Airchecks: 1958

 

Talent: FRANTIC ERNIE DURHAM
Station: WBBC Flint, Michigan
Date: 1958
Time: 9:18



He started in newspapers, moved to radio news, but found his real niche as a deejay. His name was
Ernie Durham, a.k.a. The Frantic One or Ernie D.

Son of a banker and a nurse, the New York-born Durham came to radio quite by accident. His original career path was journalism: he got his masters degree in journalism from New York University and by the mid-'20s was working for the leading black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier. Later, he was doing radio news in New York when a deejay took ill at the last minute. Durham was asked to fill in. He liked it so much he became a full-time deejay and left the news business behind.

By the 1950s, Durham had become one of Michigan's top rhythm-and-blues deejays. He was such in demand that for a time he worked at two stations - WBBC in Flint and WJLB in Detroit. According to David Carson's book Rockin' Down the Dial: The Detroit Sound of Radio, Durham would finish his WBBC show while his closing theme was playing, then race to Detroit with his opening theme having started!

As you'll hear on this aircheck, Ernie Durham was truly "frantic," rapping and rhyming his way through every break. Behind the scenes, however, Durham was a savvy businessman who passed up the club and party scene. Back in the days where deejays picked their own tunes. Durham played a big part in introducing many a Detroit act to the Michigan audience, including a young Smokey Robinson.

Durham later went to work at WJLB's successor, WQBH, and was also at WJR in Detroit. In 1992, he returned to the airwaves to host a Saturday night r&b oldies show on another Detroit station, WDET-FM. He died December 2 of that year after suffering from chest pains.
 

To hear Frantic Ernie Durham, click here.

To hear Frantic Ernie Durham, click here.
 

(The Rex Doane Collection)



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Talent: HARVEY DOBBS
Station: CHUM Toronto
Date: May 15, 1958
Time: 45:09 (unscoped)
           26:57 (scoped)

The famous CHUM sign at 1331 Yonge Street in Toronto, where the CHUM studios were from 1959 to 2009

It is incorrect to say that
CHUM became a 24-hour a day, seven-day week rock 'n' roll station on May 27, 1957. For one, they still had some ethnic and religious programming on their schedule. And they didn't even play rock 'n' roll all the time. Evidence of that can be found on this aircheck from May, 1958, about a year after CHUM supposedly became a full-time rock 'n' roll station. The music is decidedly MOR and the appeal is to homemakers (they called them housewives then) not teenagers. The teens got to hear their rock 'n' roll before and after school and at night. This kind of dayparting was commonplace in radio of the time.

Technically, CHUM didn't become and remain a full-time, 24-hour rock 'n' roll station until the mid'-70s, when John Gilbert's mid-morning talk show was dropped in 1977. Gilbert's show was preceded in the 1960s and '70s by Larry Solway's Speak Your Mind talk show. In the early '60s, CHUM even ran Moose Latreck's country music show in late evening, while playing easier-listening tunes by day.

Harvey Dobbs, a carryover from CHUM's pre-rock era, did the 9 a.m.-noon shift at CHUM when the station launched its Top 40 era in 1957. He left the airwaves in February 1959 to go into sales.


Enjoy Harvey Dobbs (UNSCOPED) here.

Enjoy Harvey Dobbs (UNSCOPED) here.


Enjoy Harvey Dobbs (SCOPED) here.

Enjoy Harvey Dobbs (SCOPED) here.
 

(The Kal Raudoja Collection via Don Shuttleworth)

For more classic CHUM airchecks, visit The CHUM Archives


Talent: AL BOLISKA
Station: CHUM Toronto
Date: May 15, 1958
Time: 
14:18

Al Boliska with Fabian, 1959. (The CHUM Archives)

Al Boliska is remembered as CHUM's zany 6-9 a.m. host from 1957 to 1963. Almost forgotten is the noon-1 p.m. lunchtime show he did during that period.

Boliska didn't like doing the noontime gig and played it pretty straight - no funny stuff (maybe he didn't want to use up his good material!) Ironically, this aircheck of Boliska not doing the comedy stuff he was famous for is the only aircheck of him that has surfaced. Still, it's always great to hear how CHUM sounded in the early days, and the commercials and musical selections make it a real period piece.
 

Enjoy Al Boliska on CHUM here.

Enjoy Al Boliska on CHUM here.
 

(The Kal Raudoja Collection)

AUDIO ENHANCEMENT by Andy Rebscher


Talent: ARNIE GINSBURG
Station: WBOS Boston
Date: Spring, 1958
Time: 5:58

On this aircheck, we hear a rather subdued Arnie Ginsburg in his last year at WBOS. No bells or cowbells and only a couple of toots on the whistle here - they would soon be a major part of his act at WMEX - just Ginsburg with the Older Records Hour.
 

Enjoy Arnie Ginsburg on WBOS here.

Enjoy Arnie Ginsburg on WBOS here.
 

(The Sam Ward Collection)


Talent: GEORGE "HOUND DOG" LORENZ
Station: WKBW Buffalo, N.Y.
Date: May, 1958
Time: 3:28 (Upgraded 12-5-15)

Nineteen-fifty-eight marked the beginning of one historic era at WKBW and the end of another.

