Dick Biondi at WCFL, circa 1967.
|Birth name||Richard O. Biondi|
September 13, 1932 |
Endicott, New York
Richard O. "Dick" Biondi (born September 13, 1932) is an American Top 40 and Oldies disc jockey. Calling himself The Wild I-tralian, he was one of the original "screamers," known for his screaming delivery as well as his wild antics on the air and off. In a 1988 interview, Biondi related he had been fired 23 times; both fits of temper and jokes gone wrong were part of the tally. Over many years and many frequencies, Dick's close-of-the-program line was, "God bless, bye, bye, Duke. Thanks a million for dialing our way."
Biondi gained national attention in the 1950s and 1960s as a disc jockey on leading AM radio stations in Buffalo, New York; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California. Besides being among the first to play Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, and other early rhythm and blues artists, he was also able to meet them. The early Rock and Roll era meant "record hops" where disc jockeys would make personal appearances at local schools and clubs; they often included appearances by the artists whose records were being played. Biondi is credited as the first U.S. disc jockey to play the Beatles, on Chicago's WLS 890 AM in February 1963, with the song "Please Please Me". Later, while working at KRLA 1110 AM in Los Angeles, he introduced the Beatles and Rolling Stones at their Hollywood Bowl concerts.
Since 1984, Biondi has been a mainstay on Oldies stations in the city where he first earned his reputation, Chicago. On 2 May 2010, Dick Biondi celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first Chicago broadcast. WLS-AM and WLS-FM presented a 5-hour simulcast special from 7 PM to midnight, featuring memorable moments in his career and special celebrity guests, with Biondi as its host.
Dick Biondi's lifelong love of radio began at an early age, when he was allowed to read a commercial on WMBO, Auburn, New York. His father, Mike, an Endicott fireman, and mother, Rose, encouraged him in his goal; at the time it was to become a sportscaster. He went on to work behind the scenes and learned about broadcasting at WINR, Binghamton, New York, where one of his co-workers was a young Rod Serling. Another co-worker, himself a sportcaster, took an interest in the young Biondi and began working with him on pronunciation and diction. As a sportscaster, Biondi began his on-air career in radio on WCBA 1350 AM in Corning, New York. He continued on to KVOB, Alexandria, Louisiana, but it wasn't until working for KSYL in Alexandria, that Biondi started doing music shows. It was here where he became acquainted with Rhythm and blues. Career moves took him to York, Pennsylvania and WHOT-AM, Youngstown, Ohio. When Dick arrived there, Rock and Roll was on the airwaves and he began doing local appearances with such stars as Fabian, Paul Anka and Bobby Darin.
At a 1956 Cleveland Elvis Presley concert, Dick was able to get Elvis to sign the shirt he was wearing; when he returned to the crowd, Presley's frenzied female fans started tearing away at it. Biondi wound up at a local hospital, much to the amusement of Elvis.
He was picked up in 1958 by WKBW 1520 AM in Buffalo; at WKBW if conditions were right, Biondi could be heard in Europe. After a dispute at WKBW, Biondi jokingly described his boss's car on the air, said where he would be driving, and asked his listeners to throw rocks at it. Someone did as Biondi asked and he was fired the next day. He worked at WEBR  in Buffalo before gaining fame in 1960 on Chicago's 50,000 watt WLS, which covered most of the United States east of the Continental Divide.
To promote the WLS "Bright New Sound" which premiered 2 May 1960, ABC executives did some advance publicity by bringing two of its new personalities to Chicago early. Biondi and colleague Bob Hale made the media and music rounds. After their first big day as the representatives of the new WLS, they returned to the station that evening to begin asking for and taking collect phone calls from any point in the US. Calls came in from across the country as well as from a couple of ships at sea. Biondi recalls the first record he played on the new WLS was "Teddy Bear" by Elvis. Many record company executives considered him to be a vital part of the hitmaking process. Biondi's playing a record on his show gave it maximum exposure to a very large listening audience; he was the most popular night time DJ in the Midwest. There was a lot of fun at WLS; in response to the record, "There Was Fungus Among Us", Dick issued his listeners "Fungus Licenses".
