Sunday, January 27, 2008

Karen Hand

Karen Hand was an important part of the Chicago radio scene for nearly thirty years. She is currently one of owners of Positive Changes Hypnosis Center with former radio colleague Catherine Johns.


1976—KGOU-FM—college radio University of Oklahoma
’77-’78—KOMA-FM—Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
’03-2005—WCKG-FM Chicago

Rick: You've been off the air in Chicago now for a few years. Do you miss it at all?

Karen: Oh yes, I miss it! Radio is my first true love! The first day I walked into the studio and sat behind a microphone at my college radio station, I was in love! I knew I’d found the place where I belong! And the place where I am still most comfortable is in a radio studio behind a microphone.

Please don’t misunderstand. I love hypnosis and what I do now!! When I became a client and a spokesperson for Positive Changes Hypnosis while I was at WCKG, I had that same warm, belonging feeling the first time I walked into the hypnosis center. I loved it!! I’m very lucky to have found such a great life after radio. And I completely enjoy being in business with one of my dearest friends, Catherine Johns! (We are a DYNAMIC DUO!!)

Plus, we record our hypnosis sessions for our clients. So it’s a “Madonna-style” microphone these days….and a very calm “studio” with low lights, soft music, and a “reclining listener”…..but one on one communication is still the most basic similarity. And hypnosis is a tremendous form of communication that helps so many people.

Rick: I know you're originally from Oklahoma. Tell the story of how you ended up in Chicago, and about that first radio job here.

Karen: I got that first radio job in my hometown of Oklahoma City by arguing with the General Manager of KOMA. He was a guest speaker at a class on Station Management and I asked why public affairs shows are always stuffed into the overnight hours. My contention was and still is that public affairs can be placed in morning-drive and get listeners if it’s done well enough! After the class I was offered the job of morning news co-anchor and “Traffic Lady”. That was the first gig. I worked with a great PD, Tom Birch (who later and temporarily rivaled ARBITRON with the Birch Ratings Service). Tom offered some excellent advice. “Do the news like you’re sitting at the dinner table with friends just talking about what you find really interesting.” That was always my motto for doing news.

After about 3 years at KOMA I sent 32 tapes to stations in Los Angeles. Back then it was the number 3 market…but it was the weather that called to me! I got a few rejection letters and one that said I was too colloquial for radio; I should find a different profession. But the PD at the ABC FM station in L.A. forwarded my tape to Bud Miller at WLS in Chicago. I went east to Chicago instead on a cold and snowy New Year’s Day.

Catherine Johns and I first worked together at WLS. In fact, we keep a framed picture in our office now of the entire WLS news staff circa ’79. That picture contains some famous faces: Bob Conway, Linda Marshall, Jim Johnson. (Photo: L-R, News Director Bud Miller, Catherine Johns, Jeff Hendricks, Jim Johnson, writer Ira Johnson, Linda Marshall, Harley Carnes, Karen Hand, producer Lon Dyson....and Bob Conway in the clock.)

Being a 20-something wide eyed Okie, fresh in the big city, I fondly remember the mighty Larry Lujack walking into the studio just before I keyed the mic for my first newscast on WLS and said “Hi, I’ll be listening. Don’t fuck up!” I was TERRIFIED!! And THRILLED!!! And when Ronald Reagan’s deregulation ended overnight news on WLS, and I was set free from the overnight shift, Larry called me offering his support and any help he could offer in finding the next gig. I have always been very touched by that! And I remember Larry Lujack as one of the quietest and hardest working jocks I’ve ever seen.

My first night at WLS was Steve King’s last night on the air there. He took several hours to welcome me to the station and to Chicago. He was very kind! Steve (photo) is definitely one of the nicest people in radio.

Larry Langford worked at WDAI and took me under his wing to show me around Chicago and teach me about the city.

When things went wrong back in Oklahoma, we always said; “I’ll bet it doesn’t happen this way at WLS!” But when I got to ‘LS…I was amazed at how many things did go wrong! My favorite story is the fly that shut down the station. There were two transmitters out in Tinley Park designed so that if one took a power hit, the signal would automatically jump over to the second transmitter. Until that one fateful moment when a fly landed in the transmission path at exactly the same time as a lightening strike and off the air we went….or so the story goes.

Rick: I think it's safe to say that most people remember you from your days at B-96. Talk about your years with Eddie & Jobo. When you look back at those years now, what are some of the moments that you remember most fondly?

Karen: Most of the MANY years I spent with Eddie and JoBo were some of the best of my life! I’m an only child, and they were like my brothers! The station was climbing rapidly in popularity. Program Director Buddy Scott was brilliant to move JoBo from 6-10pm to mornings and pairing him with Ed Volkman was an immediate success!

Dave Shakes (the best PD of my career) arrived to really coach us into a finely tuned, well-oiled morning show. And it was a blast. The Killer Bee was born---put index finger to lips, move rapidly up & down against lips as you say Bbbbbbbbbbbb 96!

AUDIO: WBBM Killer Bee 1990 aircheck (H/t Shakes Radio)

I divorced and got remarried (in life and on the air). My engagement and marriage were both a big deal on the air. Everything we did was on the show! Listeners still come up and ask about my husband Mark and my daughter Jessica. (She now sells radio for Entercom in Sacramento. Jessica first went to California to do a morning show for Dave Shakes!! In Chico.)

We did great promotions under Shakes. Trips with MC Hammer to L.A., annual trips to DisneyWorld, Eddie and JoBo’s Christmas Wish. And the time JoBo took the morning show to Cabrini Green for a live broadcast. During that time there was a warm, fuzzy, community feel along with very fun morning entertainment.

