Sunday, June 24, 2007

Harry Teinowitz

Harry Teinowitz is on the air every weekday as part of the #1 afternoon show in Chicago—Mac, Jurko & Harry on ESPN AM 1000.


1994-1995 WMVP – The Harry & Spike Show
1995-1998 WLUP – Regular contributor to many shows including Danny Bonaduce, Jonathon Brandmeier, Steve Cochran, and Fred Winston
1998-WCKG – Contributor to the Pete McMurray Show
1998-2000 ESPN – The Harry & Spike Show
2000-2001 ESPN – Contributor to the Mike & Mike Show
2001-present ESPN – Co-host Mac, Jurko & Harry

Rick: A lot of people don’t realize that you had a comedy/movie/showbiz career before you started in radio. Tell us a little about that.

Harry: Not a lot of people get to spend their 19th birthday on the set of the movie “Up the Academy,” but that’s where I was on my 19th birthday. I also had a line in the movie “Risky Business”

Rick: What was the line?

Harry: It was “Excellent idea, Joel! Excellent idea.”

Rick: (laughs) I love that.

Harry: That was pretty cool. I hung out with Tom Cruise during filming, and he was a very nice guy. Rebecca DeMornay? Not so much. Actually, I was supposed to have a bigger role in the film. You know Curtis Armstrong?

Rick: Booger?

Harry: Different movie, but yeah, that’s the guy. He had the greatest part in Risky Business and that was supposed to be my part. Unfortunately, he got out of a Broadway gig just before filming started, and they really wanted him, so they bumped me. He got the great line, “You know, sometimes in life you just have to say ‘What the F***.” Everyone remembers that line. Later on, I was also up for the part of Booger in “Revenge of the Nerds”—I had a few callbacks even, and he beat me out again.

Rick: So it’s safe to say you aren’t the president of the Curtis Armstrong fan club.

Harry: Yes it is.

Rick: So how did you make the transition to radio?

Harry: I was doing standup and when you do standup you inevitably do a lot of radio shows to promote your gigs. One time I was doing a show in Minneapolis—and it just happened to be on KFAN, the sports radio station. I was scheduled for a ten minute segment and I stayed on the air for an hour and a half. The listeners heard I was from Chicago, and they just called up to berate me—“The Bulls suck. The Sox suck. The Blackhawks suck.” I asked them for a tape of that appearance, and then I used it to pitch myself to the sports radio stations in Chicago. Ron Gleason at the Score gave me a chance. My first gig was doing a weekly bit on Tom Shaer’s show called “Ten Minute Misconduct”—which was really just a ten minute bit of topical sports jokes. I would literally walk into the studio and hand Tom an index card asking him to lead me into topics, and then I did sports stand up.

Rick: Was that a paid gig?

Harry: Sure. I got a Score T-shirt one week, and a sweatshirt the next. Big money. Well, one night I was doing a stand up gig at The Improv, and the owner told me that Keith Van Horne and Tom Thayer were doing a show on the Loop and that I should stop by. He said—bring a case of beer—they like that. When I got there they already had a case of beer. I was supposed to be on at 1:00 am, and by 2:00 they hadn’t asked me into the studio yet. I was actually just about to leave when they finally came out and got me. Once I got on the air with them, it went great. The next day I got a call saying that Greg Solk liked me on the show very much.

Rick: He was the program director of WMVP at the time, right?

Harry: Right. So I had a meeting with Greg. I said, look, you’ve got all these sports radio guys trying to be funny, but you’re doing it all backwards. Why not get a funny guy who knows sports instead. He agreed and gave me a Saturday night gig. At the time Spike Manton was living out in LA, and he flew in every week to do the show with me. We got paid $125 to do the show, and Spike’s plane ticket was costing $180 a week, so we actually lost money, but it led to all the other things. I’ll never forget Greg (Solk) and Larry (Wert) for giving us that chance. Soon we were filling in as the hosts of Best of Dahl, and after 17 months they finally gave us our own show full-time. We were supposed to be part of a lineup that included Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (Read the Spike Manton interview for the rest of the story), but somehow we ended up doing overnights.

Rick: You were like a ping pong ball during your Loop/WMVP career. How do you feel about those years looking back now?

Harry: Greg Solk and Larry Wert were always great to us. Mitch Rosen (one-time WMVP program director/and current WSCR program director), on the other hand, broke us up twice. He fired Spike twice and me once.

Rick: So you ended up at WCKG very briefly.

Harry: I was on the Pete McMurray show, and Spike was on with Steve Dahl at the time. We were both second bananas and had no control over the shows, so when ESPN came back to us and offered us another chance to do the Harry & Spike show for a lot more money, we jumped at the chance. We finally got to do our show.

Rick: Spike really is your best friend, isn’t he?

Harry: Yeah, he is. I just don’t understand how someone as talented as Spike (photo) isn’t on the air right now. I know he has that great play “Leaving Iowa”, but he’s not on the radio. It makes no sense to me. And Bill Leff is another good friend, and he was on the beach for a long time too. What is wrong with radio programmers in this town?

Rick: So you’ve worked with nearly everyone in radio in Chicago. How did working with all those guys (Spike, Danny, Johnny B, Cochran, Fred Winston, Pete McMurray, etc.) prepare you for working with McNeil and Jurko?

