Category Archives: Music

Cover Me

trans radio

I want to preface this piece with a little explanation. I’ve been writing off and on in this blog for about seven years. More often that not, the topics have be serious, my take on issues of the day.  That is changing.

Besides the fact that no one really gives a damn about what I have to say, I’m tired of writing about those things. I’m tired of the negativity. As we’ve hit 2020, most everything I read is troubling;  as Oddball from Kelly’s Heros would say, full of negative waves:

So this time I’m writing about something I like; music and performers.  Not  just any performers, but those who have chosen to pay tribute to the musical greats, many of them gone.

When I was a kid growing up, it was almost impossible to see our favorite singers and performers live.  Huge stadiums and other concert venues had not yet been created.  Live entertainment by well-known celebrities was often confined to night clubs for adults.  We kids only had radio and television, limited to local shows like Bandstand.

By the time these venues came around, I was married and raising kids, so concert tickets were not in my budget.  The first big-name performer I saw live was Kenny Rogers, and by then he was getting a little long in the tooth.  Years later, I discovered tribute performers.

To be clear, tribute artists are not impersonators. An impersonator is a guy who looks like Elton John that you hire for your supermarket opening. A tribute artist does their best to actually perform like the real celebrity. There are many of them; sometimes they are good, sometimes not. In this post I’m writing about some that I’ve seen that are pretty damn good.

I guess I saw my first tribute artist about ten years ago.  The show was at a small theater near me known for tribute performances. We took a chance and went.

His name is Doug Church, performing as Elvis Presley. I had never heard of him and had no great sense the show would be much. I was wrong. What we got was a full blown Elvis review. I’d never seen the real Elvis in person, but I had listened to his music for many years and saw his shows on tv.

Now let me stipulate for a naysayers. Yes he is not Elvis, and maybe yes, there are better tribute artists. But what we got that night, for a pretty low cost of admission, was a hell of a good show.

The thing I like about these artists, is most of them go the distance. Their shows come with bands and backup singers and dancers.  It’s a full few hours of entertainment.

I am a fan of Queen. The reason I am a fan is because my son was a fan as a teenager and the music of Queen blasted through my house for quite some time.  So it took, and I became a fan.  When I heard about a show called “One Night with Queen” at a local venue, I had to go.

Gary Mullen is an English performer, and the show was great. Again, he’s not Freddie Mercury, but no one is.  His show is an entertaining reminder of just how good Mercury and Queen were.

The thing I have noticed about tribute performers is they work hard at it.  They picked an entertainer to emulate, and most seem to do their very best to honor that performer. Obviously some are better than others, but most of the ones I have seen do a pretty good and usually pretty entertaining job. Then there is this one — I took my wife, daughters and grandaughters. The show was fabulous.  Abba Mania:

Notice the audience reactions in these shows, ecpecially the Abba video? That is real. These performers get the audience up on it’s feet, singing and dancing along.

The next two are groups I discovered by going to free concerts. My town has free summer concerts in the park, and last year, this guy was performing, and what a show it was. It was a beautiful summer evening, the crowd was great, and the concert was free! That’s pretty hard to beat.  Danny V’s 52nd Street Band:

Then there is one more. I’ve always been a Four Seasons fan, These guys are another local group. They put on an enjoyable show.  Lights Out:

I never saw any of the real performers  in person, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve seen Elvis, Queen, Abba, Billy Joel and The Four Seasons. These tribute performers are great entertainers.  If you ever get chance to see one of these groups, check them out. You might be very pleasantly surprised.

Here are the websites for the groups above:

Doug Church

Gary Mullen and the Works

Abba Mania

Danny V’s 52nd Street Band

Lights Out





Flipping off Technology


flip phone

An ill-tempered (frequently old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions. 

While I don’t necessarily see myself as “ill-tempered”, I’m certainly old and filled with opinions. I do, however, own a flip phone. I talk on the phone; nothing more nothing less. I don’t text or message; I don’t take pictures, I have no apps. My phone wouldn’t even know what an app is. But I’m not the only one:

“Legendary investor Warren Buffett said the market for Apple‘s iPhones is not yet saturated, counting himself as a notable holdout.

“When I actually buy it, it’s all over, folks. The last person has bought it,” Buffett joked.

Buffett showed off his retro Samsung flip phone on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday and didn’t seem eager to trade it in for a smartphone, despite some weighty encouragement.

