Wednesday, March 10, 2010

1010 WINS

In 1962 I was 15 and living in a place close to but outside the continental United States.  At night, it was possible to tune in AM radio stations originating in American cities.  I had copper-wire antennae strung out my bedroom window and affixed to trees, and above my desk a large map of the United States with push pins marking cities whose radio waves reached me.  Call letters were keys to musical pleasures: KDKA (Pittsburgh, Pa.), WOWO (Fort Wayne, Indiana), WWVA (Wheeling, West Virginia), WBZ (Boston), and several New York City stations.

Of all these New York's 1010 WINS was my favorite.

Sometime in early 1962, I entered the WINS "What Rock And Roll Means To Me" in twenty-five words or less contest.  The winner would get the top hundred 45s of the day, a handsome prize.  I sent in my pithy entry (using, as I recall, a thesaurus) and won.  Months later a large package containing the top hundred 45s arrived at my house.  In the box was a congratulatory letter which ended with: "Remember, you are always a winner when you listen to WINS."

Among my winnings were "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" by Barbara George, "Please Mr. Postman" by The Marvelettes, and Marvin Gaye's first hit single, "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow" (on which he is backed up by the Vandellas, with no Martha out front yet).  "I Know" and "Please Mr. Postman" were late 1961 releases, and both had staying power.  "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow" was a 1962 release.  All shared chart positions in the summer of 1962.

I would like to to tell you what I wrote but I never kept a copy.  I have no explanation for this, at the time it didn't seem to occur to me.  Recently I contacted 1010 WINS, which for many years has been an all-news station.  I was hoping they'd have audio archives dating to 1962.  But they did not, so it seems neither of us documented this experience.

Still I do remember the essence of what I said: rock and roll was that era's way of helping people loosen up and (to borrow from the title of a 1970 Rolling Stones album) get their ya-ya's out.  It was a vehicle, but it had predecessors in other vehicles serving the same function –– swing music, say, in the 30s and 40s, or Charleston music in the 20s.  Although modern, rock and roll was also the latest incarnation of something older.

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