Worldwide internet listeners are in for a thrill as the Little Bossman Show takes to the airwaves on jukinoldies.com each Tuesday 10-Midnight EST. With a prise collection of classics rhythm & blues the Pittsburgh-born, California based Little Bossman, AKA Bill Roberts, specializes in mixing frantic rave ups with smooth vocal group harmony to create some of the most satisfying musical sessions on contemporary radio. Roberts’ mix of affable charm and Jive exhortations have a boundless appeal to not only his core audience “wrinkled rockers” in Bossman parlance-but also to younger listeners just discovering the exciting world of 1950s-era black music.
A natural hipster, the Little Bossman was born for this job: “I became an admirer of the music very early. I’d take the keys to my brother’s car and sneak out to listen to the radio until the battery went dead or he caught me” He said. “As a teenager I often went to record hops that featured popular local disc jockeys like Porky Chadwick.
I lived just a short distance from the Jumpin’ Jive Beehive where Porky appeared each week. He had some thing very special and I’d go to his hops all the time. The first rock & roll show I saw there featured Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Frankie Lyman & Teenagers, The Chantels, Dickey Do & Don’ts, The Blond Bombshell Joanne Campbell, and a host of others-that was my introduction to rock& roll.
“I had always loved radio, and disc jockeys were a very important part of my life. I’d hang out at the local radio stations every chance I got. This is when I discovered that many really excellent records, 45s mostly, were simply chucked into the dumpsters once the station had rejected most of them for airplay. I became a collector and eventually acquired a stack of oddball 45s, most of them very limited vinyl pressings. One day-finally-Porky invited me to come by the station and play them.”
Once he got in front of the microphone, the Little Bossman was hooked, and those “oddball 45s” that he liberated from the trash bins remain the heart of his broad cast repertoire, minor masterpieces of vernacular pop culture. “I love these recordings and am pleased to present these rare, unusual and hard to find discs each week on my show. “Old records never die, they just groove away,” He said.
A glorious throwback to the heyday of the untamed personality jock, the Little Bossman unfailingly delivers the goods with self-deprecating charm and sounds that you’re unlikely to hear anywhere else.
By RON PAGLIA
For the Mon Valley Independent
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Bill Roberts has lived elsewhere most of his adult life. But a large part of his heart and soul remain firmly planted in southwestern Pennsylvania, specifically the areas he worked as” “The Little Bossman” with legendary disc jockey Craig “Porky” Chedwick.
“I grew up in Little Washington, Pa., just a short distance — 18 miles — from Charleroi,” said Roberts from his home near San Bernardino, CA, where he hosts a popular Internet radio show. “I attended Washington High School — home of the Little Prexies — and was graduated in 1959.”
While still in junior high, Roberts began listening to popular local disc jockeys, mostly from the Pittsburgh market — e.g., Barry Kaye, Jay Michael and ‘”the one who offered something very special with his music and style on the radio … Porky Chedwick.”
Chedwick’s popular show aired each day at 4 p.m. over WAMO in Homestead.
“The station’s signal was difficult to pick up — hardly audible — in Washington, but we turned up the volume and listened as best we could,” Roberts said.
“One day, Porky announced he would be making an appearance at the roller skating rink in Washington,” he continued. “The record hop was a huge success, but I wound up on the outside listening in. I was turned away because I was too young. But I was standing out front when Porky showed up on a motorcycle with his satchel of records. What a cool image!
“I stayed out front of the arena and listened to the sounds pouring from the inside. I could only imagine what I was missing. I was hooked on Porky and his music.”
Bee Hive Dances
So much so that Roberts later began following Chedwick to his myriad record hops throughout the area including those at the Jumpin’ Jive Bee Hive in Charleroi.
“I always thought that (Jumpin’ Jive Bee Hive) was such a cool name,” said Roberts. “I wished I had thought of it first. They always had large crowds there and the kids were great dancers and very friendly.”
Roberts recalled that Chedwick usually brought popular recording artists to his dances so they could introduce their music to live audiences. Among those who appeared at the hops were such local artists as the Smoothtones, the El Capris and the El Vinos as well as such national performers as Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Coasters, lovely Jo Ann Campbell and many, many others.
Eventually, Roberts was befriended by Chedwick, who was known among his many entertainment personas as “The Bossman.”
“Shortly after receiving my driver’s license, I began driving Porky to his record hops,” Roberts recalled. “Due to the overwhelming number of hops he was offered, Porky began calling me ‘The Little Bossman” and started sending me to be the DJ in his place What a thrill that was.”
One such assignment took Roberts to Redd’s Beach in Fallowfield Twp. in 1961.
