Top 5: Behind the Mike

This week’s Top 5 is different from any we’ve ever done before. It’s from WIND in Chicago, dated May 15, 1958, but instead of writing about the music on it, I want to write about the five jocks pictured on the survey. Each has a place in Chicago radio history.

Don Quinn: I know the least about this guy. There was a Don Quinn who wrote the old-time radio show Fibber McGee and Molly, which was produced in Chicago. Based on a bit of online research, I can’t tell if the Don Quinn at WIND in 1958 is the same guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was.

Bernie Allen: A native Chicagoan who appeared as one of the Our Gang kids in the movies during the 1930s. He’s best known (to me, at least) for his stretch at WLS, holding down various afternoon shifts throughout much of the 1960s. Scroll to the bottom of this page to hear him in 1967.

Milo Hamilton: Known as a baseball broadcaster and still doing Houston Astros games today as he approaches age 80, Hamilton was between play-by-play gigs in 1958. He filled the gap doing music shows and news at WIND, and told an interviewer recently, “I had the #1 rated music show in Chicago but then new management came in and they wanted to change the format so I was out of work.” It happens. Believe me.

John Doremus: Radio geeks, particularly in the Midwest, know Doremus as one of the greatest voice artists ever. Often heard late at night (and stone perfect for the time slot), he hosted various music programs in Chicago and in syndication, and did commercial voice work for clients all over the country well into the 1980s. In 1964, his company pioneered the concept of in-flight music on airplanes. (I am surprised at how little there is about Doremus online—especially the lack of airchecks. He’s got a voice you’d certainly recognize.)

Howard Miller: The top personality in Chicago radio during the 50s and 60s, his star fell rapidly in the wake of his controversial comments following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, which revealed him to be a hard-right law-and-order type who wanted police to kill rioters protesting the assassination. According to a 1969 Time magazine profile, WIND yanked him off the air, and it took a lawsuit to get him free of his contract. He remained off the air for several months before WCFL hired him, and although he swiftly returned to the top of the ratings, he didn’t last long at ‘CFL. He bounced around to other Chicago AMs in the 1970s and early 80s before becoming a station owner, and dying in 1994.

(While researching the jocks in this post, I learned that two other Chicago personalities of note died recently. Eddie Hubbard, who was at WGN from the 50s to the 80s, died from injuries suffered in a car crash last March. He was 89. Hubbard is best known, probably, for hosting the morning show before Wally Phillips took it over in 1965. He also hosted an afternoon show on WGN, and occasionally, an evening show called Music Unlimited. When I was a kid, my father often listened to it in the barn while milking his cows at night. Also, longtime Chicago newsman Jim Frank died late last month at age 66. He had recently retired from WBBM after working all over town, including WIND, WMAQ, and WCFL, where he anchored news on Larry Lujack’s afternoon show in the mid 1970s.)

From the WIND chart, I’m posting “Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu” by Dicky Doo and the Don’ts. When the adults of 1958 complained about that noisy, stupid, rock and roll music, this is the kind of thing they meant. The group was a studio creation from Philadelphia; it recorded on the Swan label, in which American Bandstand host Dick Clark was a silent partner; “Dicky Doo” was the nickname of Clark’s young son. So yes indeed, the song got promoted on American Bandstand, albeit discreetly, and it became a modest national hit. I’m posting it not because it’s especially good—it isn’t—but because it’s one of those records many people have heard of without actually hearing. And also because it amuses me to think of mellifluous Milo Hamilton saying either “Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu” or “Dicky Doo and the Don’ts.”

“Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu”/Dicky Doo and the Don’ts (buy it here)

15 thoughts on “Top 5: Behind the Mike

  1. I’m trying to ID a Chicago DJ who I remember from the mid-60’s AM radio in Chicago. I THINK he was either on WBBM or WMAQ. He had a very low gravelly sounding voice and played a lot of 40’s type “easy” music for the day. Looking at your info it COULD be John Doremus but I just can’t remember. Any ideas?? LARRY in WI

  2. Dick Eller

    It might of been John. He moved from WIND in I think 1960. He was on in the evening. I was one of his students at Midwestern Broadcasting School. I went on to work all many stations including, news XTRA in Los Angeles and Boss Radio in San Diego, KGB

  3. Lynn Wells

    I was just thinking about John Doremos tonight and decided to check the internet for any information about him. I found this page. In response to the first comment, I would like to say that John Doremos didn’t have a “gravelly sounding voice”. He had a beautiful bass voice. It sounded like velvet feels! He would open his late night show with Brown’s poem, “Why do I love you”. I was just a young girl, but I remember this well. It seemed so romantic. I wish I knew more about him. I was hoping to find a picture so I could connect a face to the remembered voice.

  4. Len

    Larry, Just thinking tonight about John Doremus and decided to Google…

    I was a young Air Force officer in Okinawa in the late 60’s and the Armed Forces Network (?) would play his show each evening. “Songs about [he would name a subject], then play three songs about that theme. Wonderful show, and wonderful for reel-to-reel recording…

    Any way of finding any of his shows that may have been recorded, or that might be available?

  5. JR

    John Doremus’ Patterns in Music was purchased by a man in Rochester, Minnesota, Tom Jones (not the singer), and is broadcast nightly on his Easy Listening station, KNXR-FM. KNXR is a 100,00watt signal from Rochester that has translators in several other cities. It cal be heard clearly in Minneapolis/St. Paul…

  6. MD Conroy MD

    mdconroymd: the theme song for the patterns of music show, on WMAQ Chicago, presented by John Doremus was:
    “The Dream of Olwen” written by Charles Williams for the movie “While I Live”.
    It can be found on the Librace album titled: “Librace Plays Concert by Candlelight” Columbia Harmony HS 11161.(Vinyl)
    The album was initially titled “Concertos for You” by Librace. I was able to purchase a CD copy as well as the vinyl.

  7. I was looking for some John Doremus “tape” too and found this page. Interesting. I started at WIMS-AM in Michigan City, IN in 1970, up the lake to WJOR-AM South Haven, MI and then to WHFB AM-FM in Benton Harbor, MI. The FM was Beautiful Music on the big glue IGM automation and Every nitght at 9pm I put on the john Doremus Show. He always ended the show with a “smoker”. ..a Paul Harvey-esque joke or story and he would always end with “Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.”

    As Production Director I talked to him several times on the phone with copy clients would want him to voice and I even went to visit him in his studios in the John Hancock Building. THAT was big time. But he was always polite and a gentleman to the squeaky kid with the crappy voice.

    I also remember Franklin McCormick. He always started his show, The Meister Brau Showcase” with a waltz version of “Let me call you sweetheart” and the poem “Why do I love you? I love you not only for what you are but for what I am when I am with you…”

    And Stuckey’s Pecan Shoppes and Restaurants were a client because of the signal reach of WGN. I recall the jingle as “Every trip’s a pleasure trip when you stop at Stuckey’s. Dad and mother, hungry brother love to stop at stuckey’s…”

    Franklin certainly played the older music on his show but, I would hardly call him or Doremus “gravely”. They had HUGE pipes and were as smooth as butter.

    If anyone has any airchecks of them I would love to hear them. JR

  8. jay scott bacchus

    John Doremus was (is) a true specimen of midwestern culture Americana, though he became known internationally. Doremus sounded like dark, rich milk chocolate tastes. I’ve heard the same comparison applied to Tchaikovsky, and I think it is equally appropriate in describing John Doremus. He sounded like a mature man of 55 when he was in his 20s. He was perfectly mated to the biggest radio signals out of Chicago and, certainly, to syndication. And yes, he was a premiere feature on some of the early ‘jet set’ trans con 707 nonstops. Many a trans con business class customer was wooed to fly American by the generous availability of adult beverage …and by that marvelous, ultra high class taped music with John Doremus.

    An all night announcer in the Azores, while serving in AFRTS, I used to introduced and play his syndicated program and just wish, really wish with all my heart, that I might sound like that ….’when I grew up’. Did any of you Doremus admirers know that he was syndicated on vinyl L.P.s in the 60’s on AFRTS?

