Last week we introduced you to Forgotten Hits Reader Ben Meijering from The Netherlands.
Although he’s been a reader for years, this was the first time we’d ever heard from him. (This seems to be the case with so many of you out there … and we’d love to hear from more of you more often!)
Ben’s reason for writing was that he felt a certain passion and connection to the piece we did about Chicagoland Radio, circa 1967, when EIGHT local artists made our WLS Top 40 Survey. (As you’ve seen, others felt passionate on the list as well … it’s already been the topic of at least three radio programs that we’re aware of!)
Ben, in fact, was so inspired that he put together a countdown of the COMPLETE list. (We shared that link with you last week as well … https://we.tl/t-XVHrpm4N8l ... should you also want to … there is now no expiration date regarding when you can download this two hour program.)
So how does a guy from The Netherlands fall in love not only with the music of Chicago’s Local Heroes from the ‘60’s, but with Chicagoland Radio as well?
Well, like so many of our European counterparts, most of these people grew up under the spell of American Rock And Roll Music back in the '50's ... and, just as it did here in The States, it inspired countless fans and musicians to devote their lives to the love of rock and roll music.
When Ben had the occasion to work here in The United States in the early '80's, he just happened to be located right here in Chicago. His passion for this music had already long existed ... but he was afforded the unique opportunity to experience it all first hand. (He was also an avid fan of recording what he heard here ... and quickly assembled quite an extensive collection of U.S. ... and particularly Chicago-based air checks.)
Now think about this for a minute ...
The radio he was listening to and experiencing during his time here was really "second generation" rock and roll ...
By the early 1980's, the music of the '50's, '60's and '70's were already being featured as "golden oldies" ... and it really is quite amazing how many stations here in Chicago were taking part in this format. (This simply isn't the case anymore where we've essentially got exactly ONE radio station focusing on the music of yesteryear ... Me-TV-FM, featuring a wide variety of "soft rock oldies." Other than that, you've got to turn to the Internet for any type of real oldies variety selection.)
During his time here in The States, Ben was also afforded the opportunity to travel to other major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, etc., where he continued to record what he heard on the air. This "hobby" was, in effect, a life force of joy and entertainment while he was here.
His love of this music and this form of entertainment has never waned ... his passion is so great, in fact, that he even started his own website in The Netherlands to tell others about his unique experience ... and it's really quite entertaining.
Clicking on the link below will take you there ... where you'll also find most of the pictures he describes in his story as well as musical links to more than a few examples of his listening experience. (Although a good number of those music links are working below, I suggest you open a second window in order to be able to toggle back and forth between the two to fully experience the full effect of his efforts. Either way, you'll find several days worth of listening entertainment by clicking on some of these link to see what Chicagoland Oldies Radio sounded like circa early 1980's!)
I say that because, for the benefit of any of our Forgotten Hits Readers who there who may not speak Dutch, I have translated all of this to layman's English. I have also edited segments of this for the purposes of our posting here today ...
As I stated at the outset, this truly is a shared passion of ALL of our Forgotten Hits Readers ... and to experience it thru someone else's eyes only helps to remind us of how much WE loved listening to and discovering this music back in the day.
Here is the link: http://www.meijering.info/USRadio/usradio.html
And here is Ben's story ...
My experiences as a radio listener in the United States
In 1983 I worked at a large Telecom company in Hilversum, PTI. PTI was looking for cooperation with another large U.S. telecom company at the time and was therefore in talks with AT&T from the U.S. In 1983, it was decided to start a joint venture and within that joint venture, AT&T's telephony system, the 5ESS telephone exchange, would be adapted to the European market and offered there under the name 5ESS-PRX. In the years from 1978 to 1983, I had worked as a software developer at PTI and so it happened that I was asked if I wanted to be sent to the USA to help with the modifications to the 5ESS software, in order to be able to offer it to among others, the Dutch PTT.
