At the urging of Program Director Ken Draper, the Chickenman radio series was originally created by Production Director Dick Orkin (pictured) in the fall of 1966 for Chicago’s WCFL as a regular feature on Jim Runyon’s morning show. Runyon, himself, was the series Announcer. Orkin played the Police Commissioner and the winged warrior Chickenman, and station traffic reporter Jane Roberts was the voice of Miss Helfinger.
The series was to be a superhero spoof which would capitalize on the popularity of the then-new Batman TV series. So, in the footsteps of Superman, Batman and Robin, the Green Hornet, and the Lone Ranger, Chickenman became the new champion of justice – “the most fantastic crime fighter the world has ever known” - and assumed the identity of soft-spoken Midland City shoe salesman Benton Harbor. Because he was tied up Monday through Friday selling shoes, he was only available on the weekends to combat the forces of evil (pronounced E-ville).
Initially, scheduled for only a two-week run, Chickenman lasted much longer - for four or five months. Then a syndication company came in and asked if they could distribute the series to other stations around the country. Although there were many young listeners, Chickenman also appealed strongly to adults who remembered the days when adventure series (such as Jack Armstrong – the All American Boy and Captain Midnight) dominated the airwaves weekday afternoons.
Many events beset the feathered fighter in his quest to fight crime. There was the time he leveled City Hall with a “chicken missile,” set his feathers on fire with a hot plate, fell through the bedroom trap door into his own “chicken cave,” and lost his way “winging it” to Minneapolis to address a poultry and egg convention.
Since 1967, Chickenman has been heard on more than 1500 radio stations in the U.S. and overseas. That year, Atco Records released a 9-track LP titled The Best of Chickenman (Atco 33-207) featuring great moments from the popular series.
Today (2005) diehard fans who can’t get enough of Chickenman can buy the ultimate collector’s package, a 14-CD box set of all 273 episodes, plus bonus material featuring interviews with key players, behind the scenes stories, and an official color photo autographed by Chickenman himself, from sources online.
1968 - 1969 WONN (Featured Program)