    1. I too, was a DJ/announcer and also worked in the TV dept of AFRTS Lajes, in the years 1970-1971. Seems like another lifetime ago, but I remember most of my time there like it was yesterday. Do you know if any of the station is still there? I would imagine with today’s technology, that there is no need for it now. I married and American girl that I met on the Island, now 46 years. Have been toying with the idea of taking a vacation back there. Have you ever been back? I also did a tour at Cigli Air Base in Izmir Turkey for 18 months. Didn’t like it there as much, but it was ok. Back then, most Turks didn’t like Americans much. Hope you reply and we can talk more. Dave Varone, former staff sergeant.

  9. jay scott bacchus

    Here’s an add-on I cannot resist. I sounded pretty good at 21 in AFRTS, but I sounded very little like John Doremus. And I mean verrrrrrry little. However, t I was innovative and a very resourceful kid. So here comes the true tale.

    In 1969, in the middle of the Atlantic ocean at AFRTS, Lajes (Lodges) Field, the Azores, we obviously had no internet. And I had no real way of researching John Doremus’ lush theme, which had drawn me like a moth to flame the first time I heard it. One day, a juicy tidbit came my way. One on of the Doremus program vinyl L.P.s, that gorgeous theme had been allowed to play ALL THE WAY THROUGH. No voice over any part of it. Such a treasure! I ran it off on one of our Ampex 351 tape decks. Then, I made edit copies and extracted from them, onto broadcast tape cartridges, what we today call ‘bumper music . My superiors allowed me to use these on the air the same way Doremus did. All I can say is, it sounded very cool to our base brass, including General Johnson, our Lajes Commader. I would do weather reports over Dream of Olwen, as well as the officers’ mess breakfast menu. I think I even did a reenlistment promo spot over one of the bumper carts. It was noticed.

    I can assure you it did NOT sound like John Doremus, but I think John would have gotten a rise out of such a stunt. I wish I had a surviving air check.

  10. Jay Bacchus

    Len and any of you who enjoyed John Doremus so much in the late 1960s. In those days, the rich, resonant baritone voice with a flat (absent) accent was the ideal. And John Doremus sounded like rich German chocolate cake tastes. As an AFRTS guy in both Turkey and then Lajes Field, the Azores, I became quite familiar with Mr. Doremus. I believe I’ve told this same war story before.

    See, our programming came to us, worldwide, on what today we’d call l.p. vinyl. Plain English : album type discs. About every 10 days, we’d get a C-130 flown by National Guard ‘weekend warriors’ out of McGuire AFB, New Jersey. Oh, the goodies we anxiously awaited when word broke out that our C-130 crew was within maybe 1/2 hour of landing. This same drama was repeated at bases in Germany, the U.K., Okinawa, Greece, Turkey and many, many other places. But we stray.

    On that C-130 was food, medical supplies, MAIL from home, commissary treasures like cameras, Rolex watches, Playboy magazines …and about 10 days worth of vinyl disc programming for our AFRTS station. This was virgin, just-pressed and never been played vinyl. Hosts from the past whose shows came to us this way? Jim Pewter, Johnny Grant, Chris Noel, Roger Carroll …and the bass trombone pipes of one John Doremus with his Olwen’s Theme bumper music. Yeah …I miss that ancient AFRTS routine. Guys were being shot at in Vietnam. And here was I, a wet-behind-the-ears d.j. wanna be, playing John Doremus for my fellow airman (including officers in that description) at our station, CSB83, Lajes Field, the Azores, Portugal …run so well by CMST Jack Cross. I only hope he has the opportunity to see this.

  11. Cliff Ford

    I worked as a DJ with John Doremus at KRMG in Tulsa, Oklahoma ( a big AM boomer that went coast to coast,, east and west, in the early ’50’s). There was John Doremus, Joe Knight, John Trotter,and myself Cliff Ford. Senator Kerr owned the station back then.
    He had that same great (sensational) voice in his early 20’s as he did later on in Chicago and through out the world.

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