“Tim Cook sent me a Christmas card again this year saying he’s going to sell me an iPhone this year,” Buffett said. “He keeps sending me these reminders every Christmas.”

buffet phone

Buffett is far from the only Apple holdout.” (1) 

There’s no doubt the “dumb” phone is a thing of the past — or so we’re told. All it does is make phone calls.

We’re told we need smart phones. We need to be connected to the world all the time. We need our texts, our social media, all our Internet connections. Do we – do we really?

Prior to mobile telecommunications, we had land lines. At home, at work, or from a pay phone, we reached out to whomerver as we needed to do so. I lived the first sixty-plus years of my life quite nicely without having any need for a portable telephone. I was forced into buying one.

I traveled all over the country without a phone. When I flew, I called my wife from a pay phone (remember those?) when I arrived at the airport and she came to pick me up, if she wasn’t there already. One flight changed that.

I flew into Philadephia one evening. By then, most people seemed to have phones. As soon as we landed, other passengers were breaking out their phones calling someone. I followed my normal routine, which was to get off the plane, find a phone, and call my wife to pick me up.

Except I could not find a public pay phone. They were gone. The airport always had loads of pay phones throughout the terminal, but not any longer. I gathered the phones were no longer being used very much, so they took them out. I walked all over the terminal trying to find a phone. Finally, after what seemed like endless searching, I found one in a corner of the baggage claim. It was near the luggage carousel and near a door, and it was noisy as hell. I could hardly hear my wife at all as I screamed into the phone to make myself heard over the din. The warrant had been served — I bought a phone.

Don’t get me wrong; it was convenient. I could call from the airport or anyplace else; I had moved into the 21st Century, or so I thought.

By the time I purchased my “dumb” phone, they were already disapearing, being rapidly replaced by “smart” phones that did everything under the sun. Almost everyone I know has one, and the younger the  person, the more it seems those gadgets are as necessary as breathing.

And therein lies the problem.

I’m old, but I’m fairly savy about basic technology. I got my first computer all the way back in 1987. I used to know how to program Fortran (anyone even know what that is?). I learned DOS to work my first computers;  Windows wasn’t even on the market yet.  I taught myself how to write HTML from scratch. Computers and technology can be fun and useful — but I think they have decided drawbacks.

Everywhere I go today I see people staring at the screens of their smartphones. More often than not, they don’t seem to be talking on them, rather they are “fingering” them, flipping through something or other to do something or other. They often seem to be totally unaware of the world around them. And that is unfortunate.

cellphone 01

Don’t get me wrong; I know they can be useful gadgets. Whether it is checking the weather, banking online, or using the GPS. No argument. To me, however, they are an “attractive nuisance”.  Rather than simply using them to perform a task, many people seem unable to leave the damn things alone, even for a short time.

I taught college for a number of years, and always prohibited the use of cellphones in my classroom. I notified students on day one that if I caught them using a phone in class, I would dismiss them for the day. Every semester, especially during the first few weeks, I removed student after student from my class. They tried every trick in the book to hide what they were doing, but it was always their eyes — I saw they were staring at something, usually downward, at the phone they were trying to conceal on their lap or elsewhere. Most of them eventually got the message, but there were others I had to bounce completely from the class, such was their obsession.

It’s funny  — But it’s not

I started writing this as a tongue-in-cheek piece about being old.
As I began reading online however, I realized that smartphone addiction is not a laughing matter.  Millions of people seem to exhibit signs of addiction to their smartphones. CNN even coined a term for it “Nomophobia” (NO MObile PHOnephoBIA).(6)

“…The average American teenager who uses a smart phone receives her first phone at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it (excluding texting and talking).” Three-quarters of teens admit to checking their phones every hour; half describe themselves as “addicted.”…(7)

“… adult iPhone users who were separated from their smartphones but could hear them ringing experienced spikes in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as increased feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness…” (7)

Have we really gone that far down the drain? Technology can be a wonderful thing, making or lives easier and more productive. The thing is, technology is meant to be used; but it seems with smartphones we are being used.

Watch this video:

A smartphone is a tool, a useful tool to be sure, but just a tool. Think of it like a dishwasher. It makes the task easier, but we could certainly live without it — or could we? Of course we could. People were hand washing dishes for eons before dishwashers; it is a convenience, nothing more and nothing less.

Technology makes life easier, and sometimes make us lazy. Think back before televisions had remote controls; you had to get up and manually change channels. No one does that anymore; it’s easier to use the remote, and we’ve become more lazy. But what happens if we lose the remote, or the batteries go dead and we don’t have replacements? Do we curl up on the couch and moan? No, we get up off our lazy ass and change the channels — although we definitely buy new batteries the next day. It’s a little annoyance.

