I was 12 years old in the spring of 1960 when I turned on the radio to listen to the Farm Report on WLS. For almost 40 years the Prairie Farmer station had featured recipes, hog calling contests, the Saturday night National Barn Dance, and other homespun entertainment for the farm community. But on May 2,1960 the Prairie Farmer vanished, and in its place was a new 24-hour Top 40 station known as The Bright New Sound. Loyal listeners got the shock of their lives, but for Baby Boomers like me,it was the answer to our prayers. At last we had our own music station, and cool deejays known as the Swinging Seven—and they were playing OUR music! Radio historian Scott Childers of WLSHistory.com recalls the ruckus it caused.
“They would get calls from people saying, “What’s this Elvis Presley, and all this crazy rock ’n roll on the air?”
And who was this new voice that came blaring out of my transistor radio?
“This is the Wild I-Tralian, Dick Biondi!”
Dick Biondi was so unique, so goofy, and so sincere, I was instantly hooked! From that night on, I was glued to my transistor radio from 9-midnight listening to the Wild I-Tralian slurp his coffee, sing off key, and crack corny knock knock jokes. And later I started a fan club for him. I’d never heard anyone so outrageous, and so exciting as the self proclaimed, “world’s ugliest disc jockey.”
While we kids loved him, Biondi was our parents’ worst nightmare. This screaming wild man was keeping children awake on school nights. Some banned him. Others threatened to withhold batteries. But nothing could stop the waves of youthful listeners from hiding transistors under our pillows, pretending to be asleep, afraid we might miss a moment of Biondi’s crazy antics.
“And it was not just in Chicago,” says former WLS disc jockey Bob Sirott. “All across the country kids grew up listening to Dick Biondi.”
Dick was so popular that in 1961 his boyhood dream came true and he became the most listened to disc jockey in America. I met Dick that year, and it was the beginning of a 50 year friendship that led to my decision to make a movie about it.
I’ll never forget the excitement, the fun, and the joy that was Dick Biondi. And it all started the moment I heard his voice on the radio. A year later I’d meet the famous Dick Biondi at a local shopping center. But I’ll save that story for another time.
Pam Pulice is directing an independent documentary film about the legendary radio personality, Dick Biondi. Learn more at www.DickBiondiFilm.com.