I a.m. what I am: breakfast of champions with KDKA

Nov 2, 2015 | 1474 Views | 1 Comment

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

Tagged: Pittsburgh, Radio

Responses

  1. Jane of the Desert says:

    November 7th, 2015 at 12:27 am (#)

    KDKA was often on in my house, too. I far and away preferred WAMO but that didn’t make it with the parents. So after school our house was usually “Racin’ through the afternoon with Clark Race” while I set the table for dinner and did my other chores. My most exciting experience with Clark was when KD sent him to London to “meet the Beatles.” I don’t think he actually met them, more like he was in a room with them with a microphone in his hand. I remember being very excited and sitting right next to the radio at around 5 p.m., learning about the time difference between the ‘burgh and England. Clark must not have had a very interesting show that night because I don’t remember a thing about beyond waiting for it to start. Clark Race eventually left Pittsburgh for California and after he retired from radio he moved back to PA and opened a bed and breakfast in Sewickley. He died of cancer quite a few years ago, but I bet I’d recognize his voice even now if I were to hear it. Happy anniversary, KDKA.

Leave a Response