This doesn’t seem to be the case with the smartphone.

“As with many forms of addiction, smartphone addiction is also something that often stems from other underlying emotional and psychological issues. It can be a side effect of depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Overuse of a handset can be a crutch that people with post-traumatic stress, attention deficit and social anxiety lean on too.” (8)

smartphone 01

One problem I see, is that folks who are addicted to their phones won’t even acknowledge it. Does the alcoholic know he is an achoholic? Does the drug addict know he is an addict? I think deep inside, the answer is yes. The smartphone addict? Not so much. Try telling someone they are addicted to their phone and watch the response.

Smartphone addiction is socially acceptable where other addictions are not. The alcoholic or drug addict often tries to hide their behavior. Phone addiction doesn’t hide; it resides in plain sight.

So what’s the bottom line here, what’s the takeaway? I think it’s the acknowledgement that technology can be a wonderful thing, but there can also be a downside. When we use it as a tool, it can be very useful. When the technology uses us, it can become problematic.

Final footnote and confession: I’m on the verge of acquiring a smartphone. It turns out my old-style phone no longer functions in some environments, notably inside some buildings.  Maybe this is a form of planned obsolesence. So if you see me with a smartphone, don’t call me a hypocrite. I held out as long as I could. Anyone interested in my collection of cassettes or VHS tapes ?


(1.) Warren Buffet uses Flip Phone — CNBC

(2.) We’re All Addicted to Smart Phones — The Guardian

(3.) Steve Hilton — No Cellphone

(4.) Making His Phone Dumber was the Smartest Thing He Ever Did — Boston Globe

(5.) Phone Addiction is Real — Forbes Magazine

(6.) Smartphone Addiction — CNN

(7.) Even Apple Investors are Worried About Smartphone Addiction

(8.)The Growing Problem of Smartphone Addiction — Techaddiction

(9.) The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction

Werewolves of London and other Silliness

I was about eleven years old when I recall hearing my first “novelty” song”

The Flying Saucer sold over a million copies, and rose to the #3 position on Billboard rankings for 1956. It was the very first of what would be called a “mashup” recording today. It’s novelty made it very popular, and it was constantly being played on the radio. This tune opened up the floodgates for a tsunami of strange and weird songs. Continuing the space theme was The Purple People Eater:

Just a few years later (1962) a Halloween novelty song was introduced that we still hear over fifty years later. Here’s Bobby Pickett appearing on American Bandstand:

To get a sense of how times have changed since then, watch Ray Stevens sing about  Ahab the Arab (1962)

Everything is so serious these days, we seem to take too little time to just chill. Sometimes I just like hearing  a silly song:

Finally, one that I’ve never grown tired of. Warren Zevon at his best:


Westworld – The Rise of Artificial Intelligence?

I recently  finished watching “Westworld”, an HBO television series based on the 1973 movie with the same title. Both were the story of a theme park filled with animatronic characters who interacted with the guests. The characters, called “hosts” were so advanced it was practically impossible to tell them from the human being “guests”. Without going too far into the plot line, this, in my opinion was an extraordinarily well-done science fiction story which seemed to be far too close to reality for comfort.


The capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. It is the ability to feel (sentience) distinguished from the ability to think (reason)

Westworld isn’t the first movie to explore the notion of artificial inteligence running amuck.It started with Hal 9000, the  infamously intelligent computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odessy (1968).

hal 9000

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that…”

Since then there have been countless movies about computers and/or robots turning on humans. In some cases the robots were monstrous and evil (Terminator). There were action/adventure robots (I,Robot), creepy (Ex Machina), and the franky disturbing  A.I. Artificial Intellgence, by Steven Spielberg.

Artificial Intelligence

The standard definition of artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. Generally, this is thought of as machines that imitate human cognative functions, such as problem solving.

