(Edited to add new info.)
Big news, radio fans—the Big 89 Rewind is returning to WLS in Chicago for a second year. Last year on Memorial Day, WLS brought back several of its classic Top 40-era jocks for a holiday spectacular, which was spectacular enough that they’re doing it again. New to the lineup this year are Chuck Knapp, who found greater fame in Minneapolis/St. Paul after leaving Chicago (and who has been doing Christian radio up there for the last several years), and Bill Bailey, a high-energy nighttime jock from the early 70s (who should not be confused with the other Bill Bailey who worked at WLS in the late 60s and who later became a legend in Louisville). Like last year, I’m going to be on the radio on Memorial Day myself, but I’ll be making time to listen to WLS, because I wouldn’t be on the radio at all if it weren’t for that station and some of those people. (Seems to me I said that last year, too.) You can stream WLS here. (This just in–Larry Lujack will be a guest on WLS Friday morning at 8:10am Central, talking about the Rewind and other stuff.)
While trying to dig up information on Bill Bailey, I found Detroit Radio Flashbacks, a tremendous site dedicated to jocks, music, news, and sports heard in Detroit from the 60s to the new millennium. It’s an absolute motherlode of airchecks and other audio clips, music surveys, pictures, video, and it’s fun to fool around with, even if you never heard minute one of Detroit radio.
What else? Earlier this year I read a book called Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song by Ted Anthony, in which the author tracked “House of the Rising Sun” from its traditional origins to the point at which the Animals turned it into a rock icon, and beyond into the present. Anthony made it his quest to collect as many different versions of the song as possible. A blog over in Holland called Collector’s Corner has assembled 80 different versions of it, so go nuts.
I am the flashback expert over at WNEW.com, where two of my weekly features are up today: This Week in Rock History, and the first installment of Rock 101, a series in which I talk about stuff that younger WNEW listeners or blog readers may not know about, in this case, the FBI investigation of one of rock’s essential songs. Another WNEW post is likely to be of interest to anybody who remembers the occasional discussions we’ve had here about Southern rock, in which my colleague Chris Clancy tries to define it, and does a pretty good job of it.
And speaking of things Southern, here’s one more flashback, to some particularly sweet soul music. Denise LaSalle, like many African Americans of her generation and the one before, migrated north from Mississippi to Chicago, where she was working as a bartender when she was discovered by an executive at Chess Records. It was a couple of years before she scored a hit single, “Trapped By a Thing Called Love,” which broke out locally in Chicago and Detroit before topping the national R&B chart. She has recorded and performed steadily ever since, writing songs and producing her own records, although “Trapped” was her largest pop hit by far. One of the things that keeps me returning to 1971 is the fact that this kind of pure, deep soul could still find a home on mass-appeal radio back then.
(Westbound 182, chart peak #13, October 30, 1971)