The Crew Cut In The First Row #socs

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.

42 thoughts on “The Crew Cut In The First Row #socs

  1. Yes! I came in on this when we moved to Illinois in 1974. Loved the countdown. Loved Dr. Demento. And loved Larry. My parents drove me to the mall at age 14 so I could buy a personally autographed copy of Larry’s autobiography. I must have lost it during one of my many moves since. Ah, thanks for the memories!

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    1. You have/had an autographed copy of “Superjock”? That’s a collector’s item now. I’d keep an eye out for it; it’s probably tucked away in a box somewhere. Things like that have a way of magically turning up…

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  2. So fun – I love that you remembered all those details. There was something special about growing up in a time where the tunes came to us through radio and not so many different avenues, perhaps that is what makes it easier to remember? Now there is so much noise to weed through. Hope you have a great weekend!

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  3. I always enjoyed the top 40 countdowns with the anticipation of hearing my current favorite. The one that comes to mind is Casey Casum. (Not sure if I spelled that right and working from my phone.) But Dick Clark must’ve had one too.

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    1. Close: Kasem. πŸ™‚ “American Top 40”: I worked at my parish’s rectory on Sunday mornings, and listened every week. Justin Timberlake does it now. There used to be a lot of syndicated shows: Dick Clark (his wasn’t a countdown, but it was good), Dick Bartley, Wolfman Jack, Shadoe Stevens…

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  4. Hi John – great fun to read your post … I used to enjoy the music, but rarely listened all the time as I was out playing sport. But interesting to read up … 5 years ago when I had a bug and was bedbound … I hit a radio programme when Johnnie Walker of DJ fame was talking about Les Crane and his show on radio KGO … I even wrote up about it (2nd Jan 2013)… and it was where Les Crane had recorded the poem ‘Desiderata’ … it was fun to listen to and even more fun to learn more – lovely post – cheers Hilary

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    1. His recording of “Desiderata” did very well, reaching #8 in the US. I found his obit from ten years ago. Lying in bed listening to the radio was my favorite way to spend a sick day…

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  5. John,

    As you may recall radio listening for me was done while in the car mostly because of where we lived but I think it’s great that you have such fond memories. In the mid-80s where I worked we often had the radio tuned into a local station and I remembered the 5 o’clock whistle show but I can’t recall which station did this now. It’s been too many years ago. Oh well…that was always fun and the height of my work week because when I heard that I knew it was time for the weekend!

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  6. Radio programs were the best back then. I mentioned before that I could sometimes pick up WLS down here very late in the night. Our local stations used to give away a print out of the week’s top 40. It had pictures of the DJs on the front, too. I still have one that I got, probably from the 60s. Good memories!

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    1. I think I told you about the “clear channel” stations that would basically own the frequency after dark. In Chicago, WLS, WCFL and WGN were all clear-channel, with 50,000 watts of power 24 hours a day. The classic one is WLW from Cincinnati, which you can pick up pretty much anywhere east of the Rockies.

      Picking up the weekly survey for WLS and WCFL was the start of my weekend. It’s why I do the Top 10 from a station in history on Friday. There’s a huge archive, the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, that has a ton of old surveys from just about all over the world (http://las-solanas.com/arsa/), and you can find a lot of the old surveys on Pinterest. Radio was magic, wasn’t it? Now the AM band is talk, religion and foreign language, and a lot of FM stations are abandoning music, too. It’s a different world…

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  7. I listened to the radio all the time but I can’t remember the DJ’s names very well. Sad, huh? I hate the radio now and only listen to the baseball games. Otherwise, give me my iTunes shuffle!

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    1. The ballgames are about the only thing worth listening to these days. When you think about it, that state of affairs happened in a hurry, only within the last 20 years has radio gone from a must-have to an “enh” thing. I listen to a lot of Internet radio now. Right now I have on a smooth jazz channel on AccuRadio.com.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow! Great memory of all those details. I only remember bits and pieces. The transistor radio that sat on my nightstand. Calling in trying to win concert tickets or other fun prizes. Joe Anthony The Godfather of Rocknroll was my favorite DJ. Linda sure hit it out of the park with card. We all strolling down memory lane today 😊. Great post btw!!

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    1. WLS ran a contest where they would choose a random dollar amount and people tried to guess what it was. Every hour, they’d tell you to call in and be the 15th caller, and that person got some kind of a freebie and had to try to guess what the figure was. If they guessed correctly, they won that money. That was really frustrating, because there was no way you could get through if you had a dial phone.

      Great prompt!

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  9. What a great memory you have to recall all the names of those DJ’s! Enjoyed reading this post, it struck a chord with my recollections of listening to music as a teenager. Imagine, having to wait until your favourite song came on!

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  10. I remember WDBO-AM in Orlando, FL, where I grew up. The station debuted in 1924. I also listened to WAPE, known as The Big Ape. It debuted in 1958. It’s defunct now. Then along came Magic 107.7 and in the early 1970s, I remember the first song I heard was Little GTO. One could write a book about radio stations and all of their changes.

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  11. Wow, do you have a good memory or what?! Reading this I was able to recall tuning into WLS, while I was up in Holland, MI. I used to listen while laying out in the sun. Thanks to your memories, I do recall Larry and Paul Harvey “Good day!” But that is about all.

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  12. We still have Bob and Tom here, but that’s it when it comes to the old school. It’s not like it was. On Sunday, everyone, everywhere, listened to the radio all morning, Casey Kasem and the Top 100, at the very least. We also had two local stations with love song dedications in the evening and alternative rock “Got the Led Out” at 7 every night for an hour. It’s not like that now should include this face 😦

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    1. come to the old DJ’s. (Sorry, working on my phone.) You can’t go down to the station and watch the jocks work anymore, because they aren’t there. They’re sitting in a studio somewhere being broadcast to stations all over the country. The music is picked by an algorithm. It’s sad.

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