Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spotlight Update

I recently caught up with a few Chicago radio people who have changed jobs or shifts since I originally interviewed them for Chicago Radio Spotlight.


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.



Jennifer was the News Director at WLS when I interviewed her last year, but was part of the recent cutbacks there. She landed on her feet quickly, and is now working at Fox News Radio.

Rick: Were you a little surprised that WLS made such severe cuts to their news department?

Jennifer: Yes, I was surprised that the WLS newsroom was cut in half. Before the decision was announced, there were indications that news was supported by the higher-ups. Bill, Jim, John, Ryan, David and I were making great progress in covering more news; we started a fantastic public affairs show and had just secured media space in the state capitol.

Jim, John, and Ryan have been in a difficult spot and are doing a great job.

Rick: Tell us about your new job and where we can hear you now.

Jennifer: I have been hired by Fox News Radio as their midwest correspondent. It is a great opportunity to cover big stories across the midwest while maintaining my ties to Chicago. I can be heard on WIND-AM in Chicago and hundreds of other stations across the country. My family in Pennsylvania jokes that, after 18 years in the business, they'll finally be able to hear me.



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

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

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


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


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



Cara Carriveau is a personality on WTMX Radio, but she does so much more than that. When I interviewed her last year, she was just getting her Cara's Basement podcast started. I even appeared as a guest on that show last summer (photo). I recently caught up with her and asked her if she would mind updating her Chicago Radio Spotlight interview...

Cara: First, thanks for the original interview. It's always fun to chat with you.

At the time of that interview I had just begun to work part time at 101.9 WTMX in Chicago. You can hear me on The Mix quite bit - view my on-air schedule at

I had just started my podcast Cara's Basement when we last spoke - wow, has it grown! I've interviewed Linkin Park, JY from Styx, Rik Emmett from Triumph, Stephen Pearcy from RATT, Mick Jones from Foreigner and many other fascinating entertainers (including an author named Rick Kaempfer). Some big names are on tap for future episodes and I'm also interviewing up & coming artists because I think it's fun to talk with people working towards their dreams and it's great exposure for them. Cara's Basement is now featured on, a popular music portal online. I also do artist interviews for The Chicago Music Guide - I've interviewed Alanis Morissette, Against Me!, Ankla, Taylor Dayne and many others for them.

Besides my own podcast, I also co-host my husband Bill Busch's podcast Fitness From The Inside Out. My voiceover business Cara Communications is keeping me busy - besides voicing a ton of phone systems worldwide, commercials & narrations I now do radio station imaging including rocker WIHN in Bloomington, Illinois. I'm a member of the NBC5 Street Team, a select group of bloggers/podcasters in Chicago. I've definitely embraced new media - you can find me all over the internet - youtube, twitter, facebook, myspace, etc. and I've taught myself html so I'm doing all of my own websites. You can often find me emceeing charity concerts throughout Chicago - I have one coming up at the Double Door July 5. A few other broadcasting projects are in the works that I can't divulge details about yet, but I will say that I'm very excited!

The biggest accomplishment in the past few years, though, has been the remarkable experience of raising my kids. I've been able to chaperone school events for my daughter which I never could do when I worked fulltime. My son Sam is now 3 and is such a joy to be around. As busy as I am with my own projects, my husband and children are by far my top priority.

Monday, May 26, 2008

WLS Memorial Day Rewind

I'm loving this WLS Memorial Day Rewind today. For those of you searching the internet for more information about some of the participants, I've previously interviewed several of them here.

Read about...

Fred Winston

Catherine Johns

Karen Hand

John Records Landecker


Jeff Davis

Also, they were giving away the book written by WLS legend Clark Weber, and I'm pretty sure that WLS History website operator Scott Childers was part of the festivities too.

Oh, and here's a great WLS commercial from 1981

Friday, May 23, 2008

Paul Brian

Paul Brian is the Director of Communications for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, and the host of "Drive Chicago" on WLS-AM.


*American Forces Radio and TV in the Panama Canal Zone
*WYEN in Des Plaines
*WCLR afternoon drive.
*KAFM-Dallas, PD
*WFAA Dallas, PD/Afternoon drive
*WGN Radio… early evenings at first, between Sports Central and Milt Rosenberg (7-9), then afternoons riding herd over the Noon Show, and then from 12:30 – 3 pm. Did primary backup for both Wally and Bob.
*Left radio in '89 to work for the Alfa Romeo IndyCar team for 3 years, splitting living between here and Milan , Italy . Drivers in 89-90 were Roberto Guerrero and Al Unser, Sr.; then Danny Sullivan in '91 with Roberto driving the second car in the 500s. Also consulted Amoco Corp in its SuperVoice Crisis Communications programs and consulting
*Helped form IndyCar Radio Network after Alfa left the US and shut down its racing ops. Did the whole series as the color commentator for two years.
*1993 joined the Chicago Automobile Trade Assn as Director of Communications. CATA produces the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place
*Started Drive Chicago (the radio show) on WMVP in 1996, moved the show to WLS six years ago.

Rick: I thought of all the people in radio, you'd be the most appropriate to interview on the day they run the Indy 500. Not only because you host "Drive Chicago" on WLS every Saturday morning, but because you've been involved in racing for many, many years. What is it about racing that turned you onto the sport in the first place?

Paul: I think it was that cars offered me equal footing to the jocks when I was a kid, to be honest. It's not that I was a bad athlete, but I was always the funny fat guy who made a great baseball catcher because I was wide. I wasn't very good as basketball, but made a good interior lineman (see "wide factor" above). But the car thing… well that brought everything into equal footing. With the car there, there was an understanding the physics of what was going on, the dynamics of engineering and the plain kick-ass fun of driving.

