Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rock And Roll Radio

Before television I was on the radio.

Those days of no money, mac and cheese,  and concerts.
Me and Sky in Chicago

Lots of concerts.

I began in Baltimore at WKTK. Ah, living in my basement and bringing home $119 in my weekly paycheck. Back then I had a '69 VW Bug with no front passenger seat and it was gimme a ticket red.

My on-air name was Midnight Mark because I started my shift at, wait for it, midnight.

I was on the air once starting at midnight on New Years morning, you know the ball dropping in Times Square and all thatOn the request lines everyone seemed to be at a party. As the night went on, the callers got drunker and drunker. One guy who got through said he crawled towards the phone, and had had so much to drink, he passed out. Woke up, dialed the phone and could I please play him some Skynyrd?

Oh yeah, Happy New Year by the way.

Next stop Detroit.

Learned to rock, hard, in Detroit. Here's the deal, they made cars there or banging fenders as it was called, they couldn't hear Joni Mitchell if their life depended on it. So it was AC/DC, loud, at six in the morning. Bob Seger was a god there so was Iggy Pop.

It was in Detroit that I met Sky Daniels.

I worked with him, he was a character and I mean that in a good way. Rocked like a mofo, knew his stuff and was very smart.

We were number one in the ratings, back to back, in two cities, Detroit AND Chicago.

Sky was the one that changed our request lines to 759-Rock and 759-Roll.

He also turned me on to The Romantics. Sky had come back from the mecca of punk clubs in the Motor City, Bookies, raving about this band in red leather. Said it reminded him of the early days of The Beatles at the Cavern club.

Had to go.

Sky was right. They were special and they were great.

The station we were on was WWWW or W4. I had a weekly show where I played local bands mixed in with The Clash and Elvis Costello called W4 Play. For bands like The Mutants and The Cadillac Kidz, to hear themselves on the radio next to these guys was mighty fine.

Detroit taught me the importance of gritty rock and roll, it taught me how to wear a hoodie inside a leather jacket (with the hood hanging out) and it taught me attitude.

There's a bit of Detroit inside me still.

On to Chicago.
JY from Styx dead center

The station was WLUP, more commonly known as the Loop. We played Chicago bands like Styx, Chicago, Cheap Trick. Cheap Trick was actually from Rockford but as far as we were concerned that was close enough.

Side story...when I was on the air in Detroit, Styx came to town and I went to see them. It's still the loudest I've ever heard a crowd and everyone sang along to every song and went home sweaty and happy.

Back to Chicago.

The Loop owned that town.

You could see black Loop t-shirts with the Loop's white logo etched on them, everywhere. The station seemed to be on in cabs, in cars, in restaurants. I worked with legends--Sky, of course, Steve Dahl, Mitch Michaels. Those names may not resonate with you but they were big time in Chicago.

I was on the air at the Loop when John Lennon died. Remember that?

I was on the phone talking to my girlfriend when the AP machine outside of the studio started dinging like crazy. Howard Cosell had said, on Monday Night Football, that Lennon had been shot.  For many people, that's where they heard the news first.

The request lines lit up right after that full of incredulous and crying callers.

It was the one time you answered every call.

I immediately switched to playing Lennon songs, with The Beatles and without. Man, people are dazed with losing Prince, Bowie, Frey...we were punched, hard, in the stomach with John Lennon.  It was the first major loss, for me, in rock and roll.

I worked 10p to 2a. When my shift was over you could have wrung me out like a dish rag.

I left the Loop and slowly walked home.

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