||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (December 2010)|
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|Born||George Jacob Chedwick
February 4, 1918
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
|Other names||Craig "Porky" Chedwick (nickname)|
|Children||Selena, Michael, Paul, James|
Craig "Porky" Chedwick (born February 4, 1918) known to generations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, as "The Daddio of the Raddio, " "The Platter Pushin' Papa, " "The Bossman," "Pork the Tork", and a host of other colorful nicknames, is a veteran radio presenter.
Chedwick was the first white DJ to present a racially diverse audience in a major eastern American city a steady diet of what were, in the summer of 1948, called "race records." The trail he blazed—some 3 years before the more famous Pennsylvania native, Alan Freed, called the music "rock and roll"--was a dual one. Chedwick's original playlist was composed of old R&B and gospel records that he had collected over the years, making him the world's first bona fide oldies DJ. He called the records his "dusty discs," since he would literally have to blow the dust off the 78s before he could preview them at the record stores. Record stores had no demand for the records and would often just give them to Chedwick, or he'd rescue them from bargain bins with what little money he could scrape together. Years later, radio stations, record companies, and concert promoters would take notice and copy Porky's Chedwick's formula, creating the billion-dollar "oldies" rock and roll nostalgia industry which thrives still today. Porky Chedwick has been recognized on the floor of the United States Senate for his pioneering contributions to radio and rock and roll (and countless times around Pittsburgh, including a day-long 50th anniversary oldies concert called "Porkstock", in 1998 at Three Rivers Stadium) and another one in 1999. He was among a group of radio disc jockeys honored in the "Dedicated to the One I Love" exhibit at Cleveland, Ohio's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, in 1996. He's the only Pittsburgh DJ to be recognized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At age 88, Chedwick celebrated his 58th anniversary on the air at Hall of Fame's Alan Freed Radio Studio on August 12, 2006.
Porky Chedwick was born George Jacob Chedwick (he later informally changed his first name to "Craig"), on February 4, 1918 in Homestead, Pennsylvania, one of ten children of a steelworker father, whose wife died when Porky was still a child. His was a close-knit, culturally and racially diverse neighborhood, which he often compared to "a secluded island," where things such as one's skin color simply didn't matter. As Porky told this writer, "We all had one thing in common--poverty." The origin of the nickname, "Porky" remains up for debate, but he insists it was given to him by his mother because he was a short and chubby youngster. Before getting into radio, he worked odd jobs around Homestead-Munhall, including delivering newspapers as a young boy, later working as a sports "stringer" reporter for the newspaper, sorting mail for the local post office, and calling play-by-play sporting events at his alma mater, Munhall High School.
He began his career at WHOD in Homestead (which took the call letters, WAMO—an acronym for the rivers Allegheny, Monongehela and Ohio—in 1956), when the low-power AM signed on, August 1, 1948. When he responded to an ad in a local paper, advertising for on-air talent at the new radio station, his popularity as a play-by-play announcer won him a 10-minute Saturday sports and music show. The music portion was gradually expanded, in response to the public's reaction. WHOD, known as "The Station of Nations," was created to serve the diverse European and eastern bloc immigrant population that worked the Pittsburgh area mills. Most of his young listeners, who turned an ear toward Chedwick's music and off-the-cuff rhymes and patter (he may have been the first white rapper), had no idea that he was Caucasian. Years later, when the fact became apparent, the outcry from some parents, religious and civic leaders made him a local anti-hero. and he was banned from appearing in some neighborhoods. The suggestion that he was trying to corrupt the (white) youth of America was put to rest when he was commended by Senator Estes Kefauver for his work organizing youth baseball teams to combat juvenile delinquency. He even had a few youths remanded to his custody from juvenile court.
In spite of WHOD's low wattage (1,000 watts compared to 50,000 watts on KDKA.), Chedwick became Pittsburgh's "Pied Piper of Platter." By the early 1950s, black music record labels were hearing about the noise Chedwick was making in Pittsburgh with old R&B stock, so they began inundating him with new material. Chedwick introduced the new material to his "movers and groovers," never accepting payola though payola was the norm at the time. Still, oldies would dominate his playlist.
Shortly after being honored by WAMO for his years of service in 1984, he was let go by the station. He would work at various other stations in the Pittsburgh market until executives from Sheridan Broadcasting (WAMO's parent company) asked him to come back in 1992.
Chedwick is given credit by numerous R&B/rock and roll legends, including Bo Diddley, Smokey Robinson, Little Anthony and myriad others, for giving their recordings their first airplay. Porky Chedwick is responsible for making Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania "The Oldies Capital of the World", and for making the city a testing ground for new R&B from the early 50s through the 70s. The impact of Porky Chedwick's contributions far transcend the boundaries of the Steel City. He never received the notoriety—or the paycheck—of many DJs who followed in his footsteps, however his accomplishments are an indelible part of the local and national music and culture.
For much of his life, Chedwick was plagued with impaired vision, which led him to the practice of wearing prescription eyeglasses with dark lenses, which also aided in hiding his crossed left eye. His vision-related problems, which first started in a slingshot mishap at the age of eight, ultimately robbed him of his ability to drive a car.
