Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Soundtrack To My Childhood

Those of you that know me know that, not only have I made radio a career for the past 18 years, but radio has been in my blood since I was young. Growing up in Philly as a kid in the 1970s - in the pre-MTV, pre-Walkman era ..... radio was the audio soundtrack of every kid's world. In Philly, the battle was between

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My loyality was with WFIL, since the jocks - ' The Boss Jocks' - connected to the demographic I was part of, kids 12-21. From Dr. Don Rose in the morning to the antics of Banana Joe and his ever-present red Bananamobile all over the city, to the uber-1970s Philly personality of Jim O'Brien ... WFIL was Philadelphia.

To me at that time, WIBG (Wibbage) was filled with jocks that represented the 1960s (the older folks) ... but as I grew I began to listen to WIBG more and more, since their playlist was deeper to compete with the new enemy of something called "FM" (haha), they added more progressive rock, played longer songs, no jingles, and didn't take themselves too seriously.

Sadly, FM was creating a new era in radio and AM was not winning the battle. In 1977, WIBG decided to hang it up after 53 years on the air and staged a week-long WIBBAGE WAKE on the radio and brought back all their old voices. The station's format died with legendary Philadelphia DJ Hy Lit at the mic. It became WZZD, a 24-hour disco station for about a year (Wizzard 100) and then Top 40 and now is Christain Rock. Wierd.

During those final years of WIBG, I discovered Hy Lit. I never really got him before, since I was too young in the 1960s to appreciate who he was in Philly and how he really does deserve the title "the Goodwill Ambassador of Philadelphia Radio". He hosted The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and countless others when they first played Philadelphia. He had his own TV dance show in Philly through much of the 1960s into the early 1970s. He, along with jock Joe Niagra were the voice of youth in the late 1950s and much of the 1960s.

Hy Lit's voice could be heard on Philly radio for 50 years, beginning in the late 1950s through this past month, when he was let go from WOGL-FM (Oldies 98) after settling out of court. He is suffering from Parkinson's and had sued WOGL on discrimination (age/condition), when the truth is -- all it takes to really be a good jock is a mind and a voice and a passion ... Hy has all those in place.

So - I was reading that Hy and his son have developed an Internet radio stream of Philadelphia sounds of the 1950s and 1960s - mixed with the classic radio jingles from WIBG, WFIL and other classic Top 40 stations cross the country. I've listen to it over the past day or so and it's quite quite good. It's not cookie-cutter oldies channel, but oldies that had a true connection to Philadelphia.

Hearing these songs reminds me of my childhood - sitting on the passenger side of a red 1969 Caddy with my Dad at the wheel - heading down the shore with the salt-drenched air blowing through my hair as I cranked up the radio and gazed out over miles and miles of marshlands and fields, with anticipation over the fact that I was moments away from spending a week with my Nana in Somers Point. She lived on Cedar Avenue and there was a Dairy Queen at the corner ... which is every young kid's dream location! We'd make a day trip to Atlantic City for a day of Steel fudge, Planters peanuts, coasters and haunted houses and maybe even score a glimpse of the WFIL jocks over at the Steel Pier Showcase, hosting a concert. Sweet times.

Except for the memory, it's all gone now. The miles of marsh are developed into a sea of strip malls. The haunted house moved from the Boardwalk to be replaced by one of a dozen casinos. The car was sold a few times over by now and who knows where it is anymore. The Steel Pier was torn down and made into something new. AM radio as I knew it, disappeared. Sadly, my Dad passed away in 1993 however amazingly, his mother - my Nana - is still alive and kicking at 98 and lives in Bar Harbor, Maine.

So for me - listening to this stream brings back a flood of memories - but, even if oldies aren't your thing, take a few moments and fire up your Windows Media Player and step back in time ... it's always good to appreciate the past as you look ahead.

Now - for those interested in a TRUE flashback to my youth... check out these two links that will take you back to the first week of September, 1977. I was just starting 10th grade at Washington High School... You'll need Real Player for these... ready?

The first is WIBG - it fits this post, since it is the final moments of WIBG, when Hy Lit and Joe Niagra hosted WIBG, as it signed off air for the final time after 50+ years of entertaining Philadelphia - I honestly believe that Hy Lit meant everything he says in this clip.

And, over at the powerhouse of WFIL, afternoon jock Dan Donavon handled the drive home and made a reference to the Wibbage funeral at the end of this audio clip:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God! Dr. Don Rose! My mother had a crush on him, she thought he sounded handsome. God, I remeber FIL being the soundtrack to drive-in movies, road trips to AC and Wildwood. My memroies of Ac was our family staying in our own apartment in my Aunt Mary's apartment buildingand FIL be on. I was reading 16 Magazine, Tiger Beat and SPEC, drooling over David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman! *sigh*