Friday, May 25, 2018

Today We’re Heading Into Charted (and Uncharted) Territory

As mentioned yesterday, Dick Biondi has officially been terminated by WLS Radio, the station he helped put on the map back in 1960.
At 85 years of age (some would say 88), Biondi has certainly fulfilled his lifelong dream of being a disc jockey … a thousand times over … yet there is still a veil of sadness here in The Windy City to hear that he will not be returning to the airwaves again (unless another station in town happens to pick him up through his final ride off into the sunset.)
The general tone of the dozens and dozens of emails we received today echo the sentiment of “The End Of An Era” … Biondi came along at a time when rock and roll was still fairly new and there weren’t a lot of rules yet in broadcasting.  Despite the age difference, he immediately appealed to the teenage audience who bought rock and roll records, went to concerts and came out to the many record hops held all around The Windy City.
He pioneered a style of broadcasting that brought out the rebel in dozens of disc jockeys who followed him down the road of prominence in the radio industry.
I’ve known Dick for many years now, first interviewing him for our feature on “Who Played The First Beatles Record In The United States” series that ran nearly twenty years ago and helped put Forgotten Hits on the map.  (The answer to that question, by the way, IS Dick Biondi!!!)
I’ve been to dozens of events he’s MC’d over the years … everything from toy drives to pizza parlors to amusement parks to car washes … to record hops and concerts he has mc’d.  A nicer human being you’re not going to meet.
Biondi has felt the love of this great city for nearly sixty years … and embraced it right back … he is in every sense of the word a radio icon.
Which is all the more reason this documentary about his career needs to be made.

We heard from Pam Pulice this morning after she read the news in Robert Feder’s column … she has spear-headed this project and is executive producing the film.
She sent me this note, which was also posted on the various websites devoted to raising funds for this film …

We just read the sad news, folks. We are sorry to hear that Dick will not be coming back to 94.7 WLS FM. We will work even harder to finish our tribute to Dick and we thank Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Chicago, for supporting our mission. 
Dick, if you're reading this, we love you and send prayers for your restored health. Friends, if you have something to say to Dick, please leave your messages and we will pass them on. Please share this with your friends. 

You can read the full Robert Feder column here:

>>>Hi Kent,
We’ve just recently introduced a new book series that should be of interest to your readers, especially those fans of the Saturday Survey feature.  It’s Cash Box Regional Hits 1956.  Cash Box published numerous regional charts, mostly from DJs at various radio stations across the country.  Joel has spent a lot of time personally researching each and every chart and picked out the ones that never made it to the national charts.  Talk about “forgotten hits,” this book is chock full of them!  Lots of great doo-wop, rockabilly and novelty hits are included.  After Joel dug out these treasures, I got them entered in our database and the end result is a fun, colorful look at some very obscure and, in some cases, very valuable records (many of which have full color photos in the book).  I especially love seeing the different radio stations and disc jockey names, along with the retail store names.
Here’s a look at the 1956 volume, now on sale and coming in stock this week.  We also have 1957 and 1958 in the works, with hopefully more to follow.
Paul Haney / Record Research
>>>I’m curious … do individual Top Ten Charts exist for each week for the radio stations reporting in?  I would love to see THOSE in addition to Joel’s recap … especially for our local charts here in Chicago.  (kk)
Hi Kent, 
Cash Box began publishing Top 10 charts from various radio disc jockeys with their issue dated October 23, 1948.  The final charts were published in the issue dated June 25, 1960.  Cash Box provided a form which the DJ could fill out and send in (a photo of one of these forms is shown at the beginning of our 1956 book).  Each week, Cash Box would rotate the stations in and out, so unfortunately there is no complete weekly run for a station for a given time period.  Sometimes they even ran charts from two different DJs at the same station!  What’s great about these charts is that this is from the time before many stations published their own surveys.  Also, there are many smaller markets represented.  I guess by 1960, many stations were printing their own weekly surveys, thus Cash Box felt it was no longer necessary to print these charts.  So, the farthest we could go with this series is 1960, but we could always work backwards starting with 1955, if there is enough interest from our customers.
Paul Haney / Record Research

