Pilots of the Airwaves – a tribute to Deejays

“I’ve been listening to your show on the radio, and you seem like a friend to me.”

Before the internet, cell phones and personal computers, there was radio. Radio helped shape our culture – entertaining and informing – providing a special human companionship. And with the music revolution of the ‘50s and ‘60s, radio defined the huge impact of rock ‘n’ roll, introducing the magic of the disc jockey to Top-40 radio. The era that shaped the lives of today’s seniors was represented through a cavalcade of music which captured the social mores and dreams of several generations. (See Bill Drake, KHJ and “The History of Rock and Roll”)

The disc jockey was the chef who created and served up not just the music, but all the elements of sound that powerfully fed the magic of radio. The deejay became a regular friend, an ally, even a hero. From the fast-talkers to the velvet smoothies, the radio announcer, as they were called long ago, became a part of the household. The one whose voice came through that favorite bedroom radio, making evening homework more manageable. And also the one who was there at dawn when get-up-and-go-things like work routines and school classes ruled the day.

The late Larry Nelson, a “Pilot of the Airwaves”

Sometimes the impact of radio moved people to song

Pilot of the Airwaves by Charlie Dore

Charlie Dore is an English singer/songwriter/actress who scored a hit with her 1980 song about a late night radio DJ. The song charted number 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and got significant worldwide play, but only number 66 on the UK Singles Chart.  *Appropriately, on Nov. 5, 1990 it was the final track played by the financially strapped Radio Caroline ship (The Ross Revenge). The British offshore radio station had for 26 years protested record companies’ control of popular music broadcasting in the UK.


*Radio Caroline enthusiasts have restored the ship The Ross Revenge and now it is a tourist destination in the U.K. On a periodic basis former Radio Caroline deejays and volunteers legally originate broadcasts from studios on board the legendary “pirate” radio ship.

Author: Ronald DeHart

Ron DeHart is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist and a retired Public Affairs Officer from both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve. His historical accounts of Pacific Northwest broadcasting are published by Puget Sound Media. View more articles by Ron DeHart  

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