I chuckle at the thought of an April Fools day. That’s Eddie’s birthday, and one year I got his keys and moved his car in the parking lot. Innocent April Fools joke. Until Eddie got pissed trying to quickly get away from a groupie and couldn’t find his car. Happy B-Day Ed! That same day, a couple of my friends from the station and I bought about 50 dollars worth of toilet paper and during a snow storm, T.P.ed JoBo’s house in Wheeling. That’s a lot of toilet paper and took quite some time. Just as we were finishing, the Wheeling police pulled up. Turns out, it’s illegal to T.P. someone’s house in Wheeling. We knocked on Joe’s door…called his house. We knew he was in there!!! But he let us get hassled by the cops and almost arrested. We talked ourselves out of it. Next morning, on-air…he played back the “we’re getting arrested message” we left on his answering machine for morning show jollies.

It was an extended family and some of the best times in radio.

Rick: We also remember the famous lawsuit (against JoBo) that temporarily derailed the show for a few years, which must have been a tense time. Take us on the inside during that time. What was it like?

Karen: Well, the lawsuit was against CBS cause JoBo was accused of slandering Joan Esposito. (JoBo himself was never sued…by Joan Esposito anyway!) It was a long wait but finally, there was a settlement. Our PD Todd Cavanah was thrilled! It was going to just quietly go away. He told us clearly that there was a gag order on the settlement cause CBS didn’t want publicity about the amount of the settlement. When Eddie and JoBo ran into Bill Zwecker at a Mother’s Day event at the races that weekend. They excitedly told him all about the settlement. And as it turns out, they were fired for breaking the gag order.

Anyway, there was a long, boring grueling period of on-air auditions for a new morning show. Seems like a decade went by the year T.J. and Wild Bill did the morning show. I was in G.M. Don Marion’s office daily lobbying for a return of Eddie and JoBo! I took JoBo in to meet Don when it was not acceptable to even mention their names around the station. We needed them back. It was the only thing that could save B96 at that time.

Then George McFly and Frankie Rodriguez teamed up for mornings; both excellent jocks on their own. Never clicked as a team! The interim was terrible!

Unfortunately, one attempt to save mornings was to put my popular Sunday night show, Private Lives, in morning drive for two hours. It was quite successful! And we loved doing it! Proving my original theory that public affairs can do well in morning drive if it’s good entertainment! It was so successful that it stayed on the air in mornings even after Eddie and JoBo returned.

Which set up a new level of tension. Nothing was back to normal when Ed and Joe went back on the air. Part of the condition for rehiring was to require either the General Manager or Program Director to physically be in the control room whenever their mic was on and approve every word before it aired! So for the next two years, either Don Marion or Todd Cavanah sat in the control room every second of the morning show. I aired the news live but every other word on the air was delayed. Everything Eddie and JoBo did was taped--cleared by management and then played back. THAT WAS TENSE!! The timing worked out after a few days and we did have it down to a science, but it was tense. And I think JoBo felt he had to compete with Private Lives for the full morning time slot. The relationship was never the same.

I’m friendlier with the Volkman clan and keep in consistent casual contact with Eddie’s lovely wife, Amber. I’ve known her as long as he has. Eddie and I were doing an appearance at a Haunted House when they first met.

Rick: Your sex-talk show "Private Lives" was on the air for quite a few years in Chicago. Not many people in broadcasting can say they have had a similar experience. I know it was all done in a very respectful way (with co-host Dr. Kelly Johnson), but were there any moments doing that show that made you uncomfortable?

Karen: NEVER! I love Private Lives! It was the highest rated show on Sunday nights for 10 years. What a great show! One of the things I miss most about radio is working with Kelly Johnson! He’s my favorite brother now and one of my very best friends!

When we did Private Lives at B96, it was designed for teenagers as a safe place to go for information; all kinds of information. I was trained (before Private Lives) at Chicago’s MetroHelp and The National RunAway Switchboard. I answered real crisis calls on those phone lines and believe me I heard some chilling things!

We never took suicide calls on Private Lives. They were always screened out and diverted to an actual crisis line. Our first goal was to help, but we were also there to entertain.

When the show added mornings at B96, it evolved into an adult female (and very successful!) show about relationships. We played games and talked and even played some music. When we moved to WCKG, we were definitely talking to adults, mostly male…and the show took a decidedly more explicit tone. But I still wasn’t shocked or uncomfortable with it. It’s just human nature! (Photo: Karen in WCKG Studio. h/t DJ Headlines)

And the nature of the show changed drastically again when Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction and freaked out the entire industry. We softened the content, changed the name and went more general interest to appease CBS management and still kept our ratings!

Rick: I don't know if you realize how respected you are in the industry, especially among women. I've had several former interview subjects (Kathy Voltmer, Jennifer Keiper) single you out as a mentor and an inspiration. In such a cut-throat business, you were always regarded as being genuinely helpful. Was that a conscious decision on your part, or is it just the way you are?

Karen: I was so flattered by Kathy and Jennifer’s comments. I love them both! Kathy has always had a brilliant natural on-air instinct and Jennifer (photo) is the most diligent and trustworthy person I know.

I think I’ve always been fortunate enough to be in a position where I could hire staff and interns. It gave me many employment opportunities to hand out. (Sounds like I had my own patronage radio Queendom.)

I taught a class at Columbia College for a dozen years and came across some incredible talent along the way: Josh Liss, Ric Federighi, Jackie Flores, and many others. And working with young and new talent kept me learning and working harder. They all brought as much to me as I did to them.

Rick: Now you're the co-owner of the Positive Changes hypnosis center along with another former radio personality—Catherine Johns. How has it been working with Catherine, and how do you like the industry?

Karen: Catherine and I share an office on the top floor of the Edens Office Plaza at Cicero and Peterson. We’re two very strong women with a lot in common. I’d say it’s absolutely wonderful that we have so much fun and we laugh….a lot! Not only do we work in a very stress-free environment, we each live just a mile from the office. Life has been very good to me!!

