Category Archives: WLS

Hot Air-waves VII

Radio Days

Larry Lujack died last night. He was a giant and one of the reasons I fell in love with radio. Here’s a pic of the WLS lineup in 1969, before Lujack became the king of Chicagoland morning drive.

WLS 1969

Two of the guys pictured were part of WLS’s movement toward the young at the time. Even though WLS did Top 40 and its Silver Dollar Survey listing of big hits was required reading for radio and music geeks like me, most of its on-air personalities were broadcasting lifers who could have slid into Mom & Dad programming in the snap of a finger. Lujack and Kris Stevens were the harbinger of the future. And Stevens was the Davy Jones to Lujack’s Michael Nesmith.

Lujack was an entertainer, a stand-up comedian, a philosopher, a bemused curmudgeon, and a radical departure from the usual golden throated-guys who could give you the time three ways but little else.

He was one of the original “shock jocks” only in the sense that he took the listener on a new, different journey where his ramblings and flights of fancy were the road; the records served only as occasional pit stops. Even the great Dick Biondi before him did little more than crack wise in the short breaks between platters. Lujack was “shocking” in that his voice, his stories, were the draw, not necessarily the songs of the Archies or Stevie Wonder.

Photo © Keith Hale

Titans: (l-r) Jonathon Brandmeier, Lujack, and Dick Biondi in 1983

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to hear the records — most of the time. But each morning, I wanted to see the world through Larry Lujack’s eyes. His word pictures brought me to places I’d never been.

And that is precisely what radio’s supposed to do.

The Voice Of The Vols

Speaking of radio, an all-star cast of trouble-makers noodled over starting up a newsletter for WFHB volunteers and listeners last night. The four, including this semi-pro contrarian, hope to run the thing with the blessings of station management and the Board of Directors but even if we don’t get it, we’ll still publish a regular blat. We just might be more prone to make said deniers of imprimatur a little itchy every time we come out with an issue.

Word’s going around that the Board has had informal chats with a lawyer about whether or not operations like the Friends of WFHB Facebook group can use the station’s logo. This newsletter gang would also like to splatter the dalmatian all over our proposed monthly missive. The WFHB sachems seem to be turning things a little us-versus-them-ish, if you ask me. And perhaps that’s why the community needs an independent voice.

LaMantia

Joe LaMantia’s Spot The Firehouse Dog

I’ll name the other co-conspirators after we meet formally for the first time next week. Stay tuned for more developments.

More, More, More

In case you haven’t heard, the Board named Sheryl Mitchell, Rich Reardon Reardin (MG Note: My apologies to Rich for misspelling his name in the OP), and Louis Malone to fill out the terms of three empty seats until the next general election.

I, frankly, was stunned by the choices. I have nothing against the three lucky (or unlucky) selectees themselves but at least two and perhaps three superior candidates got the raspberry after Monday night’s closed Board session. There are whispers that the three new members struck the Board as — euphemism alert — cooperative.

Newsboy

Extra!

The Board seems intent on circling its wagons in the wake of the Kevin Culbertson hiring fiasco. Then again, that may be a tad easier to excuse when you consider the fact that certain loudmouths (I’m looking in the mirror) are squawking far and wide that the present Board ought to be swept out.

Obama To Putin: I Got Your Sochi Right Here

Kudos to the Muslim Mole-in-Chief for flashing the digit at Russian prez Vladimir Putin this week.

The Obama Administration announced that lesbian jockettes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow will lead the US delegation in the opening ceremony at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Feb. Putin’s gov’t in recent months has made official statements and sponsored legislation designed to make homosexuals feel as though they are queer — and I’m using the term in the old, pejorative sense.

For all Obama’s writhing on the floor in the heat of passion with Goldman Sachs-type banksters and his administration’s infatuation with spying and information control, there have been occasional moments of laudable progressive-ism during his Kenyan-takeover-plot regime.

“… I’m In Love With The Radio On….”

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Saturday

THE QUOTE

“Radio was my pal. I was just crazy about it.” — Bob Edwards

Edwards

THE CHRISTMAS I BECAME KING FAROUK

The transistor radio just might be the coolest consumer electronic product ever invented.

Think of it, the kids of the early ’60s were able to carry, for the first time in human history, music in their pockets.

Transistor Radio

One Of Humankind’s Crowning Achievements

The iPod is merely a refinement on that earthshaking development. The smartphone can’t begin to compare, since it forces its possessors to communicate with Mom & Dad, among other insufferables.

I was eight years old in the fall of 1964. I’d seen the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show the previous February and was hooked. They were young and mop-headed and fun. I must admit I had no particular love for any one of their endless string of hits, but they opened up the Top 40 charts for me.

Because of them, I discovered the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Martha and the Vandellas, and The Four Seasons, all of whom I liked much more. Wherever I saw a radio –the ungainly kind that plugged into the wall — that landmark year, I turn it on and fiddled with the dial until I could pull in WLS or WCFL, Chicago’s rock ‘n roll stations.

