By Adam Bernstein Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Don Dillard, 74, a freewheeling disc jockey who helped introduce rock-and-roll to the Washington area from his tiny Wheaton station, died May 28 at his home in Annapolis after an apparent heart attack.
Starting in the mid-1950s, Mr. Dillard and TV dance show host Milt Grant were dominant players in the effort to bring rock to local audiences at a time when the non-threatening pop of singers Doris Day and Frankie Laine prevailed on the dial.
Many radio stations were cautious about playing too much rock at that transitional moment before rock's ascendancy, and so they interspersed Elvis Presley or Little Richard with Pat Boone, Eydie Gormé and Andy Williams. Mr. Dillard is not remembered as approaching his craft gingerly.
On WDON-AM, Mr. Dillard enjoyed rare freedom to broadcast whatever he liked: rock-and-roll, rockabilly, black and white doo-wop, and rhythm-and blues. He was under no commercial pressure from the station's owner, who happened to be his father, an entrepreneur who also owned WASH-FM and a network of 52 other radio stations in the Mid-Atlantic region.