Hypnosis is an amazing tool for helping people reach their goals. Although Catherine and I were entertainers in radio, we’re very much on the clinical side of hypnosis. No one barks like a dog or clucks like a chicken. We help people lose weight, quit smoking, sleep better, reduce stress, and manage pain or symptoms of Fibromyalgia and IBS. And we see excellent results. My favorite story is about a guy who had a tremendous fear of flying and came to our Positive Changes Center on a referral. His boyfriend is a flight attendant…and wanted to take him to Hawaii, big incentive to get over the fear, right? Not only did he fly without fear to Hawaii, he later traveled to Japan. He loved flying so much he applied and was accepted as a flight attendant for one of the major airlines! How could you not love that?

Rick: Any chance we'll hear you on the radio again?

Karen: Every single chance I get!!!!!!!!!!!! Catherine and I often do radio interviews about hypnosis. (Photo: Catherine & Karen w/Mike North morning show) We were just on WLS with the Women Of Mass Discussion (Wendy Snyder, Maura Myles, and Dorothy Humphrey) talking about Smoke Free Illinois and helping Dorothy quit smoking. I’d love to do a radio show again especially with Dr. Kelly! And I would never say “no” to the right opportunity! Keep reading this blog and Robert Feder for any future details.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Scott Childers

UPDATE: 3/18/08

Rick's note: A few weeks after I interviewed Scott Childers for Chicago Radio Spotlight, he was moved to a different radio station by his station owners, Next Media. I recently caught up with Scott and asked how he was liking his new gig.

Scott: I am having a great time - in late January, I transitioned from The River to Star 96.7 where I am afternoon host. It's a blast being back at a Hot AC station, playing new music again! Most of my career has been spent at either AC or CHR formatted stations. Hey, I like Steve Miller and Fleetwood Mac, but it's nice to be someplace that is a bit more current-based. I'm also doing some fun things in the afternoon - the Brainbuster Question has followed me over to Star -- we do that in the 3 o'clock hour and it's nice to be able to banter with Marti Jones (who does traffic). Marti and I have known each other for many years, but this is the first time we have worked together on the air every day. I also put together some fun bits here and there, and we play listener requests back with "Your Four at 4:30." I'll bet you can't guess when we do that! We just recently gave away a wedding package worth over 27 thousand dollars to a lucky couple. I was the one that called them and they were ecxtatic. Star 96.7 is on the verge of a transmitter and tower move which will greatly increase our signal coverage in the western portion of the suburbs. We have a great staff with a wonderful product that I am happy to be able to contibute to.

Off the air, I (along with WCCQ host) Todd Boss head up NextMedia's IT Department here in Crest Hill. We are responsible for the look and operation of the station websites (star96.7net,,, In an average day, I may work on artwork for the site or for email blasts, load (audio and graphical) content up to the sites, troubleshoot problems and interface with the company sales and promotion staff. Days go by very quickly and the staff here (many of which I have worked with in the past at The River or other outlets) are just great. They have built a very smooth running, effective and professional environment here that I am glad to be a part of.

The WLS book project continues on. I am getting to the final stages of preparation and it should be off to the publisher by May. Hopefully we will see it on the shelves (and on Amazon) by mid-summer. I am still interested in any WLS material that anyone may have and would be willing to share. They can contact me at thoughts (at)

* * * * * * * *

Now here is the interview as it originally appeared...

Scott Childers is the Asst. PD and afternoon host at "The River" in Aurora, and the traffic anchor on the Dean Richards Show on WGN.


1989-1991 WJTW-FM weekends.
1990-1998 METRO NETWORKS studio and airborner anchor/APD/Studio Supervisor.
1991-1993 WWBZ-FM The Blaze! weekends/fill-in.
1994-1995 WXLC-FM Hot 102.3 weekends.
1995-1998 WPNT-FM weekends/fill-in.
1998-2003 WNND-FM Windy 100 (middays) and WTMX The MIx (weekend and fill-in)
2003-now METRO NETWORKS/WGN Dean Richards Sunday Morning show.
2004-now WERV-FM The River APD and afternoons.

1998-now WLS History Project - Lead Historical Consultant for Big 89 Rewind

Rick: Before I get to your radio career, Chicago radio-philes may also know you as the man who has maintained an excellent site about WLS history called What inspired you to create that site in the first place?

Scott: My wife would say lunacy. (laughs) Actually, I grew up here, I'm from Chicago, and WLS was the station I listened to when I was growing up. I didn't start listening to FM until the 80s.

Tommy Edwards was always one of my inspirations. What appealed to me about him, and Jeff Davis too, he had a similar style-—was they spoke to you one to one, it was more like personal-casting than broadcasting.

When the 25th anniversary came around, and they did that great special, I was hooked. It was interesting to hear all the sounds from before the 70s—-people I hadn't really heard before like Dick Biondi, Art Roberts, Clark Weber, and before that, the Prarie Farmer. I realized that no one had chronicled it, other than the specials on the radio. I felt it needed to be chronicled, and since I was a pack rat and had accumulated a fair amount of stuff, I figured it might as well be me. The more I learned about WLS History—the more it interested me. It's really an incredible story. That a radio station started up for farmers by Sears has led to this…

Rick: And WLS doesn't seem to mind?

Scott: They've been great. The people at the station over these past few years seem to appreciate and encourage it.

Rick: And now you've got a new book about it coming out via Arcadia Publishing.

Scott: Arcadia is the publisher that specializes in the small books for local communities or organizations, and my friend Jim Moran at Metro was doing one of their books for Libertyville (Photo: Book Cover). He suggested to me that maybe I should think about putting something like this together for WLS history. I hemmed and hawed about it, thinking yeah it should be done, but was I really the guy to do it? The more I thought about it though, the more I thought, sure. Nobody else is doing it. Jim talked to Arcadia and they called me, and I ran it by (WLS Program Director) Kipper McGee, and it stalled there for awhile. They were in the middle of an ownership change and it took awhile to get official clearance. But now it's coming together.