In 1961 he made a record, "On Top of a Pizza" (a parody of "On Top of Old Smoky"), that became a local hit. The flip side of the record is "Knock Knock", a nod to the jokes Dick told on the air so often. (e.g., "Knock knock." "Who's there?" "Biondi." "Biondi who?" "Biondi Blue Horizon.") In 1963, Biondi left WLS over a dispute involving the number of commercials on his radio show. Rumors and urban legends still persist that Biondi told an obscene joke on the air which resulted in his being fired. Part of Biondi's hiatus from radio was spent making a record album, Dick Biondi's Favorites-the Teenagers with Ray Stevens. He moved to KRLA, then the #1 Top 40 station in the Los Angeles market. At KRLA, Biondi was in good company working with other legendary radio personalities, including Bob Eubanks, Casey Kasem, Emperor Bob Hudson and Dave Hull. Not long after arriving there, Dick created The Dick Biondi Road Show which brought new acts to perform at high schools all over Southern California.
In 1964-65, between KRLA stints, he hosted a nationally syndicated show, Dick Biondi's Young America, carried by 125 stations on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Through this program, Dick was heard on WCFL 3 years prior to his signing with the station. During his time with the Mutual show, Biondi obtained exclusivity rights for records for all of his subscriber stations; this was a big boost to their ability to be competitive in smaller radio markets. He returned to KRLA in early 1965, soon after the Mutual show was cancelled.
Biondi returned to Chicago on WCFL 1000 AM in 1967. In addition to his regular airshift, Dick also did many specialty shows for WCFL: Pop Goes the Music and In the Beginning were looks back at early Rock and Roll; This Is Elvis explored the life of Elvis Presley, while Dick Biondi Labels the Blues delved into that aspect of music and the influence it had on Rock and Roll. Dick Biondi and Friend was an interview program featuring then current popular music stars. There was also the weekly "Vietnam Show" that allowed listeners to send greetings to family and friends serving overseas; copies went to Armed Forces Radio Network.
In 1972, after a short time at WMAQ (AM), he left Chicago once again, working at WBZ Boston, WSAI Cincinnati, and a decade-long stint on WNMB in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Beginning in 1976, during his time at WNMB, Dick produced a syndicated program called, Dick Biondi's Super Gold Rock and Roll which was syndicated to about 60 radio stations. WNMB began rebroadcasting the shows on 3 February 2010.
In the early 1980s, former WLS DJ Bob Sirott was a reporter for WBBM-TV. He did an ongoing feature show called, Where Are They Now?, which located and interviewed former famous Chicagoans who had slipped from local prominence. Dick was the subject of a Where Are They Now? show in 1982; it was enough to rekindle local radio professional interest in him and Biondi returned to Chicago the next year-briefly working at WBBM 96.3 FM. In 1984 he was the signature voice for the launch of the new Oldies station WJMK 104.3 FM, where he was heard until the station switched formats in June 2005. Biondi, along with the Oldies format, was kept on a digital subcarrier HD2, but he was released in July 2006, along with all other on-air personalities. In November 2006, Biondi started on WLS 94.7 FM, where he hosted from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Central Time (formerly from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.). In November 2015, his show was moved to weekend mornings. Columbia College, Chicago presented Inside the Radio Studio with Dick Biondi & Herb Kent-100 Years On the Air on 10 April 2010. Both men were still on the air until Kent passed away on October 22, 2016.
Awards and recognition
In 1961, while at WLS, Dick received the Gavin Top 40 Disc Jockey of the Year Award; in 1966, when he was at KRLA, he was Billboard's most popular late evening DJ. In 1995, Biondi was honored in an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with other legendary disc jockeys. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1998, with the message, "He's an okay guy.". In 2011, Biondi was inducted into the Southern Tier Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed 1 May 2010 "Dick Biondi Day" in Illinois. The Chicago City Council also honored Biondi's longevity in Chicago radio by naming a street in his honor, "Dick Biondi Way". His ambition is to become the oldest active Rock and Roll disc jockey in the United States; says Biondi, "I'd like to die with my earphones on."
