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Washington DC

Alex Mitchell on 1540 WDON Washington

Originally posted on September 24, 2006

From the late-70s (I’m guessing 1977) when Jimmy Carter was still president and the Nation’s Capitol still had music on AM, here’s Oldies WDON. Alex Mitchell sounds excellent in this, a very AC sounding Oldies-based station.

WDON bills itself as “Washington’s Gold Rush”. Well, this is unique. You’ll never hear The Partridge Family played on any of the remaining Oldies stations today!

1540 AM Washington DC WDON Don Dillard WMDO WVCA






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13 Comments


  1. WDON-1540 was in part an attempt to fill a format void left by the change of an FM (!) station away from oldies. Sonderling’s WMOD-98.7 became a partially-automated oldies station in the fall of 1968 and was successful for several years, as it added more live talent. But by sometime around 1975-76, it had drifted away from oldies into a somewhat subdued Top 40, maybe even AC, slicing between WPGC-FM/AM (95.5/1580) and WASH-97.1, an FM AC pioneer. WDON, a non-directional daytimer, changed hands sometime around 1974 or 1975, and the new owners (don’t know name) took the opportunity. Stan Karas (spelling may be incorrect), heard on at least one spot on this aircheck, had been a personality at NBC’s WRC-980 in its MOR-full-service days and by the mid-1970’s was involved in sales, management and eventually station ownership. Andy Parks, who programmed WDON and was morning host, today (2007) is a morning personality on WMAL-630, the ABC-owned news-talk station. WDON ended up jumping (too late) onto the disco bandwagon around 1979, then became some form of Christian music station and eventually was sold and became Spanish as WMDO and later WACA. Alex Mitchell always sounded good wherever he worked around DC. Thanks for the memories.

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  2. I just wanted to write, after finding this website by ‘accident’, if you will, when it just popped into my head about a station I used to listen to back in 1956-59, that being, of course WDON. You had a disc jockey named ‘Don Dillard’? It was the ONLY station I listened to with any real interest, because he played the songs that I was really interested in plus those songs that most of the other stations didn’t play, simply because they were not top 40 or whatever. There were a lot of popular songs that weren’t top 40, but were still very good, and Don Dillard played them. Funny, after all these years, I should think of and remember your station, and as I did, it brought back many pleasant memories. However, it seems to me, that WDON, at the time, was in Wheaton, Md, although I cannot be positive about that, but I do believe it was. Funny, after all these years, and just turning 70 years young, your station just sort of came into my head, so I tried to find out if indeed, the station still existed, and so, I presume that this be the station.

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  3. WDON was indeed a Wheaton MD station, transmitters located near the intersection of University and Veirs Mill Road and studios (for a while) on Georgia Avenue near Reedie Drive. The Wheaton Studio of Dance was (and still is) located on the lower level and would from time to time WDON would complain to Joanie Reese (sp?) about the noise coming upstairs into the studio. Gotta love it when 10 eight year olds are tapping thier hearts out in a bare wall, tile floor dance studio!

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  4. worked at wdon from jan 1 1966 – july 13 1974 it was country then tom cat reeder and jerry grey were the other dj’s

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  5. Yes, Don Dillard was indeed not only a DJ at WDON, but was the radio station owner’s son! Yes he played a lot of the music nobody else would play. When I found the station I was 9 or 10 years old. It was the days of the Wah Tusi, Bobby’s girl, and many old Doo Wop records I am still discovering and remembering as I go along. He also featured the Coca Cola Old Timer’s session just before sign off at dark. Don was very active at Glen Echo Amusement Park as well. I remember going there to ride the Coaster Dips, an old wooden roller coaster that at the time seemed very big to me as a 10 year old.
    When the Beatles came upon the music scene, Don Dillard vanished as did his dad. The station once again became a primarily country format until that was replaced with the oldies format. It was sooooo good to hear WDON once again play the Wah Tusi as it did many years ago. I had one of the picuterd bumper stickers on my van!
    The little studio in Wheaton and the radio tower still stand, but the office is empty these days. Last I heard it was a Latino station, and I lost interest in it.