I think most people think that watching an oval race is like watching paint dry—round and round and round—and who could get excited about that? The fact is that there's as much an inner game to racing (ovals or road courses) as there is in a football, baseball or basketball game. The jock-sniffer broadcasters don't understand that inner game, nor any of the other aspects of the sport, so they treat it like it's a second-class citizen. For one weekend a year, though, they all turn into experts on the Indy 500 and attempt to sound like they know from Shinola about which they speak. Frankly, they're embarrassing to listen to, from the perspective of anyone who knows the truth. It'd be like listening to a fifth grade kid explain the rigors and exigencies of a two-minute drill or a championship that comes down to a final five-seconds 3-point shot.

So for me, the love of cars and racing came with the same intensity as most kids get about stick-and-ball sports. I was also fortunate to have parents who loved cars. Dad (on the surface, a pretty conservative pharmacist) drove Pontiac GTOs and mom's best pick ever was a Chevelle 396 SuperSport convertible. I can remember her dusting off some kids going westbound on 31st St. heading toward Oakbrook and laughing about her lead foot. She was a pretty cool lady.

Rick: Unlike other racing commentators, you're a radio guy who went into racing, and not the other way around. I think it's safe to say that you are best known in Chicago for your years with WGN radio in the 1980s. What would you consider some of your personal highlights from the WGN years?

Paul: I had just returned from four years in Dallas working for the Bonneville properties there. I had started at (then) WCLR and the parent company wanted to plug in that format in Dallas, so they offered me a good position and a nice raise to move to Texas to help them, but the chance to go to WGN was—as it would naturally be for a local kid who grew up with GN on the radio most all the time—was something I wanted to do, and did.

I got the chance to work with some awesome people: Wally, Bob, Roy, Orion, Dr. Milt, Harry, Brick, the list goes on and on. I was a bit in awe of being there and they were all gentlemen, giving mentors and good friends. Dan Fabian was the PD then and gave me two orders: Don't lose the license, and have fun. I remember the Bears championship season vividly. I did all of the pre-game shows from Gate O at Soldier Field for those years and (while a lot of times froze my ass off) had a ball. The coldest I've ever been in my life was sitting on some concrete slab for the Superbowl Championship celebration in Grant Park doing the remote on what had to be the coldest day of the year. There was an electricity that day and during that year that hasn't been matched—even by the Bulls run of championships or the White Sox World Series win.

I got to interview some awesome people, as many of us in this business get to do and sometimes minimize. It's not worth listing them, but it was memorable and perhaps my grandchildren will read about in my notes some day and think that Grandpa had a few moments of note.

Rick: You were there during the days of Wally in the morning, and Bob Collins in the afternoon, and filled in for both of them. How would you describe each of those guys to people who didn't know them personally?

Paul: I think I did their shows a lot more than I did my own! Wally used to take about eight weeks of vacation a year and Bob about six, as I recall. Wally (photo) was pretty protected by his producer, Marilyn. I respected him for his history, but when I'd just blow into his office past her, she'd get all ruffled that I had run her gauntlet. It got to be very fun after a while, actually. Once there, though, Wally was pretty engaging and never dismissive at all. He got pissed at me once for goofing around the night before with a player piano he had delivered to the studio that was going to be a bit. I think he got over it. I know he was a target for a lot of jokes, but I think he knew that if someone had an X on him for humor, it was because he was the leader of the pack. At the end of the day, the guy with the biggest paycheck wins, so on that basis Wally was the winner, wasn't he?

Bob. Bob (photo) was a close, close friend and I miss him a lot. We'd go to lunch at least three times a week and saw each other socially a lot. Bob, contrary to some who only knew him from his radio side, was a pretty sophisticated guy. He had a dinner once and told me he wanted me to come because I was the only guy who could figure out the silverware puzzle for eight courses, but he knew very well all of the subtleties of being a gentleman, which he was. I think most people keep a mental list of the five numbers you want to have in your pocket if you ever wound up in the lockup at 26th and California . Bob was one of the numbers on my list—and I never doubted for a second that if he got that call at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, he'd show up. He was a guy you could count on.

Rick: I was Steve & Garry's producer when you were at WGN, and they had a field day giving you a hard time. They created characters named Paul Steve and Paul Garry, turned on the deep voice machine, and talked about racing. I remember booking you to come on the show once as a surprise guest, and it was an outstanding bit--all three Pauls on the air at the same time. How did you feel about that parody at the time?

Paul: I don't recall how that happened, but every time I remember that day I smile. I was never put off by them using the Harmonizer to do my voice. To the contrary, I always found it kind of flattering. I think both Steve and Garry were surprised that I'd do a send-up of myself on their show, but I guess it turned into some pretty memorable radio. It was fun to hear them reacting to me doing all the bits they had done about me. We've been friends for years and I'd share a table and some great steaks with them any time. They were a very talented pair.

Rick: In 1989, you left radio to work for the Alfa Romeo IndyCar team, which launched your second career. Of the two businesses, radio and racing, which is the more rewarding to you personally?

Paul: You've offered me an either/or question and there's another component: the Chicago Auto Show, which has without a doubt been the most rewarding. Can you imagine a better toy to play with every year than being part of the team that produces the biggest auto show in North America? I think all of the racing and radio was preamble to the auto show position. I've been doing this for 16 shows now and every year it gets more fun, more rewarding, more exciting.

I'm blessed to have a board of 18 who give our staff a lot of latitude in producing the show and I think that the results are rewarding for everyone. The public, the manufacturers who bring the displays, the dealers who get a kick start to the winter sales doldrums, the media, it just goes on and on. Remember that the car business in Chicagoland provides more than 50,000 jobs and more than $15 billion in sales. Those are awesome numbers. To be a part of a show that has more than a century of history in Chicago and moves an astounding number of people to McCormick Place every February is a blast. Additionally, I've not left the radio thing altogether, since I've been doing the Saturday morning show on WLS for 11 years now. It's just enough to keep my fingers in the sauce and keeps me in touch with a lot of my radio friends.

