I can remember tuning in to radio as a toddler, and I've never tuned out.
My earliest recollection of listening to the radio includes my two brothers, who allowed me to sit with them in their bedroom and listen to "The Lone Ranger." I was captivated as Brace Beemer's voice resonated through the speaker of my brothers' blue, plastic, General Electric radio. Beemer, and John Todd as Tonto, took us along on their heroic adventures in the days of old in the Old West. I loved it. I was surrounded by my big brothers, the Lone Ranger, Tonto and those exciting tales.
In my next distinct memory of radio-listening pleasure, I'm stretched out on the back seat of my father's Buick. Dad was driving, and Mom was tuning in the radio, as we were returning home to Lebanon, Ill., from a Sunday visit with friends a few hours north of us. Suddenly the sweet sounds of the Everly Brothers drifted out from the car's radio speakers. I lay on that back seat, looking out the back window at the bright stars up in the night sky and listening to the melodious voices of Don and Phil Everly.
Dad's old Buick had a pretty good radio, but his next new car was the coolest – a 1955 Chevrolet. It was a beautiful maroon in color, and fortunately, it too had a fine radio.
A few years later, my brothers – they were eight years older than I – left home to go to college, so lucky me inherited their GE radio. I proudly placed it on my nightstand next to my bed, where it was my electric link to St. Louis Cardinal baseball. The classic voices of Harry Carey, Jack Buck and Joe Garagiola emanated from that blue box, broadcasting the baseball excitement of my beloved Redbirds. Who would want to watch a game on television, when one could tune in to KMOX radio and listen to the Cardinal broadcasters describe all the action, drama and Cardinal glory?
Before I knew it, I was a teenager, and I was tuning in to local radio stations to hear jazz, R&B soul, and good ol' rock 'n' roll. Most kids my age then in the St. Louis area preferred KXOK and its playlist of top-40 pop and rock hits. We would listen to the disc-jockey chatter of the likes of Shad O'Shea, Ray Otis and Johnny Rabbitt, who in reality was Don Pietromonaco, and we would dig the sounds of The Sixties.
It was the time of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Temptations, Four Tops, The Animals, Dave Clark Five, Smokey Robinson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis and so many more. The KXOK boys might play some songs way more than you'd like to hear them, yet some records you couldn't get enough of – like "House of the Rising Sun" or "Satisfaction" or "My Girl."
The hits just kept on rollin' after I joined the Marine Corps in 1967 and journeyed to South Vietnam. The war there took a lot of our time – wars tend to do that, pestering you with those pesky life-and-death situations and all – but during the times we could stand down and take breaks, the radio DJs on the American Forces Vietnam Network brought us the latest hits and, of course, plenty of public service announcements about such important matters as keeping our M16 rifles clean, taking our weekly malaria pills, and making sure we did not pick up any diseases from any of the lovelies (bar girls) we might meet in some of the cultural spots (bars) in Saigon, Da Nang or Nha Trang.
It was several years later, after my tours of duty in Vietnam, after I landed in Camp Lejeune, N.C., when I discovered the sound and sounds of Casey Kasem. I looked forward to Saturdays and the sound of Casey's voice and the sounds of the hits of the 1970s. Casey played us the top 40 records, interspersed with interesting trivia and topical news, on his weekly show "American Top 40." His golden voice and smooth presentation made his weekly Top 40 countdown a must-listen transmission. Miss you, Casey.
If anyone can come close to the talent of Casey Kasem, it could be radio personality Rick Dees, host of the internationally syndicated "Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 Countdown."
I first listened to Dees when the Marine Corps sent me to Los Angeles for three years in the mid-80s. I tuned in to his show on KISS-FM every morning, as I made my way from San Pedro on the Los Angeles Harbor, up the 110 Harbor Freeway, to the 405 Freeway, for the sluggish drive up to the Federal Building in West LA, adjacent Westwood. A cup of coffee, along with Dees' humor and antics and the hits of the 1980s, woke me up. I was then alert and ready for a gorgeous day in LA, representing the United States Marine Corps. I knew it was going to be a good day, because I was still in the Corps, Dees had me in a good mood, and the day was sure to be gorgeous since Rick told us it was going to be 85 dees-grees and sunny that day. Of course, it's sunny and 85 almost every day in Southern California.
These days, I'm listening to St. Louis radio again, mostly 101.1 ESPN St. Louis sports talk radio. I can get all the good scoop each day on my Cardinals and Rams, plus the Blues and Bilikens, from folks like D'Marco Farr and Chris Duncan. Farr, Randy Karraker and Brad Thompson host the afternoon program "The Fast Lane" that includes my favorite sports-radio segments: "The Four O'clock Fight" and "I'm Just Sayin'." It's all great broadcasting and fun listening.
If you get tired of sports, or just don't care for sports, St. Louis – like most any city in America – has many formats from which to choose. I check in often to St. Louis jazz broadcasts and classic rock and today's R&B and most often to Fresh 102.5 KEZK-FM. I hope you listen often to the radio broadcasts where you are. If not, you're missing out!
I shall now tune y'all out. I have to tune in to 101.1 on the FM dial. Can we still say "on the FM dial" and "on the AM dial" in 2014? I guess we can. Anyway, it's almost time for "The Turn" with Chris Duncan and Anthony Stalter, from noon to 2 p.m.