The phenomenon wasn’t entirely new, and it wasn’t completely the property of Los Angeles in the 1960s, but it suddenly seemed like every radio station that wasn’t playing Top-40 was hosting Talk Radio. Disc Jockeys became “hosts” and the programs ran the gamut from confrontational (a-la Joe Pyne) and informational to off-the-wall and often more hilarious than not. It prompted people to call in – all kinds of people – people you never imagined living on the same planet, much less the same city as you. And personalities like Dick Whittington were Masters of Ceremonies, presiding over this auditory circus for the better part of an hour every day.
Hard to imagine in 2018 that there was no social media in 1966. There were no forums where you could go on a tangent from the comfort of your living room or bedroom and have it go viral. But in the 1960s, the closest that came was Talk Radio; one person talking to another and everyone within the sound of those two voices could eavesdrop. And because humans seem to have a contentious streak crammed into their DNA, Talk Radio was the perfect place to have a fight. Talk Radio seemed to be made for contention and confrontation – entire careers were made from it. If you wonder about the origins of 80s Shock Jocks, you only have to dig around in the 1960s and names like Joe Pyne would pop up – the ones deemed pioneers of the form.
Dick Whittington represented that other segment of society; the one that responded to off-the-wall humor and icon-bashing with a human heart. It was the equivalent of having that world-wise buddy explain all the intricacies of life to you and doing it with an all-knowing nod.
So while this hour of Dick Whittington, from November 22, 1966 may not have you tapping your toes or bathed in nostalgia over a specific era of music, this was just as important and just as much of a social phenomenon as Top-40 was. The last five minutes of the show are given over to a 3rd anniversary of the JFK Assassination, with Whittington reading Walt Whitman’s Captain, My Captain – some idea of the eclectic nature of radio in 1966.
The 60s were a very interesting stew of ideas and points-of-view. It was revolutionary on a lot of levels – not just from a fashion or political sense, but from a social sense as well. Talk Radio evolved over the coming years, eventually giving way to what it is now, or what it isn’t. It did become a self-help/self-diagnosis/self-therapy clearing house, kicking of the careers of another wave of personalities in the process. But here’s where it started.
Enjoy – after the show, the tape switches to a rival station, KNX where a similar format was underway – sadly, it’s only about 5 minutes worth of tape, but it’s a glimpse. There will be more – have no worries.