Rick: For people who haven't heard your WLS show "Drive Chicago" before, how would you describe it?

Paul: It's an automotive show, but not SO automotive that a non-car person could listen and get turned off. It's not a fix-it show. Hell, I know how to drive them and how to evaluate them (on or off a track), but I don't know from Jack Squat about fixing them. There are people who do that. Why should I get into their job? I'll leave the "Gee, my Framitz is broken" questions to the PBS guys (who are buddies who send great lobsters!)

I try to give people advice about what's new in the market, what's fun, what's fuel-efficient, what's on the horizon, whatever they're thinking about. I'm often asked, "You never say anything about a 'bad car.'" Well, the point is that there really aren't any "bad" cars out there. There are some better than others, but if someone is building a crappy car it's not going to be on the market—or even make it to market. Manufacturers know what a good car is and if it's off the mark, they wouldn't risk bringing it to market and suffering the consequences throughout the rest of their brand line. It makes my job easier, but tougher because there are so many good choices out there.

Rick: Who is going to win the race this year? You'll really be out on a limb here because I'm posting this interview the day of the race.

Paul: Sentimentally, I'd like to pick Graham Rahal since his dad and I have been close friends for about 30 years. (God, that's a long time and a bit hard to admit!) It'd be great to have him win in his rookie year, but I think that Tony Kanaan is looking pretty racy this year. He has three top-five finishes in six starts, highlighted by a second place finish in 2004. He has led laps in every one of his starts, including more than 80 (if I remember right) in last year's. Danica is for real, and it'd be great for the sport if she won, but just being there with two other women drivers is very cool. Milka Duno could surprise some people with a strong run, but I don't think she's got the car. I will go out on a limb and predict that the winner will have Firestone tires.

Rick: Let's go back to the beginning of your radio career, because there are two very funny stories I want you to tell. Talk about the day you got fired from WYEN in Des Plaines.

Paul: Ah… WYEN. Garry Meier (photo) and I worked there together. I did mornings and I think Garry was doing early evenings. We worked for a guy who came out of the old "Beautiful Music" station FM100, Ed Walters. He was another guy like me who had two first names—and for the same reason. He also had a damn near unpronounceable last name and used his middle name on air, as I do.

So anyway, I got a call one day from a listener who asked about the call sign—WYEN—who asked if the YEN had anything to do with Japanese ownership. I told him that it didn't, and that it actually stood for "Where You Earn Nothing," which I thought was appropriate. Well, it seems that the owner's wife didn't quite like that and I'm told was getting kidded about it from friends, and the next thing I knew I was getting "The Talk" which ended in me out of work. It was a blessing in disguise, though, as it opened up the door for me to work with Jack Kelly at WCLR and Bonneville for five good years. Oh! When I was looking for work inbetween I also sold cars, which gave me another automotive resume item, I guess.

Rick: And then my favorite about the day you were hired at WFYR.

Paul: Before I got hired at WCLR, I got hired by WFYR (103.5). The PD was a guy named "Brian" something or other—can't remember specifically—who hired me and asked me to start at a date a week or two down the road, so I showed up at the old 188 W. Randolph Building (where AP, City News, a lot of others were located) to work on the date specified. The only problem was that evidently Brian Whomever He Was had been fired the day before and had somehow neglected to tell anyone that he had hired me, so I showed up to work and they had this blank stare. No one knew a thing about it. I walked out and went home to get back on the phone for a job. I've often wondered about that guy. I'd like to yank him around at the aluminum siding place he's working at now.

UPDATED 5/31/08....

Paul sent me a few photos since the interview was posted. I thought you might enjoy them...

With a 356 D Porsche I used to race with two friends. This was shot at the Grand Bahamas Vintage Speed Weeks. Great fun.... and the 72 as a WGN homage!

With the new Jaguar XF at its launch program in San Diego, May 08

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tony Lossano

Tony Lossano is the co-host of the television show "Nude Hippo: Your Chicago Show" and the producer of the Melissa Forman show on WLIT-FM.

Rick: Before we get to your radio career, your TV show "Nude Hippo" recently celebrated it's 10th anniversary. Talk about what inspired you to start that show.

Tony: Actually we just turned 11 on May 3rd, but that had no hoopla. The 10th anniversary was the big celebration. We even got our first Emmy nomination for that...though we really didn't submit any shows for consideration prior to that. -- Anyway, it all started back when I realized that there was very little local programming out there anymore. I grew up on Gigglesnort, Bozo, Family Classics, etc.

So when I started NUDE HIPPO, the only other local shows were Svengoolie (which I grew up on), Wild Chicago and the Illinois State Lottery Drawing. All great shows, but there was nothing like the amount of shows that I remembered. NUDE HIPPO started more like a sketch variety show and has transformed into an offbeat magazine style talk show. Now there are so many copycats out there doing almost exactly the same things that we have done. However, we still have the most creative team that keeps us in front.

Rick: Every time I interview someone for this blog I do a video search to see if there is anything out there. Inevitably, they have already been on Nude Hippo. Who are some of your favorite interview subjects from radio (and why), and is there anyone on the air that you still need to cross off the list?

Tony: I admire John Records Landecker (photo) He was always great to work with. He even became our movie critic for two years before taking it to WTTW-TV. Jonathon Brandmeier has been tops in my books since he started but I have only gotten to do one quick bit with him at a LOOP event. I would really like to do something fun with him. Steve Dahl was another one I have always enjoyed and the support he gave us was amazing. Everytime he talked to us or about us on the air was pure gold. I would love to do more with him but believe that we have gotten more than our fair share. I got to do 30 minutes in our studio with Eric & Kathy and I believe that was the most in-depth interview that they ever did.

