Ron Riley, WLS, 1966
Ron Riley, WLS, 1966

Ron Riley on Bowling for Dollars, Baltimore 1976
Ron Riley on Bowling for Dollars, Baltimore, 1976

Ron Riley on Channel 8, today
Ron Riley on Channel 8, today

The Ron Riley Collection

Ron Riley's first Top 40 job was with WOKY in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1960. He made brief stops at WRIT (Milwaukee) and KXOK, St. Louis (1961) before his first tour of Chicago at WJJD. That ended with a format change in 1962, when the entire staff was ordered "off the boat".

He accepted vacation fill-in back in Milwaukee at WOKY, and about 5 minutes after he did, Gene Taylor called from WLS asked if he'd like to do the all night show for five weeks.

Riley explained that he had just made a commitment to WOKY, and Taylor said, "Well, Ron - do what you want, but it would give me a nice chance to hear you on WLS." So, Riley did both jobs for over a month, six days a week.

He would drive to Milwaukee and do afternoons, then drive back to Chicago, sleep for a few hours, and then do the overnight show at WLS. "It turned out to be the smartest thing I ever did," says Ron. "You gotta take those chances."

Riley went on to WHK in Cleveland, and in early 1963, Taylor called again. Dick Biondi had been sacked, Art Roberts was moving to Biondi's old slot at 9, and Riley was offered the early evening show.

Riley left WLS in 1970, took a quick rebound gig at WCFL, and then in August of 1971, he moved to an on-air/PD job at WCAO Baltimore.

In 1982, he went into television full-time. Ron is currently one of the personalities at News Channel 8 (Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C.) Visit Ron Riley at!

The Repository thanks Ron Riley for sharing!

[Descriptions by Ron Riley unless otherwise indicated]

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (10 Khz)
Ron Riley, WOKY Milwaukee, September 12, 1960 (31:12)

. . . Your host with the most . . .

[Description by Ron Riley]

This is an embarrassing tape! It was my first rock job at WOKY, and it's pretty creepy hearing all those rhyming lines, jokes from a joke book, and the door bell chime.

But this is vintage Top 40 radio from 40 years ago! (Break glass and use only in emergency..)

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (10 Khz)
Ron Riley, WJJD Chicago, March 1962 (11:54)

. . . let's go back in the old wax rack . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

In 1961, Ron Riley first visited Chicago as afternoon driver at WJJD (50KW on 1160), an early contender for the Windy City Top 40 Crown. This aircheck features Ron and cuts from PAMS series 17, in March of 1962.

Of particular interest is the produced weathercast (at 09:18), similar to the great produced newscasts of the era: The WJJD Radar Weather Eye Scans the Midwest! Since "Radar Weather Eye" was also used by WLS, we must wonder who borrowed from whom.

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16 Khz)
Ron Riley, WHK Cleveland, November 1962 (28:50)

. . . the dog with the nasal condition . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

Here's Ron Riley on legendary WHK in Cleveland, on November 3, 1962. Riley was at WHK from late 1962 through early 1963 before joining WLS/Chicago in May of that year.

This one is a real treat! You'll enjoy the outstanding fidelity on this studio recording which includes a Bannerline News report with Bob Engel, a sports editorial bemoaning the cost of attending a World Series game, a couple of classic jingles, a promo for Election news coverage, and a traditional Top-40 mix of Pop and Rock 'n' Roll including Tony Bennett and The Cadillacs.

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16 Khz)
Russ Knight Weird Beard KLIF Dallas, 1963 (21:36)

. . . Sixty Five Percent, Mr. McLendon? . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

We suspect this aircheck of Russ Weird Beard Knight on KLIF in Dallas was recorded for sponsor Gillette (Super Blue Blade). What we don't know is if it was all actually broadcast as you hear it here. But wow, this was wacky radio in 1963. In addition to Knight's messages to his employer, there are references to various governors and tobacco that may be addressed in COMMENT (below).

Ron Riley's contribution was on CD, with a 50 db range, quite obviously unprocessed (a bit distorted on peaks, at the original source) and more likely recorded in a production room *or* off the console (not the air chain.) It was processed here for online presentation, as are all REELRADIO exhibits.

Stop picking at your beard, it's bugging me! Frequent PAMS (mostly 18) and Tips for Teens - provided by Weird Beard, "Commander of Delinquents Anonymous". Most interesting of all, KLIF DJ Trading Stamps, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and how did Russ Knight get Gillette to sponsor a guy with a beard?

