Ear Hustle

Al Greer’s “That’s The Way I See It!!”: Oldies vs. Dusties

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For a long time, songs from the 50s, 60s, 70s and early 80s were considered “Oldies.” Albums and CDs have been available from outlets like Time-Life Books and online at different “Oldies” websites.

In Chicago, there’s several stations that play this type of music. WLS 94.7 FM, K-Hits 104.3 and now 87.7 ME-TV FM play hits from these decades. The only difference is that they don’t play “Dusties.” The difference between “Oldies” and “Dusties” are the artists who play the music. Early Motown artists like Diana Ross & The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Four Tops and The Temptations produced Top 10 songs back-in-the-day but artists like Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, The Bar-Kays and Booker T. & The MGs made hits as well.

Stax Records in Memphis was the “Down South” answer to Detroit’s Motown Records. The combination of Booker T. & The MG’s and the Memphis Horns produced hits for Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett as the Stax Records House Band. Motown had the “Hit Machine” known as The Funk Brothers who backed artists like Marvin Gaye, The Spinners, Stevie Wonder and Mary Wells. These stations that I mentioned don’t play Stax artists because they’re considered “too Black.”

In the early 90s, I had the opportunity to work for two of the greatest stations of my career, “Dustyradio 1390” and WJPC 106.3 FM which played both Stax and Motown as well as a variety of music that was seldom heard on any radio station. Songs like “Pretty Girls Everywhere” by Eugene Church, “Open The Door To Your Heart” by Darrell Banks and “Mother In Law” by Ernie K. Doe where local hits for these artists but have been swept under the rug in “mainstream” radio.

The only place you can hear these songs is on Sirius/XM’s “Soul Town” channel and of course you have to pay for it. The only other place here is Chicago for this music is twice a week at V-103 (WVAZ-FM) on Herb Kent’s weekend shows or if you’re lucky to catch them late night or/and weekends at WKKC-FM, WBGX-AM and Thursday nights on Hyde Park’s WHPK-FM between 8pm and Midnight. Many of these shows are hosted by “Richard Pegue’s Army,” as I call them. Ray Neal, P.J. Willis, DJ King George and Gary Tyson try their best to keep this music alive on local radio. The music that they play goes back to the days of WVON 1450 AM, WBEE 1570 AM and WGRT/WJPC AM but their stations have limited signals.

Unless you’re a fan of internet, satellite radio and the Tune-In app, it’s hard to find this music. With all these stations here in Chicago, there should be at least one “Dusties” station. Every other song on WLS, K-Hits and Me TV FM is an R&B song and it’s usually a Motown artist. 103.5 WBUT FM “Chicago’s Jammin’ Oldies” played a lot of “Urban” music but only those artists who had top 10 songs. Kool & The Gang’s “Ladies Night,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star,” and Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” were rotated constantly but there were no other songs heard by these artists.

The Program Director of this late 90’s station Jay Beau Jones went on record to say that this was NOT and R&B station but their playlist was 90% Urban or Black. The difference was that they were a “Rhythmic Oldies” station which a nice way of saying R&B/Soul music played by mostly White and Hispanic Jocks.  Missing from their playlist were artists like Parliament/Funkadelic, Isaac Hayes and anything by Funk Bands like ConFunkShon, Slave and Cameo.

PD Jay Beau Jones said that songs by those groups or artists didn’t test well among Whites between 25 and 54 which was their target demo. (Duh…Ya’ Think?) Soul/R&B music is considered “dated” or in some cases “offensive” to some listeners. (Imagine that?)  When was the last time you heard “Tramp” by Otis Redding, “The Dog” by Rufus Thomas or Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789?” Well, unless you have an extensive “Dusties” collection, you won’t hear any of this on Chicago radio.

Chicago radio needs at least one station that plays this “lost” music. So, WLS, K-Hits and ME TV FM, keep playing your Bee Gees, Beach Boys and Beatles and we’ll keep waiting to hear “our” music on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Beatles, especially when sing “Twist & Shout” originally recorded by The Isley Brothers or The Rolling Stones version of “It’s All Over” written by Bobby Womack.

Well, enjoy the remainder of Black Music Month… (LOL) that’s the way I see it!

Until next time, Blue Skies, Green Lights and Peace.

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