Also, Ramblin' Ray was just plain nuts and fun and I would like to do more with him, Steve Cochran is hilarious, Jim Johnson is the only one I know who can make my sides split, DreX (photo) is so quick on his feet and should be doing more, Garry Meier was very dry in a funny way, Eddie & JoBo were so down-to-Earth, Mike North is a great guy and has been a longtime friend from the days before either of us were in radio...

But I met a couple of my best pals in the world by doing NUDE HIPPO, Melissa Forman & Jimmy Gronemann. Jimmy started on my TV crew and became a very good friend, he then later got a gig on Melissa's radio show and I brought her on my show as a guest co-host and we all have been together ever since.

Rick: Nude Hippo is now part of the NBC family. For people that don't know, talk about where and when they can see the show now.

Tony: It is always changing and we're always on. We were on cable for a decade and for the last 3 years we have been on as well. There are several things that we are working on. I along with my business partner, the great and wonderful Mariana Perin, have been working on some things that we feel have not been done yet...So there is more to come. For right now, just go to and you'll get all that you need.

Rick: Your day job is producer of the Melissa Forman show on WLIT. I've interviewed Melissa a few times and she seems to be just about the nicest person in the biz. Tell us about Melissa's dark side.

Tony: Well you know there is no way that somebody can be that nice all of the time...but she really is! Melissa is an amazing Mom and a super talented radio personality...but when those mics go off, she is so unbelievable. After each show, she meets with the entire crew, not just from our show, but other shows too, and sales, promotion, engineering, etc. and she gives them a pep is like this motivational speaking event with 30 minutes of yoga...she then takes all of us out for brunch...everyday.

Not everyone appreciates all the good that Melissa does...which is why occasionally she will have one of the interns killed to help get her point across, but those are the sacrifices that are expected if you want to make a difference in this business.

Rick: You've been with her show now for many years. How has your role on the show evolved?

Tony: Nine years, three stations two tour of duties. I started with her at the suburban KISS-FM, then Energy-FM, both as her Webmaster and occasional on-air stooge. Soon thereafter, Melissa was offered a gig at The Lite. She took it, Jimmy Gronemann (one of her producers at the time) and I came with her. I remained the Webmaster for and became the Assistant Morning Show Producer, plus I worked with the WLIT Promotions team and become the Webmaster for

Within a couple of years, I left the show for a couple years to focus on NUDE HIPPO, but always helped Melissa & Jimmy whenever I could. About four years ago, I came back, and took on my old role...It wasn't until 6 months later that all of us except newsman Rick Zurick (Photo: Melissa, Jimmy Gronemann, Rick Zurick and Tony) was let go to make room for a syndicated radio show with Whoopi Goldberg. A week into that, I was offered the Producer gig. I took it. 14 months later, they brought back Melissa to mornings and I remained as the Producer and Jimmy was brought back as an on-air foil to Melissa and became the second Producer. No matter who does what, we are all just happy to be together with Melissa doing a great show again!

Rick: The morning radio market in Chicago may be the most competitive in the country. Every time I see the top ten listed in Robert Feder's column, I think of the many great shows that aren't even mentioned. What do you do at the Melissa Forman show to set yourself apart from the rest of the shows out there?

Tony: The ability that Melissa has to connect with her listeners is amazing. She is so natural at making any topic interesting and funny. The way that Jimmy, Rick and myself all click with her is a perfect blend. How many radio shows can you name that are lead by such a talented woman surrounded by strong men?

I'm used to being the one in charge and in the spotlight with NUDE HIPPO, but my true love is producing and it is so refreshing to get out of the spotlight and have it focus on someone who is so good at what she does. There are very few individuals who I would ever want to work with and I've been lucky enough to be in the position to pick and choose...and I'm happy to be with Melissa on such a refreshing, real and fun show. (Photo: Tony with Maureen McCormick)

Rick: It's a weird time for the media these days. Support staff is being cut all over the country in both radio and television, and the remaining staff is being asked to do more and more for the same amount of money. As someone who has survived in both radio and television, what tips do you have for people getting into the industry today?

Tony: Know the evolving business. Be prepared to understand that this is a business and the more that you can do, the more value you have. Though it is a very tough business. I've been lucky. Even though I am with WLIT and NBC, I have the freedom with NUDE HIPPO to cover events and personalities from any of the other TV & radio stations. I have seen the inner workings of those places. 'They ain't no different over by there.' Be passionate, be well rounded, get educated beyond just from broadcasting have to know about the world and how it works to succeed. Finally, enjoy will need to pull from your personal experiences to give yourself that something special that will connect you with listeners. This is for both potential on-air talent and producers.

Rick: Which direction do you see your career heading from here--do you see yourself in radio or television or both a few years down the road?

Tony: I know that I can do anything that I want and I am sure that I will still being doing both TV & radio and don't under estimate this interweb's not just a fad. I really enjoy doing this and the people I work with are amazing. They have helped me change my life.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ron Britain

Ron Britain was one of Chicago's most popular personalities. He worked up and down the AM and FM dial, most famously for Super-CFL in the 1960s.

(Photo by Kelly Mackey)


WHAS-Louisville 1949
WKLO-TV Louisville 1953
WINN-Louisville 1954
WKAY-Bowling Green 1954
WIEL-Elizabethtown 1954
WSAZ-TV Huntington 1956
WFMT-TV Ft. Monmouth NJ 1957
WLBS-Monmouth NJ 1957
WKAZ-TV-Charlestown 1959
WSAI-Cincinnati 1960
WHK-Cleveland 1964
WCFL-Chicago 1965
WIND-Chicago 1970
KCMO-Kansas City 1974
WLS-FM Chicago 1974
WKRC-Cincinnati 1976
WCFL-Chicago 1978
Satellite Music Network-Chicago 1980
WJMK-Chicago 1984
WTMX-Chicago 1992-1994
WRLL-Chicago 2002-2003

Rick: Your real name isn't Britain. How did you end picking that name or did someone pick it for you?