Harry: (laughs) Nothing could have prepared me for that. If I was in Vietnam, it wouldn’t have prepared me. This show is really unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It’s a winner—but it’s really combustible.

Rick: You can actually hear the tension on the air. I honestly think that’s one of the reasons why the show is so successful. You guys are completely real.

Harry: Mac and I are like oil and water, and for whatever reason, it sometimes bubbles up to the surface. It’s strange, it really is. We can go three months with nothing happening—getting along great, everything is rosy, and then boom, we get into a big fight about the littlest thing. It doesn’t happen a lot—maybe six times on the air over six years—but when it happens, people remember it.

Rick: Does it happen off the air too?

Harry: Not that often, really. Maybe 10 or 15 times over 6 years. We’re actually a lot alike. We’re the same age, we have a lot of the same interests, we have similar benchmarks in our lives, and we’re both passionate about doing a good show. And to be fair to Mac, whenever something goes bad, he works really hard behind the scenes to make it right between the two of us.

Rick: How would you describe everyone’s role on the show?

Harry: Mac’s the driver, the quarterback. He calls the plays. We can suggest plays, but he’s the one that makes the final call. Jurko is the former athlete, and I don’t think you’ll find a former athlete that’s more perfect for a Chicago sports talk show. He’s from Chicago, he played ten years in the NFL, but he has no ego, he’s smart, and he works very hard. When he first started he didn’t know that much about other sports, but he really educated himself. And I’m the comic relief. Plus I bring that Grobstein-esque geek-like information to the table.

Rick: You’re famous for being a Cubs fan. I’ve always said that there are three different types of Cubs fans. The Ernie Banks “We just need a couple of breaks and this could be our year” fans, the “Oh no here it comes again” pessimist fans, and the “Bartender get me and this fine lookin’ lady another beer” fans. Which kind are you?

Harry: The first one. What can I say? I’m an optimistic guy. I truly believe in my heart that they’re going to turn this season around and make the playoffs. I also think I get too much grief for being a fan of the White Sox too. Why can’t you root for both? For the first 36 years of my life these teams never played each other. My mom was a Cubs fan and my dad was a Sox fan, and I went to see both teams play all the time. I never got grief for rooting for both teams until inter-league play. Now you have to hate the other team? Who says so? Not me.

Rick: Have you forgiven Steve Bartman yet?

No. And I haven’t forgiven Mark Prior either. Or Moises Alou for that matter.

Rick: What about Alex Gonzales?

Harry: If Bartman doesn’t mess with the ball, there are two outs, and Gonzales doesn’t have to hurry. If Alou doesn’t freak out, then Mark Prior doesn’t freak out and collapse. Gonzales is much lower on the blame pole.

Rick: One last question. What’s the worst advice anyone ever gave you in this business?

Harry: Someone once told me I wouldn’t need Lysol and Lemon Pledge if I shared a studio with Jurko.

Late update: Dan McNeil was suspended this week from Mac, Jurko & Harry's show. Here is a little more information (an excerpt from my Media Notebook blog)

Dan McNeil suspended again
(Chicago Sun Times) Robert Feder writes: "Google Dan McNeil and suspension and you'll come up with a list of incidents going back at least seven years. That list just got longer, thanks to yet another suspension for the mercurial afternoon personality on ESPN Radio's sports/talk WMVP-AM (1000). While Carmen DeFalco filled in alongside co-hosts John Jurkovic and Harry Teinowitz, McNeil was off the show Wednesday and will be gone for the remainder of the week -- if not longer. McNeil's bosses won't discuss details of his latest offense except that it involved 'inappropriate comments on the air directed at another individual.' The episode occurred on Tuesday's show."
Teddy Greenstein has more on the story
(Ed's note: I've written about Dan several times in the past. If you want to read about him and his previous disputes, check out the following...)
Lake Magazine Article: The Demon of Sports Talk
Chicago Advertising & Media article: Coppock vs. McNeil

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Terry Gibson

Terry Gibson was a Chicago rock jock in the 80s and 90s, and now works as the special projects manager for the rock group Styx. He lives in Los Angeles.


WSPT-Stevens Point 1977-1979
KLUC-Las Vegas 1979-1980
WMAD-Madison 1980-1981
WQFM-Milwaukee 1981-1987
WLUP-Chicago 1987-1994
WWBZ-Chicago 1994-1995
WRCX-Chicago 1995-1996

Rick: You’re from Chicago originally, aren’t you?

Terry: Yes I am, born and raised. I lived here until I was fifteen years old, and then my parents divorced, and my mom moved us to Stevens Point, Wisconsin. That really turned out to be a blessing in disguise for my eventual radio career, because I got my foot in the door there at WSPT.

Rick: You must have been very young.

Terry: I was 17. WSPT was such a great station too. The owner had lots of money, so he ran that place like a big market station even though we were in such a small market. I learned so much, and learned it right.

Rick: Would you say your big break was working at Milwaukee’s legendary Q-FM? People in Chicago may not realize how huge that station was in Milwaukee in the 80s.

Terry: That’s so true. Unlike the station in Stevens Point, Q-FM was owned by a small company. We were the David in a town full of big-money Goliaths. With a small fraction of their budget, we managed to beat them, too. That was really gratifying. It was a really fun time for me, because I was living the lifestyle 24/7. The listeners were just like the guys on the air, and we spent a lot of time together. I had just turned 21 and I was hanging out at rock shows, doing appearances at clubs, and I was also the stage announcer at Alpine Valley.