>>>I was QUITE surprised to see WCFL playing rock and roll music in 1956!!!  I had absolutely NO idea that this was the case.  (Guess I’m going to have a little deeper in my CFL Research!!!)  kk
One of your reader’s wanted to know if WCFL was rockin' and rollin' before WLS. Not that I recall. They had Dan Sorkin playing comedy album cuts and jazz in the morning and Sid McCoy on the overnight show. However in the late 50’s WJJD took a crack at rock and roll with some first class jocks ... Jim Lounsberry, Sid Roberts and Stan Dale who later became a newsman at WLS … and they made a dent in the Chicago rock market.  However, their nighttime signal was so poor that by the 1960’s, the station eventually gave up and went country.
WGN hired a dj from Cleveland during the late 50’s  and convinced Coca Cola to sponsor an evening rock and roll show on WGN called the “Coca Cola Hi-Fi Show” hosted by a guy who secretly hated rock and roll named Wally Phillips. WIND also had a great DJ lineup about that same time and were well into Chuck Berry and Elvis!   
However when WLS entered the rock market in 1960, they offered some things no one else did … a huge signal and a great dial position at 890 … they played the song Alley Oop continually for 24 hours the first day on the air and introduced a nighttime maniacal Jerry Lewis-like character named Dick Biondi. Every teenager within radio earshot scooped him up, loved his irreverent persona and suddenly he owned Chicago’s nighttime radio. The result was that for the next 20 years, WLS was in like a tall dog in a kennel!
Clark Weber
Back in 1956 (the dawn of The Rock And Roll Era), one of the newspapers in town (I believe it was The Chicago American … jeez, when’s the last time you heard THAT name?!?!?) used to publish a Weekly Top Ten List in their Friday edition.
It sounds somewhat similar to what Paul Haney is describing above … often the “top picks” by some of the local jocks working for stations that were, a good four or five years ahead of WLS, trying to cash in on the latest musical fad.
Among those stations were WIND, WGN, WAIT and WJJD.  Wally Phillips, Howard Miller, Bernie Allen, Del Clark, Sid Roberts, Milo Hamilton (who would eventually end up working at WCFL as a sportscaster, doing the color commentary on The Chicago White Sox games), and a few others were featured with their weekly picks. 
I have never seen WCFL listed here before … in 1956 … ten years before they gave WLS a run for the money in the teenage Top 40 Market … but looking at the sample pages contained in Joel Whitburn’s new book, it shows that ‘CFL was playing cuts like “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins!  (Who’dathunkit?!?!)
Then, in June of ’56, WJJD published their first “Forty Top Tunes Of Greater Chicago” chart … for the week ending June 11th … Survey #1 showed “Moonglow” by George Cates as the #1 Record here in Chicago.  (Actually, most of The Top Ten was pretty tame … with artists like The Four Lads, Pat Boone, The Four Aces, The Fontane Sisters and The Chordettes holding down positions.  (The only two Top Ten Rockers were Carl Perkins (“Blue Suede Shoes,” #7) and Elvis Presley (“Heartbreak Hotel,” #9.) 
Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Teresa Brewer, Perry Como and Nat “King” Cole helped to fill out the rest of the list … but there was SOME life on the chart, thanks to hits by The Platters, Bill Haley and the Coments and Chuck Berry.

The WJJD Charts would continue through the early sixties before they flipped formats to an All-Country line-up, which they were actually quite successful at.  (The Top Tunes Of Greater Chicago charts would continue through the first few weeks of 1966 before disappearing forever.)
Still, I’ve never heard WCFL mentioned in this context (or timeframe!) before … so it’s REALLY cool to see them listed in Joel Whitburn’s new book. (kk)
Years ago, Ron Smith ( sent us copies of the radio station charts that The Chicago Tribune ran each week.  (These covered the years 1956 thru 1958.  These were much shorter representations of what each radio station considered to be the (typically) Top 5 Records in Chicago … and once again, WCFL is represented … so there is much more to their rock and roll history than I had imagined.  (kk)

Speaking of the charts, I was doing some research on another project the other day and saw something I just couldn’t believe … so I wrote to Joel Whitburn at Record Research to see if perhaps this was an oversight that needed to be corrected.  Boy, was I surprised by facts on this one!!!

Here’s our conversation …

Hi Joel –  
I am working on a new project tonight and was VERY surprised to see that 1992 - Cetera, Peter - Restless Heart never charted in Cash Box???  Can this be true??? 
This was a #35 Hit in Billboard … and is a song we still here in Chicago all the time. 
Is this perhaps an oversight?  (At first I thought maybe it went beyond the scope of your Cash Box book … but I see that The Cash Box Top 100 collects their chart information through 1996 … so that can’t be it!  (kk)
It's partially true:  “Restless Heart” by Peter Cetera only managed to hit #101 in Cash Box (it’s on page 32 of the Looking Ahead book). 
Wow! That’s about as major a spread as I’ve seen / didn’t it chart like 70 positions higher in billboard?!?!   (kk)
Yes ... 66 positions higher in Billboard to be exact!

I then got this from FH Regular Paul Haney as a further explanation …

Hi Kent, 
Joel forwarded your e-mail to me and I sent a brief answer back.  However, I’d like to expand on it a bit.
There were some very strange things going on chart-wise with Cash Box in 1992.
Besides “Restless Heart” only peaking at #101, “You Could Be Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (#29 in BB) only peaked at #104 in Cash Box.
Also, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” by Spin Doctors (#17 in BB) and “Nothin’ To Hide” by Poco (#39 in BB) didn’t chart in Cash Box AT ALL!
And then there’s the whole “The Letter” fiasco with Wayne Newton.  Yes, somehow that “song” made it all the way to #1 in Cash Box for one week (without even “Bubbling Under” in Billboard) and it actually booted Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” from the #1 spot!