Ron: I didn't use that name when I first started in radio. I was only 14 years old when I hosted a show in Louisville, a teen show called "High Varieties." This was during a different era in radio. It was one of those old time radio shows performed in a huge studio with a script and a full orchestra, and I went by my real name, which is Ron Magel.

It wasn't until I got my first big break in Cincinnati that someone suggested I change my name. Right after I was hired, I was having breakfast with the Program Director Jim Lightfoot, and he asked what I was going to call myself. I said "How about Ron Magel?" He thought it sounded a little too ethnic, and wanted something more showbizy. We started brainstorming possible names, and he asked me to tell him a little more about myself.

Well, I told him that everyone liked to kid me about being such an Anglophile. You have to remember, this was before the British Invasion. It seemed a little unusual at the time. I drove a Jaguar, which I still do by the way, and I dressed like an Englishman. He said, well let's go with "Britain," like the country, and from that point on it was my name. The name took off. In Cincinnati, I leased a supper club that seated like 10000 people, and I had a big banner with the Union Jack British flag, and I did record hops, and it was a huge hit. At one point in Cincinnati I had 72% of the listening audience.

I remember one time, when I was doing morning drive in Chicago at WIND, I flew into town from Louisville, and I saw a whole fleet of trucks, one after the other, with huge British flags on the side and my name, Ron Britain written in the middle of it. That was really something.

Rick: You were also known as King Bee. Where did that come from?

Ron: The King Bee thing started in Cincinnati. I had all these teen clubs, and I couldn't stand it when the kids called me Mr. Britain and they didn't feel comfortable calling me Ron, so they started calling me King Bee. I liked it, and started using it myself.

Rick: You arrived in Chicago with a big splash in 1965 at WCFL. That had to be an exciting time. Thanks to you and a few other talented jocks at WCFL, your radio station really was on the cutting edge, wasn't it?

Ron: It really was. It was really exciting. I had been a big fish in a small pond in Cincinnati, but I really wanted to go to New York. I had a few interviews in New York, and I told them how hot I was in Cincinnati. I had a great audience, and a hit record ("Are we going to wail Tulu"), and they said "That's great. You should stay in Cincinnati."

Well, I had a brother in law who worked in radio in Cleveland, and I called him up, because I figured that if I made it in Cleveland, they'd take me in New York. I did make it there, but New York didn't call. Chicago did.

So I flew up to Chicago and met with the folks at WCFL. I thought, you know what? This is a great radio town. Maybe this is where I should go. Ken Draper, the guy who hired me, and Jim Runyan drove me into the city. All these lights were lit along Michigan Avenue, and they told me that they decorated the city just for me. I took the job, but I was scared to death.

I had never worked at a place that had so much talent. It was just unbelievable—I was intimidated by it. They had guys I really respected like Jim Runyan and Joel Sebastian. I thought, how I can work alongside great talent like this? I was so scared when I went on the air the first time—I didn't know what to do. I thought what I had been doing before wasn’t good enough. My first night on the air, I was using squeaky toys, and I got a note from Ken Draper. The note said "We hired Ron Britain not Pinky Lee." Of course, he was right.

I had a long chat with Joel Sebastian about it, and he said, "Play me a tape of what you used to do." So I played him this tape of a quick-draw old-western bit. Two gunslingers would meet and one would say, "This town ain't big enough for the both of us. On, the count of three, draw. 1, 2, 3..." After that I played sound effect records of an entire war going on, bombs, machine guns, explosions, for like three and a half minutes, followed by a second of silence. Then the guy would say-- 'ha ha you missed'.

Joel listened to the tape, and asked me why I didn't continue to do that sort of thing. Getting that advice from someone like Joel Sebastian really gave me the confidence I needed. So, I started out with a few sound effects, fanfare, and crowd noise, and I went into the hallway where people used to watch the show, and recorded those people applauding, and saying yeas, and that sort of thing. After that, I was off and running.

(Rick's note: Thanks to Rick Johnson who sent me these awesome classic WCFL jingles from this era. They don't make 'em like this anymore... WCFL 1, WCFL 2, and WCFL Ron Britain)

Rick: Your approach to doing a radio show was completely radical. Your show was like Phil Spector's Wall-of-Sound. All these sounds and noises were coming at you fast and furious and you reacted to it...all over the intro of a record. I haven't heard anything like it before or since... it was almost like radio scat singing. Take us behind the scenes and explain how that all worked.

Ron: I used to think that it would be great to have three or four things going on at the same time, and it just went from there. It was a combination of knowing what was coming, and my engineer Al Urbanski just throwing stuff at me. I had the bits prepared, and Al would have a general idea what was coming, but he was given the freedom to add whatever he wanted.

Rick: I worked with Al at WJMK. He was an absolute sweetheart of a man.

(Rick's note: I've previously written about my memories of Al here)

Ron: Yes, he was. He was a dear, dear friend. I still can't believe he's gone.

Rick: Was he your only engineer?

Ron: Most of the time. There were others, but Al was the one I really clicked with. On days when Al was there, I'd ask him for something, say—Jungle sound effects—and he would know what was coming. I had a character named Taboo and his faithful companion Harold, who only said one word—"Yeah." Well, Al knew when I was talking to Harold to hit the "Yeah", and Al knew that Taboo was eventually going to get attacked, and he had the freedom to do it whenever he wanted, so I could react to it.

