1983, I was obsessed with our vinyl record library. I spent enormous amounts of time in there, studying records, learning about albums and artists I had only read about in the past. That included King Crimson. I studied every one of their albums (even 1971's Lizard!). Still scarred for life!
  • Pat Metheny (Group)
    I was familiar with the Pat Metheny Group from articles and advertisements in Musician magazine (R.I.P.). In 1984, I was a newbie at WFUV when First Circle came out. We weren't much into playing jazz artists, but the song "The First Circle" went into "heavy" overnight rotation. As I have said numerous times already, I became completely obsessed and I am a fan of all of Pat's work - solo, his collaborations and, of course, the PMG!
  • Tom Waits
    It was a right-left combo that hit me in 1985 - Tom's brilliant Rain Dogs was released around the same time as a collection of his 1973-1980 recordings for Asylum Records (Anthology Of Tom Waits). I was introduced to both sides of Tom at the same time. So many of Tom's songs ended up being the soundtrack of late night's with my friends during the second half of the '80s, nights spent in hole-in-the-wall bars in the Bronx, drinking too much Wild Turkey and Old Crow. Too many nights that started with a quest to take over the town, only to end up in the bottom of a glass. The songs of Tom Waits were always in the air. They still are.
  • Elton John
    Elton John produced incredible work at a dizzying rate during the 1970s. I started slowly, with Greatest Hits (like everybody), Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, Rock Of The Westies. Later I dug back and found that no artist has ever produced as much incredible material in 9 years as Elton John did between 1969 and 1978 - some 15 albums, all of them masterpieces. And today, Elton is producing some of his best albums in years (Songs From The West Coast, Peachtree Road and The Captain & The Kid).
  • Miles Davis, John Coltrane
    I apologize for combining these two, but I tend to think of them and listen to them at the same time. I also learned of these artists and studied their recordings at similar times as well. It was a jazz course that I took at Fordham University that opened my mind to all things Miles and Coltrane. I soaked up those classic records - Miles' Kind Of Blue, Coltrane's Giant Steps, etc. But it was their left of center, extreme musical statements that really blew me away. Late period Coltrane, wild and spiritual, including A Love Supreme, and the rock/funk/jazz monster Miles, In A Silent Way.

Most Underrated: Badfinger, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Frampton, Chicago, Al Stewart, Robin Trower, Del Amitri, The Bee Gees, Roy Buchanan, Ringo Starr
Most Overrated: Elvis Presley, James Brown, Jeff Beck, Aretha Franklin, The Kinks, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams

Dennis Elsas

FUV Weekday Host

  • The Beatles
  • The Beach Boys
  • Chuck Berry
  • CSNY
  • Bob Dylan
  • Carole King
  • Joni Mitchell
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • The Who

Essential New Artist: Possibles - Josh Ritter and KT Tunstall

Corny O'Connell

FUV Weekday Host

  • The Beatles
  • The Clash
  • Miles Davis
  • Bob Dylan
  • Aretha Franklin
  • The Grateful Dead
  • Bob Marley
  • Van Morrison
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Lucinda Williams

Most Underrated: Nick Lowe
Most Overrated: Patti Smith
Essential New Artist: Josh Rouse

Rita Houston

Music Director/The Whole Wide World Host

  • The Beatles
  • Ray Charles
  • Bob Dylan
  • Rickie Lee Jones
  • Paul Weller
  • Wilco
  • Talking Heads
  • Elvis Costello
  • Frank Sinatra
  • David Bowie
  • Indigo Girls
  • Stevie Wonder

Most Underrated: Los Lobos, Greg Brown, and Alejandro Escovedo
Most Overrated: The Beach Boys
Essential New Artist: Gomez and Bright Eyes

Russ Borris

Assistant Music Director, FUV Weekday host

In alphabetical order:

  • Black Sabbath
  • Johnny Cash
  • Depeche Mode
  • Neil Diamond
  • Nirvana
  • R.E.M.
  • The Smiths/Morrissey
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Tom Waits
  • Weird Al Yankovic

Most Underrated: Dwight Yoakam
Most Overrated: Eric Clapton
Essential New Artist: The Decemberists

John Platt

Communications Director/Sunday Breakfast Host

This is an excruciating exercise, but I figured out how to do it! They say if you want to see what your values are, look at your checkbook. So if you want to know who your essential artists are, look at your iPod. This is what it told me:

  • The Beatles
  • Jackson Browne
  • Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer
  • Rosanne Cash
  • Bob Dylan
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Paul Simon
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Stevie Wonder

(Apologies to The Beach Boys, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, Rolling Stones, etc.)

