Increase Records, 1988
REVIEW BY: Eric E5S16
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/23/1998
Thanks for the memories...
Growing up in my early life, and enjoying music, one fascination of mine was listening to rock and roll radio, and the different styles of disc-jockeys. Living in Illinois, I used to listen to Chicago's WCFL and Larry Lujack after school, and Chicago's WLS' John Records Landecker at night. Not only did I love music, I wanted to be a disc-jockey myself (and to this day, I still do!)
As I visited many garage sales growing up, I picked up an 8-track(!) of Cruisin' 1960. Not knowing that this series was inspired by the popular DJs at the time, I pretty much bought the 8-track for the songs that were on the album. But when I played it, I was surprised that this was an actual show from Dick Biondi's radio days when he was a DJ at Buffalo New York's WKBW. (Dick Biondi was also on Chicago radio in the 60s on WLS, and is now currently on Chicago's oldies station, WJMK.) The more I listened to it, the more I loved the idea in becoming a DJ.
Wolfman Jack was another DJ I admired. My favorite part in American Graffitti was when the Wolfman was behind the mike, doing what he did best. I felt a huge loss when I found out he had passed away a few years ago.
Another DJ favorite was Larry Lujack. He was most famous for his "Animal Stories" segmemts with Tommy Edwards. (I would love to form a campaign to get the three "Animal Stories" albums on CD. Unfortunately, Walt Disney claims to own the rights to the "Animal Stories" tapes - Bob Pierce and I have been in touch with Tommy Edwards himself on the Internet, hoping for the CD releases. Hopefully soon, Walt Disney will give the ok to Uncle Lar and Lil' Tommy, so that us Chicagoans can enjoy the "Animal Stories" albums on CD once again. I encourage you all to get involved; let's make the "Animal Stories" albums appear on CD!)
And then there was John Records Landecker. His BoogieCheck bit was his trademark on WLS. He would have listeners call in, and chat with them. Before he would start talking to anyone on the air, he would ask, "Are you talking to...me?" BOOGIECHECK! BOOGIECHECK! OOH! AH! (Remember that, Chicagoans?) John Landecker is now heard on Chicago's WJMK.
When I found the Cruisin' 1960 album on vinyl, I noticed that there was an entire series of other radio DJs from other popular cities. Quite naturally, I was interested in getting these albums. The Cruisin' 1960 vinyl version had the exact songs and DJ chatter as the 8-track. But the disappointment I encountered was when I bought the CD version. Due to copyright reasons, some of the original songs from the 8-track and vinyl versions were not on the CD: The Olympics' "Big Boy Pete" was substituted for Joe Jones' "You Talk To Much." Rosie & The Originals' "Angel Baby" was substituted for Hank Ballad & The Midnighters' "Finger Poppin' Time." You could easily tell that there was some editing done on these two songs, when Biondi came in afterwards with his wild DJ chatter. But the rest of the album is from the original "masters."
This series demonstrates how rock radio was back then, which doesn't compare to what we hear on rock radio today. Back then, the DJs really got into the program, where most music DJs of today, just tell the names and artists of each songs. Sometimes they don't even do that; they play like five songs in a row, and they don't even announce all of the songs that were played, maybe one or two. In the Cruisin' series, the DJ talks after every song, which is what most DJs of today do not do.
Now there is a new format in radio: Talk Radio, and there are some stations that deal with this format, as they play very little of music, or none at all. Howard Stern, Chicago's Jonathan Brandmeier, Steve Dahl, Mancow Muller, and Kevin Matthews pop into my mind, where they focus on talk than blending talk and music together. When WLS changed their format from being a music radio station to talk, that ended the kind of radio broadcasting that the Cruisin' series provided. I don't think I can relate to another radio station today that is closely similar to the Cruisin' series and the old WLS when they were a rock and roll music station. The Cruisin' series and the old WLS had one thing in common: They blended rock and talk with the current music and current events of the day.
One highlight from Cruisin' 1960 is when he told the short story of collecting leaves from Elvis Presley's lawn. His commercial for Gillete Razor Blades is energizing. Most DJs of today don't recite live commercials by themselves, they are mostly pre-recorded. And the pre-recorded commercial jingles on this album are also exciting. These kinds of jingles, like for Budweiser and L&M Cigarettes, are not in the style of commercials we hear today. Also, Biondi was telling a group of people to be careful in the cold and snow weather, because they were scheduled to appear together at one of the rock and roll dance hops, another event that today's DJs don't do today.
Another highlight is when Biondi was announcing the weather, where he banged his hand on the table, and saying that he was getting carried away. I also enjoyed the radio station jingles. Radio station jingles are still being used today, and it's very interesting in how they all sound.
Dick Biondi appeared at one of the local Al's Diner here in the south suburbs of Chicago a few years ago. It was a live remote broadcast on WJMK. Picture the Al's Diner resturant on the TV series Happy Days, and that's what it looked like, as this resturant captured the scenery in the 1950s: The old fashioned jukeboxes, posters of Elvis and James Dean. A small coin-operated jukebox at every table, where you could pick out a song to play for only a quarter per song. Even the waitresses were dressed in the 1950s attire.
I brought along my vinyl copy of Cruisin' 1960, and waited in line for his autograph. When Mr. Biondi saw the album, he grabbed it and showed it to the people he was working with in the back. He was stunned in seeing this album, as if he hadn't seen it for ages. He autographed the album, a moment I will never forget. It was great to see all of the equipment used for a live remote broadcast; the van with the giant logo of the radio station on it, the big antenna for the signal, and Biondi talking to the people live on the radio. This is another event that radio DJs don't do; a live remote broadcast from a resturant or park, etc. Ah, the memories.... If I were to take charge of a radio station, I would relive everything that was going on in the heyday of rock 'n' roll radio: The live remotes, the wild DJ chatter between each song, live commercials, etc. I'd also incorporate the current trends of the day, like the current music, as well as blending in the music of the past -- all varieties.
The excellent album cover cartoons in the Cruisin' Series is the continuing story of two people, Eddie and Peg. As each year goes by, we see these two youngsters growing up. The artwork also describes the events of the day, where in the late 50s and early 60s, we see the two growing up as normal teenagers. By the late 60s, with the peace and love generation, we see them reflecting these times. Like in 1968, they were rallying against the Vietnam war. By 1970, they are now two consulting adults, adjusting with daily life.
The Cruisin' Series is an excellent series. It provides the atmosphere of what radio sounded like, back when rock 'n' roll was fresh and dominating the music scene. This series starts with the year 1955, and as of today, their most recent release is from 1970, where it features Eric Kris Stevens of Chicago's WLS. I'm waiting to see if this series continues throughout the Seventies, and maybe they'll release more of Chicago radio talents. WCFL's Larry Lujack would be an excellent choice. Pretty much after the Seventies, I think the series would come to a close, due to the fact that radio was changing more and more to the talk format in the Eighties and today.
Discover when Rock was King! The Cruisin' Series. You just might recognize a DJ that you may have listened to when you were growing up: