Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fred Winston


It's a long one. I arrived in Chicago in 1971.

WLS-AM 890, (1971-1976) I did afternoon drive at first, then they moved me to 9-Noon, then Noon-3, then 10-2, and then morning drive my last three years.

WMAQ-AM 670 (1976-1977) This was during the country days.."WMAQ's gonna make you rich! Not me."

WFYR-FM 103.5 (1977-1981) Adult contemporary format.
(Photo by John Kelly)
WCFL-AM 1000 (1981-1982) I did morning drive there.

WLS-AM 890 (1982-1989) I stayed there until the station changed formats. They asked me to stay on to do angry confrontational talk, but I just didn't want to do it.

WJMK-FM 104.3 (1989-1991) I did mornings on the Oldies station. That stint was enough to make me leave the business for a few years and become a talent coach/agent. I did that until 1994.

WLUP-FM 97.9 (1994) I did the overnight show to help out a buddy for a little while.

WPNT-FM 100.3 (1994-1998). Morning drive on an adult contemporary station. I really enjoyed that. Stayed aboard until an ownership change forced me out.

WXXY-FM 103.1 (1998-2000). Afternoon drive on the 80's channel.

WMVP-AM 1000 (2000). Middays for a few months, until they changed formats to sports talk. After that I left the business again for a little while, until I started filling in at WJMK again.

WJMK-FM 104.3 (2002-2006). Did afternoons there, and stayed with it through the transition to HD Radio.

Now I fill in occasionally at Real Oldies (94.7), and hang out at my farm in Southwestern Michigan.

(Photo: That's Fred on WLS-TV a few years ago, the day he changed jobs with the traffic reporter)

Rick: Every radio vet has a story about the early days, and the dues you had to pay. What is your story?

Fred: To be honest with you, the dues paying never ends. It gets worse. I'm not saying that bitterly, it's just a fact. Plus, when you're 15 or 20, it's not a big deal. You can work 24 hours a day if you need to, and you barely even notice. When you're 50 or 60, it's a little different. The longer you're around, the more you run into myopic programmers. They put you in a box and can't see outside the box. So, each time you start somewhere new, and look at my resume here--I know what I'm talking about--you have to pay your dues all over again every time. There is no such thing as resting on your laurels.

Rick: I think that's true, but why do you think that your generation of personalities has such legendary longevity. Why isn't there another generation of great personalities to take your place?

Fred: That's an easy answer. I really think it's the fragmentation of FM radio formats. When my generation grew up, the big AM stations had personalities on the air all day long. Each of us emulated those guys, created a mixture of their personalities, adapted it to fit our own personalities, and created new ones. The FM-radio generation didn't have those examples to emulate. Plus, consultants came in and program directors stopped being talent coaches. They became businessmen and politicians instead. When it was time to develop new talent, there was no one to teach them. Ownership, consultants, and programmers homogenized the biz because it was easier, less trouble, and less expensive. And now they are paying the price for it.

Rick: If you were to put together your all-star station, who would be on the air--other than yourself.

Fred: My night-time guy would be my good buddy Dick Biondi. He is such a great people person. He has more energy than two people 1/3 his age. He's the ultimate survivor. I'd also have Dan Sorkin. You may not remember him, but he was on WCFL in the '60s and was way ahead of his time. Very funny--a true personality. I'd also have the great Ken Nordine doing an overnight jazz show. Can you imagine how cool that would be? Plus, you have to include Larry Lujack and Steve Dahl. Larry is a great performer, and I love how dark he is, and Steve has his own distinctive style. No one can copy his style--he's a true original. All of those guys have one thing in common. They are all really intelligent. That's key. My program director would have to be Dave Martin. He's the very best.

Rick: What about your favorite and least favorite radio guests?

Fred: Least favorite is easy--Robert Conrad. He came into my studio like a boa constrictor after partying all night. He was hostile, rude, and aggressive. As for favorites, I have so many it's hard to pick a few. I'd say Robert Wagner is about the kindest, most decent guy I've had on my show. There are a lot of people like that in the business, but he really stands out. Also, I loved talking to author Anne Rice. She really opened up--told me all about her inner demons. As for musicians, Leo Kotke is one of my favs.

Rick: Do you have any regrets? Things you wish you hadn't done? Things you wish you had done?

Fred: Yes I do. I really wish I had my feet more on the ground in my heyday in the 1970s. I wish I was more responsible and less of a crazy artist. There are so many things I would have done differently. What I really needed was an agent or advisor to guide me.

Rick: What was the worst advice someone ever gave you?

Fred: A PD in Cincinnati named Charlie Murdoch once told me to consider another industry. He told me I should sell insurance because I had no talent. I used that to motivate myself.

Rick: And finally, do you have any advice for the youngsters, the next Fred Winstons?

Fred: Save your money. Marry a good woman.

A special thanks to Robert Feder for mentioning the blog in his Chicago Sun Times column on Friday.

I found this on YouTube. A very classy video tribute to Fred