Rick: What can you tell us about the book? When and where is it coming out?

Scott: Well, if you've seen the Arcadia books, they are mostly images, and this book will have about 200 images or so. The forward is being written by Jeff Davis. It's been a lot of work digging up the pictures, and a lot of people that had to be pursued and contacted. My due date is the end of April, so hopefully everything will go well, and it will be out sometime in the summer, but I still don't know an exact date.

Rick: Can you give us a few nuggets?

Scott: I found some stuff at the Sun Times I didn't expect to find. For instance, there were some photos of the late great Yvonne Daniels from the early to mid 70s. It's a glimpse into how much times have changed. In each of those pictures she was smoking in the studio--they actually had ashtrays built into the studio back then. There are at least three pictures of presidents or potential presidents that will be in the book. The one that really caught my eye was a picture of (former WLS General Manager) Tom Traddup and a young Hillary Clinton, and the caption was "The President and First Lady."

Most of the stuff I've run into are things I've already seen--and come from sources I’m familiar with, but I have to keep reminding myself that I have seen far far more than most people, and they will be just as excited to see it as I was the first time I saw it. For instance, the 1967 personality album the station put out—I'm so used to seeing that sort of thing, but most people still haven't seen it. The toughest decision is going to be what to put on the cover. That will be the publisher's decision, which is a good thing, because I don't know if I could pick.

Rick: You were a big part of the WLS Rewind Weekend that WLS did back in May. I thought it was just fantastic. What were some of the highlights from your perspective? You ran the board for my old boss John Landecker that day, didn't you?

Scott: That website has opened all these doors for me, and it's really been wonderful. I've met and worked with many of these WLS greats like Fred Winston (at WPNT) and Brant Miller (at Channel 5), but that day was special. The response was huge that day.

Jeff Davis, Michael Garay (tech producer for Don & Roma), and I form the nucleus of the WLS history project. I had the distinct honor of board operating John Landecker's show. (Photo: John and Scott) I had listened to him so much for so many years, it was so natural. It was like I instinctively knew what to do.

Rick: I talked to John right after he got off the air, and he was really happy that day. He had a blast.

Scott: It sure seemed like it. He was saying during the breaks…"This is going really well isn't it?" Those of us at the station had no idea how much it was swirling all over town while it was on the air. I was so happy they replayed it over the July 4th weekend, so I could hear it on the radio. It just felt right.

Rick: You burst onto the scene here via Metro Traffic. I remember hearing you on Bob Sirott's first morning TV show on Channel 5—First Thing in the Morning, and then later on Fox Thing in the Morning, but you were also on the radio doing traffic at places like WBBM, WMAQ, WLS, and WGN. Talk about those early years.

Scott: When I started at Metro we were a staff of about five—and we worked in the same tiny little room. Metro was larger nationwide than Shadow, but not in Chicago. I started as a producer and did fill-in work at WFYR and the Score at 820, and then ended up at Channel 5. It was really the dawn of TV traffic--at the time, the concept of traffic on TV was something very new. I remember thinking to myself...Who would watch TV for traffic? Shows what I knew. During my Metro years, I also did traffic on B-96 for Eddie & Jobo. I was Rich Scott there.

Rick: Looking back, what was the highlight of your traffic reporting career?

Scott: The highlight was working with Bob and Allison on Channel 5—it was so new then, and by the time we went to Fox it was like we had done this before—it went very smoothly. I wasn't always on camera, but everybody knew about that show. Everyone watched it. Plus, we also did that 'Coffee With' segment, and were on just about every radio show in town.

The other highlight was doing traffic and news on WLS the first time. I was so nervous and excited to say the call letters. This meant everything to me. It was during Dr. Laura and Rush Limbaugh, and people gathered round the studio to watch, because they knew what a big deal it was for me.

Off the air, another highlight was the good fight between Shadow and Metro. At one point we were actually beating them. Now it's one company, but that happened after I left.

Scott: I know you also worked, and continue to work as a music jock (currently afternoons on The River, in addition to Asst. PD and Imaging Director). How do you like doing music shows compared to traffic?

Scott: Jocking is what I've always wanted to do in this business, and I love it. To sit in an air studio and do that is absolutely fantastic. I learned from the best, listening to my heroes like Tommy Edwards and Jeff Davis. It's such a personal medium, it's one on one. I also love music—all different kinds. It's a natural extension to work as a music jock.

When I was at the Blaze, that station came out of nowhere like a rocket and suddenly everybody was listening to it. I heard from people I hadn't heard from in years after they heard me on the Blaze. Radio is so immediate. That's something people in charge of radio stations should remember.

Right now, I'm also really enjoying myself at WGN (I do the show with Dean Richards). Dean doesn't do an issues-oriented kind of show, which isn't the kind of personality I am either, and we've been having a great time. (Photo: Scott, Dean Richards, and Rob Hart at WGN)

Rick: You were the midday guy at Windy-100 for several years, an adult contemporary format that never quite seemed to catch on. What mistakes do you think Windy made, and have you listened yet to what they are doing at Fresh FM? If so, what do you think about their attempts to get that female audience?

Scott: Too early to tell about Fresh Fm. I like the music, but I also really enjoyed my time at Windy. Bonneville was a great company to work for—and I worked on the Mix side too. When I did middays that was probably the widest audience I ever had in my career. We had Lite on the ropes for quite awhile. It was a fun time, and tastes change, and I guess they needed to come up with something else. It's hard to say what could have been done differently.

I do have some advice for Fresh. They should be get people that are known to the Chicago audience. Look at what the Lite has done, now that they have Melissa back in the morning, and John Symons in the evening.

Let's talk about The River...

Scott: I've been at the River for four years and it's been fantastic so far. I got a chance to go into programming here which has been great. When I first started I was working with Didi Foley, who had lots of experience in programming--she had been a PD since very early on in her career, but very little downtown Chicago radio experience. I was exactly the opposite, so we worked really well together. The nice thing about working here is that the job is never boring. I started middays and got to air out my personality a little more, then I got to learn more about music, production, and promotion. That's something that working at a suburban station teaches you...a little bit of everything.

