In the 1960s, my mother rode to a concert with the Mt.Iron band director Dave Castren.  He had an FM radio in his car, very rare those days.  When he tuned in a radio station in that car, the music came out so very clear and solid, booming from front and back speakers, in complete stereo.  Little did my mother know that she was experiencing the future of radio.

But mostly, we had AM radio.  Virginia’s WHLB is the first station I recall hearing.  Dad rose for work at 6 am, brewed the coffee, and turned on the radio just as the Star Spangled Banner was playing, with the announcement “This is WHLB, beginning its broadcast day, operating at 1400 kilohertz, operated by the Virginia Broadcast Company.”   News and weather followed, then the local time.  Local commercials aired all day for businesses like Plaza Hardware and Piggly Wiggly with music in between.  Interview shows were common, entitled “Coffee Time” or a similar neighborly image.  City officials might appear, discussing Fourth of July events, or a concert in  Olcott Park.  During the evening hours, we could call in and request songs for that special someone that featured music for ‘the young set’.  The Twins were broadcast on WHLB as well, voiced by Herb Carneal and Halsey Hall – voices I came to prefer over my teachers and family.  At 11 pm, WHLB signed off the air with an announcement of that fact, and then Perry Como singing AVE MARIA.  I was impressed with the fact that Dennis Anderson, one of the announcers, quit his job at WHLB to become the news anchor for WDIO-TV in Duluth, which to me was the epitome of career advancement.

Then there was WEVE out of Eveleth.  At times, dad was known to roll down his windows, turn up the radio and sing out as loudly as possible to the polka music that BobbyAro would play.  ROLL OUT THE BARREL or YOU CAN HAVE HER I DON’T WANT HER SHE’S TOO FAT FOR ME coming out of the Johnson car, dad functioning as his own boom box.

It wasn’t until my teen years when I tuned my radio into other stations my favorite pop music.  With no conscience at all, I abandoned good old WHLB, searching for stations featuring playlists with the teen idols of the day, and a lot less of the local color offered by the Range stations.

My  fruitful brown plastic General Electric 12 transistor radio pulled in AM stations from all over the country. I traveled along the dial, stations fading in and out, but occasionally I’d catch the location of a few, including New Orleans, Saint Louis, Kansas City and even a few Spanish-speaking stations of unidentifiable locations.

And there were those that did not fade, playing all the music my teenage ears craved.

WEBC, 530 on the AM dial, was my first big time station, out of Duluth.  Highspeed deejays played the music practically nonstop.  There were contests, and a request line to call.  That practice for me was taboo because there were long distance phone charges that just wouldn’t receive my parents’ approval.

Minneapolis brought me another quality TOP 40 station; WDGY; 1270 AM.  Even higher level deejays, even more contests, and for excitement, ticket giveaways for some big name band concert coming to town.

Ultimately, there was WLS at 890 AM, right out of Chicago – the Mecca of all radio stations for me and my friends.  Their deejays made the Duluth and Minneapolis stations look minor league – and you can imagine the difference between WLS and WHLB – let us not make any specific comparisons here.

WLS not only carried all the TOP 40 songs, but the top 10 were played every single night, which meant I had to listen well past the mandated ‘lights out‘ time at home, hiding the radio under my pillow.  I heard, too, some of their radio plays, favoring the JOHNNY DANGER detective show and the absolutely silly SUPER CHICKEN show (HE’S EVERYWHERE, HE’S EVERYWHERE).

WLS, WDGY and WEBC are no longer what they were back then.  Imagine my horror to find out the WDGY went “country”.  The AM stations are still there, and the bigger, prettier sibling FM radio has taken over.  Yet, AM radio will remain a strong memory for many.