Radio legend Porky Chedwick to appear in Monessen
The name Porky Chedwick may not mean much to the younger generation of alternative, hip-hop listening 20-somethings, but for the over 40 crowd, his legacy will never be forgotten.
Especially in Monessen, where Porky Chedwick was once the ‘king of the hill’ in the 1950s, packing as many teeny-boppers they could squeeze into the New Italian Hall.
Known as the ‘Daddio of the Raddio,’ your ‘Platter Pushin’ Poppa,’ and ‘Pork the Torque,’ Chedwick, who is now in his 80s, is still playing those oldies that he became famous for.
Chedwick, whose given name is Craig, is the pioneer of radio oldies shows. His contributions to early radio shows in the 1940s makes him an icon as well, and he was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1996.
Chedwick’s display at the Hall of Fame includes a picture of the Porkster and a recording of some of his more famous sayings.
Chedwick began his career 48 years ago and was the first disc jockey in Pittsburgh to play records by black artists and musicians on WHOD (860 AM) radio, which eventually became WAMO.
Chedwick, who now lives in the Brookline section of Pittsburgh, stirred the airwaves when he began playing ‘dusty discs,’ or records of the gospel and rhythm and blues musicians that weren’t being played at the time. Often times, record stores would just give him the 45-speed LPs because they were just ‘collecting dust.’
And when he started playing songs by the Penguins, the Doves, or Bo Diddley, for example, the younger crowd paid attention.
‘This music wasn’t being played anywhere in the country and the kids just loved it,’ said Chedwick during a recent interview. ‘The lights started flashing (in the radio station) and the calls just came in.’
And the black artists who recorded songs for years that had never received airplay, took note, too, and sent Porky telegrams of appreciation.
‘Porky was fantastic – he still is,’ says Ron Paglia, a longtime Mon Valley disc jockey. ‘There might not be oldies today if it weren’t for Porky Chedwick.’
Ed Weigle, a Pittsburgh native, avid Porky fan, and radio programmer at WEDJ FM, Indianapolis, Ind., said ‘Porky Chedwick blazed a dual trail on the east coast for establishing a foundation for what others called ‘rock and roll’ four years later.’
Chedwick got his musical start playing at record hops around his hometown’s racially integrated suburbs, using a single turntable and a borrowed guitar amp.
He grew up the second of 10 children in West Homestead and graduated from Munhall High School. His parents relied on him to keep his younger siblings entertained and out of trouble, and eventually ended up playing for other neighborhood kids.
He started at the local radio station WHOD in his early 20s, beginning a career he is still not ready to retire from.
‘As long as the fans keep coming to hear Porky,’ I’ll keep playing for them,’ he laughed.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Paglia recalls how the Porkster dominated the music scene, and how he would step out of a pink Lincoln Continental in front of the old Monessen Italian Hall for a dance, sporting tight pegged pants and a greasy haircut.
Chedwick also recalls proudly when his tapes were played for Vietnam soldiers overseas.
His radio career went by the wayside for a period when hard rock came into the music scene, but then the 1970s came and a nostalgia craze hit.
He began showing up at a rash of rock and roll revivals, playing at blasts from the past for the over 30-crowds.
While his appearance has changed some over the years, his spirit remains contagious as ever, which is why he is still packs in crowds at private parties and fund-raisers.
Jan (Marchewka) Roberts, a disc jockey at WLSW (103.9 FM, Connellsville), appears with Chedwick at many events, and enjoys his friendship with the radio legend.
‘Porky can still bring in a crowd,’ said the Monessen native. ‘Porky has been a mentor to me.’
Chedwick’s show on WLSW is on Sundays from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., followed by Roberts’ ‘Satin Sounds of Love’ show from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
It seems his fans have always found Chedwick, whether tuning into his radio shows or attending one of the dances or concerts he helped promote.
His legions of fans also came to his aid when he was faced with health problems. His wife, Jeannie Chedwick says he received more than 5,000 cards and letters following an operation for a benign brain tumor in 1990.
Rock and roll pioneers including Hank Ballard, Diddley and The Skyliners organized a benefit concert to help shoulder his medical costs.
But the Porkster has moved on, he says, and doesn’t dwell on his age or his health for that matter.
Fans can also hear the ‘Bossman’ on the airwaves on Saturdays at 11 a.m. at 860 AM. He also does periodic shows for 3WS in Pittsburgh.
He will make a special return trip to Monessen Friday, June 23, for a benefit dance for the Jack Scarvel Memorial Scholarship at the Monessen Elks.
And for a brief moment in time, the days of yesteryears will come alive in Monessen.