My reverence and love of The Great American Songbook must be attributed to the legendary New York radio station WNEW-AM 1130. For close to seventy years it was the bastion of this music. In the early days it presented live performances by the greats and in later years it took on a more ‘curator’ type approach to the repertoire. I remember hearing it when I was a kid. I was well aware that it had been on the air for some forty years before I ever came on the scene. When I was older and better able to control my music consumption, my radio was firmly set to 1130. By that time many of the great singers and musicians were gone, but they lived on in the passion and knowledge of the announcers who seemed to live to bring this music to the world and never let it be forgotten. I particularly cherished Jonathan Schwartz’s weeknight show. The man is a fountain of stories and trivia and knows more about Sinatra than Sinatra probably did.
When I moved to Chicago twenty-five years ago WNEW was one of the few things I desperately missed about New York. WNEW and kasha knishes, but I won’t even bother to explain the ecstasies of the kasha knish. There was a radio station here in Chicago that was merely adequate but it went off the air soon after I got here. This was in the years before radio on the Internet, so I had to content myself with amassing a huge CD collection of the great songs and singers and occasionally picking up WNEW late at night through the vagaries of AM broadcasting.
Within years of my move to Chicago came the tragic news that WNEW-AM was no more. Jonathan Schwartz moved his show to the New York NPR station, which was some comfort, but I knew that an era that had lived longer than I could have ever hoped for, was now definitively dead.
Until last week…..
I was searching Youtube for some of the jingles WNEW used to play. For those who remember the station, I was searching for ‘It’s springtime in New York, a wonderful time of year….’. I found a video that, miracle of miracles, led me to the astounding discovery that Metromedia has resurrected the station, after a fashion. The jingles are there, all the tunes are there, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee and, of course, The Chairman of the Board are all there. It is not WNEW as it was in the glory days, but it is more than we could have ever hoped for.
And now, those of you who have missed it as much as I did can now experience Paradise Regained. Those of you who never knew it are in for the treat of a lifetime. Just click here: WNEW-1130
No need to thank me.