Rick: Weren’t Steve & Garry on Q-FM in Milwaukee?

Terry: Yes. I started on Q-FM a month or two before Steve & Garry were fired at the Loop, which essentially killed their affiliates in Detroit and Milwaukee. Everyone thought Q-FM was in trouble after that, but we got a guy named Tim the Rock and Roll Animal. The next year he did a stunt that they still talk about in Milwaukee. He sat on a ledge on the 26th floor of a building, and vowed to stay there until The Who agreed to come to town. Now you gotta remember, at the time, Milwaukee was always bypassed by the big rock acts. They did Chicago, but they almost never came to Milwaukee. The Who weren’t really any different than the other big rock acts, but this was 1982—and they had promised this was their farewell tour, so we all believed them. That’s why Tim did his stunt. The amazing thing is that it actually worked. The Who not only showed up; they did the show in special zoot suits to show us how important they thought we were. It really was a big moment for the rock radio audience in Milwaukee.

Rick: Didn’t you do a few stunts while you were there too?

Terry: I did a few. In 1984, on the 15th anniversary of the John & Yoko Bed-In, I spent ten days on a waterbed. It was a fundraiser for charity. For a dollar, you could sign a “Peace Board,” which would eventually be placed in the Peace Museum in New York. Yoko even called a few times to check in and encourage people to participate. Then the night before we were supposed to ship the Peace Board to New York, a torrential downpour came in, and we hadn’t taken proper precautions to safeguard the Peace Board. Literally all of the signatures went right down the drain. It was a disappointing end to a great promotion. Yoko and Sean sent me a real nice handwritten thank you note, which I still have up on the wall at home.

Rick: After being one of the big stars in Milwaukee, it must have been quite a shock to come to Chicago in 1987, and join that unbelievable lineup at the Loop.

Terry: You got that right. It was the land of the giants casting some pretty big shadows. I was just happy to be there. In the history of Chicago radio I’m just a trivia question compared to the rest of the full-time lineup at the Loop FM when I started. Tell me which one of these names doesn’t belong? Brandmeier, Stroud, Skafish, Haze, and Gibson. I used to listen to Skafish (photo) in the afternoon and just marvel at how good he was. He was a mentor, and a friend, and I think he was the best FM music jock of all time…and here I was on the same station as him.

There were lots of other people there at the time too. On the FM, there were part-timers and fill-in people who could have been, had already been, or would someday be full-time at other stations like Matt Bisbee, Wendy Snyder, Scott Dirks and you. And on the AM, we had Steve & Garry, Kevin Matthews, and Chet Coppock too. Man, that was something. It was like the Big Red Machine. I certainly wasn’t Johnny Bench or Pete Rose or Joe Morgan, but I was on the team, and I’m real proud of that. I was more like that little shortstop on the Reds at the time--Davy Concepcion.

Rick: What are some of your fondest memories from that time?

Terry: The one that comes to mind immediately was embarrassing and gratifying at the same time. Steve & Garry were celebrating their 10-year anniversary together. I had the bright idea of writing a parody song about their ten years together, and I dragged Wendy into it with me. After I got off the air one morning, and turned it over to Johnny B, Wendy, Mike Davis (known on the air as “Igor”), and me went into the production studio to record the song. We’re not exactly great singers, but that didn’t matter to us. It was really more about the lyrics—a tribute to Steve & Garry. Well, somehow Johnny B (photo) got wind of us doing this, and put our studio on the air while we were singing. We had no idea we were on the air. Johnny thought it was hysterical, so he called Steve up on the phone. Mind you, this was 6:15 in the morning. Steve was out cold when Johnny called, and he wasn’t happy about being awakened. I heard the tape later, he said: “Johnny, I don’t do mornings anymore, babe.”

Anyway, it took Steve a long time to figure out that the song was about him, but he wasn’t quite getting the concept because he was so groggy. After he hung up, Johnny called into the production room and Wendy answered. He told her that the entire thing had been live on the air. We were mortified. I could feel the red in my cheeks. By then though, we had finished the song. So when you came in that morning we gave it to you, and asked you to give to Steve. I was listening that afternoon when Steve & Garry played it on the air, and all the embarrassment we felt that morning was worth it.

Rick: I remember that well.

Terry: You have no idea how much that meant to me. I idolized Steve as a radio personality. He was the king.

Rick: I also remember from that time that you were one of the champions of the band Styx.

Terry: They have been my favorite band since high school.

Rick: When I heard you were working for them, my first thought was, “Wow, that’s perfect for Terry.”

Terry: It really is. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

Rick: How did it come about?

Terry: Well, I had known the guys in the band since I was a DJ in the 70s and 80s, and had become friendly with a few of them. James Young (photo) and I really hit it off, and we started hanging out a little more in the 90s. Well, after Styx had been retired for 14 years, they decided to do a comeback tour in late 1999. That was when Dennis DeYoung had issues with light sensitivity and couldn’t do the live shows anymore. The rest of the band decided to carry on anyway. JY thought of me to be their radio promotion guy because I was such a big supporter of the band, and I obviously was very familiar with radio, so he asked me if I wanted the job.

Rick: Do all bands have guys handling radio like that?