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (10 Khz)
Danny Dark, WIL St. Louis, May 1963 (18:57)

. . . It's Dark in the afternoon . . .
Danny Dark today
Danny Dark today (courtesy of L.A. Radio People)

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

As has been noted before, St. Louis was a very hot market for Top 40 in the early 1960's. Smooth-talkin' Danny Dark, who later went on to major success as the voice of NBC, Bonanza, Budweiser and Mazda was surrounded by some of the best of the era. Dark shared the spotlight on WIL with Ron Lundy (later WABC) and Gary Stevens (later WKNR, WMCA and President of Doubleday Broadcasting).

Obviously, WIL (simulcasting with WIL-FM) was home to some very impressive talent. The production quality is very high, even if the fidelity of this particular aircheck is a bit lacking. It includes a "Blues Street News" feature with Nelson Kirkwood (who does the entire newscast without breathing - with a conservative serving of bells and whistles!) And how about that "WIL Weather Ball" Flashing Blue?!

You will also hear some early and interesting jingles, a very stylish sports report, a pre-recorded comedy(?) bit, at least two contest promos, and some classic commercials for Budweiser, Westclox, Pepsi, and a bunch of once powerful and profitable corporations, regional and local businesses. This is some generally hard-core big-time 1963 Top 40 in one of the most competitive markets in the country.

Danny Dark passed away on June 13, 2004. His family invites friends and fans to sign The Danny Dark Online Guestbook.

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (10 Khz)
Johnny Hayes, KRLA Los Angeles, April 14, 1967 (31:25)

. . . from L.A.'s King Size vibrator . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

Johnny Hayes
Johnny Hayes (at KRTH101)
Johnny Hayes was working for Bill Drake at WAKE (Atlanta) when he was 21. Five years later, he arrived at KRLA, Los Angeles, after appearances in San Francisco at KYA and San Diego at KGB. Hayes won Billboard magazine's Personality of the Year award in 1984. Johnny was on the air at KRTH in Los Angeles from March 23, 1992 until May of 2002.

Also included in this aircheck from April 14, 1967 is a newscast with KRLA News and Program Director Cecil Tuck, remembered for his "crusading journalism" and The Credibility Gap, a fifteen minute newscast with skits and original songs. With partner Bob Eubanks, he started the KRLA Beat newspaper. Tuck went on to write for The Smothers Brothers, Glen Campbell and Kenny Rogers TV shows. He also wrote campaign speeches for Pat Paulsen.

This (clean but VERY narrowband) off-the-air recording even includes a pattern/power change (at approximately 23:10).

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32Kbps (10 Khz)
The Real Don Steele, KHJ Los Angeles, August 2, 1967 (30:08)

. . . and it hits the innocent passer-byers . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky for contributor Ron Riley]

This aircheck of The Real Don Steele includes his reading of "Don't Ever", a contest entry for KHJ's Lyric Writing competition. You'll also hear a great mix of Southern California hit music. In fact, Far Out Man, this IS 1967.

And whadda wrap. The finale is a complete Marv Howard newscast and a report from water-bombed Art Kevin at the Army Induction Center. The Danny Baxter sports report helped several listeners determine the exact date of this broadcast.

This exhibit is UNSCOPED, meaning that all the music is included. We are required to pay a fee for each listener for all musical performances on this recording. Plus, we must also pay the cost of Internet bandwidth to deliver it to you. We are a user-supported organization, and if you enjoy this exhibit, please say thanks with your support.

This exhibit required some concentrated back stage massage (noise reduction, etc.) and I'm tempted to believe this recording was originally taken from a telephone coupler, or that the audio was delivered over a local telephone connection. Did KHJ have an auto-answer phone coupler connected to their air monitor? KFRC did. Did all the RKO stations have this? Very high quality in, telephone quality out. Just dial the number and listen. (The number was supposedly for Big Guys only.) And some of these devices actually passed stuff up to 9Khz, at very low levels, of course. Depending on what you used on the other end, if you were in the local dialing area, and the switches connected "just right", you could get a fairly wideband recording. The downside was the additional high-frequency noise. Notice the infrequent "dialing noise" here and there. Anyway, that's my theory. I also removed a lot of 60Hz hum and some other click-click pre-digital nasties.

All in all, a fascinating recording, Thanks again to Ron Riley for this awesome snapshot of RDS on KHJ, August 2, 1967.

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (8.5 Khz)
Mike Rivers, CKLW Windsor-Detroit, October 17, 1967 (1:03:21)

. . . Where a yank on the crank of a one arm bandit may be worth a CKLW cash jockpot . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

It's obvious that this unscoped recording of the 4PM hour and Mike Rivers on October 17, 1967 was made at some distance from the powerful CKLW transmitter. I removed a lot of static and crackling, but there wasn't much that could be done about the high background noise level.
REELRADIO pays music licensing fees (regardless of fidelity) to present unedited music online. If you enjoy full-length airchecks like this one, your tax-deductible contribution to our operating fund will help keep this and other "unscoped" exhibits available.