In 1990, Chedwick was diagnosed with a large, benign brain tumor. When news broke of the diagnosis, it sent a shock throughout Pittsburgh and a national community of pioneer artists who still felt in his debt. Friends including Little Anthony, Hank Ballard, Lou Christie, Wolfman Jack, Johnnie and Joe, Bobby Comstock, The Marcels, The Vogues, and Bo Diddley organized a benefit concert to help shoulder the huge medical bill for the operation from which he fully recovered. The surgery was performed at West Penn Hospital and drew more than five thousand get-well cards from fans and other supporters.
Some remaining money from the fund-raiser was put into a trust fund against the day when Chedwick would need long-term residential or hospice care.
Not long after Chedwick's brain surgery, he also underwent a second operation to correct his crossed left eye, enabling him to see with clear lenses.
Since then, Chedwick has, for the most part, had a clean bill of health, aside from his vision and now-diminished hearing. His excellent physical health has been attributed to frequent walking, often to dances and other engagements when he was unable to make arrangements for motor transportation, as well as a clean lifestyle (which he openly promoted) free of nicotine and alcohol.
Though a lifelong Pittsburgh resident, Chedwick and his wife Jeanie announced in June 2008 that they were moving to Florida. They completed their move from Pittsburgh's Brookline section to Tarpon Springs in August 2008. By Christmas, Porky returned to Pittsburgh for health reasons, and began to make appearances at oldies clubs, following his recovery. He eventually returned to Florida. Chedwick hated the tranquil community of the trailer park, likening a stroll through it to "walking through a graveyard".
Chedwick celebrated his 93rd birthday at the home of voice actor Ed Weigle in Venice, Florida—the first birthday he'd ever spent outside of Pittsburgh—joined by former VP of Westwood One Radio Networks and Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Famer, Ed Salamon, Richie Merritt of The Marcels, voice actor Nick Sommers, and other friends from Pittsburgh. Throughout the day, he received calls from artists whose careers he'd helped many years before, including Lou Christie, Bobby Vinton and Jimmy Beaumont of The Skyliners. Other air personalities sent greetings, including Scott Shannon, actor Terry McGovern, Jim Labarbara, Bob "Cool Bobby B" Backman, Jack Bogut, and former WAMO co-worker, Frank "The Freak" Gottlieb. Two Sarasota TV stations covered the party.
The Chedwicks finally sold their Florida property in July 2011, while they were visiting Pittsburgh. They immediately bought another house in Brookline, vowing never to leave the City of Pittsburgh.
On September 2, 2011, Porky Chedwick returned to the air on WEDO in McKeesport, where he hosted a Friday program from 11AM to noon, eastern. His return to radio was captured by New York film maker Josh Gilbert, who is currently producing a documentary about Chedwick's life.
On October 26, 2011, Chedwick announced to his radio audience that management had told him that unless his radio show could secure some sponsors, the following week would be his last on WEDO. After another discussion with WEDO management a few days later, the October 26, 2011 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Chedwick opted to discontinue the show, after only 8 broadcasts.
The news reached veteran DJ, Terry Lee, who recently returned to local radio himself. Lee, who became one of Pittsburgh's top DJs the mid-1960s by playing ballads he called "Music For Young Lovers" and hosting "Bandstand" style local shows in the '70s, was appalled at the way Chedwick's situation at WEDO had been handled. Lee invited him to join his internet Magic Communications Network, based in Lee's Ohio home, which broadcasts at www.pittsburgholdiesradio.com. Lee, who had only met Chedwick three times, was still irritated that his former station, WIXZ McKeesport,never followed through on getting Chedwick a job at the station, after an appearance he made April 2, 1971 on Lee's show, which generated overwhelming listener response. Chedwick had just left WAMO Pittsburgh after 23 years, unhappy at being forced to follow the psychedelic/underground rock format the station had been programming. According to an aircheck of the show that Lee owns, all 30 of WIXZ phone lines were tied up for the four-hour show—all from listeners wanting to talk with Porky. Lee and Chedwick even had to beg people to stop coming to the radio station. The next day, members of the media and WIXZ listeners speculated that Chedwick had found a new radio home, but it was never to be. The day before Halloween 2011, Lee announced that he wouldn't see Chedwick languish again, adding, "Without Porky, none of us (oldies DJs) would be here."
At 4PM eastern, November 11, 2011, from his Brookline home, Porky Chedwick made his internet radio debut, beginning his show with "Breaking Up the House" by Tiny Bradshaw (1950). Shortly before Chedwick went live, Lee spoke on the network and said that Chedick would do 4 to 6, every Friday, but that "he can stay on as long as he wants." After the second hour, Chedwick told his audience, "I'm feeling good! I'm gonna do another hour."
Chedwick also makes regular Sunday night appearances at a restaurant near his home.
- Porky Chedwick Fan Site
- OldRadio.com: Porky Chedwick: Radio's Most Ignored Pioneer
- Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Hats off to Porky
- Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Porky Chedwick to celebrate his birthday on air Saturday
- Porky Chedwick Week in 2006 declared by Pennsylvania's House of Representatives
- Porky Chedwick Moving to Florida
- Porky Chedwick Announces Move to Florida
- Porky Chedwick, 92, is one cool cat, and that's a fact
- Porky Chedwick Pittsburgh Music History Profile