Thursday, September 30, 2004

Top 40, News, Weather, and Sports

If that title doesn't ring a bell with you, you must not be an Old Guy. Top 40 Radio was a big part of my teenage years, and in fact its boom coincided with my adolescence. I turned 13 the month that "Sh-Boom" hit #1 on the charts, a fact that I 've always considered significant, even if it was only the Crew Cuts version.

I was lucky enough to live in Central Texas, where my radio picked up KLIF during the day. When atmospheric conditions were right, I could get KTSA and KILT, too. For those of you who don't know, those were the three McClendon stations, the property of Gordon McClendon, The Old Scotchman, one of the true pioneers and great innovators of Top 40 radio.

When I got a little older and entered the American Graffiti stage of my life, the car radio was always on. At night in Central Texas, you could pick up John R. (The Old Hoss Man) and Gene Nobles, both on WLAC in Nashville. They advertised Silky Strate and Randy's Record Shop (which I believe was in Gallatin). In New Oleans, there was Jack the Cat on WNOE. We could even get Dick Biondi in WLS in Chicago. When I went to college in Austin, I listened to Ricky Ware on KTSA during the daytime. Those were great days for DJs and for Top 40 radio.

And for me. I must have ridden a million miles with Bob Tyus in his 1940 Chevrolet, Fred Williams in his black '50 Ford, Richard Perkins in his '54 Cevy, Mike Leary in his '53 Ford, Geoff Gore in his '51 Studebaker. Always with the radio on, always with the great music coming through those crummy little speakers.

The Top 40 format might have been rigid, but the song selection was plenty eclectic. Every station played pop, country, rock, doo wop, rhythm and blues. You might hear Johnny Cash one minute and Percy Faith's orchestra the next, followed by Clyde McPhatter.

I know it's just an Old Guy's fantasy that the music was better in those days than it is now, but it's still the music I prefer to listen to. I should try to improve my tastes, but I know I never will.

All this was brought on, by the way, by my reading of The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The Rise of Top 40 Radio by Ben Fong-Torres. Highly recommended if you like that sort of thing, which I do.


Dave Lewis said...

Cool stuff, Mr. Bill. I'm forwarding this to my buddy the famous DJ.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I don't remember what I listened to when I was real young, but when I was a teenager it ws the legendary WABC New York and another, smaller station on the low end of the dial. On Sunday nights the local stations had nothing and I managed to get WWVA Wheeling, West Virginia. I wasn't a big country fan but it beat nothing.