Terry: No they don’t, but Styx always has done it, and it has really paid off for them. I’m only the third guy to hold this position, but I’ve been doing it for seven years now. And I’ve been really lucky to have been part of Styx’s rebirth (photo). They are as popular now as they ever have been. It’s not just people our age (mid-40s) who come to these shows—it’s kids in their teens and 20s. Styx has become a part of the popular culture.

Rick: I think Adam Sandler helped with that.

Terry: Yeah, Adam Sandler is a huge Styx fan. He says they’re his favorite group, and that’s why he has used their music in his movies. In the movie “Big Daddy,” Styx actually became a part of the dialogue—he taught the kid to say that Styx was the greatest band in the world.

Rick: I think he even mentioned Tommy Shaw, didn’t he?

Terry: Yeah. He tells a story to a girl about Tommy Shaw picking him out of the crowd at a Styx concert. In fact, Sandler is such a huge fan, he asked Styx to perform last week at Spike TV’s first annual Guy’s Choice Awards. Adam was given the “Guy’s Guy” award, and he got to choose who played—so he chose Styx.

Rick: You can’t pay for that kind of pub.

Terry: It has been great. But Sandler isn’t the only one pushing Styx. They were featured in The Simpsons, Scrubs, and Sex in the City too. Then there was the moment on American Idol when Chris Daughtry (photo) chose “Renegade” as a song to sing on the show, and Simon Cowell congratulated him on such an excellent choice. Also, when they did the “Behind the Music” special about Styx on VH1, it was one of VH1’s all-time highest rated shows at the time. I really think those pop culture references are partly responsible for their popularity with kids these days. That, and the band really sounds great. This lineup is amazing. They are a great rock and roll band.

Rick: And they’re coming to Chicago soon, right?

Terry: (laughs) Thanks. Right on cue. Yes, they’ll be at the First Midwest in Tinley Park on June 30th with Def Leppard and Foreigner.

Rick: So is this it for your radio career?

Terry: I guess I would answer that by saying, “Never say Never,” but at this time I’m pretty happy doing what I’m doing.

Rick: Do you miss radio at all?

Terry: I do miss it sometimes. It was a passion for me from age 17 well into my 30s. I ate it for breakfast—always thinking about that day’s show. I do miss that. Although, I’m reading $everance right now—it’s hilarious, by the way, but it sounds like I haven’t exactly missed the golden years of radio the past ten years since the Telecommunications Act was passed, have I?

Rick: Not exactly, no.

Terry: I still do voiceovers, and I record these radio specials for Styx every time a new album comes out, so I keep my fingers in it, but it really would take a full-time offer in a place like Chicago for me to consider it.

Rick: Do you mind if I give out your e-mail address to Terry Gibson fans who would like to reconnect after all these years?

Terry: Sure, my pleasure. It’s

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Greg Brown

UPDATED 5/30/08


Greg was named the afternoon drive personality at WZZN a few months after I interviewed him. I asked him how the new job has been going...

Greg: So far, it’s been an absolute blast being at 94.7 fm. I can’t wait to get into the station each day…I am blessed to do what I love for living! I get to work in the greatest city on the planet, playing the greatest music ever recorded and I get to see Dick Biondi every night! It doesn't get much better than that!

Ever since Mike Fowler arrived at WZZN as General Manager, he’s gotten things firing on all 8 cylinders. He continually finds ways of encouraging his staff and creating a great working environment. He’s also brought in Brant Miller for mornings which has been a great addition to our staff.

Our Program Director, Michael La Crosse, has to be one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met…and that’s been pretty inspiring. He makes a point of coming out to some of our appearances and talking with the listeners that show up…he has a desire to take them from just “listeners” to making them “fans”.

I’ve got two features that take some work preparing every day but it’s been fun doing the research…you won’t believe this Rick, but I’m now smarter than I ever have been. One feature is the Greg Brown Beatle Break at 4:35pm and the other is the Greg Brown School of Musicology at 6:35pm every day. Maybe you could take some time away from all of your book signings and listen.


Now here's the original interview...

Greg Brown is one of Chicago's quintessential music jocks. He's worked at nearly every music station on the dial, most recently at WJMK Oldies 104.3. He now fills-in occasionally at True Oldies WZZN in Chicago and weekends at WMIL in Milwaukee.


1970 WSTK-Woodstock
1971 WJMU-Decatur (Milliken Univeristy--I was the first voice on the air there, and the first program director)
1971-1972 WVFV-Dundee
(I also worked briefly at WYEN-Des Plaines and WJOL-Joliet)
1973--WGLD (Now WVAZ) overnights and mornings
03/74-11/76 WBBM-fm – soft rock – mornings – 2 ½ years
11/76-04/79 WMET (now WNUA) – top 40 – mornings – 2 ½ years
06/79-10/92 WKQX – hot ac – middays – 13 ½ years
01/93-04/94 WTMX – hot ac – afternoons – 1 ½ years
06/94-07/95 Y107.9 – 70’s – afternoons – 1 year
07/95-07/06 WJMK – oldies – middays – 11 years

Rick: How did you get your very first radio job?

Greg: Well, I grew up in Crystal Lake which is about 50 miles northwest of Chicago…I grew up listening to all the great Chicago radio and it was just like magic to me. It motivated me to want to be in radio as well. I thought, and rightly so, that if I wanted to really do this that I ought to get a job IN radio to see if I was any good or not. One night while listening up and down the dial, I came across this little fm station in Woodstock, Illinois called WSTK.

