, May 24, 2024

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Raised on Radio

  •   4 min reads
Raised on Radio
By Joey Salgado

My generation grew up on radio. 

But my family didn’t have the fancy, shiny branded one with glowing dials. We had a transistor radio, or several transistors radios over a period of years. 

I’m talking about those cheap battery-operated devices encased in lawanit boxes. In the 70s you could buy radio kits at a hardware store and assemble them at home or in shop class. All you needed was a soldering iron, a steady hand, and a basic understanding of schematic diagrams and you are ready to rock or swing. 

Image by Bruno from Pixabay

It was AM radio non-stop (There were no FM stations until the mid-70s). Mornings with Johnny de Leon and his sidekick Ngongo on “Lundagin Mo, Baby” while getting ready for school. And nanay’s music programs and soap operas in the afternoon. I would listen along while doing homework or helping out with the household chores. 

Nanay introduced me to Doris Day, Connie Francis, Andrew Sisters, Nat King Cole, and her favorite, Elvis Presley. I still carry a fondness for the songs of my mother’s generation, and I know most of these songs by heart. She would later develop a fondness for 70s OPM.

The transistor radio was nanay’s constant companion while doing laundry or cooking or while working on her sewing machine. She was a part-time modista, sewing school uniforms and gowns for debutantes and Santacruzan sagalas. School openings and summer were peak season.

Before I was touched by the spirit of rock music, I used to listen to DWIZ when it was still an all-music station. Their tagline was DWIZ Sunshine City. It was my introduction to popular music, the likes of Bobby Vinton, Conway Twitty, Neil Sedaka, Donny & Marie, Barry Manilow. There were also vocal groups like Blue Magic, the Miracles, the Main Ingredient. 

Radio introduced me to the Manila Sound, the songs of Hotdog and Cinderella, sleek pop songs with Tagalog lyrics about crushes and tigyawat sa ilong, the usual adolescent concerns. My classmates had their favorite stations, DZBM and WBL. 

By third year high school, I was still pimply but I was a full-fledged rocker. 

FM radio provided an oasis from AM pop. There were only two FM stations by 1977, or two stations I cared to listen to. One was KW, a jazz station, and DWRT. Both were commercial-free stations. And RT offered a bonus: Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, a weekly syndicated show featuring the hottest songs on the US music charts. It’s where you get to listen to new songs before they’re picked up by local AM stations. I heard the songs of Boston, Foreigner, Boz Scaggs, Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac on this show. Of course, I also had to sit through Debbie Gibson, Anne Murray, and Dan Hill. 

I was part of the Pinoy Rock congregation, collectively called jeproks after Mike Hanopol’s solo hit song. On Sundays, RJ-AM was our church and Howling Dave was our preacher. I could walk down our street during the show without missing a single minute of Maria Cafra’s “Tala sa Umaga” or Juan de Cruz’s “Langit.” And Banaag Street is a rather long street, covering three of four “purok” in our barrio, later renamed barangay, of Pineda in Pasig. Every house with a long-haired teenager had their radio tuned in to RJ-AM and they were turned up loud. 

Radio was my gateway to music and soft culture, the subtle creep of youthful rebellion beyond the reach of government’s martial law propaganda machinery.

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