[pullquote quote="Some of you remember XRT in the 70's ... some of you weren't even born then. But the music of that decade, from the singer songwriters to the punks on the other end, continues to matter." credit="Terri Hemmert"]Yeah. Time flies when you’re having fun. When I signed on part time to do the all night shift at WXRT in the Fall of 1973, I was just 25 years old, and still recuperating from the case of mononucleosis that brought my Rochester, New York radio career to an abrupt end. Must have been going two years without any sleep. So I moved back to Chicago without a job hoping to hook up with my friends at WXRT. XRT had been doing Chicago’s Fine Rock programming on a foreign language station for a year. It was on the air from 10 PM till 5 AM. I knew the founding fathers because we had all worked together at WGLD, the progressive rock station in Oak Park. I went to 4949 W. Belmont to discuss terms, and I wasn’t sure how to get there from Oak Park by bus. The directions they gave me…I was wondering if they really wanted to get me killed, so I was surprised that they would hire me. I actually interrupted a purse snatching on the way. True story.
I jumped at the chance to earn $20 a show. Who needs health insurance? I was already sick anyway. So when John Platt showed me a Featured Artist Card, I was a bit confused. It looked a bit like the old Top 40 radio surveys. I still have my collection of surveys from WING, Dayton, Ohio, with pictures of the Wing Lively Guys, DJ’s that included Fred Winston! But these Featured Artists Cards were a bit different.
Every day we had two featured artists. At the beginning of each month, I’d ride around with sales people and we’d drop off batches of the cards to records stores and head shops. Back in 1973 there were some interesting pairings. The Who and Chicago Folk Artists. The Chambers Brothers and Gordon Lightfoot. The Allman Brothers and Miles Davis. The Beatles and Junior Wells (Beatles spelled Beetles. That was right before I started working here). Cream and John Coltrane. The Byrds and Albert King. Neil Young and Walter Carlos, “Switched On Bach.” Walter has since gone in for surgery so call her Wendy. Van Morrison and Igor Stravinsky. Traffic and Motown Oldies. And who can forget Jimi Hendrix and Pearls Before Swine. Pearls Before Swine? I don’t think they are on my iPod.
There was also the Sunday Night Unconcert starring Jethro Tull, Heartsfield, Siegel-Schwall, and Herbie Hancock. And I wish I had tape of the December 31st feature…A Special Evening of Psychedelic Nostalgia. Woo Hoo. Ring in 1974. And Nostalgia….wow…going back five or six years. Of course those that dropped too much acid probably needed some memory prompts. Our logo featured a unicorn. Uh…I don’t know why. It was a bit more buff that My Little Pony, but still. Well, I’m glad I took the job. The all night engineer and I would feast on Coke (the cola…come on) and Hostess fruit pies. And the phone calls I’d get after 3 AM…you wouldn’t believe.
So I’m glad I signed on for $20 a show in 1973. My salary doubled in a year. And I’ve met my heroes, worked with some marvelous people, and served a radio audience that is unparalleled in its smarts, compassion and impeccable taste in music. Some of you remember XRT in the 70′s, when we would sign off and you’d wake up to a Spanish program. Some of you weren’t even born then. But the music of that decade…from the singer songwriters to the punks on the other end, continues to matter. If you can get past the big hair and spandex pants bands, there’s a lot of amazing music from that decade. We’ll take you on that musical journey beginning 9:00 Friday morning for an XRT 4-D’s Flashback Weekend: The 70′s. What a long strange trip it’s been.