There was a kid on the air on a Sunday night, maybe a high school student, who was playing records and talking. And every now and then he would play his tuba…on the air!? It was so bad and weird and I remember thinking, ‘if this kid can get a radio show, so can I.’

So later that week I went out to that station! Just showed up. It was a small building sitting on somebody’s farm or something. You could see the cows walking around…you could smell the cows walking around…very weird. This building was probably the size of somebody’s living room. It was divided into 4 areas…one section was the studio…one section was the bathroom…one section was a work area for the engineer…and the last area was for the manager or Program Director or whatever he was.

Well, I walked in and kind of caught him off guard and asked to talk with him about joining his station. He asked me if I had any experience. I thought to myself, ’you’ve got to be kidding! Experience to work at the station that has high school kids on the air playing tubas?? Give me a break!’ But, I said that I had none and that that is why I was there…to gain some experience. He responded by going into great detail about how important it was for someone to have experience to work at his radio station and that he couldn’t just hire anyone and blah blah blah.

I thanked him for his time and was getting up to leave when the jock on the air stuck his head in the office and said to the Program Director, ‘By the way, today is my last day! I’m going in the army Monday!”

This Program Director freaked out and seemed panicky for a moment and then he looked up at me and said, “You want a job?” I said, “Ya!” And he said, “You start on Monday!”

It was like a “God thing”…right place at the right time.

That station today, by the way is owned by NextMedia and they have that station cooking. The signal is stronger and the on-air product sounds great. They have a new building that houses that station and Y103.9. Tons of sales people and promotion people…it’s in a whole different league now!

Rick: In 1973, you got your big break in Chicago working at WGLD (which is now WVAZ). I know that was quite a roller coaster ride for you. Tell us how an upset stomach led to you getting the morning job.

(Photo: Greg with the original members of Styx)
Greg: Well, it was weird! I was hired by the famous Art Roberts of WLS fame. I was hired to do the overnight show. Art told me that I was going to have to call myself “Norman In The Morning”. I asked why, because I wanted to be me, Greg Brown. But he told me that the station had just bought new jingles and that the overnight guys’ name was Norman Fleckles or something and that I had to use his first name so they could use the jingle. I was pretty unhappy about that, but I was finally working in the big city and didn’t want to mess that up…so I was “Norman In The Morning”.

I hated it because I would get request calls saying, “Hi Mr. Morning, I wonder if you could play such and such for me.” I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that my name wasn’t MR. MORNING!!

Well, one night the General Manager got up at about 2 or 3 in the morning with an upset stomach and turned on the station and listened to me for a while. I guess my show was more soothing than Pepto-Bismol…anyway…he liked what he heard and the next day told Art that I should be the new morning man. So within a couple of weeks I was setting my alarm and getting up early to do the morning show…and best of all…I could be me!! I got to be Greg Brown again!

Rick: You spent the entire decade of the 1980s as the midday jock at Q-101. If memory serves, there were a few very big stories that broke during the midday in the 1980s. President Reagan was shot. The Challenger exploded. Harold Washington died. Do you have any memories or stories about those days or other days big stories broke during your show?

Greg: You think of Walter Cronkite telling the nation about John F. Kennedy’s death or, Howard Cosell telling the Monday Football audience about John Lennon being shot. So it’s a little bizarre to me to think that I was the one to break the news of those events that you mentioned to several hundred thousand people.

It’s always awkward on a music station because you’re doing a show meant to be fun and up and some sort of escape from people’s work day or life or whatever…when all of a sudden you have to bring the show to a screeching halt and share this bit of bad news.

The Challenger was difficult for me because I saw the Challenger blow up on TV and I thought that those poor people were killed instantly. That broke my heart, as it did everyone’s and I was now supposed to go talk about that after I came out of some song about dancing. How do you capture that into words and express that on air in a sensitive way…and then return to another song about breaking up with your girlfriend so that I could run down the hall way to grab some copy from the news wire?

We didn’t have news people around at that time of day who could come in and sound more official about the story or who could be getting more details to break in through out the show and that kind of thing. It was just me …running down the hall between songs…ripping stuff off of the wire….or trying watch the stations television for more info. Surreal!

Rick: In the 80s you followed Murphy in the Morning. In the 90s you followed John Records Landecker. Having watched both of those guys operate up close, what can you tell us about them that the average listener might not realize?

Greg: Murphy wore an Armani suit to work everyday while Landecker wore t-shirts and jeans! (laughs)

Murphy (photo) was always personable but a little guarded. Seemed to be protective of his image. Back in the Q101 days, he was a hot commodity and everybody seemed to want something from him, so I didn’t blame him for being rather careful.

Murphy was always well prepared for every show. He is a great writer! He really crafted each of the bits and skits for his show. But he was also very quick witted and seemed to see something funny in a situation right away…a very good ad-libber. I always felt a great reward when I could get the Murph to laugh.

With Landecker, I noticed that John lit up whenever his daughters were around. He seemed most happy when there was some kind of family event going on in his life.

