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Pioneering Pittsburgh DJ Craig 'Porky' Chedwick dies at 96

| Sunday, March 2, 2014, 1:03 p.m.
SUBMITTED
Craig 'Porky' Chedwick Submitted photo
Submitted photo
Submitted photo Porky Chedwick in a WAMO promotional picture circa 1957.

As a young man, Craig “Porky” Chedwick caught part of a black church service on the radio, and he liked what he heard.

“He used to go into a record store in Homestead and take records into the booth that stores couldn't sell and listen to them. This was the 1940s, and the music was intended for black clients. It got no airplay,” said close friend and Chedwick biographer Ed Weigle.

“There were no black stations; the records were played in jukeboxes. He gave them airplay. He gave popularity to those records.”

Known as the “Daddio of the Raddio” and “Platter-Pushin' Papa,” Chedwick was credited with bringing R&B music to legions of Pittsburghers for more than 60 years. He was among the first white DJs to play music by black artists on the radio, starting at the former WAMO.

Chedwick, 96, of Brookline died Sunday morning after family members rushed him to an emergency room for pain.

“His son, Ben, called and said he was gone,” said Weigle, owner of Voiceover Productions/Weiglevox Production International.

Chedwick's family could not be reached for comment. Until recently, he and his wife, Jean, hosted an oldies program at the Brookline Pub on Sundays.

“Porky was a household name here in Pittsburgh, but his impact beyond our city was so much larger, as he was credited by numerous artists for being the reason that they broke into the industry,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Weigle said Chedwick was driven by being unhappy that the bootleg industry resulted in some black artists not getting paid when their music was played.

“He said, ‘I'm going to get this music out there if I have to play it on street corners,'” Weigle said.

Chedwick was one of the first “mobile DJs,” Weigle said. He also put youth sports leagues together to “keep kids out of trouble.”

“He lived here in Florida for a while. That was his failed attempt at retirement. He said it was all ‘old people down here. I don't belong here,'” Weigle said, chuckling.

The couple moved to Pittsburgh's Brookline section several years ago.

Chedwick wanted to be a sportscaster and was a sports stringer for a Homestead newspaper at one time.

“His real name was George. He traded that for Craig. As for Porky, he insisted his mother gave him that name because he was a chubby little baby who loved to eat,” Weigle said.

Bob Haberkost recalled working with Chedwick at WAMO during the mid-1980s.

“Porky was just the most wonderful human being you would want to work with. He was somebody who was in love with his music, and instrumental in changing the music we know today,” he said.

“Porky was a very gentle (man), not ‘star material,' just regular people,” Haberkost said.

Bev Smith, former talk show host and news and public affairs director with WAMO, recalled Chedwick as part of an era of DJs who put music on the radio and put the needle on the record.

“Radio was not formatted and structured,” Smith said.

A fan of her evening talk show, Chedwick would often call her following a broadcast.

“Those were the days when our community was alive with radio personalities,” she said. “Lots of young people should have sat around him and listened to him talk about doing his own tapes, posting fliers for events, trying to interview stars.”

Radio host Ron Chavis called Chedwick his hero and said he was nationally respected.

“On the air, Porky was the exemplification of the term ‘Bigger than Life.' His personality was as big as the music,” Chavis said. “What Porky laid down behind the mic was something that can't be learned.”

A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Chedwick began his radio career in 1948. He adapted to the times, with a program in recent years on an Internet station in run by the late former McKeesport DJ Terry Lee.

Big names in Pittsburgh music and radio took to Twitter to expresses condolences.

“The most important Pittsburgh broadcaster ever,” tweeted WDVE DJ Randy Baumann. Local rocker Joe Grushecky tweeted: “He had a profound influence on Pittsburgh music.”

Chedwick had been scheduled as a special guest at a “Community Oldies' dance on April 26 at the New Eagle Volunteer Fire Department's social center, presented by the Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce.

“With Porky Chedwick's death, an era is gone that we will probably never get back again, the era of personality radio, the era of commitment to the people. Porky was all of those,” Smith said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724- 836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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