On July 4, 1958 - as rock 'n' roll continued to sweep the world - WKBW went to a full-time Top 40 format. While WKBW had played rock 'n' roll before, it had not done so on a 24-hour basis. (To compare before and after lineups, click here.)

The beginning of WKBW as a Top 40 station marked the end of the legendary George "Hound DogLorenz's involvement with the station. He had joined 'KB in 1955 and shook things up with a rock 'n' roll show in the evening and his Hound Dog Hit Parade on Saturday mornings. Not everyone liked his act - church bulletins railed against him - but the Hound just kept right on rockin'. His son Frank - quoted in Wes Smith's excellent book Pied Pipers of Rock 'N' Roll - says of his father "he felt very strongly about the music and black artists in particular. He fought hard to keep their music on the radio."

Lorenz did not wish to work within the confines of Top 40 radio so he left WKBW before the switch. He went on to found WBLK-FM - one of the first black music stations on FM - before passing away in 1972 at the age of 52.
 

Enjoy Hound Dog Lorenz on WKBW from May, 1958 here.

Enjoy Hound Dog Lorenz on WKBW from May, 1958 here.
 

(The Dan Haber Collection)

AUDIO ENHANCEMENT by Andy Rebscher


Talent: IRV SMITH
Station: 
WINS New York
Date: 
October 30, 1958
Time:
 5:35 (Upgraded 3-3-12)

Long before Musicradio WABC and the WMCA Good Guys, there was WINS.

WINS was a pioneer in Top 40 radio, beginning with the arrival of Alan Freed at the New York station from Cleveland. Freed memorably handled the nighttime shift at WINS from 1954 to 1958, before heading first to obscurity and then to the grave in the wake of the payola scandals.

According to a September 30, 1957 schedule in the excellent book The Airwaves of New York, WINS began its mornings with Wake Up To Irv with Irv Smith - A Smith Named Irv. That was followed in late mornings with Listen to Lacy with Jack Lacy. In middays, it was the High Noon to 3 Orbit Universe with Stan Z. Burns. Lacy returned from 3-7 p.m. (split shifts were common in radio then), followed by Alan Freed from 7-11 p.m. Stan Shaw handled the all-night duties.

On January 31, 1958 - about three months after this aircheck was recorded - Smith was killed in a car accident. He was 30.
 

Hear Irv Smith on WINS here.

Hear Irv Smith on WINS here.
 

(Scrapbook archives)

AUDIO ENHANCEMENT by Andy Rebscher


Talent: JACK LACY
Station: 
WINS New York
Date: 
October 30, 1958
Time:
 6:35

"Listen To Lacy / A Guy With A Style /
Spinning The Discs With Finesse (Yes Yes)
You Just Set Your Dial To 1010 Awhile / TO W I N S /
You Should Listen, You Should Listen Every...DAY..../ When Jack Lacy Comes Your Way." 


For years, Jack Lacy was a regular afternoon presence at WINS New York, one of the Big Apple's pioneering rock 'n' roll stations. WINS began playing rock 'n' roll full-time around 1956 and featured such legendary performers as Alan Freed, Murray the K, Stan Z. Burns, Paul Sherman, Mad Daddy (Pete Meyers) and Johnny Holliday.

The good times at WINS as a music station were relatively short-lived, however. In 1965, WINS became one of the first stations in the U.S. to switch to a 24-hour news format, a precursor of things to come in AM radio.

Jack Lacy died in 1996 at the age of 79.
 

Listen to Lacy on WINS here.

Listen to Lacy on WINS here.
 

(Scrapbook archives)


Talent: MAD DADDY
Station: WHK Cleveland
Date: November 11, 1958
Time: 58:28 (unscoped)

He was one of rock 'n' roll radio's zaniest characters, a man whose time came and went far too quickly.

He was one of rock 'n' roll radio's zaniest characters, a man whose time came and went far too quickly.

San Francisco-born Pete Meyers introduced the wild antics of Mad Daddy to WHKK in Akron, Ohio in 1957. He had travelled cross-country from KCBQ San Diego where he was struggling to find work as an actor. He moved his rhyming, fast-paced patter to WJW Cleveland in 1958 then zipped over to cross-town rival WHK later that year for twice the money. Myers moved to New York in 1959 but his manic antics and spooky laugh did not play well at WNEW. He lasted exactly one shift at staid old 'NEW as Mad Daddy but continued there as "lovable, laughable Pete Meyers." He revived his Mad Daddy persona in WINS from 1963 until the station went to an all-news format in 1965.

Myers, an excellent middle-of-the-road announcer in his own right, returned to that style at
WNEW-AM from 1965 to 1968. He shot himself to death on October 4, 1968. The New York Times reported that a note was found near his body saying Myers was despondent about his shift moving from afternoons to evenings.


Hear Mad Daddy on WHK here.

Hear Mad Daddy on WHK here.
 

(The Sam Ward Collection)


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