Edwards Is Radio's High Priest Of Pop, And Proud Of It Dj Mixes Memories And Top 10 Melodies

September 19, 1990|BY SUN STAFF WRITER

WESTMINSTER - That mellow, familiar voice on the radio -- is it really the Jack Edwards that you've listened to on Baltimore stations for years?

Indeed it is, as many listeners of WTTR radio discovered a month ago when Edwards took over the 10 a.m.- to -2 p.m. midday slot at the station.

"The first day he was on the air -- we didn't announce beforehand who the person was -- I got here about 10:15 and his phone was ringing off the hook," said Brian Beddow, program director.

If the response is any indication, WTTR has a definite winner in Edwards, who this month is celebrating his 34th year in radio.

For those into music, especially oldies and Top 10 popular songs, Edwards is the DJ to listen to. Not only does he spin the records, but he can tell you most anything you want to know about them.

"I love popular music," Edwards said after going off the air Monday afternoon. "I have one of the largest private collections in the state of singles that made the Top 10 since 1940 -- over 50,000."

His collection takes up all four walls of one room in his Reisterstown home, where he lives with wife, Joyce, 42, son Patrick, 19, and daughter Candice, 14.

"He has a good knowledge of the music, and that suits his midday show," Beddow said. "That's helpful, giving you something to think about. He remembers the label, even the color of the label. It's amazing."

Edwards said he gets much of his background information about the top songs from Billboard magazine, the bible of the pop music industry.

"I believe you should be totally involved in your work, whatever it is," he said. "What's wrong with knowing that Wilson-Phillips is made up of two Beach Boys' daughters and the daughter of Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas?"

The 52-year-old got his start in the business almost accidentally in 1956. He had just graduated from Kenwood High School and was set to go to Towson State and become an English teacher when he met Jack Dawson.

Now a sportscaster with Channel 2 News, Dawson then was moonlighting as a disc jockey at radio station WWIN. He hired the youngster almost on the spot as a full-time DJ.

"I was so awful, I was so green," Edwards recalled.

After staying at WWIN for two years, Edwards went to WBAL television as a director. But he missed his beloved music, and after one year, took a job with WCAO radio in May 1959.

At WCAO, Edwards did the "All Night Show" from midnight to 6 a.m. for nine years, then switched to the 7 p.m.-to-midnight shift for six years.

In 1974, he went to WCBM, where for the next nine years he "played the greatest hits of all time."

And when Edwards calls the music he plays "the greatest hits" you'd better believe it. His specialty is songs that made the Top 10 -- whether a song by the Beatles (yes, he met them), Elvis or a one-time wonder.

Edwards spent two years at WYST-AM and another two years at WURC in Washington as music director. His most recent position with WLIF ended last February.

When he's not spinning records at the radio station, Edwards is spinning them at Twisters, a night club on Route 30, every Tuesday through Saturday night, or at class reunions, weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions.

He relishes being down on the dance floor with the crowd, meeting the people, answering their questions and playing their favorite songs, which can range from big band tunes of the 1940s to today's No. 1 hit.

"You've got to take everything because you've got to please everybody," he noted. "You've got all ages, from pre-teens to grandmothers."

And unless a song is a special request, he won't play anything the crowd can't dance to, especially at a dance.

"That's just my personal philosophy," he said.

Edwards also does a lot of promotions, especially for charities.

Helping others also seems to be part of his philosophy. A new employee needs help, Edwards is there; somebody wants him to do a commercial, he's there.

"He's an excellent employee to work with, so cooperative and helpful," said Dwight Dingle, WTTR general manager. "It's very refreshing to see somebody with his experience and background so easy to work with. He's so down-to-earth and a genuinely nice person."

Indeed, Edwards almost embarrasses himself in conversations with his knowledge of the music.

In the middle of an answer, the name of a singer, his label and biggest hits just seem to pop out of Edwards, as if he can't help himself. So full of facts is he that they simply tumble out of him.

Listening to Edwards is like hearing the Class Reunion song, "Life is a Rock, But the Radio Rolls Me," as the names spill from him faster than a 78 rpm record (remember those?).

Radio listeners can tell Edwards loves his work and his fellow DJs -- Jeff Adams, Beddow and Kim Pearre. And he loves Carroll County.

"I love it here," he said. "This isn't work, it's play. They're very nice people here with a nice format. And there's no stress here; it's a whole different atmosphere from Baltimore. I'll stay here as long as they'll have me."

Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990

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