Radio has become corporate. Computers, phone surveys, advertisers and program directors all weigh data and then decide what their stations’ DJs will and won’t play.
But when Craig “Porky” Chedwick started in 1948, his philosophy was to play the music he loved and let the critics be damned.
And there were plenty of them, too, once he began playing the music of black artists on WHOD in Homestead, later WAMO-AM. While other stations were playing white covers of black releases, Chedwick had Pittsburgh teenagers — white and black — listening to the original versions. He infuriated parents to the point where he was persona non grata in some communities.
His following was large enough five decades ago that an estimated 50,000 people clogged Downtown streets when he did a live broadcast near the Stanley Theater. He was once given a 10-minute ovation at a Three Rivers Stadium concert. One of his career highs occurred in 1961, when he hosted a sold-out show featuring Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells at the then-new Civic Arena.
“I wanted to introduce black records to white audiences who were a little bit bigoted and conservative,” said Chedwick in a 1981 Post-Gazette article. “It was unheard of in my day. I was blaring with saxophones, I was yelling into the mike, I was talking in rhymes.”
Born Feb. 4, 1918, Chedwick began his radio career in 1948 by hosting a five-minute sports show on Homestead’s WHOD. Eventually he filled in for the station’s disc jockeys and the next year landed his own half-hour program on which the station management allowed him to play obscure rhythm and blues 78s he bought from Sunny Man Jackson’s Record Store.
“In those day, in the 1940s, you could play the records in the store to decide if you wanted them. I guess I got carried away because I stayed all day long in the listening booths.”
When WHOD became WAMO in 1950, Chedwick stayed on and introduced thousands to his “dusty discs.” He called himself such names as “The Bossman,” “Pork the Tork” and “Platter-Pushin’ Poppa.”
But the one that perhaps resonates the most with his legion of fans is “Daddio of the Raddio.” Chedwick is long into retirement, but that moniker no doubt is eternal in Pittsburgh’s collective memory.