I interviewed Mark two years ago when he was in California programming a few stations out there. He has since returned to his hometown of Chicago, and I had the chance to catch up with him recently to ask him what he is doing these days...
Mark: I left my position as High Desert Broadcasting Rock Programmer (KLKX and KKZQ) in June of 2008. I came back to Chicago, and re-branded my production company (formerly named Zanderadio Productions) as 4C Studios. In addition to producing The Rockin' 80's (we just celebrated 5 years as a national show!), this past March we launched another national show, The Rockin' 70's. We continue to produce other national content for various clients, and soon will launch a new and unique podcast aimed at a very specific and passionate audience. I have recently done some fill-in work at WERV for Next Media, and have gone back to teaching at Illinois Center For Broadcasting, where I previously taught for ten years.
The original interview follows...
Mark Zander rocked Chicago for many years as the host of "The Rockin 80s" at stations like WCKG and WLUP. He is now the afternoon host and program director at KLKX 93-5 The Quake & and also the program director of KKZQ 100.1 The Edge, just outside Los Angeles.
*I started my career as "Mark Edwards" at WDND, an AC station in the middle of a corn field (seriously!) in Wilmington, Illinois.
*I went on to work Top 40 at WBUS.
*Then I scored my first fulltime gig at WCFL being the overnight host & music director (the second coming of WCFL in Morris, IL). It was a 60's and 70's oldies station with high-energy boss jocks and original WCFL jingles. We even had echo processing on-air like the old CFL did!
*From there, hired at WQFM-Milwaukee.
*After that, I worked at many stations, including
WCBR (afternoons and director of operations/production)
and now KLKX (afternoons and program director).
Rick: You're a North-side Chicago boy, born and raised here. Who were some of the people on the radio that you admired growing up?
Zander: Born on the north side, grew up on the south side. Don't even ask whether it's Cubs or Sox!
I admired so many, but to only name a few...Larry Lujack, Johnny Brandmeier, John Landecker, Steve Dahl, Sky Daniels, Frank E. Lee, Dave Benson, Bob Stroud, Bobby Skafish, Terry Gibson. I guess that's more than a few, huh?!
Rick: One of the previous Chicago Radio Spotlights (Terry Gibson) played an important part in your career too. How did he influence you?
Zander: I was a college student attending classes when he first came to town working the night shift at WLUP. I called him once and asked him about radio...you know some behind the scenes stuff. He was very gracious in answering all my questions. I called him again and again over the next few years. He eventually invited me up to the old WLUP studios to meet me and critique my tape. Soon after that I started my career, and would check in with him from time to time to let him know how I was doing. Then in 1994, I was sitting in Dave Richards' office at WRCX (ROCK 103-5) after being hired for weekends/fill-in. Terry, doing afternoons, comes walking into Dave's office...and nearly fell down at the sight of me there being hired as the newest member of the staff! Since then Terry (photo) and I have been buddies, never more so since reconnecting in 2005. Now we’re both in L.A. and hang out as much as we can!
Rick: Before you made it to WCKG and the Loop, you worked at just about every suburban radio station in the area. What are some of your fondest memories from those days?
Zander: The charm of the less-than-state of the art studios, owners actually occupying an office in the building, the camaraderie and competition between new talent trying to start their careers. It is so voice-tracked and corporate now; those days seem a million miles behind us. As far as a specific station? I would have to say doing Afternoons and being the Operations Manager at WCBR (92.7 THE BEAR) was a great experience all-around. Musically, it out-xrt’ed WXRT!!
Rick: People remember you most for your 80's show ("Rock of the 80s") which aired on WCKG in the 90s, and then also at WXXY and the Loop after that. Tell us how that show came to be, and it's still on the air now, isn't it?
Zander: I created Rock Of The 80's in 1997 at WCKG. I have Reid Reker, then PD, to thank for the trust he put in me, and opportunity he gave me to create and program my own radio show in Chicago...something FEW can truthfully claim. (Photo: Don Barnes of 38 Special, Zander, Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger) It did well, but eventually got cut from the lineup at WCKG in 2000 (it was the only daily music show remaining on an all-talk station). WXXY then approached me to bring it to The 80’s Channel…which I did…and had lots of fun. Not long after, WLUP brought me on full-time. I did a version of my show at The Loop on Saturday Nights, but it wasn’t the same. In 2004, I created The Rockin' 80's and offered it to stations nationwide. We now have 43 affiliate stations and growing. The program can be heard in the Southern burbs and Northwest Indiana on WXRD 103.9 out of Crown Point. In Milwaukee it’s heard weekly on 97.3 THE BREW.
Rick: After the Loop was sold by Bonneville there were all sorts of changes. You found yourself out of a Chicago radio job. How did you end up in California?
Zander: After working at WLUP, I felt I already reached the only goal that was keeping me in Chicago. (Photo: Sammy Hagar & Zander from his days at the Loop.) I always wanted to program a rock station. An offer came up in the fringes of the Los Angeles market that was too good to pass up. I have now been here a year and a half and things have gone really well.
Rick: Tell us about your radio production company.
Zander: Through my radio production company (specializing in short and long-form syndicated radio products), Zanderadio Productions, I produce the “Rockin’ 80's” as well as "Cheap Psychological Tricks With Dr. Buff" (runs on WLS 890), and launched the new daily feature "Paul Shaffer's Day In Rock" featuring the Musical Director of The Late Show With David Letterman.