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Remembering Porky Chedwick

March 2, 2014 - John Mehno
Porky Chedwick died on Sunday.

When someone goes at age 96, it isn't a surprise, but you had the feeling that Porky was going to live forever.

He was an important figure in the history of rock 'n' roll, playing "race" music on rimshot Pittsburgh stations when that sort of thing was controversial. These days, "Born To Be Wild" is likely to be part of the background music in the supermarket. But in the 1950s, rock (and especially rhythm and blues) were demonized as the devil's work. Porky got death threats for playing the music. The station was shunned by some advertisers. Authority figures warned kids against the danger of listening.

Even though he never had a power base on one of the big stations, Porky became well known. His colorful raps -- "The Daddio of the Raddio," "Pork The Tork," "I'm not John Wayne, I'm Pork the insane," "I have more lines than Bell Telephone" -- were part of it, but it was really the music. He didn't follow the charts, he went by his ears.

If he wanted to be rich and famous, he was half successful. One of the shameful back stories is how people used Porky and cheated him out of money. He should have been wealthy, but he always had to work for a living. That was tough in the '60s when music changed, and before the oldies revival of the 1970s brought him back. He placed "Situations Wanted" ads in Billboard magazine, looking for work.

Jobs in and out of radio came and went, but Porky endured. People booked him for dances and other events, to reconnect with an era that was long gone. The artists he helped always respected his role in their careers and paid him homage.

Back in the '70s, Porky was the featured DJ at a nightclub frequented by a lot of the city's athletes. He got to be friends with many of the Pirates and Steelers. Richie Hebner was a particular favorite.

When Hebner left town as a free agent, Porky was trying to track down a photo of Hebner that had been on the cover of Steel City Sports, a failed weekly where I had worked. He wound up calling me to see if I had the photo. I had been alerted that he was going to call, so I was ready. When he identified himself, I was able to greet him with an enthusiastic, "Pork the Tork, what's happening, Bossman?"

To which Porky replied, "Ah, you know. Same old groove."

Same old groove. Perfect.

God bless Porky. Rock in peace, Bossman.

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