- Fisher, Marc, ed. (2007). Something in the air: radio, rock, and the revolution that shaped a generation. Random House. p. 400. ISBN 0-375-50907-0. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
- Browne, Ray Broadus; Browne, Pat, eds. (2001). The Guide to United States Popular Culture. Chicago: Popular Press. p. 93. ISBN 0-87972-821-3. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
- "Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame-WKBW". Buffalo Broadcasters. Archived from the original on 27 July 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- "Dick Biondi DJ" (PDF). 19 April 1988. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- "Popular DJ's show endings". Rock Radio Scrapbook. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
- "Dick Biondi Interview". Manteno. 1985. Archived from the original on 12 August 2003. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Neal, Steve, ed. (1999). Rolling on the River: The Best of Steve Neal. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-8093-2282-X. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- Feder, Robert (2 November 2006). "DJ Dick Biondi is Back". Chicago Sun-Times (Rockabilly Hall of Fame Website). Retrieved 29 September 2008.
- "Who played the first Beatles record in America?". Forgotten hits. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- Miles, Barry, ed. (2009). The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era. Sterling. p. 55. ISBN 1-4027-6976-8. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- Shea, Stuart; Rodriquez, Robert, eds. (2007). Fab Four FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Beatles . and More!. Hal Leonard Corp. p. 42. ISBN 1-4234-2138-8. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- on YouTube
- "Inductees: Dick Biondi". Radio Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 11 July 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
- audio file-Biondi recalls WLS-AM, April 2010 (Windows Media Player)
- on YouTube
- Feder, Robert (21 April 2010). "Dick Biondi to Celebrate Golden Anniversary on WLS". Archived from the original on 24 April 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "Dick Biondi celebrating 50 years on Chicago radio". Forgotten Hits. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- on YouTube
- Shannon, Bob, ed. (2009). Turn It Up! American Radio Tales 1946-1996. Austrianmonk publishing. pp. 15–25. ISBN 1-61584-545-3. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Vox Jox-Biondi leaves KVOB for KSYL (page 24). Billboard. 19 May 1951. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Vox Jox -Biondi at KSYL (page 44). Billboard. 13 December 1955. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- 30 years ago this week-Dick Biondi started as the late night DJ at KSYL, Alexandria, LA. Billboard. 10 July 1982. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "From WHOT to WKBW". Forgotten Buffalo. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Close With a Hymn (page 41). Billboard. 28 April 1958. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Cason, Buzz, ed. (2004). The Adventures of Buzz Cason: Living the Rock'N'Roll Dream. Hal Leonard. pp. 118–119. ISBN 0-634-06672-2. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- Vinita, ed. (2007). Biographies of Profiles in Popular Music. Sura Books. p. 5. ISBN 81-7478-638-4. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- on YouTube
- "The new WLS Lineup (page 3)" (PDF). Mr. Pop History. 5 May 1960. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2010. (PDF)
- aircheck of Dick Biondi Show WLS-June 7, 1960
- Childers, Scott. "WLS History-The Bright New Sound". Childers, Scott. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Bob Hale Interview". Chicago Radio Spotlight. 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
- on YouTube
- Most Disc Execs Swear By (not at) Chi's Dick Biondi (pages 4 and 8). Billboard. 23 February 1963. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Diskeries Fret Over Chi DJ Scene. Billboard. 16 February 1963. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Fungus Among Us (page 14). Billboard. 18 September 1961. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "On Top of a Pizza". Mad Music Archive. 1961. Archived from the original on 3 February 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
- "On Top of a Pizza". 45cat. 1961. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- on YouTube
- audio file-WLS and The Personalities-"On Top of a Pizza" is part of this file (RealPlayer)
- Childers, Scott, ed. (2008). Chicago's WLS Radio. Arcadia Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 0-7385-6194-0. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- "Interview-Ralph Squires, Biondi's engineer at WLS, tells what it was like to work with Dick". Manteno. 1999. Archived from the original on 20 August 2003. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Sterling, Christopher H. (2004). Encyclopedia of Radio. A–E. Taylor & Francis. p. 263.