Rick: I know you're a Cubs fan. Is 100 the magic number?

Scott: Boy I hope so. How long can the heartbreak go on? Brian Peck and I have spent quite a few days out at the ballpark. Unfortunately, it's getting too expensive to go now. I know Wrigley is the Taj Mahal of baseball, but when they charge that much for tickets, a lot of them go to the people who don't know the game—the tourists. They should have an area for people who don’t want to watch the game, and let them sit there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A few items of potential interest...

Don't worry--another interview is coming on Sunday, but I have a few items of interest for all of you radio fans.

This is an article I wrote for Shore Magazine about the battle for the female radio audience in Chicago: New Dawn in Morning Radio. It features quotes from Melissa Forman and her staff, Eric Ferguson, Kathy Hart, Tommy Edwards and more.

Also, for those of you in the Naperville area, I'll be appearing at Anderson's Bookshop (123 W. Jefferson) on Thursday night January 24th at 7pm, along with my good friend and fellow author, Kim Strickland. We'll be reading from our respective books (Severance, Wish Club), signing them, and telling the highly unusual story of how two kids from the suburbs met in college, ended up on the same radio show in Champaign, remained friends after college, but never realized the other person was a closet writer until our debut novels came out within a week of each other...more than twenty years later.

If you're a Cubs fan, you may want to check out my new website: Just One Bad Century. It's my tribute to the 100th anniversary since the last Cubs World Series championship--and features lots of stories, audio, and video about the Cubs, focusing on Cubs history. (New stories every weekday). Our first YouTube video: Harry rips Cracker Jacks is getting lots of hits.

I'll be on with Jerry Agar on WLS Friday January 18th at 10:30 to talk about the site, and with fellow die-hard Cubs fan Bob Sirott on WGN Tuesday January 22nd at 12:40.

And thank you Robert Feder of the Chicago Sun Times for your mention of this blog and my others in your column on Friday.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bart Shore

Bart Shore is the morning traffic anchor at WBBM, Newsradio 780.


KLWW—Cedar Rapids, 1974-75

KRNA—Iowa City, 75-85 (music director, program director, top-40, mid-days on the air)

WLAK-Chicago 85-87 (overnights)

WUSN 99.5, 87-88 (starting part-time, then also filled in mornings for Deano Day working with Ken Cocker and Anne Maxfield)

Century Broadcasting, Chicago & Elmhurst (FM 100 WLOO, WCZE 820 AM). 1987-1990.
My fake on-air name was Jeff Christie. I was also the production director. They later became WXEZ, and then they fired the whole staff when it became WPNT.

Interstate Radio Network--1990-1996
All night trucker show owned by the Tribune. We were on all over the country. (The show originated from Studio C at WGN). Left after Tribune sold the company.

Shadow Traffic—1996—Present.
When I started at Shadow, I worked on the Catherine Johns show at WLS, and Howard Stern Show at WCKG, then when Lonnie Tyler quit, they started using me for mornings at WMAQ (1997-2000) with Pat Cassidy. And since 2000, I've been exclusively with WBBM. I'm really honored to be working with great professionals like Pat Cassidy and Felicia Middlebrooks.

Rick: I asked mutual acquaintances about you before this interview, and they all described you the same way: "That Bart Shore is a real character." Why do you think they say that?

Bart: (laughs) Hmm. I say what I think, and it usually gets me into trouble. I am a little outspoken. I don't take things too seriously though.

Rick: You're a local boy—you grew up in Wilmette. Were you a radio geek?

Bart: I listened all the time. Starting in 1965 or so through high school, I switched back and forth between WLS and WCFL. Then when rock stations started showing up on the FM, I listened to them all. I loved that music. I listened to WDAI. I still remember when WXRT signed on. At first they were only at night, and it was so cool. I was way into the music. My friends and I listened to it all, we saw everything that came through town. That’s what led to me radio in the first place, the music. That's what hurt about working at some of the music stations where I worked. I never really got to work at a music station that played the music I loved…

Rick: Let's talk about that. Not many people that listen to your traffic reports every morning on WBBM realize that you were actually a music disc jockey for many years. Tell us about those days.

Bart: I started in college at Iowa. A friend of mine was a record rep and got me in to meet this program director at a station in Cedar Rapids, and he hired me to do overnights. Then I took a pay cut to move to Iowa City for a music director job (photo: Bart at KRNA), which eventually led to a program director job. Even though I liked Iowa, I really wanted to work in Chicago. Nobody would give me the time of day when I called from Iowa, so I just moved back here in July of 1985, figuring that if someone asked "when can you start?" I could say "Tomorrow." I was really lucky to get two offers pretty quickly, one at Q-101 and one at WLAK. I took the LAK job, because it was full-time. That was in October '85.

Rick: Ah yes, The Lake.

Bart: The ratings at that station were huge, but it really was a boring job. The playlist was very tight, and we weren't allowed to do much. It was mainly just: "That was so and so on the Lake. Here comes so and so at the Lake." I was so bored I used to listen to Eddie Schwartz on WGN while I was on the air. I much preferred my time at US-99. I started as a part-timer there and their morning guy Deano Day seemed to call in sick all the time. The PD let me fill in for him when he couldn't make it, and suddenly I was doing more of the kind of show I did in Iowa. I enjoyed it—especially working with Anne Maxfield and Ken Cocker.

(AIRCHECK: Bart Shore on US-99 ) h/t DJ Headlines.

Rick: Do you miss it at all?

Bart: I do. It would be fun to do again, especially at a station where I like the music—like 94.7, but at this point in my life, it's nothing I'm really looking for. Those aren't the kind of jobs that just fall in your lap unless you're out there hustling for them. Nobody just knocks on your door in this business and says—"hey, want a great job?"

