I got my first radio when I was just seven, a gift from my Aunt Cash. My Aunt Bitsy helped me tune in WLS, at the time the only rock station in Chicago (WJJD had changed formats and WCFL was still broadcasting union news), and I was set for life. Well, maybe that’s exaggerating a little…
Anyway, as I listened to the station, I got to know the DJ’s and what time they were on: Clark Weber, 6-10 AM, followed by “Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club” from 10 to 11, Bernie Allen from 11 to 2 (with a half hour off at noon for the news and Paul Harvey), Dex Card from 2 to 6, a half hour of news, Ron Riley from 6:30 to 9, Art Roberts 9 to midnight, and Don Phillips from midnight to 6, when the whole thing started again. Weekends were weird, with the “WLS Barn Dance” most of Saturday evening, religious programming until noon on Sunday, then back to the music from noon until 8:30, when the block of “public affairs” programming came on until midnight, at which point the station shut down until 6 AM Monday.
Amazing how I can remember all that after 55 years, isn’t it?
The guy I remember best was Dex Card, or as he called himself “Card, the crewcut in the first row.” During his show every afternoon, he would run down the WLS Silver Dollar Survey, beginning with #40 and ending with #1 around 6. Of course, in those days the songs that played on the radio were three minutes long or less, meaning roughly half his show was the Top 40, the other half was filled with commercials (William A. Lewis, “where the models buy their clothes,” was one advertiser), news (at :25 and :55) and weather reports (“40 degrees at Midway, 42 at O’Hare, 45 in Grant Park”), a sprinkling of oldies and new songs about to break into the Top 40, and Dex talking. I’d get home from school at 3:30 and spend the next two and a half hours listening to him. He was my friend, at least that’s how I thought of him.
Then, one afternoon in 1967, Dex was replaced by Larry Lujack, who had been doing the overnight shift at WCFL (which had just switched to a Top 40 station). Next thing I knew, Dex was doing Larry’s old shift at WCFL. I felt a slight sense of loss, but soon Larry was my afternoon companion and everything was back to normal, “normal” being defined as “how things are in radioland.”
Those of us who grew up in the ’60’s and ’70’s and even into the ’80’s all have a story like that to tell. Don’t we?
Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word from WLS Musicradio and “Superjock” Larry Lujack.