On 17 November, 1983, I left for the United States with my wife and son, to the city of Chicago. Our belongings were packed in a sea container by Arthur-Pierre in Rotterdam in the days before our departure. We were also allowed to bring a cubic meter of air freight and in it was (of course) a radio cassette recorder. After arriving at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, we were transported by luxury taxi to Four Lakes Village in Naperville, where we were received by a host of colleagues and their partners. Then, we moved into a townhouse in Four Lakes Village. A few days later, the air freight was delivered. Unfortunately, the radio was damaged and no longer usable. However, the insurance covered the damage and soon after, I bought a JVC radio cassette recorder. That's how I made my first recordings on American radio. Soon I discovered a station at 107.9 MHz: WAUR, which then also called itself Gold Rock 108. Here's a little bit of one of my first shots. On the left, you see a picture of that JVC radio cassette recorder on the dining table in our townhouse in Four Lakes Village. We did fall with our noses in the (frozen) butter, it was freezing cold in Chicago at the time … witness the picture here on the right.
After we found a house, the sea container was delivered and the real recording work could begin with my Revox A-77.
From the Netherlands, I had brought some empty tapes, but they were soon filled. I also bought tapes from shops nearby, but they were rather pricey. I bought quite a few audio sheets and at one point, my eye fell on an ad where 26 cm tape recorder tapes were offered. These tapes were used once by the listening service, then erased, and were for sale for a not too large amount … the boxes could be bought separately. I bought about 50 bands and from the third week in September in 1984, I regularly recorded programs from the various radio stations in Chicago. Soon, that became a side of a band every day, so an hour and a half a day (at 19 cm/s.) In total, I recorded more than 200 hours on the Revox, in addition to about 50 hours on cassette.
We lived near Naperville. I've often been able to eat pizza with colleagues at Connie's. Especially the "Deep Dish" pizzas were very worthwhile … with a man or six, we could eat such a large pizza.
Both with colleagues and also with the family. I occasionally came to the Showbiz Pizza Place in Napervile. Here at the top left is a photo of the "internship."
In March, 1983, I heard a familiar voice on B96 (WBBM) in the morning. I recognized the voice of the DJ, of one of the Cruisin' LPs, as DJ at WKBW: Dick Biondi. I associated Dick with Golden Oldies, and found it a bit strange to hear him at a Top 40 station. That's what Dick sounded like on B96 on March 21, 1984. During the summer of 1984, a new radio station was created in Chicago, WJMK (Magic 104) and Dick moved to that Golden Oldies station. I've listened to him a lot. On 18 October, 1984, Dick could be heard on WJMK in the morning and sounded like this.
In May, 1984, we
spent two weeks holiday in
Arizona. In Phoenix, I listened a lot to KOOL FM. One of my other hobbies
is growing and collecting cacti. In Arizona, I was able to indulge myself. I'd
never seen so many cacti before, and certainly not "in the wild." I also visited a few cactus farms and bought some nice specimens
there. We started our vacation in Arizona in
Phoenix; then we visited Tucson, especially the cowboy town of Old Tucson and Flagstaff
and the Grand Canyon. What a magnificent view you have there. Arizona is
the area of the cowboys, so we also visited
the cowboy towns of
The radio cassette recorder went with it in the suitcase - as well as a number of empty cassettes, all of which went back to Chicago "full." I recorded about eleven hours of KKLT, KMZK, KOOL, KOPA, KRQ, KSKB, KZZP and Q105. By clicking on the logo of KOOL FM above, you can hear a piece of Mike Bell from 26 May, 1984 .
The station I listened to the most during the period I lived in the US is WAUR from Aurora, Illinois, on 107.9 FM. In particular, the programming of the All Gold Weekend, got up almost every weekend. On Friday - so towards the end of the afternoon - the Old Gold Weekend began and that continued until Sunday evening - often interrupted on Sunday morning by some "Community News." The beauty of the Old Gold Weekend was that little was spoken and a lot of music was played, with occasional gems on the playlist, which I didn't know yet. WAUR knew very few jingles. Advertisements were run there – but also to a limited extent.
