Thursday, February 10, 2011

52 Weeks - WINS, WMCA, WABC & Orchard Beach in the 1960s

Nostalgia today: New York City was (and probably is) a cut-throat radio town, and in the 1960s, rock 'n roll loving teens had their pick of some great stations and DJs. With our pocket-sized transistor radios, we could "spin the dial" and listen to:
  • WMCA 570 AM, the home of the Good Guys. If I had a penny for every time my sister and I dialed in to answer a rock trivia question for a shot at winning a bright yellow Good Guy sweatshirt or 45 rpm record, I'd be a gazillionaire right now. Believe it or not, we did win a few times and until it fell apart, we had one of the sweatshirts (alas, long gone in the pre-eBay era). Of course our parents weren't thrilled about our monopolizing the phone with our dialing antics for an hour or too, but it was pretty tame fun. DJs I remember vividly include Harry Harrison and Jack Spector.

  • WABC 770 AM, producer of the Silver Dollar Survey (countdown of top 40 songs) and the radio home of some of the most legendary rock 'n' roll DJs ever: Cousin Brucie; Dan Ingram; Scott Muni; Ron Lundy; the list goes on and on, too long to include here. The wattage of this AM station was so high that it could be heard quite a distance from New York, and was always clear and static-free when we tuned in at Orchard Beach. More below on the beach scene. No matter what top 40 song you wanted to hear, chances are you'd hear it more often on WABC, especially during "teen time" on weekends.

  • WINS 1010 AM, which featured, among other DJs, Murray the K (and his famous submarine race-watching music--that's "make out" music for the uninitiated). Murray the K appointed himself "the Fifth Beatle" and rode the Fab Four's coattails during the early-to-mid 1960s. WINS, like its competitors, vied to be first to air the new single from some hot group like Dion & the Belmonts (from the Bronx, natch) or the Tokens (The Lion Sleeps Tonight, remember?).
Orchard Beach, in the Bronx, is a man-made beach only 30 minutes or so away from where my family lived at the time. (The beautiful and expansive Jones Beach on Long Island was a lot further away from our apartment and required the use of a car, which we didn't own. My aunt would drive us there once or twice every summer as a treat.)

On a hot summer day, my sister and I would hop two buses and walk down the hot sand of Orchard Beach until we got to THE section where teens hung out, Section 10. Nearly every transistor radio in the place was tuned to WABC by design: As you walked the length and breadth of Section 10, you'd never miss a note of your favorite Paul Revere & the Raiders song or the Rolling Stones ordering people off their cloud. The aroma of Coppertone was everywhere and summer seemed to fly by too quickly.

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