By Larry Teren
My dad gave me a pocket transistor radio with an earphone in the very early 1960’s. I had eclectic tastes even then. Depending on the mood or what was available, I would listen to Dick Biondi spin rock and roll records on WLS or Franklin MacCormack and his “All Night Meister Brau Showcase” on WGN. If the Chicago Cubs were on the road, especially a West Coast night game in Los Angeles or San Francisco, I’d be sure to listen in on the broadcast.
There was something cool about listening with the earphone plugged in even though there was no one else in the bedroom to disturb. I’m sure I fell asleep countless times this way only to wake up with the earphone somehow laying under the pillow.
Back then, The Four Seasons were very big in the music industry. I’d listen to wacko Dick talk a mile a minute introducing the next list of songs and with the snap of a finger play “Sherry Baby”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and the forever classic “Walk Like a Man”. Half the time I had no idea what Dick Biondi was saying except when he’d slow down to tell a joke and then make a joke of the fact that his humor stunk.
I still remember the WLS jingle, “what’s the weather for the weekend gonna be? Will it be hot, cold, rain, snow, ooh, ooh….” The upbeat tempo was enough to keep a nine or ten year old awake, but I didn’t mind. When it was time to slow down and get ready to sleep I’d switch to WGN for the five minute sports special recapping the day’s scores and related news. Immediately following, would be the sedate Franklin MacCormack. His familiar waltz tempo theme song would play while Frank did his opening voice over with words like this: “why do I love? I love you not just for what you are but also for what I am when I am with you” or something like that. It didn’t take more than a couple of slow rhythm songs to get me to snoozing.
Then there was Jack Eigen and his talk show on WMAQ. He would interview all types- celebrities and anyone who had anything interesting to say. By the early 1970’s, these Chicago radio icons were gone to greener pastures so I switched to WIND and Larry ‘The Legend’ Johnson. By then the little portable radio had been replaced by a boom box about five times the size that also picked up short wave radio signals. And I definitely had to use an earphone then as my kid brother was sharing the bedroom in our new house on the other side of town.
Fast forward to 2010 and incredibly, Dick Biondi at the age of 80 is back in town and once again doing a radio show, so I hear. A clock radio sits on a stand next to the bed and only once in a while I turn it on before going to sleep. The dial is stuck on WBBM as I listen to old time 1930’s through the 50’s broadcasts of comedy, drama, mystery, music and mayhem.
Did I mention that my father gave me that first little portable radio? At the time I didn’t thank him- just took it and smiled. I’m sorry.