Remembering Porky

Bill Dell and Porky Chedwick meet up following a 2004 benefit show where Dell and his band, the Wee Jams, performed. Photo by Tom Steiner

Most Pittsburghers of an age have memories of Porky Chedwick, the iconic Pittsburgh deejay who passed away last Sunday. Porky, a.k.a. the "Daddio of the Raddio," "The Platter Pushin' Papa," "The Boss Man," and "Pork the Tork" introduced teens (mostly) to music to grow up to, music to rebel to, and for Bill Dell of Brighton Heights, to music that influenced his entire life.

"Black records were not being played on the radio back then, but Porky loved the deep rhythm 'n' blues, the black sound," Dell recalled. "He completely integrated music."

It was from listening to some of those records that Chedwick played, some with mellow vocals others very gritty, all with bluesy or rocking accompaniment, that Dell first picked up on the sounds that set the tone for his own band, the Wee Jams, formed while he was a student at Avonworth High School in the 1960s and still performing today.

Those sounds were not heard on the established radio stations, many referring the new style of music recorded by black artists as being "race music," and with several churches taking it a step further, calling it "the devil's music."

But Dell did not care what the bigots called it. He liked what he was listening to.

"I first heard Porky on WAMO, because I never listened to anything but that station and WZUM (the second "integrated" local station) in the '60s," he said.

Dell said that by listening to WAMO, listeners could enjoy being "in" on Porky's special playlists that featured what he liked, not necessarily what the record producers wanted him to play.

"If he preferred the side not recommended for air play, the 'B-side' that nobody else was playing, Porky would play it, if, in his opinion, it was better. Needless
to say, he had that ear."

It was his call, his show and the listeners loved it.

"Porky never played the hits," Dell went on to say, explaining one of the deejay's little known secrets to his success. "He went to the record stores and bought the records that were not getting air play and not selling. Usually they were returned to the distributors and record companies for credit. But Porky bought them, played them on the air and created many hits for unknown artists

The Wee Jams' sound was one that Porky liked and promoted.

"We played many, many shows with him in his later years. He emceed our first major show at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, which also featured the Dells, Flamingoes and the Penguins."

Dell said that hundreds of groups came to Porky and he put them on the map. He did not just play their music, though. He also advised them with a shrewd sense of what would work best for them.

"One of our ‘90s recordings was "Baby, You're My Only Love" by Billy Stewart. I never heard it until Porky played it. He told us to record it and we did. We still do the song."

The original band had six members, three of them still performing with the group today, and with the band known as William Dell & wee jams.

Their sound remains purely Pittsburgh, a sound that Porky loved.

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