So, depending on your system, this exhibit may be OK, or difficult to listen to for an extended period.

I'm including it here because it *is* classic Big Eight, with all the memorable Drake-isms (Number One Then, Number One Now,) and the Johnny Mann acapellas. And what a playlist! Nearly half of what you'll hear never cracked Billboard's Top Twenty, and there's a definite Motown/R&B influence with artists like Arthur Conley, Leon Haywood, J.J. Barnes and James & Bobby Purify (and more!)

Mike Rivers (Ralph W. Wright, Jr.) passed away September 13, 2004. He was also known as Ed Richards at WIBG.

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16 Khz)
Ron Riley, WLS Chicago, January 22, 1968 (1:04:20)

. . . Hillbilly Jeans - that's gonna make you a real Bonnie & Clyde . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

Ron Riley writes:

"Most of the WLS 'checks that I have are (unfortunately) from my pre-taped Sunday night show, which I recorded at 7am each Thursday morning. The tapes were easily accessible as opposed to ordering up an aircheck, so that's why I have them."
REELRADIO pays music licensing fees to present unedited music online. If you enjoy full-length airchecks like this one, your tax-deductible contribution to our operating fund will help keep this and other "unscoped" exhibits available.
This aircheck, however, is from a Monday night - January 22, 1968, and with the exception of some drop-outs, (and the limitations of 1968 recording technology) the fidelity is outstanding. It's very unusual to hear WLS prior to the audio chain (and 50KW of Amplitude Modulation.) This may be the Repository's first WLS check "off the board". There was little, if any, AGC or limiting on the original. (This exhibit, like all Repository exhibits, was lightly processed in real-time for levels and response consistency.)

This was early in the "more music" phase of the WLS format. The PAMS acapellas were replaced later with different versions (the logo is reversed on these!) Bud Miller is heard on two WLS newscasts; John Shubeck and Don Gardner are featured with ABC Contemporary news. And Riley suggests that Paul Revere and the Raiders' Too Much Talk (And Not Enough Action) sounds a whole lot like The Beatles' Paperback Writer.

A genuine treasure from 1968, excellently preserved for REELRADIO by The Ron Riley Collection!

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (10 Khz)
Clark Weber, Ron Riley, Vietnam War LP (07:33)

. . . your secretary, my secretary, and Winky the Wonder Bunny . . .

[Description by Ron Riley]

This is from the show that Clark Weber and I did for the troops in Vietnam. During the Vietnam war, we had dozens and dozens of requests from service people for WLS airchecks.

It was ultimately expensive for WLS to send reel-to-reel airchecks, so they had Clark and I come in one day and wing a show. They had it cut to disc, and sent it out.

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (8.5 Khz)
Jay Thomas, WAPE Jacksonville, 1971 (12:50)

. . . musta taken a funky pill . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

This is an early aircheck of Jay Thomas doing nights on WAPE Jacksonville, where he quickly took over mornings and became Program Director before moving to Charlotte to work with owners Sis and Stan Kaplan at BIG WAYS.

Calling himself The King Of The City, Thomas's energy level is very high, and his humor is more cartoonish and less cynical than we remember in later years. He even has a kazoo as a sidekick! This is also the first aircheck of WAPE in the seventies we've heard with PAMS, not Johnny Mann jingles. It's the NEW WAPE, so I figure this is shortly after the station was purchased by the Kaplans.

Return to the Repository

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 44.1Kbps (20 Khz)
Ron Riley, WCAO Baltimore, 1972 (1:03:00)

. . . bring me your earlobes . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

Ron Riley joined WCAO in Baltimore, Maryland as on-air Program Director in August of 1971, and remained until 1982, when he went into television full-time.

And Riley is rockin' in this aircheck of his afternoon show from October 1972. There was a heavy spot load at this successful Plough station, and he was working a full log on this day, for sure. The few jingles and production elements were from PAMS. You'll also hear segments of Don Bartell with news, and some classic, long-forgotten commercial moments: Canada Dry tastes like love, It takes two hands to handle a Whopper and George McGovern for President. And imagine, if you wanted to try that new ear-piercing fad, it would be supervised by a licensed physician!

This one was taped from the station's air chain. With the exception of some typically grungy vinyl, the fidelity is outstanding. Our thanks to Ron Riley for a trip back to Baltimore, 1972!

Return to the Repository

  The Ron Riley Collection has been part of REELRADIO since September 3, 2000

Reel Top 40 Radio Repository ©1996-2017 REELRADIO, Inc.