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You’re Hearing Things … You May Not Hear Elsewhere

Column by Jim Bishop

Right in the middle of a crazy afternoon in the office, the phone rang (again), and I was tempted to let it go to voicemail. But, I answered, and was glad I did.

“Hi, Jim, this is Harvey . . . Harvey Holiday.”

Was I hearing things? No, it was indeed Harvey (“feelin’ good, like a rockin’ jock should”) Holiday on the line from WOGL, 98.1 FM, Philadelphia.

Harvey is one of those legendary radio personalities who have enlivened the greater Delaware Valley airwaves for more than three decades. He holds down the Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. shift on WOGL, playing the station’s regular format of ’60s and ’70s hits. But from 9 p.m. to midnight Sundays, he’s really in his element with the “Streetcorner Sunday” show, spotlighting the doo-wop and rhythm and blues artists and vocal groups that he and I grew up with but are rarely, if ever, heard on commercial radio anymore.

The unexpected call likely was spurred by a number of e-mails I sent Harvey while listening to his Sunday evening show on my home computer ( I’d recently sent him a CD copy of my “Friday Night Jukebox” ’50s music program that I host each week on WEMC, 91.7 FM radio. Harvey thanked me for the copy, and we had a brief, amiable conversation on what we both feel is some of the best but endangered music ever produced in the 1950s-early ’60s era.

This wasn’t my first unanticipated communiqué along this line. Last summer, an e-mail arrived from Deed Eddy. At first reading, I wasn’t completely sure who this was. A reply confirmed that she’s the spouse of Duane Eddy, my instrumental hero, who played the melody on the bass string of his Gretsch electric guitar to give us that distinctive “twangy” sound on numerous hits in the late ’50s into the early ’60s.

Deed thanked me for the “kind words” in a column about Duane’s music and noted that 2008 would mark the 50th anniversary of Duane’s signature song, “Rebel Rouser.” I’ve used the tune as the opening theme on the “Friday Night Jukebox” show from its beginning in February 2000.

The “Jukebox” is now a “worldwide ministry,” as WEMC radio is now on-line at The show can be heard practically anywhere there’s computer access. A playlist of the songs being spun on any given show – about 21 tunes can usually be squeezed in; songs of the 1950s averaged two minutes in length – can be accessed at the same web site.

The colorful Wurlitzer jukebox isn’t the only local source for singular sounds not likely to be heard elsewhere.

The “Warped Records Show,” a two-hour wacky tour-de-force on WSVA, 550 on the AM dial, features artists and songs that were part of the “normal” air fare on radio stations years ago – artists like Spike Jones and the City Slickers, Stan Freberg, Allan Sherman and Dickie Goodman, as well as the “golden tonsil” renderings of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Telly Savalas, among others – but today defy program formats and listener demographics.

I don’t think the station knows what to make of the enthusiastic listener response to this monthly manic quasi-melodic ménage a trois that started in December 1999 with a one-time (I thought) unwrapping of warped Christmas songs from my music library. Things took off from there and soon became a monthly addition to host Jim Britt’s “Midday” show. I know of no other commercial station in the country with anything comparable in its program lineup (probably for good reason).

This month’s offering, coming up 10 a.m.-noon Thursday, July 17, is our annual salute to warped summertime (summer better than others) – and there’s lots of ’em out there, i.e., “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp),” Allan Sherman; “The Battle of Kookamonga,” Homer & Jethro; “Mr. Jaws,” Dickie Goodman; “Surfin’ USSR,” Ray Stevens . . . get the idea?

And, like the “Jukebox,” listener requests are welcomed, either by calling WSVA or by e-mailing me. And I hear from folks out there in radioland – including persons whom I’d least expect to tune in regularly.

Whether it’s the weekly ’50s music show or the monthly paean to looney tunes and merrie melodies of yore, I often ask myself why I do it, and the answer seems to comes back, “Because you want to and because it helps keep you connected with your past. It keeps the kid in you alive and kicking. Besides, if you don’t do it, who will?”

And I listen to that quiet but persuasive voice and reply, “Oh, baby, that’s-a what I like!”

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