Martha & the Vandellas

Martha And The Vandellas

The thing I studied most that year had nothing to do with math or science; it was Dex Card’s Silver Dollar Survey. Card was the new afternoon DJ WLS had hired early in 1964 to position itself even younger and hipper than when it had originally gone to all rock ‘n roll four years earlier. Each afternoon he’d play, in order, the 40 songs on his Silver Dollar Survey compilation of Chicago biggest hits.

Image ©Scott Childers

Dex Card At A WLS Record Hop

I appeared faithfully every Friday afternoon after school at Frank’s Dime Store on North Avenue to pick up my fresh new copy of the tri-fold Silver Dollar Survey. For the rest of that day, I’d devour the thing, memorizing the position of each song on the chart.

By the way, it had taken WLS a few years after the big 1960 format change to really catch on. A lot of people who lived within range of the station’s clear channel, 50,000-watt signal were farmers. WLS could be pulled in on a good day from Minneapolis to St. Louis, Louisville to Cincinnati and Detroit. That covered an awful lot of plow-pushers. And at first, all those farmers were mightily ticked off that WLS had replaced shows like “The Prairie Farmer” and “Barn Dance” with stuff like “Alley Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles.

The rock ‘n roll DJs, including Dick Biondi (The Wild I-tralian), Clark Weber, and Art Roberts, gamely hung in there, waiting for the right break — and it came with the arrival of the Beatles in the US in the winter of ’64. Next thing anybody knew, WLS and its big competitor, WCFL, were the hottest stations in town.

WLS/Dick Biondi

That’s where I come in. Starting in September, 1964, I began badgering my mother to get me a transistor radio for Christmas. Ma gave me her stock-in-trade response, “What are we, the Rockefellers?”

She’d alternate between that and “Who do you think you are, King Farouk?”

King Farouk

King Farouk Would Have Had A Transistor Radio

I had no idea who King Farouk was, but I assumed he was filthy rich.

Generally, once she’d invoke either of those titans of wealth, I’d know that whatever I was asking for was out of the question. She had, after all, grown up during the Great Depression and that experience mixed in with her own innate neuroses and compulsions caused her to squeeze a dime so tightly that Roosevelt turned blue.

But this time, I would not take no for an answer. I hammered her seemingly daily, often earning a whack to the side of my head for my troubles.

Besides, Ma never saw Christmas as a time to bestow trivial gifts like toys and such on us. Every Christmas eve, I’d unwrap her Sears gift box full of underwear and socks and then lie to her, telling her they were great. I’d be excited over the gifts my sisters Fran and Charlotte would give me, like Tonka trucks and big 64-crayon boxes of Crayolas. But not Ma’s.

Tonka Truck

At school, all my friends would gush about their new toy cranes and Erector Sets. Then they’d ask me what I got. The first year they asked, I responded honestly: “Well, my Ma got me underwear and….” I had to stop there because my friends’ howls of laughter were drowning me out.

By the time Christmas rolled around in ’64, I’d grown past Tonka trucks and crayons. I wanted — no, craved — the Rolling Stones and Martha and the Vandellas. I was growing up.

So, that Christmas eve I was decidedly less excited than I’d normally be. We feasted that night on the usual Sicilian Christmas Eve table of the Seven Fishes. My fave, then as now, was the calamari in red sauce. I’d let the tentacles dangle out of my mouth and try to force my sister Charlotte to look, at which point she’d threaten to withhold her gift from me that year. I’d stop forthwith.

At about eight that evening it was time to open the presents. I felt as though my childhood was past because I really didn’t care all that much about the whole thing. The previous year, for instance, I’d gotten a James Band 007 attache case, complete with code book, false IDs and a Luger that shot plastic bullets. Now that was a Christmas gift. The week between that Christmas and New Year I’d even written out my will in case I’d be killed in the execution of my duties as a spy. I recall folding it up and hiding it in the 007 breast pocket wallet that came with the attache case.

007 Attache Case

Now, at the jaded age of eight, nothing short of a transistor radio would do and since I wasn’t going to get it….

My brother Joey called out, “To Mike from Ma and Dad.”

He handed me the present. It was small, about ten inches by six inches, so it wasn’t the usual underwear and socks. I didn’t even tear the package open as I’d always done in the past. This time I carefully opened it, rather like a fussy old aunt who found it weirdly imperative to preserve the wrapping paper for next year.

The moment I saw the picture on the front of the box, I screamed, actually screamed, as if I were being tortured by Auric Goldfinger.

From "Goldfinger"

“Why No, Mr. Bond. I Expect You To Die!”

There it was, my transistor radio.

The Rolling Stones and Martha & the Vandellas were now mine. All mine.

I slept with that thing, the earphone attached to me, for the next three years until I got my second transistor radio. I quickly arrived at the point where I couldn’t get to sleep without the sound of music in my right ear.

Best Christmas present ever.

CHRISTMAS WRAPPING

By The Waitresses.

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