Most Underrated: Susan Werner
Most Overrated: Citizen Cope
Essential New Artist: Sonya Kitchell

Pete Fornatale

Host of Mixed Bag

  • Bob Dylan
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Van Morrison
  • Elvis Presley
  • Simon and Garfunkel
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Suzanne Vega
  • Brian Wilson
  • Neil Young

Most Underrated: Aztec Two-Step, Kenny Rankin
Most Overrated: Rufus Wainwright
Essential New Artist: Josh Mania! Joplin, Ritter, Rouse

Ben Jones

Music Department

In alphabetical order:

  • Big Star
  • Minor Threat
  • My Bloody Valentine
  • Pavement
  • Prince
  • Radiohead
  • Talking Heads
  • The Replacements
  • The Velvet Underground
  • Wu-Tang Clan

Most Underrated: KISS (it's hard to explain to those who do not understand the power of thunder)
Most Overrated: James Taylor
Essential New Artist: Built To Spill

Rich Conaty

The Big Broadcast Host

  • Louis Armstrong
  • Boswell Sisters
  • Bing Crosby
  • Cliff Edwards
  • Duke Ellington Orchestra
  • McKinney's Cotton Pickers
  • Ray Noble Orchestra
  • Ethel Waters
  • Ted Weems Orchestra
  • Paul Whiteman Orchestra

Most Underrated: Jimmy Dorsey
Most Overrated: Billie Holiday
Essential New Artist: Frank Sinatra

Bob Sherman

Woody's Children Host

  • Joan Baez
  • Tom Chapin
  • Judy Collins
  • Woody & Arlo Guthrie
  • Christine Lavin
  • Peter Paul and Mary
  • Odetta
  • Tom Paxton
  • Pete & Peggy Seeger
  • The Weavers

Ceol na nGael

The Music of the Irish

  • The Chieftains
  • The Clancy Brothers
  • The Dubliners
  • Solas
  • Lunasa
  • Paddy Reilly
  • The WolfeTones
  • The Pogues
  • The Saw Doctors
  • Dolores Keane

