R.I.P. Richard Pegue
Chicago has been a hotbed of vintage soul lately. In addition to the Numero Group’s upcoming Eccentric Soul Revue at the Park West, the Ambassador East hotel currently is showcasing a week-long soul festival presented by a U.K. promoter. In the midst of all this activity, a giant of the Chicago scene has passed away. Richard Pegue—noted DJ, producer, songwriter and musician—died of a heart attack Monday.
Richard Pegue was born on July 29, 1944 in Chicago to a beautician and a policeman. More than any other local disc jockey (save for Herb Kent), Pegue did a lot to spread the concept of “dusties,” basically another way of saying “African-American oldies.” His Saturday dusties show jumped from station to station for the last 28 years, from high-wattage frequencies like WGCI-FM to college stations like Kennedy-King’s WKKC (which is where he could be heard in recent years), but still managed a deep following. At one point in the ‘80s, his show was so popular that a competing black station (the long-gone WBMX) slotted a similar show on Sunday afternoons.
As an old drop-in on Pegue's show used to say, "when you hear the same songs on Sunday afternoons that you hear on Saturday nights, you know everybody's listening to Richard Pegue and the Best Music Of Your Life!" The competing show on WBMX tanked. The DJs had little connection to the songs played, and often sounded like they didn’t want one, wisecracking, “This is my older brother's record, I’m way too young to remember this!”
Pegue, as he pointed out, was there when it happened. He spun stories about the time he stole some guitar sheet music from a '60s Gene Chandler session, or the time his old singing group were recording at Chess Records while “these ugly white guys” (better known as the Rolling Stones) waited their turn.
More importantly, he was proud of the local music scene. A typical Pegue show featured a heavy dose of the Chicago sound, usually from local acts who never broke nationally. Every now and then he’d play something he produced himself, like Renaldo Domino’s “Not Too Cool To Cry” (1969) or Little Ben & the Cheers’ "I’m Not Ready To Settle Down” (1965). In a city that boasted several producers with individualistic sounds, Pegue was not afraid to leave his touches all over a record—the Domino song is the only sweet soul song I can think of offhand with a fiddle solo. And true to his altar-boy roots, several of Pegue’s productions had eerie choral backgrounds.
On August 15, 2004, Pegue guested on Bob Abrahamian’s "Sitting In The Park" radio show on WHPK-FM; you can hear him tell his story here. If only for the TV jingles he created for the Moo & Oink meat shop, you know Pegue’s going to a good place.