The incredible recent advances have made AI an everyday experience. For example, search for something on Google. As you type in a few letters, suggestions begin to appear, as though Google is attempting to read your mind, and find out what you are looking for before you finish typing it. This is the common use of an algorithm, a self-contained sequence of actions to be performed. In the Google search (predictive text or autocomplete), to fill in your search, Google analyizes the last 10,000 searches in your geographical area, your bookmarks, your recent searches, your web browsing history, and the patterns of your browsing and searches. In other words, Google carefully looks at your behaviors as you fill in that search box, returning suggestions before you can even type them. Scary? It probably should be, but we’ve grown so accustomed to it, we really don’t even think about it. This is artificial intelligence from a machine, or in this case software, solving problems for you.

google algorithym

Google searches are of course, commonplace today. We accept them as part of our normal lives. How about Siri or Alexa? We ask them questions, they give us answers. We’ve adapted to speaking to our phones and computer systems, or is it speaking “with”? When does that interaction between man and machine begin to get muddy? — meet Samantha:

So when does the computer beome “real” ? When is it more than a machine?

British code breaker  and inventor of the Enigma machine Alan Turing proposed a test (now known as the Turing Test),  which suggests that if a person communicates with a machine, and cannot tell if the communication is from another person or a machine, the test has been passed. To paraphase a line from Westworld when a “host” is asked if they are human or machine, the host replied, “If you can’t tell , what difference does it make”?

So, could computers and artificlal intelligence become self-aware? Could they become sentient? Far fetched, perhaps, but some pretty smart folks have some qualms.

Stephen Hawking, the British physicist often referred to as one of the smartest people in the world, told the BBC “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”(1)

Bill Gates seems to agree: “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” Gates wrote. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”(2)

Tessla founder Elon Musk seems to suggest the same thing: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.” (2)

The question seems to be whether or not machines with AI can become conscious, or self-aware. Watch these tiny robots take a test:

“…It may seem pretty simple, but for robots, this is one of the hardest tests out there. It not only requires the AI to be able to listen to and understand a question, but also to hear its own voice and recognise that it’s distinct from the other robots. And then it needs to link that realisation back to the original question to come up with an answer.”

To find out how this little robot became self-aware, click link below:

Robot passes self-awareness test

Technological Singularity

This is the creation of an artifical superintelligence, one so sophisticated that it could become runaway, causing it’s own “intelligence explosion”, out of the control of it’s makers. The argument is that it is possible to build a machine that is more intelligent than man, and this machine begins to rebuild itself, literally writing it’s own software, growing more and more intelligent as it goes. A concept known as Moore’s law suggests that this is not only possible, but plausible and even likely over time.

Is this real, or just the stuff of vivid imaginations and screenwriters? Several of the people mentioned above are part of the Future of Humanity Institute, which seems to take these things seriously.

So maybe humans will be ruled by machines sometime in the future. Or maybe it’s just fun science fiction. Which brings us back to Hal:



1.Beware the Robots, Says Stephen Hawking

2. Bill Gates on Dangers of Artificial Intelligence — Washington Post

Future of Life Institute — Wikipedia

Technological Singularity

Artificial Intelligence — Wikipedia

Is Google tracking me?

Moore’s Law




January 8th is the birthday of Elvis Presley.  If he had lived, he would be 81. Elvis died in 1977, thirty-eight years ago, but just mention his name, and there is instant recogniton, even from those far too young to remember him clearly.

I was never a “fan” of Elvis Presley, but I always enjoyed his music.  There is no doubt that as a cultural icon, Elvis is indisputably “The King”.

A few years back, I saw my first live performance of an Elvis tribute artist, a guy by the name of Doug Church, and he was pretty good:

After seeing this performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I learned that Doug Church is just one of many Elvis tribute artists.

There’s Shawn Klush:

And David Lee:

And many, many, more.

Elvis Aaaron Presley was born in 1935 and died in 1977. In a lifespan of just 42 years, he became arguably the most famous singer of all time. During his career, he recorded between 665 and 711 songs (the actual number is in dispute). He had twenty number one albums, and thirty-six number one singles. He appeared in thirty-two movies.

Books and movies have been written about his life. His music was (and is) known around the world.

Even though he has been gone for almost four decades, his persona lives on in the form of an army of Elvis impersonators.

Elvis impersonators come in three forms: The look-alikes; not necessarily perfomers, but available for your next party or supermarket opening. The sound alikes; singers who attempt to imitate Elvis’ voice. And finally the tribute artists; professional performers who put on Elvis-oriented shows, sometimes traveling around the world to perform.

elvis02 elvis03


There are some incredibly bad Elvis impersonators:  bad elvis 1

A trio of Elvis impersonators with tartan capes, from left, Shane Allison, Dean Pirtle and Matt Raven wave to fans as they walk along the 18th fairway during the third round of the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Saturday, April 19, 2008. The three were declared the winners of the tournament's Tartan Day competition. (Jay Karr/The Island Packet/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1057191

bad elvis 3

There are Japanese Elvis’s (Elvi?):

japanese elvis

Chinese Elvis’s:

chinese elvis

And yes, even female Elvis’sfemale elvis

So many Elvis’s, so little time….