When I got up on a Saturday morning, the radio usually went straight to Mike Hartman. On Sunday afternoons, I listened to Doug James and on Saturday – later in the afternoon - I listened to Kim Smith. Sunday mornings, sometimes to Dick Clark's Rock, Roll &Rememberand Sundays from 6 pm to Al Mitchell with Rare & Scratchy Rock & Roll. On Friday nights, you could listen to Tom Milligan and Bill Marquis. Sue Daniel, Rick O'Dell, Steve Haynes, April Laborne, Len Turner and Tom Rottmann were also on the DJ crew for shorter or longer periods of time. During the week, I used to listen to Joe Bartosh in the morning. WAUR also provided weather and traffic information with Mike Spiel, Greg Suminic for the weather and Barry Butler of Shadow Traffic for the traffic info. Advertising was made for Yes Electronics, Coke is it, the film De Terminator, Geneva on the Dam, Burgners, Puppy Love Petcenter, Ogden 6 theaters, Charly Club, Cabbage Patch kid, Home savings, AT&T Information Systems and the WAUR Music Service. Typical WAUR pictures which stayed with me were Lakeshore Drive by Aliotta, Haynes & Jeremiah, the New Colony Six, the Buckinghams, I'm Into Something Good by Herman's Hermits, Mirage by Tommy James, Baby I Need Your Lovin' by Johnny Rivers, Black Pearl by Sonny Charles, Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison, Spanky & Our Gang, I Dig Rock & Roll Music by Peter, Paul & Mary, Abraham, Martin & John by Dion, the Association, The Eyes Of A NY Woman by B.J. Thomas, the Four Seasons, the Grass Roots, Could Be We're In Love with the Cryan' Shames, the American Breed, the Outsiders, and so on. WAUR held up in the building, of which you can see a photo below.
In my Top 10 of Chicago Radio Stations in 1984 and 1985, there was WJMK … in fact, after 1985, it was even number 1. Although WAUR had a more varied playlist, the appeal of WJMK was the DJs and the jingles. Dick Biondi, in particular, I liked to hear, but "King B" Ron Britton, John Charleston, Dan Diamond, Stu Evans, David Earl, Kendall Gordon … I listened to them all. WJMK had the "Number Ones" weekend, "Super Sixties" weekend and Dick Biondi performed live at the Grand Band Stand.
On Monday, 3 September, 1984 (Labor Day), WJMK broadcast the 104 Greatest Hits of All-Time ... a beautiful list of beautiful gems. John Charleston presented hours 1-4 and Ron Britton, hours 5 and 6.
From my time in and visits to Chicago come these airchecks:
"Clear continuous music," "The choice is clear"
And then there was WFYR with Dick Bartley on Saturday night with "Solid Gold Saturday Night," late-night Bob Dearborn with "Nighttime America" and "Morning" CK Cooper. Below, you can hear it on 30 November, 1984, in the morning between 08:00 and 09:00 am.
WFYR 301184 C K Cooper 0800-0900
WLOO was a station with only beautiful music, a kind of precursor to the first performance of Sky radio.
Long before Arrow Classic Rock entered the Netherlands, Classic Rock was already known as a format in the USA. In Chicago, it was WCKG on 105.9 FM in 1984. Below, you can listen to a recording of WCKG in 1988.
Y-107 WYEN from Des Plaines was a so-called Adult Contemporary Music station, where the mainly requests of listeners were running.
Here you can listen to WYEN on 9 December, 1984. The DJ is MG Kelly and he plays the first hour of the Top 30 USA between 19:00 and 20:00.
WLS is one of the oldest radio stations in Chicago. In the morning, I often listened to Superjock Larry Lujack.
Here you can listen to Chicago's Rock, WLS on December 15, 1984, with five minutes pf Chuck Britton from 6:55 - 7 p.m. and an hour Mike Wald from 7-8 p.m.
