Tuesday, January 29, 2008


If you happened to be listening to WPON yesterday noon, then you caught Jukebox John's excellent interview with legendary DJ Tom Shannon. What a treat! Back in the 60s, as a teenager with transistor in hand, I logged a lot of hours listening to Tom Shannon on the airwaves from CKLW - that equally legendary cross-border radio phenomenon. For those of you who might not know the particular geography I'm talking about, CKLW was (and still is, but no more rock and roll) a Canadian radio station located in Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit. Back in the AM radio heyday, "CK" served a huge listening audience on both sides of the border. Their jingle was "CKLW...the Motor City." That ought to tell you how it was. Oh, those were they days all right!

Back then, most DJs had jingles and slogans of their own, to promote their shows. Tom Shannon had "The Sun Never Sets on the Shannon Empire" (fitting for a guy who started out in Buffalo, worked in the Rose City/Motor City, Denver, and in Tennessee). Speaking of Buffalo, Shannon had a jingle for his Buffalo show, too. You'd recognize it if you heard it today; it's set to the tune of the classic 60s instrumental, "Wild Weekend." Just to prove the truth behind the old saying "Learn something new everyday" - I found out during yesterday's interview that the jingle came first! Shannon and buddy Phil Todaro wrote it, and once it got playing, everyone liked it so much they turned it into a hit record, done by the Buffalo band, the Rockin' Rebels. Now, I have to admit that this is not a startling bit of previously-unknown trivia. You can easily find it documented online, but like much info on the web, if you don't know to look for it, you might not find it...and I simply hadn't yet. Anyway, Tom and Jukebox John chatted for almost 90 minutes. You can imagine what that meant to a trivia addict like me! One mystery still remains, however. When I was writing the Introduction to my book, Papa Do Run, I mentioned that I was searching for some 60s radio trivia, namely the Detroit/Windsor DJ who debuted the Barbra Streisand hit, "People." It was a memorable moment, and I really hoped to talk to someone who might remember the broadcast. For a while I was in contact with some people in the Windsor area who knew Tom Shannon, and who I'd hoped might be able to find out for me, but alas, nothing came of it, and the book went to print without the answer. Yesterday, there wasn't enough time to take many calls at the station, but Tom Shannon has promised he'll be back, so maybe next time I'll be able to ask him, and perhaps finally solve the mystery. It's kind of my own personal holy grail of music trivia.

Well, these days Tom Shannon is retired on the west coast - and pushing 70! - but he's still as fresh and entertaining as ever. It was great to hear all his stories from his radio (and some TV) days. Unfortunately, the interview isn't archived on the WPON site, but I'll include a link below to some bios of famous CKLW DJs. Tom Shannon's in the third from the top. There's also link to a 1965 CKLW air check that has not only Shannon, but a show promo by Chubby Checker, and an old Pepsi commercial (could that be Joanie Somers??) too. Enjoy!

CKLW - Shannon bio http://rockradioscrapbook.ca/bigeight.html

Wild Weekend video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWJFIItNjmE
Really terrific vintage visuals on this one!

WPON http://www.wpon.com/
If you like 50s, 60s and early 70s, especially the rare stuff, you can listen live on the Internet, or locally at AM 1460.


wweekfan said...

Actually Tom Shannon didn't write Wild Weekend. Check out http://www.colorradio.com/rockinrebels.htm for the most extensive research on the matter.

Deborah Godin said...

Great link! As usual, there's differing versions of everything to be found on the web, but this one has a truly impressive amount of history. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

So! Tom retired to California??
When his retirement was announced on Buffalo radio, a DJ in the background quietly asked, "you're not going south, are you??" (like, who would want to get the heck away from Buffalo blizzards)and he said, "No, no, I just bought a house downtown."
I wonder if he's in California or Washington? Maybe an old girlfriend lives in CA. Suzy

Deborah Godin said...

That would make an interesting psychological study - "winter guilt" in Midwestern/Great Lakes natives who move to CA or FL.

Anonymous said...

When Tom "joked" he was looking for a twenty something blonde he just may find her in California. Then I wonder what he'll do with her? He's very attractive, yes; but if I were 20ish I'd not be interested in a late-sixties guy, record or no record.

Anonymous said...

Tom is living in Monterey, a fabulously expensive but beautiful city. I bet he's on Cloud 9, with that climate and scenery plus incredible food.
Bet he has a girlfriend or two by now. He just oozes charm and charisma.
He has 2 daughters, half Italian half Irish. One at least is a Harvard graduate named Vita who is married. He had her do a quick visit on Shop at Home and she was a real beauty and obviously nuts over her dad.

Gary said...

I grew up listening to Tom Shannon and really enjoyed him. I have lately found out that he took advantage of Russ Hallett who wrote his theme song and totally screwed the Hot Toddy's (Rockin' Crickets) who where really Big John Little and the Rockers from Ontario. Sorry, he was not a nice man and took advantage of his position and had no ethics. Frosty by Tom Shannon, NO really Russ Hallett Trio, Tommy screwed them too.