The month of February 2019 starts the beginning of our 19th volunteer year on WDCB. I kept the show going during the years that I was a state employee. The show is
probably the last locally produced good music program that features big bands, orchestras and easy listening songs. Old records make up lots of our programs, and we play tunes that no one else would
ever think of featuring. The great memories continue each week. The difference between our show and the old background music stations is that our program identifies the artists and songs and
the show is hosted. I am indeed a music presenter and not a DJ. Songs are played in thoughtful medleys.
We still play the local singers, musicians and orchestras when we get nice recordings from them. The big band business seems to have faded after the Willowbrook
Ballroom burned down. However, the Yorkville Big Band is still performing at their regular dances at the Yorkville American Legion. Dick Gulbrandsen’s Limited Edition Big Band continues to turn out
fine recordings. Accordionist John Simkus’s “My Tomorrow CD is played often. Glenn Ellison has produced some fine work too. Petra Van Nuis and Andy Brown have some nice recordings out.
Singers Liz Goss, Gina Gibson, Connie Marshall, and Mary Ann Riehl who sang on radio’s breakfast club and many others are still heard on our program. It is sad that lots of quality performers
are not working very much now.
We wanted to do a show that would highlight our accomplishments during these 19 years, but did not know where to start. We have interviewed lots of great people and
have covered nice events. We even have an honorary membership in the National Federation of Musicians Chicago Chapter that bandleader Jay Witcher got for us. Despite all of these years of hard
work, we have never received a “volunteer of the year” award. I have always thought that honors come from the people who enjoy the music anyway. Doing a show like this would be too much talk and
would anger those who expect me to play two hours of music each week. There are many interviews that we have of long time music people, plus celebrities like Herb Graham who did “The Hour In The
Middle Of The Evening” show on FM 100 for many years in Chicago. Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse once told us about the time that two balls got into a game between the Cubs and Cardinals
one time. Actor and singer Skip Griparis told us about his role in the baseball movie “Major League.” Greg Favata did a show with us who now sings in the New Colony Six. We have interviewed
current members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra many times. During the time of Midwest Ballroom lots of great people have come and gone. We learned this past month of the passing of a great
friend and singer Jack Hogan. Warren Schulz, a long time radio engineer also passed away recently. The passing of radio great Art Hellyer is also sad and the fact that he never got into
the National Radio Hall of Fame is also an outright shame.
We covered Frankie Green’s 99th birthday party late in 2018. There are so many other great moments too. Do people want to hear those or do they just want
to be entertained for two hours with lots of songs?
It has been said, how long would someone like me continue to do something like Midwest Ballroom for free all these years? Each show takes many
hours to pick the music, write the scripts, record the show, and answer the mail. WDCB gives me two great hours right after old time radio for a wide Chicago area audience and the program
has Internet listeners worldwide as well. So the program continues. It has raised lots of money for public radio, and features lots more music than talk each week. It is for the people who still
remember what good music sounds like. We have also written 15 history books, and worked for 25 stations during the past 50 years. This includes our radio history book “Valley Voices” that
helped me earn 24 upper level credits and a degree from Indiana University. We have played lots of music, covered news events, ran a radio reading service and did play by play baseball. I
continue to pitch for two ball teams and do some freelance writing of old stories. I guess that reading this newsletter will suffice for a special highlight show. I am not one to pat myself on
the back, but hopefully the show is a true testament to my dedication to the radio industry. For many years, it is how I made my living, and now I just volunteer to keep in it. No one would
hire me to play my music now. Chicago radio and TV personality Jack Taylor does his interesting commentaries for us each week.
So area musicians please continue to send us your recordings and announcements. Please do not send us untracked CD’s made at noisy dances. No paper
labels, downloads or MP3’s either. Everything has to be on an audio CD for airplay consideration. We’ll also mix in lots of great music from old records too. We have stopped covering
local events because we just do not have the equipment for it or the time. The bulletin board includes brief notices of area events. The venues never seem to want to support WDCB, so just a listing
gets mentioned on the air and not a free commercial for some restaurant or dance place. The emphasis is on playing as much good music each week for the people who still remember it. Thanks for
John “Radio” Russell
Midwest Ballroom, WDCB 90.9 FM Saturdays 5-7 PM and worldwide at wdcb.org from College of DuPage. Reruns of the show air on WTPB LP 99.3 FM nightly at 8 P.M. in Rockford, Illinois. This is a
low power church station. The show maybe reached at P.O. Box 1073 Dundee, IL 60118 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.