Comedian Andy Kaufman “made his bones” with an Elvis impersonation back in the 70’s.

Elvis lives, at least in the minds of those who follow the shows of tribute artists. But a take look at the audiences of these shows, and one sees a lot of gray hair. It would seem that as the audiences age, the popularity of Elvis remembrances might fade as well.

On the other hand, Graceland, Elvis’ home in Memphis, still attracts over a half million visitors a year. Graceland was voted top U.S. iconic tourist attraction by USA Today readers in 2012.


The deceased Elvis earned $55 million dollars in 2012, just behind the top two deceased performers, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson.

An then there is Warner Brothers, who reportedly has secured the rights for the entire Elvis music catalog as part of a planned Elvis biopic under discussion.

As far as the tribute artists, there are still a few balcony seets left for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest to be held in Cincinnati in January. Cheap seats in the nosebleed section start at $175, and there are not many left.

Memories of Elvis are strongest for those from his era, but it looks like there may be a number of little Elvi in training:

little elvis

The History of Rock and Roll, According to Me

I grew up with rock and roll. I was there at the beginning.

One of my earliest memories was a story my father told when he came home from work one day. He worked as a sheet metal fabricator and his shop worked on installing a new stage set-up for a local bar. While they were working, a new group was rehearsing. This was around 1955, and I was about ten years old. The group was called Bill Haley and the Comets:

Years later I would learn an older cousin of mine played bass guitar with the group, but quit the band before they became famous — big mistake.

Rock Around the Clock,was a smash hit, and was later used as the theme song for the nostalgic TV Show Happy Days. Of course that was some time after Bill Haley and his Comets were a struggling band from Chester, PA playing at the Crown Point Inn, in Thorofare NJ.

I had an aunt who lived in Philadelphia. Just up the street from her, a bunch of local kids formed a singing group. They called themselves Danny and the Juniors:

Cleveland has the Rock and Roll museum, and fancies itself as the home of rock and roll. This, of course, is not true. The place where rock and roll really took root and grew was Philadelphia.

We all listened to the radio back then (See my post on AM radio), but the new medium was television. And nothing dominated local TV in the Philadelphia area for teens more than  Bandstand.


Most folks associate Bandstand with Dick Clark, but in fact Bandstand was the most popular show in Philly for some time before Dick Clark arrived on the scene. In fact it was not originally American Bandstand, but simply Bandstand.

Bandstand was more than a TV dance show for us. It was local. We knew kids who went to the show. We saw them on TV, we knew their names. Bandstand in the early days was personal for us.

When Bandstand went national in 1957, Paul Anka became the first performer to make his national debut on the show. Simon and Garfunkel appeared on the show under the name Tom and Jerry. By 1958 the show was ABC’s top-rated daytime program. Over the years, of course, the show changed and eventually moved to Los Angeles. But in the early days, at its roots, were the Philly stars who made rock and roll.

Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon

Three Philly locals, all getting their start on Bandstand:

Dances, dances, dances: Bandstand may have started it, I’m not sure, but in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area in the 50’s and 60’s, dances were everywhere. Dozens of local high schools held dances every week and Philly DJ’s would travel to places like Mepri Hall in Mount Ephraim to spin records to a packed house.

Sometimes we’d travel across the river. Over in Bristol PA, the local fire house held a weekly dance. The wooden floors resounded with the pounding of the kid’s shoes, and a new group with a new song was born; The Dovells:

The next person from Philadelphia created a whole new dance:

A brief segue on Chubby Checker: One Saturday at my drum and bugle corps practice, one of the kids noticed a line of limousines parked at the church accross the street. Being curious, we all went out for a look. It was a wedding; Chubby Checker’s wedding. We watched him going in and coming out. We thought it was pretty cool.

Rock and Roll from Philly? How about Lee Andrews and the Hearts (Long Lonely Nights),Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles (I Sold My Heart to the Junkman), Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes (If You Don’t Know Me by Now), The Orlons (South Street),James Darren (Goodbye Cruel World)?

Then there were The Delfonics (La-La Means I Love You), The Stylistics (You Make Me Feel Brand New),  and The Three Degrees (When Will I See You Again).

These artists set the standard for others who followed including Hall & Oates, Teddy Pendergass, and Boyz II Men.

