The disc jockey Dick Biondi in 1967, when he worked at WCFL in Chicago. He once said that Chicago, where he spent most of his career, was “the only place I’ve ever been that’s made an impression on me.(Chicago Sun-Times Archives)

Remembering AM radio, disc jockeys like Dick Biondi, and paradise by the dashboard light

Ah, the Saturday nights parking with a date at the Rocky Knob overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Memories of high school days surfaced this week with news if the death of longtime AM radio disc jockey Dick Biondi , whose show on Chicago radio provided background music for parking with a date on the Rocky Knob overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the early-to-mid 1960s.

Biondi and WABC jack Bruce Morrow — “Cousin Brucie”–were 50,000-watt “clear channel AM stations a that a decent AM station could pick up from the airwaves that reached the Rock Knob overlook on the Parkway, which was a desired place to park with a date on a Saturday night.

Decades later, rocker Meatloaf would honor such nights with his song, “I Can See Paradise By The Dashboard Light” as young couple made out. My 1957 Ford hardtop had a backseat that was more like a couch than a car seat and progress in the art of making out was measure like a baseball game with a “home run” was a success.

Yeah, it was sexist and a game of “will I or won’t I” for the young ladies while hormone-saturated young men promised to love them forever is they said “yes.”

Biondi was an act in himself on the radio. As The New York Times reported in its obituary:

Dick Biondi, an exuberant, fast-talking Top 40 radio personality, nicknamed “the Screamer,” who in the early 1960s became one of Chicago’s most popular disc jockeys and, thanks to the strength of his station’s signal, was heard well beyond the city, died on June 26 in Chicago. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by Pamela Enzweiler-Pulice, the director of a forthcoming documentary, “The Voice That Rocked America: The Dick Biondi Story.”

Mr. Biondi was a yeller, though not a shock jock, at WLS-AM, which had just changed its format to rock ‘n’ roll when he was hired for the late evening shift in 1960 for $378 a week (about $3,900 in today’s dollars). The station’s reach into 38 states and Canada provided Mr. Biondi with a platform that made him a major media personality as rock music’s popularity surged.

Mr. Biondi, who was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1998, quickly established himself as a Chicago star. He called himself “the Wild I-tralian”; hosted record hops and charity events; and recorded a novelty song, “On Top of a Pizza,” a parody of “On Top of Old Smoky” that in 1961 became a local hit.

He also got in trouble more often thatn not by pushing what was then the far more-puritanical limits of radio in the says before “shock jocks” like Howard Stern. Bioldi offered free tickets on Saturday night to the first listeners to answer the question: “What is the popular word that starts with ‘f,’ ends with ‘k’ and has the letters ‘uc’ in the middle?”

He later told his audience that “the correct answer is ‘firetruck, ‘ but most callers called in or shouted from their car windows a more-common four-letter slang word for sexual intercourse. The stunt brought a one-week suspension, without pay, by Chicago radio station WCFL.

A longer, 30-day suspension came after Biondi played a song “for soon-to-be ex-virgins in Chicago.” The son was Gine Pitney’s “It hurts to be in love.”

That song, of course, was no where as suggestive or graphic as Meal Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.:

Of courase, we, as high school kids of the prdiod, can say now, more than 50 years later, that we “never did anything like that” back then.

Uh, huh. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

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