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Monday, March 9, 2009
"The Daddio of the Raddio"
Porky Chedwick - The Daddio of the Raddio
"Any entertainer of my era who say they don't know who Porky Chedwick is ... they're damn lyin'! That's the cat that played the records. I know." - Bo Diddley
"Porky Chedwick?! Now you're taking me back!" - Dick Clark
"Porky Chedwick is a legend!" - Charlie Thomas, The Drifters
Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, a relatively unknown DJ was making quite a splash here in Pittsburgh. His selection of vinyl was heavily laden with the "Doo Wop" sound, something that caused many parents to raise their eyebrows. Here was a white man presenting a program of "negro" music; blues, R&B, gospel and jazz. This was music that many back in those times considered "race" music. Some parents went as far as to label this controversial DJ a satanic influence on their children.
But, in a time when Frank Sinatra and the big bands were king, Craig "Porky" Chedwick broke all the rules, and the young listeners that flocked to this new sound knew that they were part of something fresh and exciting. "Pork the Tork", the "Daddio of the Raddio," your "Platter Pushin' Papa," the "Boss Hoss with the Hot Sauce" had opened the door to the new genre of Doo-Wop, and the airwaves have never been quite the same since.
For many years, Porky Chedwick made his home right here in Brookline. He was a frequent guest at many of the social events here in the neighborhood. You could generally find the "Boss Hoss" hanging out with his good friend Charlie McLaughlin, and spend a moment or two chatting with a true radio legend whose achievements have been duly honored with a prestigious spot in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.
Into his nineties, Porky was still doing what he loved the most, spinning tunes on Sunday evenings for WLSW in Scottdale, Pennsylvania. Like many old sounds, the Doo-Wop beat has made a big comeback on the oldies circuits. The old artists and fans could still listen to their favorite tunes courtesy of a man often refered to as "Radio's Ignored Pioneer", Brookline's own Craig "Porky" Chedwick.
Porky Chedwick was born in Homestead back in 1917. His career in radio began in 1948 with a stint on WHOD, a tiny station located behind a Homestead candy store. The station was subsequently renamed WAMO. Porky began playing blues and R&B records, albums by musicians like Bo Diddley and bands like Little Anthony and the Imperials. White teenagers devoured this music, establishing a trend that has continued ever since.
And, to his infinite credit, Chedwick refused to play covers of these songs played by white musicians. As the "Boss Hoss" told the Tribune-Review in 1998, "I wouldn't even play Elvis Presley's version of 'Hound Dog.' I played Big Mama Thornton's."
With WAMO broadcasting such sounds in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Pittsburgh was on the cutting edge of a musical trend. This was perhaps the first and only time this ever happened. Neither WAMO nor WHOD had the broadcast strength to compete with giant stations like KDKA directly, so Chedwick and other DJ's compensated by developing signature styles. Chedwick came up with many nicknames for himself, so many in fact that to recite them all would take several minutes and leave a tongue twisted for several more.
Porky invented so many crazy words that he claimed his own "Porkology" dictionary. The Daddio struggles to convey the wonder of his life's work. "I got a calling, an inspiration, I was getting certain vibrations to be in big-time radio. When a community radio station opened up in Homestead in 1948, there was a place for me to get on the air."
Among his many notable achievements, Pork the Tork essentially invented the concept of oldies. While Chedwick often spun the records of new acts, he had a special interest in music recorded years ago. They were oldies even when Chedwick first played them. He bought unwanted dusty 78s, records by black acts, and dropped the needle on them. "The falsettos, the bass, the togetherness. They wrote about poverty and handicaps I could understand. This was a message nobody was getting. I blew the dust off them. I was giving kids the music. One day they would know I was speaking the truth." He had invented his signature "Porky Sound."
Porky Chedwick's career moved from WHOD and WAMO to KQV in 1972, and then to WNRZ from 1985 to 1986. After a 10 year "retirement", Pork returned to WAMO in 1996, then moved to WWSW in 1998 and finally WLSW in 2000. The call letters might have changed, but the doctrine of "Porkology" has remained the same after all these years. Whenever Porky Chedwick takes control of the microphone, you could expect a generous helping of the Doo-Wop classics that become his trademark sound.
Pork the Platter Pushin' Papa has been, and continues to be, honored and feted at various tribute concerts, the most prominent of which may have been "Porkstock," an annual summer gathering in the late 1990s where fans of R&B oldies gathered to hear their favorites. In 1998, Chedwick was enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Famein Cleveland. He's the only Pittsburgh disc jockey to be so honored.
