8 boss disc jockeys of the 1960s. Did you listen to any of them?

Turn the dial back and dig these pioneers and promoters of rock & roll.

In today's world, with streaming services and digital music, an ocean of music is at your fingertips. Everyone is a DJ. Half a century ago, the transistor radio was a teenager's lifeline to pop music. Disc jockeys were the tastemakers, the gatekeepers of cool, rock & roll stars in their own right. Every major city had its star DJ, and record spinners in Cleveland, Philly, L.A. and beyond become idols.

Dick Clark and Casey Kasem are still household names. Others, though massive at the time, remain a bit more obscure. Here are some of our favorite DJs of the 1960s. Which disc jockey did you listen to?

Top image: American Graffiti / Universal

1. Dick Biondi

You know that whole "I was into them before everyone else" thing? This Chicago legend has the ultimate bragging right. The loud, knock-knock-joke-telling jock was the first American to play the Beatles, in February of 1963. He would later relocate to Los Angeles and introduce the Fab Four at their Hollywood Bowl gig. Why the move to California? The urban legend was that he told an obscene joke, but the likely reason was a dispute over the advertising on his show. 

Image: Discogs

2. Johnny Holliday

Holliday was the king of the Bay Area scene. While at KYA in 1965, he was named America's number one disc jockey. No wonder he was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Leonard Nimoy. He too would introduce a Beatles gig, at Candlestick. Holliday — oddly not the next entry on our list — was also the announcer on the TV show Hullabaloo. Later, Holliday would move into sports broadcasting and become the voice of the University of Maryland. 

Image: SF Gate / Bay Area Radio

3. Dave Hull

Hull also had ties to the Beatles — sensing a theme here? As he was quite chummy with the British quartet, he often interviewed the band, and recordings of these chats were released as records. For this, he is yet another to have earned the title "fifth Beatle." Dubbed "The Hullabalooer," Hull hit it big on KRLA in L.A., and he opened a teen club called Hullabaloo on Sunset.

Image: Amazon

4. Hy Lit

With a name like "highlight," Hyman "Hy" Lit was born to be a radio personality. His Hall of Fame show on WIBG dominated the Philadelphia / New Jersey area with a whopping 71% market share. "The Jet Jockey on Flight 99" put out two compilations of early-'60s pop.

Image: Discogs

5. Robert W. Morgan

Of all the boss DJs of the 1960s, Morgan was arguably the bossiest. He lead the team of "Boss Jocks" at KHJ-AM in L.A. and would kick off each broadcast with a cry of, "Good morning, Boss Angeles!" Morgan nabbed Billboard's award for Air Personality of the Year in 1967, and two years later co-produced and narrated the first ever rock & roll documentary, History of Rock and Roll.

Image: DJ Master Control

6. Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow

One of the kings of the East Coast, Brucie held down the primetime 6:15PM to 10:30PM slot at WABC in NYC. He was adept at blending a variety of genres, and his notoriety led him to onscreen roles in 1978's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Dirty Dancing. He played the magician in the latter.

Image: Discogs

7. Murray the K

Okay, there had to have been at least ten "fifth Beatles." To be fair to Murray, who became Brucie's main competition in New York, he had close ties to John, Paul, George and Ringo. The story goes (according to Murray) that George himself bestowed the title on the disc jockey. He was there when the Fab Four first arrived in America, broadcasting his show from the band's Plaza Hotel suite at the invite of Brian Epstein. Murray also earns major cred points for defending and championing Dylan after the folk singer turned electric in the face of stiff criticism.

Image: Discogs

8. Wolfman Jack

Robert Weston Smith created such an out-of-this-world persona in Wolfman Jack that he was practically a superhero of rock & roll. No wonder the raspy-voiced howler showed up in Wonder Woman — not to mention American Graffiti, The Odd Couple and more. He also narrated The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang cartoon. Revisiting American Graffiti today, his on-air performances sound like a new art form, a strange new language invented for Boomer teens.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Post a comment
tootsieg 2 hours ago
Growing up on the East Coast in the 60’s, the DJ’s on WABC and WMCA were superstars. I had the radio on all the time or the transistor radio pressed up against my ear. Magic days. Loved the article.
mdit21 11 hours ago
I watched Bruce Morrow on an ABC special called; "A Mod Mod World."

rayma 12 hours ago
I listened to Dr. Donlond D. Rosenberg on KFRC and I went to School with one of his daughter s
Big3Fan 15 hours ago
Growing up on the Northern Plains, we were able to listen to KOMA OK City and WLS Chicago at night. I can't remember any of the KOMA DJs but I do remember John Records Landecker on WLS 890. Unfortunately I can't remember any of the jocks from our daytime Rock station WDGY, WeeGee, out of Minneapolis.
Lacey 15 hours ago
I heard Wolfman Jack and Johnny Holladay was my first "morning DJ" when I got an AM radio for Christmas on WWDC in Washington DC. I loved that station ( "1260 and 101 WWDC") and knew all the DJs. I was even allowed to go to their public events. (A big deal for a tween girl back then).
retro6 16 hours ago
Grew up in Chicago, so I remember Dick Biondi. Wolfman Jack I remember from shoes he did on tv.
texasluva 16 hours ago
Growing up in So Cal (San Diego) Wolfman Jack came in loud and clear on his XERF radio station 250,000W from Mexico. It could reach parts of all 50 states and Canada. Later taking his wares to L.A. and other places. What a character he was. I really liked the times he would take calls during his radio program and incorporate it into his awesome program.
Kenner 16 hours ago
Of course Dick Biondi! The BIG 89 WLS Chicago…50,000 watt blow torch playing all the hits! I had that transistor stuck in my ear listening to the Beatles, The Doors, Aretha Franklin, Matchstick Men and a hundred other bands. Aww The Seekers lead singer passed away the other day I see. So sad.
eddiecantorfan 2 days ago
Puff The Magic Dragon sung by Peter Paul and Mary.
eddiecantorfan 3 days ago
I love this Dr Pepper Commercial called I'm A
Yep, and Naughton was also An American Werewolf In London!
TeresaDraper 3 days ago
Grew up in SoCal so remember all the KHJ boss jocks. Real Don Steele Tina Delgado is alive, alive was his catchphrase
TheDavBow3 3 days ago
Can't forget about "The Real" Don Steele out of LA, Jerry Blavat out of south Philly and Johnny Dark out of Memphis. Dark also introduced The Beatles in concert. All very influential as well.
Michael 3 days ago
Wolfman Jack made a big splash in the seventies, American Graffitti and I suspect the rest followed. But that really had nothing todo with being a DJ. (A bunch of these had fame beyond being a DJ.)

