Monday, January 25, 2016

Your Polka Master Bill BeDilion

The Club Continental in McKeesport, PA ran regular ads in the Daily Notes" newspaper of Cannonsburg, PA plugging their polka shows. They also bought inches from the Evening Standard and the Union herald in Uniontown until at least 1965. They scheduled a Polka dance every Friday night from 8:00 PM to 2:00 AM. The booked the Polka Hops, the Invicta Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Pol-cats, the Uniontown Polish Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Polkakats. They claimed to have the largest dance floor in the area. On July 2nd the Master of Ceremonies was Bill BeDilion of the 1450 WJPA-AM Polka Party.

Looking at that picture of Bill above It's clear he's holding a black disc in his right hand. That can only be a transcription disc, at least a 16 inches in diameter. Minus a white label it's not impressive looking, and it's presence in the shot is ambiguous. I saw the post card on eBay and it bore no postmark so the only date I have for reference is that single 1952 advert.

WJPA was founded by a "consortium of business owners" from the Washington PA area on February 1, 1941. Until recently they still claimed that some of the original founders are reputed to still be part owners. That seems unlikely in 2016 given normal actuarial tables, but it's license is still held by the Washington Broadcasting Co. Today WJPA is an oldies station, with a bit of sports and news, simulcasting it's AM and FM sides. It's one of the increasingly rare music stations on the AM band.

WJPA was still airing  a few lingering weekend hours of polka as late as 1996. [SOURCE] but that last polka program was cancelled by the PD because he didn't want WJPA to be known as a "polka station." His concern was reasonable. Polka is treated as a joke genre in America, not a pejoratively but more like a stale slapstick gag. It's a form of disrespect other ethic music genres don't have to endure. Even WMUZ cut it's polka hours this year. [SOURCE] A poster on Radio recently wrote "I would venture that WKZV makes zero income Monday-Friday and keeps the lights on with polkas and other brokered time slots on the weekend." Their comment was aimed at another Western PA station, but the sentiment is the same.  Where is Bill BeDilion when you need him?