Sunday, April 01, 2007

Phil Manicki

UPDATED 5/31/08


Phil was the afternoon man at the Drive when I interviewed him last year. He's now doing nights and I asked him recently how things were going with the new shift...

Phil: The biggest change in doing the night shift for me is not seeing my buddy Bob Stroud every day. That, and having to hurry home for last call. But seriously, it's got to be not being at the station during normal business hours (and not seeing the bosses, either).

That along with the one day delay that sometimes happens with correspondences is probably the biggest change. It necessitates better planning on my part. On the plus side, there are a couple of new features that I get to share:


It's a nightly celebration of the long song...anything over 6:30 is eligible, and while Led Zeppelin, Yes and Pink Floyd are core artists, I get to stretch out with cool "OH WOW" songs from Iron Butterfly, Robin Trower, King Crimson and Jeff Beck to name a few.


Every Thursday, we spotlight a group or artist (sometimes 2 artists) throughout the day, and in the 11:00 pm hour, I get to wrap up the feature with an hour's long fireworks display-like grand finale.


Now here's the original interview...

Phil Manicki is the afternoon host on WDRV-FM 97.1, The Drive. Every weekday afternoon at five he features some of the greatest live recordings in rock on The Drive’s Live at 5.


WPGU-Urbana-Champaign 1981-1984 (second from the left, bottom row)

WWCT-Peoria 1984-1988 (Peoria is really an underrated city. I loved it there.)

WRKU-Youngstown 1988-1989 (I was brought in to start up a new station as Program Director)

WMYG-Pittsburgh 1989-1990

WWRX-Providence 1990-1992 (I was afternoon drive and promotion director)

WPXC-Cape Cod 1992-1995 (I was the Program director there)
Then I was out of the business for a few years, and returned to my hometown of Chicago.

WCKG-Chicago 1998-1999 (I hosted a show called "Lunch with the Stones")

WLUP-Chicago 1999-2001

WDRV-Chicago 2001-Present (I've been there since we signed on. I did nights at first before moving to afternoon drive.)

Rick: You're a Chicago boy--born and bred. How great is it to be on the air in your home town after working around the country?

Phil: It's very cool being on the radio in the world's greatest city. Like you said, I grew up here--around Narragansett and Archer--and went to John F. Kennedy High School. I'm a proud graduate of the Chicago Public School system.

Rick: That explains a lot.

Phil: (laughs) Thanks. In all seriousness, there's really no place like home. I get calls and e-mails all the time from people I grew up with--people who went to school with me. I went to an allergist recently who told me that I went out with his sister a long time ago. I didn't actually go out with her, but I did remember her.

Rick: Growing up in Chicago you heard some of the greatest radio performers in history. Who were some of your childhood heroes?

Phil: Dick Biondi, Larry Lujack, and even Wally Phillips. My mom had him on every morning when I was growing up. I also loved Bob Sirott and Fred Winston. Then, when the rock jocks started on the FM, my favorites were Sky Daniels, Mitch Michaels, and of course, Steve Dahl.

But I have to say, my fondest memory of listening to the radio in Chicago was playing hockey on my driveway on Mobile Avenue, and listening to John Records Landecker doing his Boogie Check.

Rick: You've been a program director and an air personality--which I think is kind of unique these days. Does that give you more sympathy for management or did it give you more empathy for talent when you were in management?

Phil: Both perspectives can really screw you up. Actually, I always tried to be fair as a manager. Being on the talent side first, I knew that air personalities needed and wanted encouragement and positive feedback instead of only focusing on what is going wrong. It definitely helped. Also, on the flip side, having been a manager, I can see the reasons for saying or not saying certain things on the radio. You don't have to be controversial to entertain or inform an audience. Being a father also helped me realize that.

Rick: After doing rock radio for more than twenty years, you've probably met some of your rock and roll heroes. Do you have any good stories?

Phil: I have two favorites. When I was in Peoria I interviewed Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick live at the Heart of Illinois Fair. In order to get a signal back to the station, we had to do the interview from the top of a riser. I was trying to balance my notes, my walkman, my microphone, and my antenna at all at once.

Rick: You were the engineer too?

Phil: Oh yeah. You have to do it all in smaller markets like that. Anyway, as soon as we went live on the air, Rick Nielsen grabbed the notes out of my hand, and he conducted the interview of Robin using my notes. That was such a kick.

The other one happened in Hyannis, Massachusetts. I was interviewing Ted Nugent within spitting distance of the Kennedy compound. He went off on a rant about the Kennedy family, especially their feelings on gun control. In retrospect, that was probably the beginning of the end of my time in Cape Cod.

Rick: If we took a look at Phil Manicki's iPod, would we find any surprises there?

Phil: I really love Captain Beyond's first album. It's like Spirit on steroids. I also like Kings of Leon, which has a cool 70s vibe, sort of a Cream influence. And of course, I still love Zeppelin--especially "Physical Grafitti," and Aerosmith's "Rocks" album. Plus, I really love the Stones--especially "Sticky Fingers." When I was doing the Stones show on WCKG, I got to play whatever I wanted, so I really grew to love the Stones. I have a lot of Blues on my iPod too.

Rick: What songs have you heard one too many times? After playing classic rock for so many years there must be a few songs that you never want to hear again.

Phil: Nice try.

Rick: C'mon. You can tell me. There must be one song you can't stand.

Phil: I love them all, Rick.

Rick: OK, OK. One last question. I know you're a University of Illinois alum. What are your feelings about the Chief controversy?

Phil: Trying to understand the big picture is not easy. The main question is this: 80 years ago it was OK. Now it isn't. What happened? Someone obviously signed off on it, and decided it was done with taste, and meant as a tribute. So when the NCAA uses words like "hostile" and "abusive," that's a problem. I look at it this way; if my kids go there, and I hope they do, they will not be able to enjoy the thrill of the halftime performance that gave me goosebumps so many years ago. I think that's wrong.