And finally Live Aid. It was no accident that the largest rock concert in history took place in Philadelphia in 1985. And it was also no accident that one of the final acts of the fourteen hour show was the Philadelphia Diva, Patti Labelle:

So that’s it. Rock and Roll began in Philadelphia. It was the heart and soul of the music, the roots. And I was there at the beginning.

Just Listen

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.

While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

AM Radio

I don’t understand or care for much of today’s music. That is to be expected. I’m old, and the music I grew up with, while still around, doesn’t even get play on the “oldies” stations. My music was from the 50’s and 60’s, “oldies” music today is the 80’s and 90’s.

Music is delivered to listeners today in ways I don’t completely understand or really care about: Digitial streaming, directly to an Ipad or Kindle, or smart phone. There is Itunes and Pandora and Spotify, which I presume are places to find the music you want. It seems to be completely on demand, targeted to fit the individual listener. As an aging dinosaur, I really don’t pay much attention to it. When I grew up, we didn’t have all these choices. We had AM radio.


Transistor radios came out in the mid 1950’s, but really started getting popular in the early 1960’s. The transistor replaced the old vacuum tubes which previously had powered radios, allowing the manufacture of lightweight portable radios which ran on batteries. It was a major technological development, and every kid wanted one. Fortunately, our defeated enemies the Japanese made them cheaply and saturated the American market (perhaps a precursor of things to come from the Japanese). Most of the radios kids had were like the one above, four transistor. I however, having a father who did not want his kid to be one upped by the other kids, got a six transistor radio as a birthday present.

trans radio


Needless to say mine was bigger, and didn’t fit in my pocket, like the four transistor would have, but mine was somehow “cooler”, although frankly I never did figure out what was better about six transistors. How you listened to the radio didn’t matter nearly as much as what you listened to. For kids in the Delaware Valley, there was only one radio station: WIBG (pronounced “Wibbage”) in Philadelphia.

My generation is, and always will be, the rock ‘n roll generation. Rock’n roll started sometime in the middle fifties (a highly debated point), and perhaps the first notable song of the genre was “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets.  This song was the theme song for the long-running TV show “Happy Days”.

Listening to the radio was a connection. Since there was only one R&R station, we all listened to it. If a disc jockey said it, we all heard it. Which brings me to my first point — disc jockeys.

WIBG disc jockeys were far from announcers, they were celebrities. Everyone, and I mean everyone in my generation knew the WIBG “Boss Jocks”. We listened to them every day and we felt like we knew them, and they knew us.

hy lit Hy Lit

joe niagraJoe Niagara

Two of my favorites were Joe Niagara and Hy Litt. Niagara was the morning guy, and he was often the first voice I heard, switching on the radio as soon as I woke up. I liked Joe, but the man with the plan was Hy Lit …..

“Calling all my beats, beards, Buddhist cats, big time spenders, money lenders, tea totallers, elbow benders, hog callers, home run hitters, finger poppin’ daddy’s, and cool baby sitters. For all my carrot tops, lollipops, and extremely delicate gum drops. It’s Hyski ‘O Roonie McVouti ‘O Zoot calling, up town, down town, cross town. Here there, everywhere. Your man with the plan, on the scene with the record machine.”

WIBG was more than disc jockeys and music. It was an institution. We knew what was hot and what was not. They put out a weekly “Top 99″ records listing. They were free at local stores, and we all had our latest copy. This one is from 1960. I was 14 when this one came out, and I’m sure I had it when it was new. Click on it to see the popular songs that week.


 By the way, the top three songs that week were “You Talk Too Much”, by Joe Jones, “Georgia on My Mind”, by Ray Charles, and “Save the Last Dance for Me”, by the Drifters. The Wibbage “Sure Shot” up and coming song was “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” by a guy named Elvis Presley.

With only one station, there was a great commonality among teenagers. You could meet a kid from another town, and you had WIBG in common.

From early morning to late at night, we listened. On the way to school and home, transistor radios were in our pockets or hanging from our bike handlebars. At night we lied in bed with the radio stuck to our ear, sometimes listening well into the early morning hours. The music defined the era, and a good era it was. The music was simple, and maybe we were too. Most songs talked about love – – seeking it, having it, ending it. Good times and good songs, but we’ll take those on in another post.

One last thing. AM radio was funny, sometimes fading in and out, sometimes static. But sometimes, almost always late at night, the AM radio signals bouncing through the atmosphere gave surprising distance and clarity to your little radio, and you heard this:

The Wolfman