(Portrait Photoshop by: Stephen Janci Sr.)
BOB MACK: "Mack's Wax Museum"
The first rumblings of what was eventually to become "The Pittsburgh Sound" began in 1958 with the formulation of teen dances featuring music that could be heard no where else on the planet. Among a small group of local DJ's spinning these obscure records, entrepreneur Robert McConnell (Bob Mack) realized that here was a winning formula- Give teens passionate jocks spinning the bluesiest ballads and wildest rockers that had somehow fallen below the nations top-40 radar when they were first introduced and they'd show up en masse. And show up they did- IF you had "The Records"! Pittsburgh's local dance DJ's and record collectors began a frantic search for these previously-unknown and often rare 45's, touching off a worldwide demand that continues to this day.
A DJ himself, Bob's passion for sharing music that had the Pittsburgh Sound continued to gain a following among local teens, and as his weekend dance venues grew in number and popularity the idea of hosting his own radio show seemed promising. Utilizing his home recording studio one evening in March of 1963 a demo tape was prepared; the following morning Bob drove to radio station WZUM 1590AM and pitched his concept of a show devoted exclusively to playing obscure records he called "Mack Monsters". Explaining the success of his dance venues and his vision of a huge untapped audience for the music, Bob offered his tape along with a request to "Give it a listen... Here's my business card, I can start tomorrow". It should be noted that prior to Bob Mack's arrival the small dawn-to-dusk AM broadcaster with its ethnic/ local based format had been unable to "run with the big boys", as they say; Broadcasting powerhouses KDKA and KQV had a lock on easy listening/top-40 radio and the growing Soul/R&B market was dominated in Pittsburgh by WHOD 860AM (later re-named WAMO) due to its polished format and popular DJs including an up-and-comer by the name of Craig 'Porky' Chedwick! The 'new' oldies program obviously caught the attention of WZUM's station manager Jim Psihoulis, however, and by the time Bob returned home his telephone was already ringing. "This is Jim, can you be here tomorrow at 3?"
"Mack's Wax Museum" with DJ Bob Mack went on the air the following afternoon at 3PM. Pittsburgh's airwaves would never be the same again as the many thousands of teens who had never attended a dance were introduced to the unique sound of Mack Monsters via their radios... and went wild! Within three months Mack's Wax Museum garnered for hitherto unknown WZUM its first-ever Arbitron rating; within six months, it was Pittsburgh's top-rated music program!! All this by featuring songs that in years past had rarely charted or garnered significant national airplay... Go figure! Radio success continued for Bob Mack until station management sought to expand the show's demographic reach (over his strong objections) by including current R&B hits into his playlist of obscurities. The show's popularity declined with Bob often poking fun on-air at the records he was required to play. This discontent eventually resulted in Bob giving notice on March 14 (his birthday) that he would be leaving his top-rated gig to devote more time to his teen dance clubs and other ventures. After his departure in 1965 the station's ratings once again plummeted into the "others" category until the arrival of "Mad Mike" Metrovich later that year.
Click here for a 2MB mp3 download of WZUM station jingles and Wax Museum airchecks!
For a comprehensive history of Bob Mack, Mad Mike, and the genesis of 'The Pittsburgh Sound' Click here.
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