Craig "Porky" Chedwick may have played the so-called "devil's music" -- rock 'n' roll -- but he was a devoutly religious man.
The Rev. Lowell Meek recalled at his funeral Friday that 25 years ago Chedwick signed up for the evangelism outreach training program at the First Presbyterian Church, Downtown, where Rev. Meek then was working as an associate pastor.
"We would go all around Allegheny County, and I have to tell you, it was a lot of fun to see the looks on people's faces when Porky Chedwick was sitting in their living room talking about Jesus."
Sports 'n 'at: Remembering Porky Chedwick
On this week's "Sports 'n 'at," Bob Dvorchak remembers the recently passed Porky Chedwick, whose work in Pittsburgh is notable not just for his pioneering work as a DJ, but for his charitable efforts as well. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 3/4/2014)
Chedwick, who died Sunday at age 96, was the "Daddio of the Raddio," a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-recognized DJ who started spinning records in the late '40s. Working for WHOD in Homestead, he bucked the industry standard by playing "race records" by black artists that were shunned by mainstream radio. He was famous for his platter-pushin' radio patter and for helping to pioneer the oldies movement in the '50s.
He possessed the ability to carry himself as both a legend and a humble man.
"He was a man of legendary reputation and he told me so when I met him 25 years ago," Rev. Meek said, drawing a laugh from the congregation. "Despite his legendary stature, he was a very humble man."
The minister recalled that when they first met, Chedwick was living in a small rental apartment on Mount Washington and was too embarrassed to let him in.
The service, held in a small chapel at Frank DeBor Funeral Home in Brookline that held around 60 people, was an open mike for eulogies and song. The first voice we heard was that of Chedwick doing some of his radio banter.
A group of singers -- including Jack Hunt (aka Johnny Angel), Donna Groom and Frank Czuri of the Skyliners, and Wee Jams' Hal Weiss -- delivered a beautiful impromptu rendition of "Amazing Grace." Ms. Groom also went solo on "Ave Maria." Eugene Pitt, of New York group The Jyve Fyve, broke into the gospel song "In My Father's Mansion," and announced that his next album would be dedicated to Chedwick.
Jack Bogut, a fellow Pittsburgh radio legend from KDKA to WJAC, stepped forth with a little Porky patter: "No need to explain/I'm not John Wayne/I'm Pork the Tork, the Platter-Pushin' Pappa, the Daddio of the Raddio." He called Chedwick an "optimist to the core" and compared him to yet another Pittsburgh legend: "Porky was like Mister Rogers to me, because Fred Rogers was the same guy in person that you saw on television."
Ed Salamon, who started his career at KDKA before going on to national fame as a country music programmer and host, credited the DJ for pushing others into the business.
"There are so many of us from Pittsburgh that grew up listening to Porky Chedwick and the music that he played and became involved in the radio business, became involved in the music business, went on to work in New York, L.A., all across the country, because they were inspired by the enthusiasm that came out of the radio speakers from Porky Chedwick."
Mr. Hunt, a popular oldies star and a close friend who hosted Mr. Chedwick's 96th birthday in early February, said if it hadn't been for Porky's radio show, "I would most likely have been singing Pat Boone songs and would have had a short-lived career."
Chedwick's wife, Jean, recalled how they met, with him asking her, "What's your name, cool one?" She talked about his sweetness and innocence, and his daily life of oatmeal and blueberries in the morning, walking the dog, and checking the weather by walking out the front door and back door to see if it was the same.
Travis Klein, of the local Itzy Records, said before the service that Mrs. Chedwick "protected him from predators and she probably added 25 years to his life."
Of his longevity, Mr. Klein told mourners, "He was able to live in his own skin. He was able to carry the mantle of being a legend for 60 or 70 years."
Mr. Bogut suggested that Chedwick has really just moved on to another job. "I'm absolutely convinced," he said, "that Porky is pushin' platters for the boss man up there."
Scott Mervis: smervis@Post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576. First Published March 7, 2014 12:41 PM