Richard Orlando Biondi was born in Endicott, New York, in 1932 to Rose and Michael Biondi, a homemaker and a fireman. Growing up in the Italian neighborhood known as The Nob, Dick described himself as a kid who was always yakking. A devout Catholic, he intended to enter the priesthood. But things changed when 8-year-old Dick discovered a local radio station while spending the summer at his grandparents’ home in Auburn, New York. He stood and watched the announcer until he was invited into the studio one day to read a commercial. When he returned home, his family announced, “We heard you on the radio!” That’s when Dick’s dream was born.
Biondi began his career playing “race” records and soon discovered rock ’n’ roll. At his early record hops, he introduced Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Darin and Paul Anka, and went on to promote many artists’ careers. Dick’s dream came true at superstation WLS in Chicago, where his radio persona, “The Screamer” and “The Wild I-Tralian,” made him the No. 1 DJ in America. It was at WLS in February 1963 that he introduced the first Beatles record to be heard on the radio in the U.S. He later introduced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in concert.
A proud Italian American who kept his real name throughout his career, Biondi was exciting, fun and goofy, but he also had a serious side. His annual toy drive brought joy to countless needy children.
That remarkable story has been captured in a new documentary spearheaded by former fan club president Pamela Pulice, who met Dick in 1961 and has remained a lifelong friend. Among the many high-powered interviewees are Frankie Valli, Brian Wilson, Paul Shaffer, Tom Dreesen, and Ron Onesti. Now in post-production, the film is slated for release this spring. To become a donor or sponsor, visit www.dickbiondifilm.com/donate/
— Joe Farina