Rick: So how did you transition into traffic?

Bart: After the All Night Trucker show was sold by the Tribune Company in 1996 (Bart worked there from 1990-1996)—and moved to Nashville, I went over to Shadow Traffic.

Rick: Was that a hard transition after twenty years of music radio?

Bart: It was different, because it was only me talking, and because we don't really work with scripts at Shadow...

Rick: I've seen those Shadow reports and they look like they're written in code.

Bart: (laughs) Yeah, they are a little hard to decipher. Also, it happens so fast, you don't really have time to pre-read anyway, especially at BBM. We do it every ten minutes. I’m constantly gathering the information too, and sometimes we also do a little breaking news. Before I worked here I never thought I would like doing traffic, but I must admit I really do love it.

Rick: And on BBM, the traffic has a special significance. We all know that we can hear traffic and weather on the 8s, and a lot of people tune in just for that.

Bart: True.

Rick: My wife is programmed. At 8 minutes after the hour, she's hitting the button for WBBM to get the traffic.

Bart: There are a lot of people who do that. Let me tell you the best way to listen to WBBM. Tune in at the top of the hour. The first five minutes you get all the biggest national and international news from the network, then the next three minutes you'll get all the biggest local news, and then it's weather and traffic. Ten minutes and you're totally informed.

Rick: Depending on the demographics and the ratings book, the morning show at WBBM is the #1 show in Chicago. Have you reaped any of the rewards of being on such a popular show? Do people recognize you?

Bart: Not really—you're pretty anonymous on the radio. It's not like I've gotten good deals at restaurants. (In a fake hushed maitre d' voice) "Bart Shore is here."

Rick: I've known quite a few people over the years who were based at Shadow Traffic as you are, and some of them like that they're not in the same studio as the other people on the show, and others lament it.

Bart: I need to be at Shadow because that's where all the information is gathered, and I need it as soon as possible. Other stations do it differently. Some stations get information from us on the Internet and do the traffic from their own studios, others have people at Shadow, and others do it both ways, like WLS. Christina (afternoon traffic anchor on the Roe Conn Show) is at the WLS studios and gets information from us on the Internet. Wendy Snyder (morning traffic anchor for Don & Roma) is at Shadow with us. (laughs) There, I got a mention of Wendy into the column. It's not Rick's blog, if there isn't a Wendy Snyder mention (photo).

Rick: (laughs) Everybody loves Wendy.

Bart: It's been a lot of fun to work with her. We have the same schedule, so we arrive at the same time and leave at the same time every day, so I see her all the time. She was somebody I listened to for years but I never met her until she started at Shadow. When we met she told me that she has listened to me for years too. It was like we already knew each other, and we hit it off immediately.

Rick: In your eyes what are the cons of working from a different location than the rest of the show?

You do tend to feel a little excluded from the station—we're an afterthought at Christmas party time for instance. We don't get the free station jackets or whatever. We don't really feel like we're a part of the radio station, which I guess, technically we're not. But in WBBM's case, it's a little different. I'm on their website. I provide them with information all the time. I am under their control, but I must say, they really don't give me a lot of direction. They treat me like a professional and let me do my job.

Rick: So what you're saying is that you're not hanging out with Pat and Felicia after the show, tossing back a few cold ones.

Bart: Never. Although I have played golf with Pat a few times. But I gave up golf. I don't have time for it anymore. Between working long hours, and my dogs—I have a German Sheppard that takes up a lot of my time and energy, and a Wiener dog that doesn't.

Rick: Didn't I see a WCIU Promo with you and your dogs?

Bart: (laughs) Yes, that was me. I was just sitting there on the beach with my dogs and they came by and asked if they could use me in a promo, so I said, sure, what the heck. I did the promo for "The King of Queens," and they were surprised that I did it so well. They had no idea I was in broadcasting. I did one for "Bernie Mac" or "People's Court" too, but I don't think I ever saw that one on the air.

Rick: I have one last traffic question if you don't mind. I imagine you get a lot of complaints about traffic reports…

Bart: Actually we don't get very many complaints, believe it or not. Years ago I had the idea of creating the WBBM traffic tip line, so if listeners see something we're talking about or not talking about, they call us up and let us know what's going on. Most people that call are actually trying to be helpful. They call the number constantly. That's the reason our information is so good. It's one of the things I absolutely love about radio--the immediacy of it. It's a little different in television. I fill in for Kris Habermehl at Channel 2 quite a bit, and it's really not like that. If a big story breaks they can really only go to you if it's in one of those first two blocks of news.

Rick: How do you like doing the TV copter thing?

Bart: Oh, I love it. It's tough to do a split shift (mornings/radio, afternoons/television), but over the years I've managed to see Chicago from places that most people never will. I've been taking some great pictures…

Rick: Would you mind sharing a few of those with us?

Bart: Sure. Maybe someday I'll publish them…

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Brothers Straus

Scott Straus is the production director of KISS-FM and J.R. Straus is a producer for Mike and Mike at ESPN, and a production assistant at WZZN-FM.


J.R: 93-94 - SRN Broadcasting and Marketing - everything from co-op sales to stringing Bulls games.

Scott: 12/1995 thru about 05/1998, Mancow's Morning Madhouse Producer, 103.5 WRCX.

J.R: 95-02 - WCKG - FM (R.I.P.) - Some of the shows I worked on: Patti Haze, Howard Stern, Jonathon Brandmeier, Buzz and Wendy ( '01 A.I.R. award for best midday show )

Scott: Summer of 1998, Freelance Producer for The Score,Sportsradio 1160AM WSCR. (Primarily for "The Coach and the Kid", but filled in for almost everyone at least once.)

Scott: Fall 1998 through spring 2000, Murphy in the Morning, Producer, 103.1 WXXY/WYXX.

