As a kid I had breakfast every morning with the 50,000-watt Godzilla of all AM radio stations – KDKA 1020, Pittsburgh, PA. The first commercial radio station in the world, launched by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, turns 95 years old today.
My dad always had our kitchen radio tuned to 1020 on the dial. There was no fighting him on that; he loved his KD. I still have the Westinghouse radio, circa 1960, pictured above, and it still plays! Daddy worked at Westinghouse back in the days when the one-time industrial giant made consumer electronics and appliances, so he bought it with his company discount.
When a plain-talking Montana native named Jack Bogut joined KDKA in 1968 he quickly became the most popular morning announcer in town, with his silly stories about things called farkelberries and snickerdoodles and his recitations of Shel Silverstein’s “Slitheree Dee.” One day he said he had received a call from an angry listener, complaining about the “dumb Polack” jokes he used to tell. He then revealed he had Polish roots, which made the locals seem to like him that much more.
He didn’t play much music — mostly lightweight stuff and novelty songs, which Daddy loved. One song I clearly remember was “Tennessee Bird Walk,” with goofy lyrics like you can see them walking southward in their dirty underwear. Bogut thought it was hilarious and played it as often as he could. This one’s for you, Daddio:
Now, here’s a little clip featuring some of KDKA’s jingles. Remember these? Oh, we Pittsburghers are so nostalgic.
© Dana Spiardi, Nov 2, 2015