John (photo) was always well prepped for his show as well. But it also seemed as if he liked to work in the moment. When we started doing our crosstalk each morning at about 9:45, I would come into the studio a few minutes early and say hello to you, Vince and John. John didn’t always acknowledge me. At first I wasn’t sure if he liked me or was angry with me or what? He would sit at his mic quietly, I would sit at my mic quietly…it felt a little awkward…and then as soon as we went on the air “POW”, the electricity began! He was warm and kind and funny. So I later figured out that he didn’t want to spoil those first moments on the air together. You know the old adage, “save it for the air.”

I think we had some very funny exchanges. We had built-in differences. We were the real Odd Couple. He was the kind of burned out ‘Dr. Johnny Fever’ type showing up to work with “bed-head” hair and wearing his t-shirt and jeans while I was the buttoned-down preppy, life-is-great type. Fun-friction was already built into our conversations. I had to constantly remind him that he was alive in the 70’s and that he worked in Chicago on the radio back then. He constantly made fun of my starched shirts by calling me “Starchy Bunker.”

Rick: You've done just about every music format...Hot AC, Soft Rock, Top 40, Oldies, Beautiful Music, Alternative rock, and now you're doing country. When you're not on the air, what is the kind of music you like to listen to?

Greg: Well, like with anyone, it depends on my mood. It’s the iPod thing. I like Big Band music sometimes while other days I like to hear the bass thumping from the Stones ‘Satisfaction’.
(Photo: Greg Brown with Mayor Byrne at ChicagoFest)

But I must say that since I’ve been doing some weekend work at the heritage country station in Milwaukee, WMIL, I’ve really been digging the country stuff. I love the clever twists and turns in some of those songs. Every song has a great story to it like “The Dollar” by Jamey Johnson. In fact, you should check out that one …being the dad of 3 sons I think you’d like it.

Rick: You really are one of the ultimate Chicago music jocks. Are there any music jocks that you emulated?

Greg: Wow! Thanks!!

As I had mentioned earlier, I grew up listening to Chicago radio. Dick Biondi was the first disc jockey that I ever heard and was blown away with how crazy he was on the air. I also loved the creativeness of Ron Brittain…all of his sound effects and the fun that he seemed to bring to every break. But, it was probably John Landecker that inspired me the most when he did nights on WLS.

John (Photo) had such energy and such clever things to say. He started his show with that crowd chanting and then he’d come in with some funny joke or comment and slam into one of those great WLS jingles and the show was off and running!! The way he would swim in the music…the song was all around him when he talked, it made him sound larger than life. It was just magical!

Rick: How do you feel about jock-less formats like Jack-FM? Do you really think that's what the listeners want, or do you think it's a financial decision?

Greg: What radio can be for people is a companion. Good local radio can be fun and entertaining and can give listeners something they can’t get on their iPod. Live human beings entertaining them and informing them with unique content about the where they live and work!

It’s what we’ve been talking about here today. When the music is right and the personality is cooking, people can bond with that jock and that station. You heard it on Memorial Monday when WLS did their Big 89 Rewind. The great personalities from the 70’s and 80’s and the great music from then as well! That’s a killer combination!

When WJMK dropped the oldies format for the “JACK format, listeners were upset. The first day that I was back on the air again, albeit on the internet, people called to tell me how much they missed hearing me. Several people told me that they had tears in their eyes when they heard my voice on the air again. I know Fred and Dick had similar stories about that as well.

There was an emotional attachment that folks felt for us.

One guy told me that he was listening to , what turned out to be my last show on WJMK-fm before the format change, when he took his car into his auto dealer to be repaired. When he picked up his car an hour and half later he turned on the radio to listen to the oldies only to find that the station had changed to the “JACK” format. He thought someone at the dealership had messed with his radio doing something that didn’t allow his radio get the oldies anymore. He immediately turned his car around and went back to the dealer and started yelling at the manager about this when his wife called, in tears, to tell him that their favorite radio station had changed formats. He then realized what had happened and apologized to the dealer. When the dealer heard about the station, he too got angry about the change.

My point is this… that these people were bonded to this radio station. Partly because of the music but also because of the personalities who had built relationships with these listeners over the years.

So to answer your question, I think that some radio companies are so concerned about the bottom line that they are forgetting what brings an audience to them in the first place. Many have gone public and now have stock holders to pay or they’re trying so hard to spin off these stations…they keep trimming down the staff to the point where it really hurts the product.

Rick: After the Oldies format was blown out by WJMK you continued doing it for awhile on HD Radio. You may have as good an insight into HD Radio as anyone. Do you think it will ever catch on with the public?

Greg: Sure. But to be honest, what will really help push HD radio is better content. Really unique, quality programming. Something they can’t get anywhere else.

Plus, I think that when people hear how much better things sound on HD radio they’ll be willing to upgrade. The price of the radios is coming down and it’s getting easier to find them.

I recently read where starting in July Sony will begin selling a $100 in-car receiver and a $200 table top unit. Getting Sony involved with HD radios is huge!

There was one of our listeners that complained about the price of the radios, about $500 at that time. But after she got it and really had a chance to listen to it, she just raved about it. I asked her on a scale of 1 to 10 how she would rate the sound? She said she would give it a 500. She said that it was worth the money, and that now that she knows how great it sounds, she would have paid that and more!

And Rick, you may want to jot this down to keep in your file for future reference…I was the first live DJ on HD radio. August 12th, 2005.

I’m sure you could write a whole book about that. Like, ‘Just when you thought Greg Brown couldn’t sound any better…along comes HD radio to bring out the brilliance of the pear shaped tones of his voice’. You know, something like that!