Al knew what I was doing, and played along. I didn't like things that were too set up and scripted, like another guy on WCFL at the time, Jerry G. Bishop. I thought that approach was a little too concocted. I wanted it more free form.

But on days Al wasn't there, some of the other guys thought that it was funny to just load up and fire stuff off willy nilly... and it wasn't as good. For instance, I had a burp cart that should have been used discreetly, and the guy who subbed for Al used it too much. With Al, Some things were set up and some weren't, and it was fun to feed off those things because it was like another person on the air with me. We would laugh until our sides hurt. One critic said it sounded like I was going on the air just to entertain myself. He meant it as a slam, but he was right. I thought everyone else was in on it, and the people that got it, got it. It was just a wonderful thing.

Rick: The 60s was also an incredible time for rock and roll music. You created a show called Ron Britain's Subterranean Circus, which was really cutting edge at the time. What was the inspiration for that show?

Ron: I went over to Mercury Records in London in 1966, and they wanted me to produce a follow up to the hit song Winchester Cathedral. When I was over there, I was told about this guy who was the next great thing. I met him and we hung out, and I knew he was selling records, but even though he was an American, he wasn't getting played on the radio in our country. His name was Jimi Hendrix.

Anyway, when I came back, I asked CFL to let me play a few songs that were selling but weren't getting airplay, like Hendrix, and to be honest with you, I think they only let me do it because they figured if they gave me that show, they wouldn't have to give me a raise. And they were right.

It aired on Sunday's, and we recorded it in this little production studio. Al would be on one side of the glass, and there was a record turner in there with him (which was still the union requirement), and I was on the other side. Well, the first week we did it, it didn't sound right. It sounded like I was making fun of the music by playing all of my sound effects, and I didn't want to do that because I loved the music so much.

So, the next week I used a Ravi Shankar music bed as the backdrop, and that sounded much better. It fit the tone of the show. I just talked about the music, and why I loved it. On the other hand, Al didn't have anything to do except play the Shankar cart. So he would try to do things to make me laugh. Sometimes it worked. People that listened to the show would hear me giggle or laugh and they thought I was high—even though I wasn't.

Rick: You had everyone on that show. Which guests do you remember most fondly or least fondly?

Ron: Well, we had Zappa (photo) on the show once, and I was scared to death of him, but he turned out to be the nicest guy in the world. Most of the people we had on were really nice people. The only people I didn't get tuned into were Van Morrison—I don't know what planet he was from, and Doug Engle from Iron Butterfly. I don't know if he was stupid, or if he was just pretending to be, but he and I didn't click at all. The others were all great—Blood Sweat and Tears was fabulous. Janis Joplin was great. The guys in the band Chicago used to listen to me when they were practicing on Rush Street. It was a wild time.

Rick: And the British Invasion guys?

Ron: I did a few shows with the Beatles, and hung out with them a few times. I introduced them on stage. After the show, I was looking for something of theirs to sell—remember they were selling everything they touched in those days—even the sheets they slept on, so I went on stage and thanked the audience for coming out...and I saw that Ringo had left his drumsticks on the stage. I put them in my pocket and gave them away on the air the next night.

Another time I was with the Beatles at a press conference and they were getting all the same stupid questions, and I could tell they were completely bored, so I took out a sketch pad, and drew a picture for John. Somebody took a picture of us laughing...and then Paul took a look to see what John was laughing about, and someone snapped another picture. Then there was a picture with George, and then finally Ringo. That was the pecking order of those guys; John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and there were pictures of me with all four of them. I was happy about that because I was never the kind of guy who could ask for my picture to be taken with celebrities, because it just didn't feel right. So, I don't have pictures of myself with very many of these great rock stars, but I do have those pictures with the Beatles.

Hanging out with them was a strange experience. When you were with them, it was like being in prison. They had a whole floor in the hotel, and security was everywhere. One time I talked to Ringo for about three hours about pirate radio in England, which we both thought was very cool. I also told him that I called everybody "Tulu," and asked if he would say "Hi Tulu Baby" on tape for me. He wouldn't do it because he said it was "too commercial." So I asked John, and he said "Sure." Well after John agreed, they all did, and they went in their usual pecking order; John, Paul, George, and then Ringo agreed too.

Rick: You also interviewed the Rolling Stones. I heard that you wouldn't let Mick Jagger drive your Jaguar. Is that a true story?

Ron: Yes it is. My wife and I drove up to Montreal to get some driving lights on the Jag, because they weren't selling them here in this country at the time. Anyway, around 3 am we stopped at a Howard Johnson's and the Stones were there, eating breakfast. I had done a show with them before, so they knew me and invited us to eat breakfast with them, which we did. Anyway, after breakfast they came out to check out my car, and Mick really wanted to drive it. I said no way.

Rick: Is it because they were bad boys?

Ron: No, not really. Nobody drives my Jag. I mean, they did have this bad boy image and I must admit, I didn't like them the first time I interviewed them. Mick was playing with a Slinky the whole time, and it was a rough interview. But as I got to know them better when I did all these concerts with them, I really got to like them. Especially Mick.

Rick: You are one of the most influential rock jocks in radio history. Your name comes up all the time when I'm interviewing jocks about their influences. My radio hero, John Records Landecker, considers you the greatest jock of all time. Who are some of your radio influences, and who do you admire of the jocks that have followed you?

A guy named Bob Puhl in New Orleans was a guy I really admired. He used these Spike Jones drop ins and things, and he was really funny. I'm sure there were others, but he was the big radio guy. I was probably just as influenced by the Marx brothers though. They were always my favorite. As for the guys who have followed me, there are a lot of great ones, including John Landecker.