The whole Wayne Newton controversy has been going on for years!  (I’m told that it was virtually impossible to buy a copy of this record … yet it went all the way to #1 in Cash Box without ever even charting at all in Billboard Magazine … WTF?!?!)  And it charted in Cash Box for 31 WEEKS … without EVER breaking through on Billboard’s Hot 100 or Bubbling Under Chart?!?!  (Some SERIOUS money must have exchanged hands under the table on this one!!!)

I asked Cash Box Chart Guru Randy Price for his thoughts on this record …

For anyone who is not familiar with the details of this "phenomenon," this Wikipedia page provides the details of how Wayne Newton came to write and record "The Letter."
The song was available at the time (1992) only on his Moods & Moments LP and a promo cassette single. In addition, a video of Wayne performing the song was in medium rotation on The Nashville Network cable channel. 
I have no first-hand knowledge of how this song came to be a No. 1 charting single on the Cash Box Country and Pop singles charts, but my understanding is that it was a personal favor to Wayne by then Cash Box owner and publisher George Albert, who died in 1997. 
– Randy Price
I'm wondering how many of you out there have ever even heard this song before.  How on earth did it reach #1 in Cash Box Magazine … and never chart at all in Billboard?  (kk)

Hi Kent, 
I was looking at some of my old surveys today and found this information on one from WBBM for the week ending May 12, 1973. 
I know there are a lot of Ides of March fans that read Forgotten Hits so if you’ve never seen this before, I thought you would enjoy it.  The surveys fold out and this was on the back.   
Also, last week I found a handbill that I had forgotten about that has The Ides of March, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show and Rare Earth on it.  Just thought you and your readers might find this interesting if you haven’t seen it before. 
Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written.  I hope all is well. 
Les Peterson

Hi Les ... Always good to hear from you whenever you’re able to check in.
Incredibly, The Ides Of March and Megan McDonough are still connected all these 40+ years later.  She was one of the guest performer at last year's Christmas Concert at The Arcada Theatre!  (kk)

And, speaking of The Ides Of March, our FH Buddy JR Russ (who runs the awesome WCFL Oldies Website we keep telling you about) played a cut that caught my attention the other night … so I just HAD to share it with you …

Here’s King B … Ron Britain … bringing us right into The Ides Of March’s #1 Hit “Vehicle”!!!  (kk)

Thanks for sending, Kent. It sounds so good. How could that be from AM radio? Is that a board tape?
Ron Britain was awesome. Is he alive!?
Also would you be willing to post the Ides current schedule for the year! (There’s not that many shows so you may have room!  Lol!)
Thx, my friend.  

I believe that’s right from the WCFL master tapes … enhanced and mixed for stereo by JR Russ, who runs the awesome website.  We’ve been talking about ways to expand and improve the station … SO much good stuff on there already … no telling how far this could go!
Ron Britain is still alive but despite our best efforts we have yet to connect with him.  (Clark Besch speaks to him somewhat regularly … and thanks to this new ‘CFL connection, I’ve met a few other people who correspond with him as well.  I’m hoping he’ll climb onboard should we be able to take this internet station a little farther.
ALWAYS happy to help promote The Ides’ shows … you simply can’t have a better time at a concert … so should new dates be added, please let us know this so we can pass those along to our readers as well.

As of right now, here’s what’s currently on the agenda …

July 7th – Hoover Auditorium – Lakeside, OH
July 21st – Sheffield Garden Walk – Chicago, IL
July 27th – Wood Dale Prairie Fest – Wood Dale, IL
July 28th – Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield, IL
August 25th – DeKalb Corn Fest – DeKalb, IL
December 15th – The Arcada Theatre – St. Charles, IL
(This is the Annual Ides Of March Christmas Show … not to be missed!)

You can also catch The Ides at these Cornerstones Of Rock shows …
June 28th – Milwaukee Summerfest – Milwaukee, WI
November 24th – The Arcada Theatre – St. Charles, IL
(They act as the "house band" for these shows, backing up Chicago legends Jimy Sohns of The Shadows of Knight along with key members of The New Colony Six and The Cryan' Shames.  They also perform their own set of hits before turning the stage over to The Buckinghams to close the show.  EVERY show thus far has been a sell-out ... so get your tickets early for this one!!!)

And Jim Peterik’s World Stage …
October 6th – Moraine Valley Community College – Palos Hills, IL

Next year The Ides Of March will be part of the Flower Power Cruise (March 30th thru April 6th) … and then Jim does his Annual World Stage Show at Wentz Hall in Naperville on January 12th.

I am doing a story on your site in my newsletter this Sunday.
You provide a great service. Keep up the good work. I’ll send you a copy.
In harmony,
Glen Fisher
Doo Wop Revival
Sunday 8 pm
WJCT 89.9 FM
Doo Wop Ramblings Newsletter
To Subscribe:
Well, thank you, Glen!  Please do send me a copy of your newsletter ... I'd love to see it!  (kk)

Don't miss The Saturday Survey tomorrow in Forgotten Hits ...
This week we travel to Minnesota ... and have another "Bonus Chart" to share with you as well!

And be sure to watch for our weekly Sunday Comments Page, too!  (kk)