Rick: (laughs) After nearly 40 years in radio is there anything you still haven't tried that you'd like to sink your teeth into?

Greg: Uh…Rick…could we make that 37 years, please? I’m not that old! O.K.!

Um, I would like to write a book about a morning man whose station owner wants him to quit so they won't have to pay his severance and his resistance to the company's increasing attempts to make him too miserable to continue. I would call it, “Hey! You Owe Me Two Weeks Pay For Every Year That I Worked Here!”

However I understand that another author has ripped off my idea and called his book, ‘Severance’! Oh well…

Seriously, I would love to do more with theatre. I love to act. You use your whole body to create some character not just your voice. I have also enjoyed doing television. As you know Rick, I have lived with these good looks all of my life and maybe it’s time to share them with the rest of the world.

Rick?…hello…are you still there?...hello? Is this one of those ‘dropped call’ moments? Rick…hellooo!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bob Stroud


Bob Stroud
When I originally interviewed Bob Stroud in June of 2007, he was denying a published report in Bill Zwecker's column that he was thinking about marriage. He is now married, so I asked if he would like to revise those statements...

Bob: Well the "potential wedding" became reality in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on February 7th, 2008. (the date Buddy Holly was laid to rest in Lubbock, Texas in 1959....very important for a guy like me to have a date that means something to me so I don't forget what it REALLY means to me now). No family, no friends, no muss, no fuss, just us, a beach and a justice of the peace who we couldn't understand. Thank god they provided a translator or who knows what I might have been saying "I Do" to. And then I see where those copycats Susanna Homan and Tom Negovan went and got married as well. Sheesh, some people. Anyway, she is the former Diane Totura and she's the best friend I've ever had. And this February is the 50 year anniversary of Buddy Holly's funeral and our 1st anniversary. I'm trying to figure out a way how we can celebrate both.

The original interview is below...

Bob Stroud has been a fixture on the Chicago radio dial for almost 30 years. Bob is currently the midday jock on WDRV 97.1 FM, The Drive and hosts “Rock and Roll Roots” every Sunday morning between 7-10 a.m.


WMET-FM (Production & “Rock and Roll Roots”)
WLUP-FM (“Rock and Roll Roots” and production, then mid-days)
WCKG-FM (mid-days)
WLUP-AM (Production Director, “Rock and Roll Roots”)
CD-94.7 (mid-days, “Rock and Roll Roots”)
WLS-AM (Specials)
WXRT-FM (“Rock and Roll Roots”)
WDRV-FM (mid-days, “Rock and Roll Roots”)

Rick: When people think of Bob Stroud, they think of “Rock and Roll Roots” I don’t think I’ve ever heard the story of how that show originated.

Bob: In May of 1980 I was working at WMET (95.5 FM) as the production director. MET's general manager Bruce Holberg and I used to hang out in the hallways and talk about the great old records we loved. He was from Philly and grew up listening to those big time Philly top-40 jocks and I grew up in Kalamazoo listening to those great Chicago top-40 jocks. We both had such a passion for those rock and roll songs from the 60s, but nobody played them anywhere. Bruce thought it would be a good idea to do a show of rock oldies as opposed to the Fabian, Shelly Fabres-type oldies, and we were just about to put the show on the air when the Loop announced they were hiring Dick Biondi to do the same thing on the same start date. I remember feeling totally deflated. But when we went on the air with Roots, people liked it, and I got such a kick out of doing it. I got to play whatever I wanted. It was great.

Rick: Dick Biondi was on the Loop?

Bob: Not for long. It didn’t work out for him there.

Rick: You mentioned those great top-40 jocks. Who were the guys that you really listened to when you were a kid?

Bob: Well, actually, it was probably Dick Biondi on WLS. The first time I heard him, I thought, wow. ‘He is soooo wild!’ And for the time, he really was. From 1962-1966, I was devoted to WLS. Then I discovered WCFL, and Ron Brittain. In the late 60s he was hands-down the most entertaining, the most cutting-edge jock in the business.

Rick: Then it must have been a big deal for you when you came to work in Chicago yourself.

Bob: Oh, it was. I was working in Sarasota Florida before that, and Bob Coburn was the PD at WMET. He flew me up to Chicago for an interview. I told my boss in Florida about it, and he gave me the worst advice of my radio career. He said, “Now, Bob, this is the big city—you better clean yourself up. Get a haircut. Buy some nice clothes.” So I did. When I landed in Chicago I was met at the airport by a guy with shoulder-length hair, wearing a satin radio jacket and jeans. I thought “Oh great.” When I got to WMET, everybody looked at me like, “Who’s the geek?” I knew right away that this was a badass station. It had an attitude that was totally catchy. The general manager of the radio station, Harvey Pearlman, was walking up and down the hallways holding an empty bottle of vodka, screaming “TAKE NO PRISONERS!”

Rick: Holy crap.

Bob: I know. It was something.

Rick: So how did you end up at the Loop?

Bob: Well, in 1983, WMET fired everybody on staff except me. They wanted me to stay on and do production, but it just didn’t feel right. I got an offer in Philly and moved there for awhile.

Rick: Did you like Philly?

Bob: Hated it. They don’t even sell beer in grocery stores there. Can you believe it?

Rick: (laughs) So the Loop called you at the right time?