Kathleen Biggins

Essential Irish Traditional Artists

  • Altan
    Formed by husband and wife duo Frankie Kennedy, from Belfast, on flute and Mairead ni Mhaonaigh, from Donegal, on fiddle, Altan plays Irish traditional music from the North with equal parts grace and spitfire. The band carried on after Frankie's death in 1994, and has been going strong ever since, with the duo fiddling of Ciaran Tourish and Mairead, Dermot Byrne on accordion, Ciaran Curran on Bozouki and Mark Kelly and Daithi Sproule on guitar. Check out Harvest Storm (Green Linnet)
  • The Bothy Band
    A true Irish traditional supergroup, comprised of brother and sister Micheal and Triona O'Domnhaill on vocals, guitar and keybaords; Donal Lunny on bouzouki, Tommy Peoples on fiddle (to be replaced a year later by Kevin Burke); future Chieftain Matt Molloy on flute and Paddy Keenan on uilleann pipes. They didn't stay together long (perhaps due to the band's exhaustive touring), but their influence has lasted for three decades. Blame every new trad band's renderings of "Do You Love An Apple" or "The Butterfly" on them! Give a listen to The Bothy Band 1975 (Green Linnet)
  • Cherish the Ladies
    Anchored by the boisterous Joanie Madden, an all-Ireland champ on tin whistle and flute, and Mary Coogan, perhaps one of the most underrated masters of the various plectrum instruments, the band has been going strong for 20 years. Many of the finest traditional musicians America and Ireland have to offer have been in the band through the years, keeping the musicianship outstanding and inspirational. Listen to Out And About (Green Linnet).
  • The Chieftains
    Without a doubt, THE group responsible for bringing Irish traditional music from the back of the pub to the concert stages around the world. Listen to them pre-"The Long Black Veil," before they met the Rolling Stones and Sting. Start from the Beginning with The Chieftains (1). (Claddagh)
  • The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
    What can you say about these boys? They made Irish music relevant and fun for the masses when no one else was really listening. They sang traditional songs in a way that was embraced by American audiences, and that's where they first made their mark. With the loss of Tommy Makem in August, Liam Clancy is all who remains from that quartet. But their musical legacy lives on in a number of recordings. In Person At Carnegie Hall captures the live act well.
  • Michael Coleman
    Michael Coleman is arguably the well from which springs most Sligo-style fiddling. Born in Killavil, Co. Sligo, in 1891, Coleman came to New York and made a series of historical recordings in the 20s and 30s. These recordings became a source for musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, and a direct line can be drawn from Coleman to New York fiddlers Andy McGann, Brian Conway and the next generation, like Patrick Mangan. Listen to Brian Conway's "First Through the Gate," where the three are featured together. Listen to Michael Coleman 1891-1945 (Viva Voce)
  • Lunasa
    With Kevin Crawford on flute, Sean Smyth on fiddle, and Cillian Vallely on uilleann pipes, this band's roots are firmly planted in Irish traditional music. When you add Donagh Hennessey's syncopated rhythms on guitar (recently replaced by Paul Meehan) and Trevor Hutchinson's unique bass lines, you get a group that's not afraid to experiment, either. And who needs a singer? Give Otherworld (Green Linnet) a spin.
  • Dolores Keane
    From Caherlistrane, Co. Galway, Dolores Keane is arguably the finest traditional singer of all time. Whether she's singing in Irish or English, traditional or newer songs, the roots are firmly planted. Listen to There Was A Maid.
  • Planxty
    Once dismissed as "Irish music for the rock and roll set," Planxty made Irish traditional music accessible and "cool." Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine and Liam O'Flynn became living legends in the field, and their influence continues. In fact, listen closely to the rhythm section of bands like Dervish and Danu, and there's no mistaking the inspiration. Check out The Well Below the Valley (Shanachie)
  • The Tulla Ceili Band
    formed to compete at a festival in 1946, the Tulla Ceili Band is still at it today. Playing Clare-style dance music like no other, the Tulla has seen influential musicians like fiddlers P. Joe Hayes, Paddy Canny on fiddles, Joe Cooley and Martin Mulhaire on accordions, Mike Preston on flute, Willie Clancy on uilleann pipes and many others pass through down the years. The band continues to this day, with a lineup that includes P. Joe Hayes' son, fiddler Martin Hayes. Pick up their landmark first recording Echoes of Erin (Dublin).

Most Underrated: The Pure Drop
Most Overrated: Celtic Rock
Essential New Artist: The David Munnelly Band

Cara Tobin

Membership Director

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Neil Young
  • The Grateful Dead
  • The Rolling Stones (when they were under 60)
  • Bob Dylan
  • Van Morrison
  • Willie Nelson
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Tom Waits
  • Jeff Buckley

Most Underrated: Gram Parsons
Most Overrated: Bob Dylan
Essential New Artist: Brandi Carlile

Maria Watson

Director of Development/Major Giving, WFUV

  • Arvo Paart
  • Brian Wilson
  • The Beatles
  • Elliott Smith
  • Bob Dylan
  • James Brown
  • Mahler
  • Melissa Etheridge/Indigo Girls
  • Johnny Cash
  • Chopin

Most Underrated: Joyce, Kaki King, Nick Drake
Most Overrated: Nellie McKay, Rufus Wainwright
Essential New Artist: The Nationals

Janeen Shaitelman

Promotions Director

  • The Grateful Dead
  • James Taylor
  • Etta James
  • Tom Jones
  • Dan Bern
  • Patsy Cline
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Jorma Kaukonen

Most Underrated: Josh Ritter and Jack Johnson
Most Overrated: The Decemberists (sorry, Russ!)
Essential New Artist: John Butler Trio and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Laura Fedele

