Late WING DJ sang a few chart-toppers in the 1950s

Dale Wright began his career in music at age 12



SFX: 1950s-era telephone rings

Record Exec: “No-Hit Record Company.”

Timid caller: “Uh, hello, uh, I haven’t had any experience but I’ve written a song that my mother thinks is the greatest. I think you ought to record it because I’m sure you’d sell a million copies.”

Record Exec: “I’m sorry but we’re not interested.”

Timid caller: “But, mister…”

Record Exec: “Sorry kid, that’s show biz.”

That little vignette opens “That’s Show Biz,” the infectious but completely tongue-in-check 1959 rock ‘n’ roll single from Dale Wright. By that point the Middletown-born singer was seven singles into his career and had written some really good songs, including one verified Top 40 hit. His second single for Fraternity Records, “She’s Neat,” was released in 1957. It peaked at 38 and was the biggest commercial success of his brief singing career.

In a short review in the Dec. 29, 1957 issue of the “Tampa Bay Times,” writer Chick Ober proclaimed the song had “strong hit possibilities.” Hearing “She’s Neat” today, it’s easy to see why this catchy little nugget resonated with critics, disc jockeys and radio listeners.

Wright, born Harlan Dale Riffe on Feb. 4, 1938, was an early achiever. He started his disc jockey career in Middletown when he was 12. At 15, he bested more than 1,000 area teens to win a DJ contest sponsored by WING in Dayton. His prize winnings included a two-month internship at the station, which led to weekend shifts throughout high school and beyond.

Wright was a 19-year-old freshman at the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and still doing weekends at WING when he signed to Fraternity Records in 1957. Like most of his songs, he wrote “Walk With Me” and “I’m the Lovin’ Type,” which became his first 45 for the Cincinnati-based label. He was backed by the Rock-Its on this record as well as the follow-up, “She’s Neat” b/w “Say That You Care.”

Wright’s third Fraternity single failed to chart in 1958, but he hit the Hot 100 again with the next single, “Please Don’t Do It” b/w “Goody Goody Good-bye,” which peaked at number 77. Three more 45s followed, but none were hits. His final release was, “That’s Show Biz,” in 1959.

Wright transitioned to broadcasting fulltime and worked in television at WKRC in Cincinnati before returning to radio. Wright, who worked at WNVL in Nicholasville, Kentucky for 20 years, passed away in Lexington in 2007. While his singles are long out-of-print, his catalog was compiled on “She’s Neat: The Fraternity Sides” (1992), which is streaming on Spotify.

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