    Don Dillard left us a few years back; Passed away in his 70’s. A huge loss for D.C. area radio buffs. I must say I was hoping maybe someone with a reel to reel tape machine might have captured some of those magic moments. I was too young then and had no money or recorder to save the memories.

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    • It’s now 2016 & I’m just getting around to reading some of the Don Dillard / WDON postings. My High Point High School rock band got started in 1957. When we,The Belvederes, heard that Dillard was bringing “his” band, Terry & The Pirates, to High Point for a sock hop, I called the station when Don was broadcasting and I challenged “his” band to a Battle of the Bands. Dillard had never heard of us, but he was intrigued at the idea. So, he and a friend or two came to a Belvederes rehearsal one night and they flipped out. From there on out we were promoted on his station, just as the Pirates were promoted, and we shared the stage with them at Dillard’s record hops throughout the area. Ironically, the only “tape” that I have involving WDON is a very bad recording that my sister captured, using a tiny mic in front of a little radio. Barry Richards, a junior high school kid who hung around the station, was the ongoing WDON champion guest DJ for that month. His teenaged challenger failed to show up that particular day, so Don prevailed upon me to be a substitute guest DJ. I drove home, grabbed some of my favorite 45’s, and as soon as I arrived at the station he put me on the air. I do have Don’s voice on the tape that day, and some of the tunes I played that day. Barry, of course, ultimately became known years later as the “boss with the hot sauce” on his channel 20 show. I also have tape of the Belvederes at WDON rehearsing a couple of original tunes that I wrote, using the station’s recording equipment. Dillard had become our manager, and when a friend of his opened an alcohol-free “teenage nightclub” called The Keen Club, in Rockville, MD, the Belvederes were the featured band at night. Ironically, the guy who entertained solo on the piano and sang from 4 to 7 pm prior to The Belvederes taking the stage, was Mickey Gilley who later went on to fame and fortune. I remember Don as a golf nut; and he seemed to like to make bets. I remember him walking into the studio one day carrying TWO sets of golf clubs … his and the clubs of a guy who lost a bet with Don. “Those were the days, my friend, I thought they’d never end.” Tommy “Cole” Dercola.

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    • Our band the “Off-Keys” a nine piece R&B/Rock band played for Don Dillards Sox-Hops.
      We also played for the competition, Milt Grants Hops. We had fun at all the clean, safe events. The Savoys also played for these events. This ‘Saxman” has hung it up last year, but his granddaughter is playin sax and many other instruments extending the Moody tradition. I’ve been hanging out in sunny Key West creating artworks, music and writing for the last 28 years.

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  7. I, too, was a faithful listener of Don Dillard in the late 50’s. He played great music and lots of rockabilly kind of stuff. I think of him and WDON often as I listen to 50’s music on satellite radio!

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  8. You WILL hear The Partridge Family on WTIX-FM 94.3 in New Orleans. Michael Costello is the co-owner and the morning man so he gets to say alot of things a “regular” DJ couldn’t say. And he’s very funny too….

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  9. I was a dj at WDON I was also in sales.
    I was there in 1968 to 1971. I worked
    with al sellers, Tom cat Reeder and Don dillard.

    Everett Dillard was a good man to work for.
    Bill Robin and Ed Hinkle were the engineers. Gertrude Kippler was the station
    Mgr. Tom ” cat ” and Don have passed on.

    Had some good times a WDON. I am retired and live in Cantonment, fl.

    Hey AL if you read this get in touch I’d
    to hear from you.

    Bobby Morris
    aka
    widmarc clark

    Reply

    • Bobby, I too worked for Everett Dillard for awhile, around 1971 – 72. Indeed, he was a good man.

      I was Ed Hinkle’s assistant and worked on the board early Saturday and Sunday mornings.

      Ed, if you read this, I’ll like to hear from you.

      ~ Dan

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  10. I Met “Ricky Nelson” At WDON As A Child…..Have A Pic. With Him Too….. When “Garden Party” Came Out…..My Mom’s Best Friend “Margaret Colburn” Was The Secretary There At The Time…..Al Sellers, I Remember You Well….Great Laugh You Have !

    Reply

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