50 Years Ago: 1968

Welcome to your memories! We’re swirling through 1968 walkin' the walk and talkin’ the talk in an era of great radio, music, mayhem, and life, that blew our minds. The 1960s: a decade of contradictions and icons. Remember when ... 1968 ...

Welcome to March 1968 … Enjoy the Moment ... Again!  

Rebel Rock on Your Radio Dial 

This 50 Years Ago this Month post can brag about a DJ featured in the Blast from Your Past series! Those of us who were “there”, know the 1960s is in many ways, an uncanny sister-era to the 2010s. But back “in the day” we had the added attraction of enjoying the birth of FM Radio and Rebel Rock.

The Swinging Sixties felt the change and upheaval in all aspects around the world. Rebel Rock really started to catch fire as FM radio heated up the broadcasting industry. A handful of innovative disk jockeys felt the vibe—especially those who heard the call of underground music, and the psychedelic siren of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. Leaning into 50 Years Ago this Month 1968

March 11th: With the progress of Acid Rock and early Progressive Rock on FM radio airwaves, several former Top 40 radio stations gave up the ghost for an all-news format, like KFWB in Los Angeles. It followed in the footsteps of KYW/Philly and WINS/NY. However, a Boston station took a go-with-the-flow attitude …

March 15th: WBCN/Boston thought no one would notice if they gradually began switching from easy listening to freeform Progressive Rock. Right … just proved a point for a very vocal pioneering DJ …

March 18th: Always the innovator and instigator, popular San Francisco DJ and program director, “Big Daddy” Tom Donahue (1928-1975), propagated the infant Progressive Rock march into FM stations like legendary KMPX. But he shocked management when he resigned, with attitude. He and wife, Raechel, pushed the envelope, taking much of the staff and DJs with them in a walk-out dubbed “The Great Hippie Strike.” More than a little partying flanked the picket lines, as the strike waged on for two months, with a lot of head-butting, but no resolution.

The Donahues didn’t let one stubborn station owner get in their way of Rockin’ progress. They morphed former KLFR 94.9 into iconic KSAN/FM “The Jive 95.” Most of the former KMPX staff moved in with them.

As Raechel used to say, “This is KSAN in San Francisco. Sometimes we do it fast … sometimes we do it slow … but we al-ways do it!”

Tom spoke into the microphone with energetic glee, “You can see, we’re gonna be doin’ a LOT of boogie’n’.”

Featured Radio Survey: Top 40 still ruled many San Francisco stations, though, like popular KFRC. The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” marched up the chart at #13. A far-out rendering of the Fab Four on the cover, fascinated fans. 50 Years Ago This Month, recall that awesome day when …

Celebrate MARCH 1968: 50 Years Ago and … Rock On!

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LinDee Rochelle is a writer and editor by trade, and an author by way of Rock & Roll. She has published two books (of three) in her Blast from Your Past series, available on Amazon (eBook and print): Book 1Rock & Roll Radio DJs: The First Five Years 1954-1959; and Book 2Rock & Roll Radio DJs: The Swinging Sixties. Coming soon, … The Psychedelic Seventies!

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50 Years Ago this Month - Cue the Cowbell!
Two very different but equally dynamic Radio personalities commanded our attention in February 1968

Dr. Don Rose honed his down-home style at WQXI/Atlanta, while Jim Stagg reveled in his popularity at his Chicago home station, WCFL.

Many high-profile Rock and Roll Radio DJs crossed paths as they crisscrossed the nation in their nomadic profession. Interestingly, both of these veteran DJs graced the air in San Francisco at one point or another, just not together …

Jim’s early career found him testing the waters in 1960’s City by the Bay at KYA. Not finding the avant-garde city his style, in less than a year, he hot-footed it back to the traditional Midwest. I’m guessing he never learned how to surf.

It would be another decade before Dr. Don skipped across the country to plant himself at KFRC. By 1974 the amiable Dr. Don felt his home and his heart, belonged in the cosmopolitan city, despite his corny, country-bumpkin one-liners. Cue the cowbell! We loved him.

What else happened in February 1968? Do you hear the sound of progress …?

February 1stWABX/Detroit decided classical music was on its way out, and they weren’t about to be left behind in the music revolution. Grabbing the Progressive Rock shiny new brass ring, they rolled over to a freeform style with a commanding presence through 1984.

