Sunday, July 12, 2009
COHO! or That Blowed Up Real Good
It's 1979, OK? Disco cross the USA. Don't misunderestimate me. I was a chubby lil disco fool from the afternoon I saw Saturday Night Fever in '77. A weekend matinee at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, IL. Tony fuckin' Manero. You bet. I had the soundtrack 8-track on endless loop.
Steve Dahl came to the Chicago radio market in February '78. I still remember the full page ads in the Sunday Trib and Sun Times announcing his arrival. It listed his many "sidekicks" with brief bios. This was right around the time I had discovered the magic of radio. Back when radio actually was magic. And I was hip-no-tized.
Well, after a brief 10 months at WDAI, the previously rock station went disco. All hot mixes, brief mic breaks. That wasn't what Dahl signed up for, so he handed in his resignation. But he was not out of work for long. In March of '79, he landed at The Loop.
Oh, The Loop. I was a high school freshman and The Loop was THE rock and roll station. For all you young uns, back in the day, DJs actually played the songs they wanted to play. Sure, there were program directors and music directors, but the jocks weren't working from playlists. And the star jocks were free to fly. (Shout out to Sky Daniels!)
Well, Dahl had the morning shift. 6 - 10 AM, I believe. And I would say his show was 70% talking to his listeners, minus commercials, doing monologues about what was on his mind, "bits" with his characters (which were all Dahl), and taking calls. The Dahlmeister was almost exactly 10 years my senior, but he understood the 15 year old mind. Probly better than he understood his contemporaries. (And I am sure that still holds true today.) He very quickly added The Loop's overnight jock, Garry Meier, as his sidekick. And they were off and running. Dahl was still angry at his former bosses at WDAI. And he wasn't afraid to speak his mind on the air. He never missed an opportunity to lambast the music that forced his resignation. Steve and Gar had a daily bit where they would play a disco record for a little bit, "critique" it, then SCRATCH the needle across the vinyl and blow it up with the appropriate sound effects.
So let's cut to the chase. Early on in their Loop stint, they were always looking for ways to promote the show. Chicago was a competitive radio market. As well as a competitive sports market. The White Sox were in a slump. Long/short, Mike Veeck, the son of Sox owner Bill Veeck and also the head of Sox promotions, called up The Loop and asked if Dahl would want to host a night at Comiskey Park. Bring a disco record and get in for 98 cents, 98 being The Loop's FM radio home. It was a double header. In between games, Dahl would blow up the disco records. I imagine persuasion was not necessary to arrange this.
And so it came to pass that on July 12, 1979, 30 years ago today, Steve Dahl and the White Sox hosted Disco Demolition night. The Sox were used to about 10% capacity of the 50,000+ stadium. It became very clear, very early, that they would do a little better that evening. As a matter of fact, the attendance was so brisk, that early in the evening, the ticket takers stopped accepting the disco records. Which meant that a number of very rowdy, very drunk and very high rock and roll fans were in the stadium with potentially lethal frisbees. (copyright Whammo)
Honestly, I can't do the rest of the story justice. I will tell you that I was at home, watching the whole evening unfold on Channel 44. I was never a sports fan, nor was my family. I had no real desire to go to Comiskey that night, but I was very excited to monitor the action on TV. And I got far more entertainment than anyone could have expected. It is at this point that I would IMPLORE you to watch the following reel of news coverage of the evening.
I can't imagine any Chicagoans around at the time will ever forget that night. An excellent documentary was released on DVD for the 25th anniversary and I highly recommend the purchase. I have shown it to some of my east coast pals who were not aware of the event and they bought their own copies. There is far too much to this story than I could possibly cover in a blog post.
And so, it is on this 30th anniversary of an event that so many will never forget, I raise a toast in a SAH-LOOT to Mr. Dahl and Mr. Meier. Today we are all COHOS!!!!