Bob: Yes. Greg Solk (The Loop’s PD at the time) called me, and said they had done some research in the market and discovered that people missed “Rock and Roll Roots” and asked if I would consider recording it in Philly and sending it to him.

Rick: On reel to reel tape?

Bob: (chuckles) Yes. So that’s what I did. After a few months, in April of 1984, they asked me to come back to Chicago fulltime and replace Matt Bisbee in the production department (Bisbee had been moved to middays at the time). I jumped at the chance. Not too long after that, Biz and I switched places, and I started doing Lunchtime Roots in addition to the weekend shows. That lasted almost ten years.

Rick: And those are some pretty memorable years. How would you describe the vibe at the Loop during the 80s and early 90s?

Bob: Dangerous. At any given moment anything at all could happen. One day, Tom Thayer and Steve McMichael came into the studio and duct-taped Kevin Matthews to a chair. While Thayer rolled Kevin down Michigan Avenue, McMichael literally took over the show. Stuff like that happened all the time. Remember the time Wiser was sent out to be a rodeo clown by Brandmeier? I can still hear him in that barrel at the rodeo… “Johnny, I’m not kidding around here! This isn’t funny!” The stuff that you producers had to go through was unbelievable.

Rick: Would you consider that the classic Loop era?

Bob: There were two classic Loop eras. The first one was the one in the late 70s and early 80s—with Steve & Garry, Mitch Michaels, and Sky Daniels. Those guys were the kings of Chicago at the time. The second classic Loop era was the mid-80s through the early 90s, and I’m really proud to have been a part of it. Think of all the talent we had there at one time—Brandmeier, Steve & Garry, Kevin Matthews, Bobby Skafish, Patti Haze, my God, the list goes on and on.

Rick: After you left the Loop in 1993, and before you started on the Drive in 2001, you bounced all over the radio dial.

Bob: Yeah, my first stop was WCKG. Not one of my favorite places. I was there for about a year and a half, and it was very formatted and strict. I do have a good exit story from there though. I had just finished my 12:50 break one day. I came out of the commercials and introduced Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae,” when the PD came into the studio followed by a girl holding her headphones. He said: “Bob, Mike Disney needs to see you—bring your headphones with you.” I thought “I know that wasn’t exactly a hall of fame break, but c’mon…” When I got to Disney’s office (the GM), he closed the door behind me. “Sorry about this Bob, but we hired Howard Stern to do mornings, and we’re moving Patti Haze to mid-days, so you’re the odd man out.”

Rick: Just like that? During the show?

Bob: Yes. During the show.

Rick: Who was the girl with the headphones?

Bob: Her name was Patti Pietch, and she later worked with me at CD 94.7. Every time I saw her, I said—“Oh no, not you again. Is it all over?”

Rick: Was she there when you were fired there too?

Bob: (laughs) No. I was fired during a taping of “Rock and Roll Roots.” I still remember the show I was doing--a time warp to 1966. Bill Gamble (the program director) walked in and told me that they were going to an all-80s format and I wouldn’t fit in.

Rick: But you were one of the biggest names in Chicago in the 80s…

Bob: (laughs) I did think it was ridiculous that he thought I couldn’t do an 80s format.

Rick: Now before the Bob Stroud story has a happy ending at the Drive, you also worked at a few other stations—WXRT and WLS.

Bob: I was at XRT for seven weeks, doing “Rock and Roll Roots” on the weekends. The WLS thing was actually a big thrill for me. Mike Elder, the PD, was a good guy, and he let me do rock and roll specials and “Roots” there. It was such a thrill to say the call letters WLS. That was the first station I listened to as a kid.

Rick: You seem really happy now at the Drive.

Bob: I don’t want to sound like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but it’s really great here. This (Bonneville) is the best company I’ve ever worked for—they really take care of their people, and make sure you have the best tools to do your job. The other day they had a consultant in here asking us what they could do to make the experience of working for the company more pleasurable. Can you imagine that? They actually care.

Rick: Wow.

Bob: Yeah, I know.

Rick: And you were the first voice on the Drive. Do you remember the first song the station played?

Bob: It was Lake Shore Drive by Alliota Haynes & Jeremiah. But the first song I mentioned on the air was the last song of the set. Greg Solk scheduled “Hello It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren, because he knows I love Todd--and obviously that was an appropriate song.

Rick: And now you’re #1 in your timeslot.

Bob: I really give the credit to Greg Solk. This station was his vision. He really did his homework, and was right on the money. Our delivery is totally unique. We don’t do promotions of any kind—it’s all about the music, and the listeners have really responded to that.

Rick: I know that you’re a music lover. Are there any bands outside of your format that you like to listen to in your spare time?

Bob: I really love Joni Mitchell. She has always been one of my favorites. I’m also a big fan of Elvis Costello. I finally get Frank Sinatra, too. My parents loved him, but it took me many years to get that. As for the new bands out there, my favorite is probably Fountains of Wayne.

Rick: One last thing before I let you go. I read that congratulations are in order. Something about “heading for the alter”?

Bob: It seems as though a certain gossip columnist was fed a line of hooey concerning my impending marital status. I am currently not "heading for the alter" as was indicated in his well researched column. Although if and when the time comes, Miss Totura and myself will be working on the concept of having Susanna Homan and Tom Negovan included as part of a double nuptual ceremony.