New Media Director

  • Ani DiFranco
  • Gomez
  • Frank Sinatra
  • R.E.M. (Chronic Town through Green)
  • Neil Finn/Crowded House/Tim Finn
  • Gillian Welch
  • The Grateful Dead
  • Joe Henry
  • Van Morrison
  • Rickie Lee Jones

Most Underrated: Alejandro Escovedo
Most Overrated: Patti Smith, Janis Joplin
Essential New Artist: Brandi Carlile, Bright Eyes

Alisa Ali

FUV Weekday Morning Producer

  • Bob Dylan
  • Talking Heads
  • Beck
  • Radiohead
  • REM
  • Paul Simon
  • My Morning Jacket
  • White Stripes
  • SeePeoples
  • Stevie Wonder

Most Underrated: Doobie Brothers - Which Doobie You Be?
Most Overrated: Arcade Fire - Why not let the girl sing more songs?
Essential New Artist: Jose Gonzalez / Cold War Kids / Iron & Wine

Joey Delvecchio

Traffic and Continuity Director

  • Pearl Jam
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Counting Crows
  • Pete Yorn
  • Jesse Malin
  • The Damnwells
  • The Hold Steady
  • Third Eye Blind
  • Ryan Adams
  • The Goo Goo Dolls

Most Underrated: Five For Fighting
Most Overrated: Nirvana
Essential New Artist: Can't think of one I'm really crazy about.

Shari Rosen Ascher

Corporate Underwriting Sales Director

The list below chronicles my essential artist from the ages of 13-43:

  • Donna Summer
    I was too young for Studio 54 but I did dance and skate Friday nights away at Trolleys and Roller Palace in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Donna Summer was the queen and I still can't resist dancing to her songs. (Age 13)
  • James Taylor
    My first real concert. When I was at Camp Natchez they took us to Tanglewood to see concerts every summer, and in my mind nobody could even come close to James Taylor. His music is pure and timeless. (Age 15 - now)
  • Pete Townsend and The Who
    I had a big crush on a boy in high school and he loved The Who. I had a friend make me a mix tape of Who favorites and I was hooked. To this day when I hear The Who I am 16 all over again. They are, in my mind, the ultimate rock band. (Age 16)
  • Elvis Costello
    Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Elvis Costello and the Imposters, Elvis Costello Solo, Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach, with Lucinda Williams, with Alan Toussaint, with Paul McCartney... I'll take Elvis any way I can get him (although I could do without the opera). He is my all-time, without a doubt, most essential artist. There is not a moment in my life or a memory in the past 25 years that has not included or can be defined by an Elvis Costello song. He was playing the first time I fell in love, the first time I had my heart broken, when I had my first legal drink, at every birthday party, my wedding, the births of my children and I even included an Elvis quote in my speech at my son's Bar Mitzvah. (Age 17-43)
  • Melissa Etheridge
    I don't think that a day goes by that I do not play one of her songs. She is empowering and a real rocker. Her music is poetry and just what I need to hear at the gym. My only complaint is that we do not play enough of her on WFUV. (Age 26-43)
  • The Beatles
    All of my Beatles albums were my mother's. Yellow Submarine is one of the firs movies I ever saw, and besides "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," it was probably one of the first songs I learned all the words to. My sons love them, my parents love them and I honestly believe that they paved the way for EVERYTHING that has happened since then. (All my life)

Most Underrated:
Graham Parker
Elvis may be the Angry Young Man, but Mr. Parker has been able to sustain his anger and cynicism and poetry for 30 years! Why isn't he more popular? I have almost as many Graham Parker songs on my iPod as Elvis, and that is saying a lot!
The Kennedys
I know that we love them at WFUV (and they love us) but EVERYONE should love them. Just like the Grateful Dead - once you see them live, you will be hooked. They are brilliant and full of light and they make me smile.

Most Overrated: Whatever I say here will get in me in trouble, plus it's kind of mean. So I will leave this out, but if you want to know what I think, you can send me an email.
Essential New Artist: KT Tunstall - I defy anyone to see her live and not explode with applause!