Although I grew up just an hour away from Madison, I didn’t listen to legendary Top 40 station WISM every day. Its signal, on AM at 1480, wasn’t especially great where I lived, and it went away entirely at night. But when I visited my cousin in Madison during the summer, we’d listen, and if I was ever coming to town at any other time, I’d listen. Plus, the voices were inescapable: in that era, nobody on the Madison airwaves was more familiar than Jonathan Little. It seemed like he was on dozens of commercials we’d see on TV or hear on other radio stations.
So I was pretty excited when I heard about the WISM reunion last Saturday night. And with good reason: it was an amazing three hours of radio, with Jonathan, Charlie "Rock & Roll" Simon, and Pat O'Neill playing the hits and telling stories, with montages of old WISM jingles and clips from old WISM shows. It was tremendous. The response from listeners was tremendous, too. Ann and I were two of them, in the car on our way back to town that night, and when we got here I said, “We gotta go over there.” And so we did. The last 20 minutes of the show took place with she and I lurking in the back of the studio, me with a big stupid smile plastered on my face because I couldn’t believe where I was, or what I was hearing.
WISM doesn't exist anymore, but that great radio station is in our DNA. (Magic is the old WISM-FM.) We're standing on the shoulders of all those people who came before: not just Charlie and Jonathan, but Clyde Coffee and Bill Short, Sam Francisco and Rockin' Robin Steele, and the dozens of others who made WISM so important to Madison during the 1960s and 1970s. If they hadn't done what they did, we wouldn't be doing what we do.