Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jack Carney - WIL St. Louis 1958

Jack Carney had a laid back style that struck a chord with Midwest teenagers. He was easy to listen to and had a type of on-air irreverence that is still being mimicked today. He played some great music and had fun doing it. Enjoy.

LP liner notes by Jerry Hopkins - It's 1958 radio on the CRUISIN' series and in St. Louis it's the sound of Jack Carney, a man whose sense of humor made it seem he was trying to add a "D" to his station's call letters, WIL. That would have put him In Boston, on WILD, another of the several stations he worked in the Fifties; Jack was one of radio's gypsies before he settled down In Missouri. This was where he made his mark, concocting bizarre stunts that appealed to so many (mostly teenagers) his station went from number seven in the seven-station city to number one six weeks after he joined the staff.

He invented a character called Pookie Snackenberg, who became a hero with the St. Louis teens. He asked listeners to pull the tuning knobs off their home and car radios so the dial couldn't be moved from WIL — and weeks later irate parents still were digging through the three barrels of knobs Carney had received from their sons and daughters. He offered twenty dollars to anyone who showed up with a bird on his head (after playing a record called Bird on My Head) and there were fifty takers standing around with birds in half an hour. And when It was time for summer vacations to end he asked for fifty words or less — he said he'd settle for one — on "Why I am delighted to be returning to school," the winner to be driven by Carney to class and home each day for a week, in a limousine. Hokey. But Carney's presentation of "The Silver Dollar Survey" was one of the most influential programs on radio at the time.

Rock and roll was going through some peculiar peregrinations in 1958. Its popularity continued to accelerate, but several stations (one of them In St. Louis, coincidentally) began celebrating "Record Breaking Week," during which deejays broke all the rock records in their station libraries to dramatize what was termed, prematurely, "the demise of rock and roll." Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" was pulling eight-million-plus viewers dally and Alan Freed was grossing more millions (in dollars) with a road show that included Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Chuck Berry and the Diamonds. Yet, the phrase "rock and roll" itself was being avoided by talent agencies, promoters, even Freed himself. (He preferred "the Big Beat.") And ... Elvis Presley was drafted into the Army.

As for the music, it was beginning to get a little "gingerbready" (after the Frankie Avalon hit of that name), as "Bandstand's" voracious demand for personalities and songs turned Dick Clark into rock's Henry Ford. In Philadelphia — also known as Brotherlylovesville — dance crazes, hit records and super-stars were created almost daily, on ABC-TV at five.

It was a period of settling in on the International scene as well, a period of shifts and starts and stops. Nlkita Khrushchev was named the new premier of the Soviet Union, Charles DeGaulle became the decade's second general to be elected a president, and there was a new Pope (John XXIII) in the Vatican. President Eisenhower, having recovered from a slight stroke, ordered U.S. Marines into Lebanon, while Egypt and Syria became one nation. And as an atomic sub slipped under the North Pole, the U.S. launched its first satellite . . . and nuclear test ban talks began.

Other headlines in 1958: Boris Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in literature . . . the Yankees took the World Series over the Braves . . . "Gigi" got the best picture Oscar.

WIL St. Louis 1958 - Jack Carney