“They hired Porky but due to his heavy schedule, they got me instead,” Roberts said. “The outdoor setting was unique at the time, being that it was a teenage nighttime pool party and dance featuring Porky’s music. Needless to say, there were some memorable times.”
Roberts and Chedwick returned to Redd’s Beach (now Pine Cove Swim Club) for a successful encore in 1962.
Ensuingly, Roberts landed a job with the Pittsburgh record distributor, Fenway Records, to garner airplay for newly-released songs by such artists as the Supremes, Johnny Rivers, Bobby Vee, Roger Miller and many others as well as local performers
Moves To KDKA
Roberts added to his growing entertainment resume’ when he accepted a job as music director at KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh.
“I was assigned to build the station’s teen demographics by choosing music to appeal to a younger audience and to boost KDKA’s popular afternoon disc-jockey, Clark Race,” Roberts recalled. “Clark was a true professional and a pleasure to work with.”
It was at this time that KDKA was in an ongoing ratings battle with KQV, the area’s most popular station among teen-agers at the time. Music was beginning to change, and the British Invasion ensured the transition.
‘Not many in the business at the time saw the music inundation from across the Atlantic Ocean,” said Roberts. “Fortunately, I had contacts in the United Kingdom and KDKA was able to keep well ahead of KQV in airing records by the Beatles long before they were released to the public in the United States. As a result, Clark Race’s popularity seemed to soar.”
Another feather in KDKA’s collective cap occurred in 1964 when the Rolling Stones arrived in America for a brief promotional tour. The staff at KDKA hosted a brunch for Mick Jagger and his crew at the Pittsburgh Hilton.
“That’s where I met a very young Mick Jagger,” said Roberts. “The introduction paid off years later when I moved to Hollywood. I had the honor of appearing on one of the twelve postcards that came with the Stone’s classic album, ‘Exile on Main Street.’ I was pictured as the captain of the ship that brought the Stones to America and my wife Kathy is standing with Mick. The photos were shot by famed photo journalist Norman Seif on a sound stage at a Hollywood studio.”
Roberts’ stint at KDKA ended in late 1964 when he was called by Uncle Sam to serve in the U.S. Army. After returning to civilian life, he landed a job with Liberty Records, a California-based firm, to handle Pittsburgh promotion for the label and its stable of artists. He represented such performers as Jackie DeShannon, Dennis Yost of Classic IV, Johnny Rivers, Canned Heat and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band among others.
Not long after, Roberts was transferred to Chicago to represent Liberty in the Windy City. It was there that he met and became friends with popular disc-jockey Dick Biondi and other record-spinners of that era.
After nearly a year of enduring “The Hawk” — a popular term used to describe the Chicago winter wind that blew off Lake Michigan — Roberts pulled up stakes and landed in Los Angeles as national promotion director for Liberty Records, United Artists and the iconic Imperial Records that signed and recorded the legendary Fats Domino.
Among the artists with whom he worked in the ensuing years were Electric Light Orchestra, War, Ike and Tina Turner and the Fifth Dimension, all of whom earned gold and/or platinum records for their efforts. He also toured with Elton John and Rod Stewart, among others.
The mid-1970s brought a major change to Roberts’ career path. He formed a partnership with LA producer and artist manager Bill McEuen. They moved their headquarters to Aspen, Colorado, the international ski mecca and home of John Denver.
“We were fortunate to help manage the careers of versatile entertainer Steve Martin and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,” Roberts recalled. “We eventually landed a solid movie deal for Steve.”
Roberts eventually found California calling again and he returned there in retirement.
:”I’m 82 now and I love living in California,” he said. “Life is good and allows me to enjoy my hobby of providing radio shows to Internet platforms and sharing the music I grew up listening to with the many fans that tune in to my weekly programs.”
Roberts’ love for radio and appreciation of disc jockeys was enhanced when Porky Chedwick invited him to appear on his WAMO show.
“Once I got in front of the microphone, I was hooked,” he said
The music he played then makes up the format of his Internet presentations. The broadcast repertoire features “minor masterpieces of vernacular pop culture.”
“I love these recordings and I’m pleased to present the rare and hard-to-find discs on my show,’” he said.
“Although many of the great artists whose music I play have passed on, their voices never die — they just groove on with our show.”
Listen to Bill…
To enjoy the music and talents of Bill “The Little Bossman” Roberts and The Jumpin’ Jive Beehive Show, log in to www.jukinoldies.com every Tuesday evening from 10 p.m. to midnight. Roberts also can be contacted via email at [email protected] and on Facebook.
The Little Bossman