But Wolfman Jack I thought got fame from being a DJ on a Mexican radio station. Such stations were just at the border, and Mexican stations didn't have the power restrictions of US stations. So a lot of reach at night. So he got more listeners than the rest, who had "local" stations.
MrsPhilHarris 3 days ago
When I was a kid I remember seeing Wolfman Jack on The Midnight Special.
I was a big Todd Rundgren fan. He had a song called "You Cried Wolf." Todd performed the song on The Midnight Special, and The Wolfman stood to the side and howled. It was kind of embarrassing. Still, I like both men. (Get this. Through the miracle of Youtube, I found some of that performance.)
I may have told this story before, but my sister went to Upper Darby High School and sat in front of Rundgren in homeroom!
Thank you for sharing that. In the eighties, I saw Utopia at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby. I have been a serious fan since around 1973, when I was in high school. In those days, music seemed to really matter. I strongly identified with certain artists, and Todd was one for me.
cperrynaples harlow1313 17 hours ago
I remember the Tower! I went there when it was a movie theater AND a concert venue!
justjeff 4 days ago
The list could have been longer... Jim Hummell came to Miami from St. Louis and was renamed "Rick Shaw" because the program director of WCKR (currently WIOD) always wanted a DJ with that name.

Over 40 years on the air, and various stints as music director, program director and host of Channel 10s "Saturday Hop" on WLBW-TV (now WPLG) made him a South Florida Legend.

His long-time friend and associate at both WQAM (AM) and later at WAXY (FM) was Roby Yonge. He deserves a shout-out as well, for during a tenure at New York's WABC, Roby created the "Paul is dead" mythology...

As for Wolfman Jack, the Guess Who honored him in a song ["Clap for the Wolfman"], and he supplied them with some audio commentaries peppered throughout the tune...
Catman justjeff 11 hours ago
Yeah, I remember listening to Rick Shaw and "big Kahuna" too. But I usually tuned in to WFUN in those days, or WMBM for some soul and R&B.
justjeff Catman 10 hours ago
Dick Starr, Dan Dayton, Tom Kennington, Mike E. Harvey, Russ Oasis, Bob Gordon, Pete Berlin, "Chucker" Thayer, Johnny Knox and even Morton "Doc" Downey were some of the jocks WFUN had over the decades... WMBM had Milton"Butterball" Smith, "Vanilla" Williams, Jeff Walker, Charles "China" Valles, Blanche Calloway (Cab's Sister!)... and during their later goispel format "King" Coleman (formerly of WFEC-1220 AM)...
Runeshaper 4 days ago
I wasn't around in the 60s, but I did listen to Cousin Brucie!
harlow1313 4 days ago
Long live the great Philadelphia horror show host, Dr. Shock. I liked all those B movies with goofy hosts.
Load previous comments
Michael MrsPhilHarris 3 days ago
Wasn't that sort ofshow parodied by "Monster Chiller Horror Theatre" on SCTV?
I watched two different shows called Shock Theatre several years ago.
I watched Shock Theatre on ch.8 WGHP in High Point
North Carolina with host
Dr Paul Bearer.
And I watched a different
Shock Theatre on a different channel 8-Ch.8
WXEX in Petersburg-Richmond VA with host
The Bowman Body played o
Bill Bowman.
It was a time of localctv. So it would seem that show titles and themes got reused. We had Johnny Jellybean here in Montreal, a kid's show, but in the internet age when I did a search, more about some show inthe US.

Of course, Romper Room and Bozothe Clown were franchised shows
Yes with Count Floyd! 😆
15inchBlackandWhite 4 days ago
I did not grow up in an area of the country where I could hear any of those guys. I do remember Robert W. Morgan filling-in for Casey Kasem on American Top 40 though.
Deleted 4 days ago
This comment has been removed.
eddiecantorfan 1 day ago
Frank Deal who told jokes
And gave the weather forecast on channel 8
WGHP In High Point NC
Could have have been a
Disc Jockey. Frank Deal could have played soft Rock Oldies and telling
Jokes on the air on his radio show.
Roy Stuart who played Cpl
Boyle on Gomer Pyle USMC would have been an excellent disc jockey with
Roy's personality.
Maybe BOTH Frank Deal and Roy Stuart could have
Teamed up.and had a radio show together playing
SOft Rock Oldies & Telling
Wolfman Jack is the only one I ever heard of, probably because I never lived in the areas of the others. Not to mention I was born in 1963, and never heard of Wolfman Jack either until he was doing radio commercials in the later 70's and appeared on some game shows.
Born in the same year and the only one I had heard of was Wolfman Jack. I didn't really listen to the radio until the mid 70's, other than what my mom would have playing during the course of the day.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?