Scott: Spring of 2000, part time board op at 103.5 WKSC, then full time by summer of that year as Production Director, where I still reside currently. (Also a 4-time ILBA Silver Dome finalist during this time, including a winner in '06.)

J.R: 03-present WMVP - AM - Producer for Mike and Mike in the Morning, and 07-present WZZN - Production Assistant

Rick: I don't think I've ever seen two brothers with such similar resumes. You both started in the business the same year. You've worked at rival sports stations (J.R.--ESPN, Scott--The Score), and for rival morning shows (J.R.--Howard Stern, Scott--Mancow). You've both produced shows (J.R.--Buzz & Wendy, Scott--Murphy in the Morning), and you both ended up in the production side of the business (J.R.--ESPN, WZZN, Scott-WKSC). And at no time did you either of you get a job for the other one--you've been at different stations the whole time. How in the world did this happen?

Scott: Fortunately for both of us, we’ve worked in our hometown of Chicago for our entire careers to date. Because we were both full time for so long, there was never a real urgency for one to place the other into a new gig. Instead, we simply stay informed of the changes within the market, and maintain the great industry relationships we’ve developed over our years. We’re always catching up with our old friends, and being introduced to new ones. Between all of those branches we’ve become pretty resourceful. Add the small world of radio, and it’s a matter of time.

Rick: Was there ever any taunting about ratings over the Thanksgiving table? You know, something like "Pass the mashed potatoes, like Howard just passed Mancow in the ratings," or "Mom, this turkey is as delicious as my victory in the summer book."

Scott: That would have been great! I could have found “Turd” references in there somewhere for sure! No, there really wasn’t much taunting at all. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely saw the irony of competing as brothers and co-workers. We poked a little fun, but it was never malicious by any means. The truth is, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, we’d both just been through a chaotic Sweeps period, and put in extra hours to prepare for the holidays. I think we were more interested in sitting down at that table without operating anything that had a button or a knob. Or maybe even getting some sleep.

J.R.: The only one who really was affected by any taunting was our Mom, who had to tell people that her two sons worked for Howard Stern and Mancow.

Rick: Before I get to the questions about the individual shows and jobs, let me ask the question I got asked all the time when I worked behind the scenes. JR, I know you've had a taste of the on-air gig when you did sports on Buzz and Wendy's show (WCKG), and Scott, I know you've been on the air quite a bit as a producer for Mancow and Murphy. Do either of you guys have any aspirations of getting back on the air full-time or have you found your niche?

J.R.: Currently, I am just as happy presenting and coming up with ideas and opinions, and then letting the hosts and callers decide which way to take things. I appreciate how hard producers in this business have to work – someone should write a book about that. (laughs) However, if I have learned anything in this business, it is never say never.

Scott: It’s hard for me to say what’s coming down the road since there’s no way I could have predicted my first 12 years so far. I do know that I’m a solid producer. I’m a great writer. I love to perform. Maybe someday I can do it all. On the lighter side, my brother and I get told all the time that we should have a show together. The thought has me laughing out loud. We’d probably have some FCC clause banning the bringing up of “wedgies from childhood”, or the “Shhhhh don’t tell Mom” segment. Now my REAL answer? Who knows. I really just want to have creative fun.

Rick: Scott, I know you got your start working on Mancow's show. I previously interviewed Freak who also worked with Mancow, and it sounded like it was a pretty intense experience. How did you become a part of the show, and what was the experience like for you?

Scott: The planets aligned just right for me to get in with Mancow and Co. (photo: Scott and Mancow) I was going to school at Columbia College. A great friend of mine, Christine, told me that she saw an internship call posted on our school bulletin boards, and gave me the lead. Being a fan, I followed up almost immediately. Right before Christmas of ’95, they called in about 4 or 5 of us one day. We all crammed into a little production room and watched resident technical whiz “LuvCheez” producing bits and parodies all morning. We were to assist.

At some point he turned to our group and said something like “I need one of you to sing this.” It was a parody song about Chris Farley to be sung to the tune of “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. Everyone turned white with terror. I took that opportunity to speak up. It turned out that Farley was actually live in studio that day. He liked our little number so much that he requested his own tape to take home. (Yes, a tape.) Mancow loved that. He immediately called back and told LuvCheez to offer “whoever that was” a 3 or 5 day a week gig. I took 5 and never looked back!

Freak described the experience perfectly. Intense. It’s hard for me to describe what I did and learned in those 2+ years without hiring a publisher. The answer is everything. I learned about ratings, production, promotions, writing, screening calls, booking guests, talent fees, contracts, concerts, site checks, sales, managers, and basically every other inner working of the industry. I got to film bands like Anthrax from on stage, and travel to Amsterdam for live remotes. I just watched Mancow a ton, and made mental notes on things that he liked and didn’t like. I then did my best to do what was asked of me, listen, contribute, and absorb as much as I could. I actually learned to edit on Pro-Tools by simply watching. If I didn’t know it, I learned it. If I knew it, I used it. That show is what made it possible for me to tackle every other radio job with ease. Mancow is really good at what he does. To be his right hand was an education that no school could have prepared me for. I’m relatively certain that his standards, expectations, and demands, are what elevated my game beyond the average producer.

Rick: You later produced another Chicago legend, Murphy in the Morning, when he was the morning guy over at the 80s channel (WXXY/WYXX). How was that experience similar or different?

Scott: That experience was very different. (photo: Scott and Murphy) They may share random similarities, but they had very different shows for different demographics. Murphy's show featured music as well as topics, stories, call-ins, and everything else a morning show does. I also ran the board for this show, so there was a different feel for both the host and the producer this time around for me. It was a slower pace than Mancow, but still very interactive.

There were times on Fridays where the phones would have guests, contestants, winners, song requests, and his mother, all on hold at same time. The experience was great with Murf. The other big difference was the fact that Big City Radio was stuck with a 6,000 watt stick back then. Our formats would also get stolen not once, but twice, in our two year/two format run. We still gave it our all everyday though. It was our radio home, and we wanted it to work more than anyone. We stayed as fun and competitive as we could under our circumstances, and always hoped for the best.

