Tuesday, December 12, 2017

WLS, Channel 89, Chicago, Summer, 1967

Today, I have recordings that no doubt fit into the category of a "Holy Grail" for Chicago area collectors and collectors of radio recordings in general. That will follow at the bottom of this post, but before I get there, I have some thanks to give and some comments to quote.

First, and I apologize that this has taken five months, I received an anonymous comment from someone regarding "The Big Midwestern Hayride"; as follows:

I knew I recognized that Accordion & Piano Player playing in the Hayriders Band. That Randy Dirks is my Great Grandfather! Thanks so much for posting and making available!!! I think the Steel Player is Ray "Chubby" Howard. Do you have any photos or other memorabilia from the show? 

Here is a link with the band, my Great Grandfather (Randy Dirks) is on Accordion & Piano. Same fella in this audio reel of yours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VglClQGWIHQ 

I will add that I do not have any more photos or memorabilia, unfortunately, but am glad I was able to share this piece of your Great-Grandfather's career.

A reader named Eric provided some helpful information regarding the Long John Nebel tape:

The initial program on the tape the guests are Judith Malina, actress and founder of "The Living Theater" and Rosemary McGrath, a conservative activist with Young Americans For Freedom. At one point Long John Nebel refers to one of the plays put on by the Living Theater starring an actor named Kheigh Dheigh who would later become better known for his role as Wo Fat on "Hawaii Five-O." This dates the program based on what fragmentary info I can Google to 1961 since that's when the plays Nebel mentions were performing.

Thanks so much for that research - I appreciate the time that took, and that you wrote. If you care to do the same regarding future posts, by all means, please do.

Speaking of research, another anonymous poster has done some digging on two recent posts (I believe it was the same person both times), and has shared his/her findings with me. I am impressed by your research, who ever you are, and enthusiastically encourage more in the future. Thank you very much for all of your information.

For a post featuring some Australian Short-Wave broadcasting, I received the following:

I enjoy doing a bit of detective work based on the clues in your recordings. For example, for the "Listeners' Mailbag" segment, the following information can be found from searching the Web:

1) Keith Glover's last broadcast was on December 28, 1980; this sets an upper limit on the date of the recording.
2) "Mr. R.B. Gee" gives his address as "843, 310 Bloor Street West, Toronto 5, Ontario, Canada". He was using a "4-tube receiver, two years old" and "80 feet above ground". The address corresponds to the Tartu College Student Residence and, based on his apartment number and antenna height, "R.B. Gee" probably lived on the eighth floor. Tartu college was built in 1970, giving a lower limit on the date. Canada introduced a 6-character postal code system starting in 1971; it would have been rolled out to Toronto by 1974. Since the address is given using the old postal zone "Toronto 5" rather than postal code "M5S 1W4", we can guess that the recording was made before 1974. This also ties in nicely with the fact that the 2-year old receiver used four vacuum tubes; transistors had pretty much taken over by 1974.

So my guess is that the recording was made sometime between 1970 and 1974. Does the original tape box have any markings which might confirm this? 

(Unfortunately, again, the tape box is essentially blank for this recording - with nothing of note written on it at all.)
For the more recent "Gathering of Rude Friends"

Something about the way these people talk (but certainly not the content) reminds me of conversations around my in-laws' kitchen table, when their neighbors dropped by. (They owned a beef cattle farm in southern Ontario.) My father-in-law always referred to his wife as "Mother" and the accents are the same as those of rural Canadians.

I have fun playing detective when listening to your tapes. Here are some of the things I deduced:
1) Although these people sound much like Canadians they are definitely American since they use terms such as "Sears" (instead of "Simpsons-Sears"), "railroad" (instead of "railway"), and "Internal Revenue" (instead of "Revenue Canada"). To my Canadian ears, they don't have a strong accent, so I would guess a northern state.
2) There's a reference to a "Mrs. Larson" ("Larsen"?) in a mock-Swedish accent and also to a Swedish co-worker. According to Wikipedia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have the highest concentration of Swedish Americans.
3) The reference to "Michigan" makes it sound like it's a different state, so it can probably be eliminated.
4) When calling the police department, there is a reference to "Wisconsin [license] plates". This would suggest that these people are in Wisconsin (although Minnesota can't be ruled out).
5) There is a reference to "over in Bloomer". Although Minnesota has a Bloomer Township, in Marshall County, this phrase would better fit the Town of Bloomer or City of Bloomer, both in Chippewa County, Wisconsin.

So my guess is that these people lived on a farm or small village in (or near) Chippewa County, Wisconsin.

Again, thanks for all this research.

Finally, Brother Herbert offers up a suggestion regarding the "Check Your Phone Book" guy:

"Check Your Phone Book" guy sounds maddeningly familiar but I can't quite place him. Tone and delivery are similar to James A. FitzPatrick of TRAVELTALKS fame - perhaps it's him? 

I had never heard of FitzPatrick before, but I had a listen, and it seems at least possible.

And now, on with the countdown:


So here's a tape I'd had for years, and had honestly forgotten about. But I've recently begun trying to arrange my tapes in a more coherent way, and as part of that, I've been replaying those which were poorly marked or unmarked. The first fruit of this project to be interesting enough for this site is that "Holy Grail" I referred to above, an hour of recordings from WLS, 890 AM (or Channel 89), largely from the late summer of 1967.

And interestingly, there is a lot more DJ chatter here than you'll find on many surviving tapes of the era. Usually, over the air recordings feature the songs a young person wished to listen to again and again, often with the beginnings and the endings cut off, with little or no DJ personality heard.

This isn't quite the opposite - there are several songs here - but the DJ in question, Ron Riley for most of the recording, had a lot to say, and kept saying it. He was back from (and talking about) his vacation, he was reporting on the demise of Pirate Radio in England (nicely dating the primary recording here to roughly August 14th, 1967), and engaging in a bunch of unrelated banter. There are also several commercials, and he even interviews that dream James Darren shortly before the tape runs out. The recording quality is not the best, but it'll do.

Side Two is much less interesting, until near the end. On this side, the sound quality worsens considerably, and is honestly awful during the first half of that 30 minute segment (it's bad after that, too). This doesn't seem to be from the same day, but the host is still Ron Riley, until near the end, when we jump forward several months, to Groundhog Day, 1968, and hear a (typically darkly) humorous audio essay from the legendary Larry Lujack, shortly before that side of the tape runs out.

I hope you enjoy this tape as much as I do!

Download: WLS, Mostly 1967, Side One

Download: WLS, Mostly 1967, Side Two

The best news is, I believe there are several more tapes down in the basement, also featuring Chicago radio from the same era!


  1. Hi Bob,

    You're right, the anonymous poster for the August 7 and November 29 blogs were the same person, namely me. :-) (I also posted to the October 9, 2016 blog using my own name.)

    The amount of information that is available via the internet is truly amazing. I just do my "detective" work for fun, but it's scary what information can be found on the web (which is one of the reasons I've avoided Facebook).

    BTW, I enjoy listening to your tapes, since they open fascinating windows into the past. I grew up hearing stories from my late mother, who was born in London, England and lived there during throughout the Second World War; I wish I had made recordings at the time, to pass on to my own (now grown-up) children. (She died when they were both very young and they hardly remember her.)

    Merry Christmas!


  2. I've heard much of this before from you, but not all in one piece. Thank you!!!

  3. Great 60's Top-40 type radio aircheqs... A nice XMAS present for myself. Thanx for all of these you can share with us, Bobbo!!! Keep 'em coming.

  4. Hi, Tony, I really appreciate it, and by all means, please keep it up!