One of my favorite Radio Stations broadcasts in San Francisco: KFRC
After returning from a 2-year deployment to Spain in 1992, I became responsible for a team that supervised the introduction of new products to customers. In 1993, a new product was sold to a large customer in the Netherlands. The product came from the lab in Columbus, Ohio, where part of the development of that product was outsourced to a company in Berkeley, California. In August, 1993, a project meeting took place and so, on Sunday, 15 August, 1993, I boarded the KLM flight to Dulles Airport in Washington. From Dulles, I flew a propeller plane to Columbus. In the evening, at 22:00, the JVC radio recorder went into recording mode and I recorded some of WCOL. The following days, in preparation for the meeting, which was to take place in California, a meeting was held. On August 17th I flew from Columbus to San Francisco and in the evening at 23:10, my first recording of KFRC started on the JVC. I was staying in a hotel, which was close to the Fisherman's Warff, and the reception there was not quite optimal. On Thursday, I flew back to the Netherlands with a number of KRFC, KOIT and KYA recordings. In October, 1998, I came back to San Francisco again, then for a workshop of ITSMA. I arrived on Sunday, 18 October, and left on Thursday, 22 October. And that's how I met KFRC.
And this is a “can watch video” of Bill Lee on KFRC.
Another favorite NEW York radio station: WCBS-FM
On 15 March, 1994, I left for New York on a KLM plane. Within the company where I worked, a number of initiatives had been started to streamline business processes and on behalf of the EMEA region, I was the representative for the Technical Support processes. In the evening, at 20:44, I put the JVC radio cassette recorder on record and made my first recording of WCBS-FM. Because of the jet lag, I was awake early the next morning and then recorded some WCBS-FM and also some HOT97W. If I remember correctly, I was staying somewhere south of New York, a rather large distance from the city, so the radio reception was not optimal. After the meetings on the 16th of March, I flew to Chicago and in the evening at 22:30 the JVC was already taking WJMK again. The hotel where I stayed was relatively close to the city, so the reception was fine. Anyway, my first personal introduction to WCBS was on 15 March, 1994. More than two years later, on 17 April, 1996, I was able to record WCBS for the second time, then on DAT, in the evening at 22:51, the portable Sony DAT recorder went on.
From 5 - 7 December, 1995, I was also near New York, but too far from the transmitter of WCBS to be able to record anything. In the years that followed, I came to New Jersey regularly. I worked for an American boss and part of my own team I was in New Jersey. I came to New Jersey 1-2 times a month, usually for a week, sometimes a little longer. In that time, I was able to record hundreds of hours of WCBS. Sometimes I would arrive at JFK airport on Sunday night. From the Terminal I then took the van to the car rental company, took the rental car, put the radio on WCBS and then, listening to the Doo-Wop-Shop, drove to New Jersey. And the radio was on WCBS all week.
And here are a few airchecks from WCBS:
In the mid-1970s, the NIS broadcast "The Sound of America," a program presented by Felix Meurders, that featured an image of Radio in the US. Among other things, you heard this beautiful jingle during that program. One of the stations that was covered there was KRTH, "K-Earth one-o-one," from Los Angeles. When I was on vacation in L.A. in the summer of 2000, I stopped by their place. I liked that the station technician knew about the existence of Radio Caroline and that it was broadcast from a ship. I was given a tour of the radio station and was given a few postcards from the DJs as a souvenir:
(I still listen to Shotgun Tom Kelly every single day on Sirius / XM! lol - kk)
During the tour, I was told by the program compilers that they use listening groups, which help to put together the playlist once every three months, a playlist of about 500 records. The compilers program the playlist every day, including the texts for the DJs, for the day after. DJs were only allowed to come up with their own lyrics once an hour. Such a DJ sat there together with a technician, two people who were quite bored. L I was not impressed with KRTH too much … well-known music, which was repeated regularly. Still, I did record a few things. Hereyou can listen to an hour of "Shotgun Tom" Kelly. This is an hour of Brian Beirne, and here and here, another two hours. This was their hour starter. Nowadays, Sky does it in a similar way.
I hope you have enjoyed our little journey thru Radioland this morning. So many of these great names and radio stations mentioned above are part of Chicago's radio legacy. It is SO cool to be able to present them with a totally fresh and new perspective provided by a visitor from The Netherlands who fell in love with this music just the same way we all did way back when. (kk)