Rick: Of course, you've worked at many other stations on the Chicago radio dial, including WIND, WLS, WJMK, WTMX, and WRLL. Some of the stories of how you left those stations are still being discussed in town. Let's go over a few of them. Talk about the day you quit WJMK.

Ron: Oh boy. Well, about a year before I quit WJMK, I went up to Harvey Pearlman, the GM, and asked for more money because they had taken a big promotional job away from me, and I needed to make that up somehow. Harvey said, "If you can find somebody else to pay you that kind of money, by all means, take it."

He didn't think I would, and it took me a year to do it, but I did. Nobody knew I was leaving except for John Patton at WTMX. I wanted to get the word out, so I decided to do it live on the air. The plan was to record the last part of the show saying where I was going on the dial, and then hopping in a limo, and finishing the show on the other radio station—which was WTMX.

The only wrinkle was that Harvey Pearlman, who usually left at 4:00 in the afternoon, was still there at 5:30. I decided to turn the microphone on while I played the recorded bit, and then if he stormed into the studio and started swearing and trying to hit me over the head with his vodka bottle, it would all go on the air.

He didn't go in there, but I did go over to WTMX. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong station for me. I should have gone to a station that was playing the same kind of music. The music wasn't quite right for my fans that had been with me all those years.

Rick: Harvey never forgave you for that. I remember a WJMK Christmas first one there, it must have been 1993 or so. You showed up to make amends with him, and he had to be physically restrained from going after you. Do you remember that night?

Ron: (Laughs out loud, long, and hard) Yeah, I remember that. I'm a manic depressive and I was in a manic moment, and I just wanted to say Happy Holidays to Harvey. So I hopped in a cab, and saw it. You know, I always liked him in a Don Rickles sort of way, and I know he liked me, and that's probably why he was so upset by that move. But he told me to take it if I got that money from someone else...

(Rick's note: I've previously written about a few of my encounters with Harvey Pearlman here, and here.)

Rick: Your last turn on the radio dial was at Real Oldies WRLL, which was at a dial position I didn't even know existed, 1690 AM. When you quit there, you did it very publicly, releasing your resignation letter to the press. How did all of that go down there?

Ron: John Gehron, who was running the show at Clear Channel in Chicago, was a guy I always wanted to work with, but it turned out that I didn't really deal with him. Tommy Edwards was the PD, and Tommy wanted to control things. The thing that hacked me off was that I wanted to show everyone that you could a funny show without being dirty, and I never really got that chance. Because I was recording the show and sending it in hours before it aired, they had time to listen to it all, and edit out whatever they didn't like.

One of the first things I did was a Halloween party bit, and when I opened the door to the party, people were dressed up like the scary radio managers I had worked for, like Harvey Pearlman. They cut that out. I told them when I took that job that I just wanted to do my thing, and when they wouldn't let me do it, it was time for me to go.

Rick: One last question. I know you're a little disenchanted with the current state of radio—as I am. What do you think that radio needs to do to get its act together?

Ron: I don't like to say this, because I absolutely love radio, I really do. But it's run by the accountants these days, and that's why it has lost its personality. The kind of radio I loved, that's like Vaudeville, man. I think it's all over.

Radio is a personal thing and they took all of the personal out of it. I could feel those listeners were right there with me all those years. Radio isn't connecting with them anymore. Clear Channel owns like 10 stations here in Louisville, and they're all in one building. All the call letters are up on the wall, but there's nobody inside.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Steve Scott

Steve Scott is the afternoon news anchor at WCBS in New York. Before going to New York in 2006, he was the news director at WLS Radio


KSJS-FM/San Jose 1979 - 1983 (college station)
KRVE-FM/Los Gatos (San Jose) CA, 1981 - 1982
KLIV-AM/KARA-FM/San Jose, 1982 - 1984
KWSS-FM/San Jose, 1984 - 1986
WRXR-FM/Chicago, 1986 - 1987
WCKG-FM/Chicago, 1987 - 1993
Shadow Broadcast Services/Chicago, 1993 - 1997
WLS-AM/Chicago, 1993 - 2006
WCBS-AM/New York, 2006 - present

Rick: I know you still follow the Chicago radio scene from afar. Not much has happened here...other one of your old jobs being eliminated and one of your old stations changing it's call letters and formats. Let's start with the first one. What are your thoughts about the cuts WLS recently made in their news department--including your old job of news director?

Steve: Oh, that was a terrible day. I was shocked when I heard about the cuts…shocked, but not really surprised, I guess…if that makes any sense. Radio companies – just about all of them – are making cuts and tightening their belts. It’s a tough time. I feel badly, not only for the news people (Jennifer Keiper, Bill Cameron and David Jennings) who lost their jobs…but also for the staffers from other departments who were let go. I have a lot of friends who lost their jobs that day.

Sometimes, when you hear that a station “cut 15 people,” you have a tendency to focus more on that big number than on the individuals. But, for many of those who were let go, this is a very traumatic time in their lives. For some, it’s potentially catastrophic. Each of those people has bills to pay, rent or mortgage payments to make and a family to support. Some have already landed on their feet with new opportunities, and I pray the others will, too.

I honestly don’t think John Gallagher and Kipper McGee woke up one morning and decided, “Let’s gut the news department” or “Let’s layoff the producer whose wife just had a baby.” I really doubt it. I’m guessing they were given a set of (financial) numbers that they had to meet. Sometimes being a boss isn’t much fun, and I’m sure they took no personal joy in what happened at WLS on February 29th.

Rick: You probably heard that the GM of WLS, John Gallagher, resigned this week too.

Steve: I'm sorry to see John go. I know he was painted as a villain by some, for the recent cutbacks, but he was in a tough spot. I think John is a good guy - and, at least in my experience - a good manager. I'd work with him again. I'm happy to see him land on his feet so quickly - I think he'll do well back in Detroit.

