Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Soul on the Air #10: WVON, January 29, 1966

Lucky Cordell:

Part One

Part Two

Ed Cook:

Part One

Part Two

Outside of programming that is pre-recorded, radio disc jockeys, be they from the classic era of Top 40 and R&B radio or in today's corporatized radio world, all know that "the show must go on" is law of the land. So what do you do when a DJ is out of town and his substitute is late due to the freezing cold weather? Well, on the frigid afternoon of January 29, 1966, WVON's Lucky Cordell extended his Saturday program to cover for the "Nassau Daddy," Ed Cook, slated to fill in for E. Rodney Jones, whose car wouldn't start due to Chicago's subzero weather. The result is nearly two-and-one-half hours of aircheck delight, despite horrible fidelity (my apologies in advance)!

Lucky Cordell, "The Baron of Bounce," worked at WGRY in Gary and then at Chicago's WGES/WYNR (hosting his popular "House of Hits" program at both stations) before hooking up with WVON in the early '60s. Cordell's cheery disposition and fondness for reciting poems (he had several soul and gospel 45s throughout the '60s featuring his recitations) made him a favorite to listeners, but he was successful away from the mike as well: by 1965 Cordell was the station's program director, from which position he was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 1968 and to General Manager in 1970. Cordell stayed with the station until the mid-'70s, when changing times (and meddling suits) brought about Cordell's departure from the station. On this aircheck, Cordell's chipperness shines as he plays lots of great stuff, ranging from Gene Chandler to Wilson Pickett (whose "634-5789," by then on its way to being the top R&B record in the country, is WVON's "pick hit") to Slim Harpo to James Brown to Walter Jackson (whose "One Heart Lonely" b/w "Funny (Not Much)" is WVON's "Top and Bottom" feature) to the Manhattans, delivers a corny joke or two, encourages listeners to "set their timepieces" when he delivers the time, and muses as to what mood Ed Cook will be in when he arrives.

Cordell's musings were quite appropriate, as the late Nassau Daddy was 'VON's resident curmudgeon, if this aircheck and reminisces I've read are any indication. Cook, like Pervis Spann, had more of a taste for blues than his fellow "Good Guys," and his complaints about the then-new Dan Ryan Expressway (which he often called the "Damn Ryan") were frequent enough for a drop-in in this aircheck ("Poor Ed, everybody's wrong on the Dan Ryan but him") and an eventual 45, "The Dan Ryan Express." When the "Good Guys" were rather unceremoniously dumped from 'VON in the mid-'70s he moved on to Spann's WXOL, after which I don't have any record of his further radio career.

The Cook aircheck is often sold on eBay and is probably one of the better-circulated R&B airchecks out there, and for good reason. If Ed was a cranky sort anyway, the fact that his car wouldn't start in subzero weather guaranteed that his on-air performance was really going to be special. It didn't help matters that, right off the bat, the wrong record was played. The intro to the Beatles' "Day Tripper" follows the WVON jingle, and Cook is having none of it. "Hold it, man!" he bellows, as the record is quickly switched to Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It on Home." "Shoot - messing up already ... look out, Jim [Maloney, WVON's newscaster], I ain't in a good mood today ... I feel like Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou!" For the remainder of the aircheck, Cook holds court, playing some of the same tunes Cordell played but getting some B.B. King in there among other things (he mentions that King used to be a DJ, and remarks that King was smart to quit and become a musician) and railing about the weather ("Why would anybody want to move to Chicago?" he complains, although he is amused that Tupelo, Mississippi and other Southern cities are snowed in), thanking the lady who drove him to the radio station, encouraging listeners to go see Cat Ballou, and making come-ons like "you just stand there like a rich man's porch and let me admire you!" It's a classic, and it's always good for a laugh as well as a "get on down."


Patrick said...

Those aren't the Vontastics, that's actually the Beatles version of Day Tripper!

Daddy's Girl said...

Thanks, Jason!

Though my father Ed Cook isn't with us anymore, now I can listen to him, every day!

Barry said...

Priceless ChiTown archive! Thanks for posting.