Rick: While Scott was working on those two shows, JR was a jack of all-trades at WCKG. By the time you left WCKG, you had worked with the likes of Patti Haze, Howard Stern, Johnny B, and Buzz & Wendy. In this age of consolidation, radio stations simply can't exist without someone like you, who can seamlessly shift from show to show, and role to role. Tell us about the evolution of your time there, and of your dozen or so jobs, what was your favorite?

J.R.: It almost seems like a badge of honor to have worked at a station that no longer exists. When I started at WCKG it was Howard’s third or fourth attempt to return to this market, and we were running the show off of reel to reel! (By the time I left there, we were running ridiculous commercial loads and the show was all completely digital.)

We were transitioning from a classic rock station to a talk station, and I was also working with Patti Haze (photo), who is great, a total professional. The “queen of rock and roll” was so knowledgeable, and a really fun person - I really enjoyed working with her.

Johnny B (photo) was out in Los Angeles for the time he was on WCKG, and I was running his board here. With all of the hookups between his studio, his newsperson’s studio, and Chicago being sent back and forth, it was always fun trying to run down the hallway to redial one of the myriad ISDN units. Having never really heard Johnny B before running his board – he is just amazing in his preparation and timing. Then, Johnny’s contract ran out – negotiations went down to the last day - I think it was on a Tuesday, and Buzz just walked in, looked at me and said “J.R., it’s you and me today.” (I almost fell over! What did you just say? I am on the air with you in a half hour?)

It was dubbed “The Temporary Buzz Show”, because no one knew how long it was going to last. Then they brought in one of the best morning show personalities to sit next to Buzz, Wendy Snyder, and it became “The Fabulous Midday Show with Buzz and Wendy”. Watching their chemistry come together was one of the highlights during my time at WCKG. They went from two people who were in radio and became this funny, popular midday team. They became two good friends who actually enjoyed spending time together; you could hear it in their voices, it wasn’t just for the show. And I was just hanging on by the seat of my pants trying to absorb it all.

Rick: Now Scott is the award winning production director at KISS-FM. I visited the Clear Channel complex a few weeks ago and saw the way it's set up there. We had a similar set up at the Loop in the early 90s with three stations working in the same hallway (the AM, the FM, and The Blaze), and it led to all sorts of personality conflicts (and even a lawsuit or two). You have twice as many stations all working in the same hallway. Does that ever cause any problems?

Scott: I too caught the tail end of the personality conflicts you speak of. Though I wasn't involved personally with any of them, I do remember our frequency had to move floors within that building. That was pretty much the tail end of most of the activity from what I remember. Nothing like that ever happens here at Clear Channel though. CC staffers are not only diverse, but talented too. They are all as approachable as any human could be on the street. From DreX, to Tony Sculfield, Rick O'Dell, Melissa Foreman. They'd all have time for you. We have great respect for one another’s unique talents, so it's nice to be able to do what I do best and get great support from my peers.

Rick: And J.R. is the man behind the dials at ESPN's Mike and Mike Show in Chicago, which consistently beats the local Mike North Show at WSCR, even though it's a nationally syndicated show from the East Coast. You've literally heard every second of that show. What do you think is the secret to Mike & Mike's success?

J.R.: Mike and Mike (photo) seem to have figured out how to relate to everyone. The chemistry that they have is also apparent – these guys practically finish each other’s sentences. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and are quick to poke fun at themselves on a regular basis. They have incredibly talented production people, who keep coming up with fresh ideas for them to try. I read something this week that Eric Zorn of the Tribune wrote – he wrote that talent is really hard work in disguise. Mike and Mike and their staff have as much talent as anyone. They are constantly plugged in to what is going on in sports so you don’t have to be. When you turn on the radio in the morning, you may not get out of them how many points your favorite player had last night – that’s what the updates are for. What you will be is informed of what happened last night in sports on your commute to work. It is also undeniable that television increases their appeal; if you are in a hotel on business there is a pretty good chance that you will get to hear or even see your morning radio show wherever you are.

Rick: Scott, when you came into the business (as J.R. mentioned), production was in the process of switching over to the digital world. Let me ask you a question for the audio geeks out there. What do you see as the new frontier of radio production, or do you think this digital production world is a final destination for awhile?

Scott: Boy, am I glad the tape era is dead! No offense to the people who love it, but radio is changing everyday. In my opinion, there is a larger access to life and news since the birth of the internet. There is more to say, more to produce, and tape doesn't give you the freedom to increase that pace. The time needed to edit something digitally vs. tape could mean hours of man power. To create a 60 second commercial and edit it on a reel to reel could take all day, especially when you don't nail it in one take. With something like Pro-Tools, my preferred weapon of choice, I can knock out that 60, grab some lunch, hit two meetings, and still have time to revise. I'm not sure where technology takes us next, but I do believe that digital is bigger and badder without question. Machines like the shortcut, or devices with hot buttons, these little things speed you up even more. It's been pretty cool to watch technology advance with me, and invade our industry over the years. Producers are now wicked multitaskers.

Rick: Will the Brothers Straus ever work together?

Scott: We were on to that formula years ago. We've been running and developing "Major Market Media" an idea we came up with. The one constant we shared over our years was the barrage of horrible advertising that we heard on a daily basis. We would literally complain out loud to each other sometimes. Phone numbers mentioned 4 times in a row, fake testimonials that don’t even fool your grandma, it’s just crazy. MMM really focuses on giving those outer market businesses the edge that they need to make an impact. We take the time needed to develop and script that message perfectly. We have the outside studio space, an award winning talent pool, and we have the formula needed to create results! A company that sells cars isn't just selling cars, there's much more to it. How we apply their goal is what makes our work so valuable.