Ode To A Dying Breed - The Radio DJ
Sooner or later, your favorite local radio music format will be gone. One day, perhaps without warning, it will be replaced by talk, news, or some “contemporary” format. Popular songs you once enjoyed, or maybe loved to hate, first become oldies and suddenly one day a program director somewhere decides the demographic skews too old and those songs just vanish from the radio.
The final cut comes when the format’s premiere disc jockeys disappear. Recently, one of the country's top jazz DJs, Dick Buckley from Chicago, died. For several decades before his last broadcast two years ago, when it came to jazz, he had few peers. Like the best DJ of any format - classical, country, rock, R & B - Buckley introduced old songs to new listeners and new songs to old listeners. Interspersed with his tales of hanging out with Count Basie and Duke Ellington, he typified the emotional hold a talented DJ with great music could exert over listeners.
Author Michael Chabon discusses the power of local radio in his essay, Radio Silence: “(The song) 'Runaround Sue' by Dion &the Belmonts (1961) was my mother’s all-time favorite. We used to hear it sometime on WMOD ('Washington DC’s Goldmine'), and she always got a certain look when it came on, something between surprise and reverie. All those songs, and even more, their familiarity and evident importance to my mother- the associations and memories they stirred, the good feelings they engendered – came to mean something to me. Their lyrics, their instrumentation, the outmoded crooning or falsettos of their vocalists, their monaural shimmer, became part of my understanding of the era that had produced them, and my understanding of my mother, and of the way she saw and talked about her life.”
Unfortunately, formats pass on. AM radio stations that once filled the airwaves with 1940s favorites, the Andrews Sisters or Dorsey Brothers, are long gone. That music may as well be Gregorian chants. 1950s formats that made their bones on doo-wop, Chuck Berry or the Everly Brothers have become distant memories like poodle skirts and saddle shoes.Continued on the next page