When I was young, Porky Chedwick belonged to a league of what were, to me, weird old guys that my parents listened to on the radio every weekend. As a kid, the music wasn't up my alley: When I came into my own tastes, I wanted Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Porky was a relic from my parents' youth, when my dad would go to his dances. He was a holdover from the 1950s, a time I couldn't even begin to understand.
It was only as I got older that I began to realize what he meant, and how lucky I was to have, even reluctantly, his music and personality as part of my formative years. I had experienced firsthand the kind of radio DJ that was dying off, the kind that other kids might only know from reruns of WKRP in Cincinnati. Thanks to Chediwck, I heard tunes that didn't get airplay in a lot of places by the '80s and '90s. I knew songs like "Stranded in the Jungle," by The Cadets, long before I ever heard the New York Dolls' version.
Even now, there are songs you can hear in certain pockets of the local radio dial (mostly WLSW-FM in Connellsville, and on specialty shows on WWSW-FM and WJAS-AM) that were only ever popular in Pittsburgh, and only because of Porky. (I was stunned to learn a few years back that Donnie Elbert's ballad "Have I Sinned?" wasn't a national hit: It was just a Porky favorite, but still gets airplay here.) Pittsburgh's musical vocabulary is different from the rest of the country because of him.
Of course, a guy who was 96 wasn't going to last forever, but when word got out that Porky Chedwick had passed away last weekend, it was hard to imagine Pittsburgh without him. The fact that he had an entire generation of people like my dad — who's never been much of a music aficionado otherwise — turned on to such starkly different music, from doo-wop to raunchy R&B, was a feat. And it was one that only an oversized personality, and an expert on both music and people, could pull off. Porky Chedwick's contributions to popular music everywhere are huge ... and his contributions to Pittsburgh can't be overstated.