The phone lines at radio station WMIX-FM (106.5) were lit up until midnight Saturday night with callers welcoming the return of local radio institution Johnny Dark.
Mr. Dark was back on the air after a seven-month absence as host of " '70s Saturday Night," a new weekly show airing from 7 p.m. to midnight on WMIX.
"I guess you kind of expect that response for someone who means that much to a city," said WMIX program director Greg Dunkin of the reaction of listeners to the return of Mr. Dark.
"I'm really ecstatic about the show and, needless to say, I'm tickled to death to be back on the radio," said Mr. Dark.
Mr. Dark, 57, became one of the most popular personalities in Baltimore radio history during more than 30 years at WCAO-AM (600). He developed a huge following during the heyday of AM rock radio in the 1960s and had many loyal listeners follow him as he directed the station through a transition to country music in the 1980s.
But when WCAO changed formats again, from country to gospel, last November, Mr. Dark was fired along with the rest of the station's seven-person on-air staff.
Since then, he has done occasional music pieces for WMAR-TV (Channel 2) but said "it's really not the same" as being on the radio.
"We all have a need to be loved," he added.
Mr. Dark -- whose inaugural show included hits ranging from the Rolling Stones' "Angie" to Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" -- said the 1970s "was almost, to a lot of people, the forgotten decade."
"I'd like to give people the opportunity to connect with the past and bring back some good memories," he added.
Mr. Dunkin, whose station is locked in a battle for adult contemporary listeners with Variety 104.3, said " '70s Saturday Night" grew out of listener call to WMIX's suggestion line. "I'm surprised that no one has thought of this before," he said.
According to Mr. Dunkin, the " '70s Saturday Night" format includes such artists as Paul Simon, Three Dog Night, the Steve Miller Band, the Doobie Brothers, Earth, Wind and Fire and Fleetwood Mac.