Radio days: A recollection

originally posted August 26, 2021; 
no text revisions to date— 

The recent death of Isaac Donald “Don” Everly, acknowledged by some commentators and news outlets as “the last original rock-’n’-roll pioneer” at his passing, caused me to remember some radio days from my past—in particular, some early childhood recollections of music playing in the car while traveling with my mom and her sister.

In those days, and I’m thinking they were probably the really early 1960s, my mom and I frequently (when she wasn’t working) drove the two-lane highways from our home in Dayton, through Xenia and Wilmington, to spend a few hours at my grandparents’ farm near Lees Creek (Clinton County), Ohio, where my aunt still lived. Music on that trip was generally “real” rock ’n’ roll, broadcast on Dayton’s ground-breaking WING-AM station.

WING, at that time, aired Top-40 hits that were spun by well-known DJs who introduced songs, relayed news about popular groups, chatted up dances and events they would be hosting or attending, and sometimes voiced commercials and endorsements. Among the music we may have heard as we traveled in those car rides, several could have been Everly Brothers tunes (all links, here and below, lead to YouTube video clips of the time; some have initial advertisements):

  • When Will I Be Loved” (this version was performed July 9, 1960, on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show, which ran on ABC from 1958 to 1960);
  • “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Cathy’s Clown” (this rather ballady combination was filmed during an April 1960 tour in the United Kingdom, with backup from Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets);
  • Wake Up Little Susie” (this is a 1957 performance); and
  • “’Til I Kissed You” (this January 23, 1960, performance is, again, from Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show)—

a selection that should help you think back on the period.

Once we arrived at the farm, I would generally find something to do with my grandmother, who was likely working in the kitchen or the garden; my grandfather, who was typically out in the barn or working the fields; or my great-grandmother, who was usually sewing and/or watching game shows or soap operas on the black-and-white television. Occasionally, though, I found myself back in the car, rear seat this time, running errands with my mom and aunt.

During those jaunts, the radio became victim to a push-button war, my aunt’s fingers punching at the five buttons every time a DJ or commercial came on—or a song she didn’t like! Not that I could hear much, anyway, with the windows rolled down while gliding along country roads back to Wilmington or on to Sabina, but . . . now that I’m thinking back . . . I wonder if that could have been when I learned to roll my eyes at craziness? Hmm . . .

My grandfather features large in other radio-related recollections. I remember, many evenings, sitting with him outside under a tree in the backyard after he came in from the fields, big glasses of iced tea nearby and sometimes with my Uncle Mike, listening to Cincinnati Reds baseball on a transister radio. The unpausing voices of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall—softening during a wind-up and pitch, then yelling excitedly after a base hit—describing in detail every move on the field, “painting a picture,” many fans said. These were later years (the duo called plays together for 31 years, with Nuxhall starting in 1967 and Brennaman in 1974), and my grandfather continued listening to the pair, on radio, even after he could watch the ball games on television.

I have other radio-related memories, like falling to sleep while the timer on my bedside radio wound down, mid-prayer with watery eyes, as the song “Soldier Boy” by the Shirelles ended Sunday night tributes and dedications during the years Uncle Mike served in Vietnam (in later years, after he was home, I didn’t cry so much, but I still listened as “Soldier Boy,” from 1962, alternated with “Sky Pilot” by Eric Burdon and the Animals, 1968, and two versions of “One Tin Soldier”—one by the Canadian group Original Caste, 1969, and a remake, for the film Billy Jack, by Coven, 1971) or like recording (first on a reel-to-reel machine, then on cassette tapes) countdowns and concerts with my baby sister as they aired on FM radio or even like preferring to change radio stations while driving on trips rather than listening to recorded music . . . but, those are topics for other stories in future posts.

What musical memories do you have? If you like this recollection, the first in a series that I’ve been encouraged to write, and feel encouraged to share your stories with family, friends, or others, contact the-history-editor or the-freelance-ghostwriter—because those moments and personal histories are important.

Stephen, the-freelance-editor,
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image information: Featured image via MentalFloss.com, where it was used (on January 3, 2012) as artwork for an interesting discussion about driving distractions—with some cautionary statistics—in a blog post titled “When the Car Radio Was Introduced, People Freaked Out“!