On Tuesday, RBR+TVBR reported on the passing of Myron Jones, owner of The WJET Broadcasting Company. In October 1955, the Erie, Pa.-based company expanded with the launch of Top 40 WHOT-AM 1570 in Youngstown, Ohio.
Among its first air personalities was a native of New York’s Southern Tier who had gotten notice for his work in Alexandria, La., and York, Pa.
For a two-year period Dick Biondi rocked this corner of Ohio before a notable run at WKBW-AM 1520 in Buffalo, where he was fired for telling listeners as a joke where his boss would be driving, and to throw rocks at it, after the two had tussled over an issue. One listener followed Biondi’s instructions.
Getting fired proved to be the right move for Biondi, who joined Top 40 powerhouse WLS-AM 890 in Chicago in 1960 and enjoyed stints in Los Angeles and at WLS’s biggest rival during its heyday. Earlier this year, Cumulus Media formally cut ties with the now-85 1/2-year-old legend, who had been reunited with WLS.
Now, a longtime listener has decided to make a movie about Biondi.
Until April 2017, Biondi was a weekend morning host on WLS-FM 94.7, which pays tribute to the original WLS — a 50kw blowtorch heard across much of the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains.
At the time, he was hospitalized for a leg ailment, at age 84. On his 85th birthday on Sept. 13, WLS-FM honored Biondi with a daylong celebration. He expressed excitement in his eventual return to the airwaves.
This never came to be. But, longtime fans of the man largely considered to be the greatest rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey in history will soon be able to enjoy The Voice That Rocked America, a one-hour documentary that honors Biondi.
It is the creation of Pam Enzweiler-Pulice, who was 13 years old when she first heard him while in bed on a transistor radio tuned to AM 890 at her suburban Chicago home.
As reported Thursday by the Chicago Tribune, Pam was a bit of a superfan: She started a Biondi booster club, and gathered fans to watch Biondi do his show live from Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, where WLS’s studios were in the early 1960s.
Interestingly, Biondi’s first tenure, while memorable, was short: In 1963, he exited WLS and ended up at the top-rated Top 40 station in Los Angeles, KRLA-AM 1110. Biondi enjoyed two stints at the station prior to the arrival of “93 KHJ,” and in 1964-65 hosted the Mutual-syndicated Dick Biondi’s Young America.
Biondi returned to Chicago in 1967 — at “The Voice of Labor,” WLS’s fiercest rival: WCFL-AM 1000. He then ended up at Country WMAQ-AM 670 before departing Chicago a second time, moving on to stations in Boston, Cincinnati and the resort community of Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Thanks in part to former WLS air talent Bob Sirott, who did a “Where are they now?” segment for WBBM-2 in Chicago as a news reporter, renewed Windy City interest in Biondi grew. After a brief stint at WBBM-FM 96.3 as a Top 40 DJ, he took a role at new Oldies station WJMK-FM 104.3, staying with the facility from 1984 through 2005.
In November 2006, some 43 years after last uttering the call letters on the air, Biondi was back at WLS — this time at 94.7 MHz.
All of Biondi’s years on the air will now be condensed into a film “ready for PBS broadcast, film festivals, DVD/download and streaming.”
“Dick’s powerful connection with his audience has endured for decades, and the bands he promoted have never forgotten his generosity,” Pam notes. “Dick’s story will be told through interviews with recording artists, broadcasters, fans, friends and Dick Biondi himself.”
Sirott’s report on WBBM-2 and CBS Radio’s subsequent hiring of Biondi to WBBM-FM in 1983 sparked her memories of a favorite DJ she befriended through her fan club.
“I really had lost track of him,” she told the Tribune. “I was busy doing my own thing, and then he was all over the country and actually kind of disappearing for a while, living and working in real obscurity. But I tracked down his phone number and called. I wondered if he would even remember me.”
He did, and the conversations have continued for more than 30 years. Then came the talk of a movie celebrating Biondi’s life. He agreed to it.
Pam’s work began in 2014. It is a nonprofit project, and she is seeking $500 donations “to help finish this remarkable project.”
A 20-minute “preview” screening of the documentary is scheduled for August 8 at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th Street, Chicago, Ill. 60655.
A special guest will be in attendance, and it’s also a widely revered air personality who became famous in Chicago: John Records Landecker.
“Known as The Screamer, the Big Noise from Buffalo, and The Wild I-Tralian, Dick Biondi holds the distinction of being the first disc jockey to play The Beatles on American radio,” Pam notes on her website. “He introduced the Rolling Stones in concert and helped many new artists along the road to stardom. Dick Biondi was the voice of the Baby Boomer generation.”
Pam hopes her film will further immortalize a man who rose to fame, returned to prominence and is now getting his due as one of the industry’s on-air all-time greats.