Robservations: ‘Those Were the Days’ celebrates radio’s greatest hits

Orson Welles

Robservations on the media beat:

Steve Darnall

Kicking off its celebration of radio’s 100th anniversary, “Those Were the Days” will air a monthlong series of milestone and landmark broadcasts from the Golden Age of Radio. This weekend’s show will feature what host Steve Darnall calls “the most famous radio broadcast of all time” — Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the Air’s 1938 production of “The War of the Worlds.” Other treats include Bing Crosby’s first appearance on network radio in 1931, Agnes Moorehead’s first performance of “Sorry, Wrong Number” in 1943, and a 1940 “Fibber McGee and Molly” broadcast, during which they open their famous hall closet for the first time. “Obviously, the 100th anniversary of radio is a pretty special event, and we wanted to celebrate by demonstrating — as completely as we can — what makes it special,” Darnall said. “It’s our hope that these broadcasts will give everyone listening an understanding of how radio was transformed from a novelty item into a necessity.” “Those Were the Days” airs from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays on College of DuPage WDCB 90.9-FM and online at wdcb.org.

Nick Digilio

Coming off what he called “the worst month of my life,” Nick Digilio has a date with fans. Billed as his first public appearance since he was cut from Nexstar Media Group news/talk WGN 720-AM, Digilio will host a triple feature at a drive-in theater. At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, he’ll deliver a monologue to patrons in their cars at the Midway Drive-In in Dixon, Illinois. He’ll also introduce each film on the bill — the Universal monster classics “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), “The Wolfman” (1941), and “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948). (Here’s the link for info.) Over his 35 years at WGN — including the last seven as full-time overnight host — Digilio was known as a movie and pop culture expert.

The Great Chicago Fire

WTTW-Channel 11 will mark the 149th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire next week with a “Chicago Stories” special and a companion website that explores the causes, progression and lasting impact of the 1871 catastrophe. Airing at 8 p.m. October 9 on the Window to the World Communications station, “The Great Chicago Fire” uses animations, re-creations and interviews with historians and descendants of eyewitness. “This is the time to tell this important story of adversity, strength and optimism,” said executive producer Dan Protess. “The tensions around class, race and immigration that surrounded the fire resonate in our present moment. And as with our current crisis — the coronavirus pandemic — the fire disproportionately affected marginalized communities.” The one-hour special was written and produced by Peter Marks and narrated by Chicago actor Anthony Fleming III.

Inspiration 1390

“Praise in Place,” a virtual concert and celebration featuring Chicago gospel artists, will be hosted tonight by WGRB 1390-AM, the iHeartMedia gospel station known as Inspiration 1390. It will stream live on the station’s Facebook page, starting at 7 p.m. (Here is the link.) Performers will include Fred Hammond, Marvin Sapp, Jekalyn Carr, Melvin Crispell III, LeNasia Tyson and Selah Youth Choir of Saint Sabina. “Our city needs so much hope during these tough times,” said program director and morning host Sonya Blakey. “We look forward to a night of inspirational music to lift the spirits of our community, while also acknowledging some of our community leaders who are helping during this critical time.”

Richard Milne

Richard Milne, the humble morning star of Entercom adult album alternative WXRT 93.1-FM, gets the profile treatment from Rick Kaempfer in the October issue of Illinois Entertainer. (Here is the link.) The Chicago native and graduate of Addison Trail High School and Southern Illinois University toiled for more than three decades before moving up to the big time. “If you want to be a full-time on-air music personality, with the ability to choose not all, but a significant amount of what you play, WXRT is the pinnacle of this business,” he told Kaempfer. “To have been granted permission to turn on that microphone and say those call letters is a great honor. All that time I was waiting in the wings, I would have given an eye-tooth to be given a full-time slot, and yes I felt I deserved it, but I realized how great that full-time lineup was, and I understood the situation perfectly.”

Dave Plier

Weekend and fill-in host Dave Plier is expanding his Friday night show on news/talk WGN 720-AM by starting one hour earlier. Effective tonight his show will air from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. (and repeat at 4 p.m. Saturdays when there is no sports or rescheduled programming). Plier continues to host “The Sinatra Hours” from 6:30 to 9 a.m. Sundays. In addition to his gig on WGN, Plier is co-CEO of Retail First Corp. and chairman of the Museum of Broadcast Communications, which includes the Radio Hall of Fame.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Paul Gallo: [John Records] Landecker can take all the time he wants. I’m in no hurry to return to the ’70s.