Oldies fans had one last chance to get "Porkified," as longtime DJ Porky Chedwick would say. The "Daddio of the Raddio" held court on the airwaves in a career spanning six decades, but this was the last time he would do so as a Pittsburgher.
Mr. Chedwick joined WKFB-AM (770) morning host Ralph Speaks, aka Caveman Ralph, and a studio full of guests, friends and TV crews during a three-hour salute yesterday that celebrated his trailblazing radio career. The tribute at the small AM station in North Versailles was sparked by Mr. Chedwick's imminent move out of town: He and his wife, Jeanie, are leaving for a new home in Florida in two weeks.
Mr. Chedwick's broadcasting career started at another small AM station, WHOD in Homestead, an early incarnation of WAMO. His decades on the local airwaves included time at WAMO, both AM and FM, where he became a force in the music business, helping to introduce such artists as Bo Diddley, the Flamingos, the Drifters and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.
Now, at 90, he has been on WKFB for the past year with a weekly show.
His move to Tarpon Springs, Fla., ends a career spent entirely in Pittsburgh, despite offers to go to bigger radio markets. He's leaving Aug. 1, the 60th anniversary of his formal radio career: He signed on that date in 1948, on the former WHOD, although he had done some broadcasting work before.
The WKFB tribute traced the highlights of that long career. Answering questions yesterday, Mr. Chedwick said he chose to stay here because he wanted to play by his own rules, which were what made him a pioneer in the music and radio business.
He had a reputation for playing what was known in the late '40s and early '50s as "race music," which wasn't getting airplay, and launching hit records into the heyday of R&B and doo-wop.
He recalled going to record stores and picking through dusty records no one was buying -- because they never had a chance to hear them. "I did not even know this music. One or two seconds into it, I knew. These beautiful sounds [and] harmonies. This is my music."
Mr. Chedwick also had a knack for making hits out of B-sides of singles. He recalled that record companies would tell their reps, "'Don't give that record to Porky, because Porky will play the wrong side.' That was the greatest tribute. I proved them wrong. The B-side was the right side. I was the flippin' 'daddio of the raddio.' I flipped them over."
One segment celebrated his unique turns of phrases, the Chedwick-isms of rhyming, improvised patter that were a trademark of his broadcasts: "This is Pork the Tork," "Your Platter-Pushin' Papa" and others.
Other highlights of yesterday's broadcast included audio clips from a 1960 remote broadcast -- an all-nighter at a local drive-in theater -- that he did at WAMO.
In the coming weeks, a new Porky Chedwick Web site (www.porkychedwick.com) will launch, featuring interviews -- a few are up already, including one with the late Bo Diddley -- along with broadcasts, photos, video and yesterday's tribute.
As Mr. Speaks put it yesterday, Mr. Chedwick isn't retiring "because he can't find any words that rhyme with 'retirement.' " He is exploring opportunities to continue doing radio programs in Florida, and will host an oldies cruise sailing from Tampa next July.
While the broadcast was fast-paced and upbeat, there was an underlying sense of sadness and loss for the city. "It's part of Pittsburgh leaving," said Candy Long, host of "The Candy and Mike Show" on WKFB.
Mr. Chedwick will attend an oldies dance and musical tribute in his honor tonight at the White Oak American Legion 701, Pennsylvania and Capitol streets. Hours are 8 p.m. to midnight, and admission is $5.
Adrian McCoy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1865.