- Biondi & WLS Still Far Apart; No Hope Seen (page 49). Billboard. 25 May 1963. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- audio file-May 2, 1963-aircheck of Dick's last broadcast at WLS and the station's 3rd anniversary with its new format (RealPlayer)
- audio file of Dick telling the story of leaving WLS (Windows Media Player)
- Biondi Lands Coast Post With Powerhouse KRLA (pages 4 and 8). Billboard. 6 July 1963. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Dick Biondi's Favorites-the Teenagers". Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Fong-Torres, Ben, ed. (2001). The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio. Backbeat Books. p. 173. ISBN 0-87930-664-5. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- Eubanks, Bob; Hansen, Matthew Scott, eds. (2004). It's in the Book, Bob!. Benbella Books. pp. 36–38. ISBN 1-932100-28-8. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- Eubanks, Bob; Hansen, Matthew Scott, eds. (2004). It's in the Book, Bob!. Benbella Books. p. 50. ISBN 1-932100-28-8. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- "He Doesn't Do Jack". Chicago Reader. 16 June 2005. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- Mutual Net Airs Biondi (page 12). Billboard. 22 February 1964. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- Mutual Drops Biondi Show. Billboard. 6 February 1965. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Biondi/Mutual Network on WCFL". Airchexx. 1964. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- audio file of Dick Biondi's Young America WCFL aircheck-1964 (RealPlayer)
- Biondi Is First Network D.J. In Nearly 10 years. Billboard. 11 April 1964. p. 4. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Big Three Are Deep in Exclusactivity (page 12). Billboard. 18 July 1964. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- KRLA Debuts Wide Changes; Shifts News, Music Slots; Adds Biondi (pages 45, 46). Billboard. 20 February 1965. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Childers, Scott, ed. (2008). Chicago's WLS Radio. Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 0-7385-6194-0. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- "Biondi Returns to Chicago at WCFL (page 6)" (PDF). Mr. Pop History. 6 October 1967. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2010. (PDF)
- audio file-WCFL Aircheck-Biondi's first WCFL show-October 3, 1967
- Godfried, Nathan, ed. (1997). WCFL, Chicago's Voice of Labor, 1926-78. University of Illinois Press. pp. 284–285. ISBN 0-252-06592-1. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- "Dick Biondi-WMAQ-July 13, 1972". 1972. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- audio file of Biondi on WMAQ in 1972 (RealPlayer)
- "WBZ Aircheck-July 17, 1972-Dick Biondi". 1972. Archived from the original on 19 January 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Dick Biondi-WSAI-aircheck-August 16, 1972". 1972. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Vox Jox (page 26). Billboard. 19 May 1973. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Fong-Torres, Ben, ed. (2001). The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio. Backbeat Books. pp. 117–119. ISBN 0-87930-664-5. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- Celarek, John, ed. (2009). WCFL Surveys 1965-1976. AuthorHouse. pp. 1–3. ISBN 1-4343-6131-4. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- Yesterday's Deejay Heroes: Where Are They Now? (pages 28 & 31). Billboard. 5 June 1982. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Ad for Super Gold Rock n' Roll. Billboard. 20 November 1976. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Description of Super Gold Rock n' Roll program". Archived from the original on 16 April 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Hardwicks presents Dick Biondi Super Gold on WNMB!". WNMB. Archived from the original on 15 April 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Bob Sirott Hired By WFLD-TV Again". Chicago Radio and Media. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
- January 1984 WBBM-FM aircheck of Biondi in the morning (Windows Media Player)
- "Dick Biondi, The Wild Eye-talian is Back". WLS-FM 94.7 Official Web Site.
- Feder, Robert (8 April 2010). "Bad radio bosses come and go but oldies are forever". Archived from the original on 11 April 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Inside the Radio Studio with Dick Biondi & Herb Kent-100 Years On the Air". Columbia College. 10 April 2010. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
- "transcript of Robert Feder's Chicago Sun-Times column about the event". Forgotten Hits. 2 April 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
- Rhodes, Dawn (October 24, 2016). "Herb Kent, legendary Chicago radio personality, dies at 88". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
- "LA Radio People-Where are they now?-Dick Biondi". LA Radio. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
- "Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion". Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- "The Buffalo Broadcasters: Broadcasting Hall of Fame - 2011 Inductees". Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- "State of Illinois Press Release-May 1, 2010 Dick Biondi Day". 1 May 2010. Archived from the original on 9 May 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
- Feder, Robert (13 April 2010). "After 50 Years, Dick Biondi gets his own way in Chicago". Feder, Robert. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.