To the Daddio of the Raddio, Pittsburgh's Platter Pushin' Papa and Boss Hoss, the community of Brookline is honored to have had such a wonderful, charismatic and charming person as one of our neighbors. The legendary spinster who graced the airwaves for six decades with the doctrine of Porkology finally retired in July 2008. Porky is now basking in the southern sun, enjoying his twilight years.
Remarks by Congressman Ron Klink, House of Representatives
The following are remarks of Congressman Ron Klink on the floor of the House of Representatives, Washington, DC, at 8:55pm, October 5, 1998, as reported in the Congressional Record:
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Klink) is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Speaker, we deal in particular in these days on the floor of the House with such weighty matters and such serious issues as warfare and impeachment, health care reform, Social Security, budgets. I rise tonight for a little lighter of an item. I think sometimes we have to talk about these lighter things to give ourselves a perspective on the serious matters that we occasionally talk about.
Mr. Speaker, I stand tonight to really pay tribute to a friend of mine who has been in radio in the Pittsburgh area for the last 50 years. Fifty years in a career that sometimes only lasts a few weeks or months, those who may have been in the radio business.
If one goes to Pittsburgh, PA and talks about "The Boss Man," "Your Platter-Pushing Papa," "Your Daddio of the Raddio," everybody knows who they are talking about. It is Porky Chedwick, or as he called himself, "Pork the Tork," the "Boss Hoss with the Hot Sauce."
Mr. Speaker, he developed all of these lines of patter back starting in 1948 when really no one in the country was doing anything really strong entertainment wise in radio.
Porky is a white disk jockey. And I mention that because he played what then was known as "race music," the old R&B music, the sweet doo-wop sounds. And for those young people, Mr. Speaker, who may be in the House or watching at home and say what is doo-wop, it is that street corner harmony where you snap your fingers and it sounds so wonderful.
He would play that music that oftentimes was covered by white performers like Pat Boone, but he played it back before people had heard of people like Little Richard and Fats Domino and Bo Diddley. And a lot of those performers pay tribute to Porky Chedwick for giving them their first air play, because back then it was very difficult for black performers to get a wide audience anywhere in the country. There were certainly not many mainline radio stations that would play music by black performers.
Lou Christie, who also comes from the Pittsburgh area said being cool growing up, and Lou Christie had a lot of big records, he said being cool as he grew up meant listening to Porky Chedwick. He says he is still in awe of him, and he still reverts to being a 15-year-old child when he is around him. He will never know how important Porky was to his career. He was the first disk jockey in the country to play "The Gypsy Cried."
Jimmy Beaumont, who has been with the Skyliners around for 40 years playing in the Pittsburgh area and all around the world, Jimmy said he has known Porky for 40 of the 50 years, and he says that growing up hearing that stuff, that is when Jimmy Beaumont of the Skyliners decided he wanted to become a singer and sing that same doo-wop and that same sound that he heard Porky playing on the radio all the time.
There actually is a group in the Pittsburgh area known as P.O.R.C. It is an acronym for Pittsburgh Old Records Club, and one of the members of the club, Jim Sanders, said, "When I was a kid, when you would listen to Porky, you knew you were cool." It goes back to Porky being the very first white disk jockey to program the music. It was a revelation to white teenagers to hear some of this great music.
Porky started out in 1948 on a little radio station, doing a 5-minute sports program, called WHOD in Homestead, Pennsylvania. And he would go back and he says he played the "dusty disks." They were really dusty, 78 RPM records. And because nobody was playing them, the record store owners would give them to him. He knew they were talented musicians and he put them on the air and teenagers all over the Pittsburgh area wanted to hear more and more of them.
In fact the story is told of when Porky did a live show at the Stanley Theater. An hour before he went on the air, 500 people crowded around the Stanley Theater. Before the show was over, 10,000 people were crowded around the Stanley Theater. Downtown Pittsburgh came to a screeching halt. Kids were stuck on buses in the logjam created by Porky Chedwick. They got off the buses, crossed the bridges on foot to get to the Stanley Theater to see Porky Chedwick.
As a disk jockey, he saw the highest recognition of his career before the Beatles. In 1963, the Beatles came to America. A lot of performing artists saw their careers go downhill and a lot of disk jockeys that had that signature type of music similarly saw music change a great deal. But still, many of the great disk jockeys in America today credit Porky Chedwick with beginning it all.
As Porky said, "I had more lines than Bell Telephone. I was the original rapper." And he probably was.
Mr. Speaker, I say to Porky, "We are honored for you and your 50 great years in radio. We are honored that you are in the disk jockey portion of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and we hope you are still playing that music for 50 more years. God bless you."
The following is a link to an article by radio personality Ed Weigle on his role model and mentor Craig "Porky" Chedwick. Click the link below to read the article entitled: "Porky Chedwick: Radio's Ignored Pioneer"