February 19th – Apropos! THIS month (2018), Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is in the news again, touting Tom Hanks as the star of a Mister Rogers biopic, You Are My Friend. It’s just in time to herald the show’s National Education Television debut on this day, 50 Years Ago! No, it has nothing to do with Radio, but you can’t deny Fred Rogers’ influence on the entertainment industry of that era … right up to this one. (Mr. Rogers moved to a heavenly neighborhood in 2003.)

Featured Radio Survey: A two-fer! Since we spotlighted two DJs above, and I just happen to have February 1968 surveys for each, you’re in luck! WQXI and WCFL surveys at your pleasure … 50 Years Ago This Month! Were you listening? "Love is Blue" (Paul Mauriat) led us into Valentine's Day on both sides of the continent. An instrumental that tugged at our heartstrings. Recall that awesome day when … 

Celebrate FEBRUARY 1968: 50 Years Ago and … Rock On!
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50 Years Ago 6-Cent Stamps +Wolfman Moon January 1968

Ah, the good ol’ days … remember when 1st class postage raised from 5 cents to 6 cents? Oh, we were incensed!

At Blast from Your Past, we spend much time, in "remember when" pasts. There is a reason for that—the 1960s gave us the Golden Age of Rock and Roll Radio—and it’s still fun!

More than that, though, the era nurtured sweeping change, with music mirroring our attitudes. Mid-decade, radio chart Top Tens faded from Bubblegum Pop in ’61, ushering in girl-group sounds like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” (The Shirelles) #1 at WIP/Philadelphia (January 23, 1961), to January 15, 1968’s #1 spinning at WLS/Chicago, “Bend Me, Shape Me” (American Breed).

Yep, the Caddy is a radio too! 1963.
Both love songs tugged at the heart strings, but “Tomorrow’s” violin strings were old school, compared to “Bend Me, Shape Me’s” heavy drumbeat and guitar riffs. An upbeat with a downbeat sound, reverberated through our growing pains as a new generation came to terms with war and discrimination. Musically, it lead us straight into the Heavy Metal era.

Heralding the mass manufacturing of portable, transistor models, Radio fought for its relevance, with the infamous boob tube. And like Rock and Roll, it proved Radio will never die. It simply shape-shifts into a different howling animal.
Which brings us to the animal we celebrate every January 21st, regardless of the year. Hint: Is it any wonder he was born under January’s Wolf Moon?!

Robert Weston Smith (January 21, 1938-July 1, 1995), self-described, “Original Rock & Roll Animal,” aka Wolfman Jack, turned a raucous 30 years old in 1968!

The iconic Radio personality is featured in the Blast from Your Past books, to which the series is dedicated. As a man, like all of us humans, Wolfman Jack had his foibles; as a howling Radio DJ and later, television host, he personified the innovation of broadcasting.

In January 1968, Wolfie and business partner, Mo Burton, enjoyed the fruits of their labors established in 1966, with a studio in Hollywood. Taping their shows stateside, they muscled their way over the airwaves of a powerful, towering Radio transmitter in Rosarito, Mexico. Olé!  

From the San Diego border, to Canada and points far East, Wolfman’s crusty voice boomed over XERB/1090’s radio waves and lit rebellious fires in impressionable teens.

Wolfman’s XERB strayed from Rock & Roll, pushing funky and soulful to the top three on its Soul 30 chart,January 3, 1968: #1 “Boogaloo Down Broadway” (Fantastic Johnny C); #2 “Chain of Fools” (Aretha Franklin); #3 “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell).

How’s your Boogaloo? Can you dig it! Ah, lay a little Soul on me …Have Mercy!*

Still perfecting his Wolfman persona in 1968, his transformation called for learning to electrify live audiences, in gigs up and down California. Though most comfortable behind the mic, he enjoyed thrilling his listeners. “Most of his fans had ‛never seen anything freaky-deaky like this.’ It was a more exhilarating high for him than any hallucinatory could produce.”** Polishing his stage presence would serve Wolfman Jack well throughout the 1970s. Aoooowwwwwoooo!  

As we strut into this 21st century New Year, take a moment or two for a January 1968 fun flashback, and Enjoy the Moment … Again!

Featured Radio Survey: WLS/Chicago hits the mark January 15, 1968, with a smiling image of BFYP DJ, Ron Riley, once briefly (and reluctantly) known as “Smiley Riley”—well before 1968, Ron lost the goofy personality name and was just a smiling, fun DJ. 50 Years Ago Ron rocked WLS! Were you listening? Recall that awesome day when … 

Celebrate JANUARY 1968: 50 Years Ago and … Rock On!

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** From BFYP Book 2, TheSwinging Sixties; Wolfman Jack Part 3.

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