Rick: Are you worried about the future of radio news in general?

Steve: Well, yes and no. When I first came to Chicago in 1986, most of the FM stations had at least a small news staff. Some had full newsrooms. Remember that great news team WXRT had back in the day? Wow! (Photo: Neil Parker, Marj Halperin, and Charlie Meyerson) Those days are mostly gone now. The number of stations doing news has dwindled consistently since the early- to mid-1990s. In Chicago, you can probably count the number of stations doing serious news gathering and reporting on one hand, give or take a finger. And, I think the listening public is poorer for it.

But, I do think there will always be some sort of role for radio news. The National Association of Broadcasters recently touted a survey that said something like 92% of Americans still consider radio an important part of their lives. 92%. And, I don’t think all of those people are tuning in for music. There will always be a need for local news and information. Yeah, I know the internet is everywhere. Radio will need to continue to evolve to survive. But, I think I’d rather be a radio newsperson than, say, a DJ right about now.

Rick: I know you were with WCKG back in the classic rock days (late 80s, early 90s), but have you heard that the call letters WCKG don't even exist anymore? How do you feel about that?

Steve: 105.9 in Chicago is a CBS sister station of mine, so I hope whatever the company does with that frequency is a huge success! (laughs)

I have to admit, I haven’t carried any great allegiance to the WCKG call letters with me through the years. I worked with a lot of great ones there…Tim Kelly Sabean, Mitch Michaels, Dan Michaels, Patti Haze (photo), Allan Stagg, John Howell, Stephanie Miller – wow, the list goes on! I got to report some big stories while I was at WCKG…the death of Mayor Washington, the election of Mayor Daley, the Great Loop Flood (remember when the river sprung a leak?). I enjoyed my time there, but the call didn’t stay with me when I moved on (especially since the “moving on” part was their decision, not mine.

I think I would be much more devastated if the WLS call letters went away.

Rick: You didn't just read the news when you were news director at WLS, you reported the news. I was looking over some of the stories you covered, and it's really amazing. Talk about some of the highlights, the most rewarding story, the story that gives you the most pride, and the most memorable story...

Steve: Yeah, one of the great things about being news director at a station with a relatively small staff is that you get to do a lot stuff. Of course, when you’re news director at a station with a relatively small staff, you’re also the one who gets those breaking news phone calls at 2am Sunday morning!

I always thought that I was a decent anchor…and, hopefully, a slightly better reporter. For years, I was a much better storyteller from the field than I was from the anchor desk. It’s when I got it through my thick skull that I should anchor with the same mindset I used as a reporter – and stop trying to be some freakin’ Ted Baxter sound-alike – that I got much better as an anchor.

Certainly the biggest story I ever covered was 9-11. I was on the air with Don and Roma on WLS the morning of 9/11/01 – I remember that our lead story until mid-morning that day was that Michael Jordan was plotting another comeback. Then, the world changed. WLS was part of ABC back then, and ABC News Radio asked if I could come to New York to help with their reporting from Ground Zero. Just getting there was tough – no planes were flying, trains were over-sold, buses would take too long…and, you couldn’t find a rental car anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. ABC had had a crew out on an unrelated story in Ohio or somewhere like that…and they were just about to return their rental car in Chicago, when the network found them, and told them to STOP, and bring it to State and Lake. I drove 13 hours from Chicago to Manhattan, stopping only for gas, munchies and the bathroom. I spent eight days reporting from Ground Zero, working alongside then-ABC News Radio correspondent Tim Scheld – who is now my boss at WCBS.

I’ll never forget the sights, sounds and smells of my time at Ground Zero. Fire trucks flattened to just a few feet high…flag-covered stretchers being passed down the debris pile…the acrid smoke and smell of rotting debris…the heroic efforts of rescue crews and volunteers. It was amazing. Now that I’m here, it affects me even more. I may not have been living here when the planes hit the towers…but, now that I am here – combined with my experience of covering the immediate aftermath of 9/11 – I take it very personally. You asked about the “most rewarding” story – does rewarding necessarily have to be a joyful, positive word? After the attacks, most of us wanted to do something to help. I guess reporting from the scene is what I did – trying to paint the picture for radio listeners who weren’t there. So, in that way, it was very rewarding for me.

I went to Bosnia in the mid-1990s, and reported on the peacekeepers there. That was an incredible trip. Houses riddled with pock marks from machine gun fire…other buildings that were completely blown up…mine fields everywhere…gunshots heard in the distance…and refugee kids everywhere – thousands of them. I gained a new appreciation for the over-used term “war torn.”

I also covered the war against Serbia from an aircraft carrier in the Adriatic Sea…and also from Albania, which where many of the refugees from Kosovo fled to. I interviewed many refugees, and heard first-hand about the atrocities they faced. Hearing – and telling – their stories really affected me. I took a lot of pride in that assignment.

Being part of the Illinois press corps that traveled to Cuba with then-Governor George Ryan was absolutely surreal. I mean, we were in Cuba! And, then…to meet up with Fidel Castro on our final day was one of the most bizarre moments of my career. He was in his early 70s then…but had the energy of a man half his age. He talked and talked and talked…out-lasting many of the reporters (or, at least, out-lasting our tapes and batteries!).

Other memories…the terrible Bourbonnais Amtrak crash in 1999. The deadly Lincoln Park porch collapse in 2003. The E2 nightclub stampede, also in 2003. The death of one great mayor, and the rise of another. The fall of at least one governor. And, some really lousy weather – from a deadly heat wave, to killer tornadoes, to a bunch of blizzards.

Rick: You also got to work with some Chicago radio icons. Looking back on it now, which radio personalities in Chicago do you admire the most, and for what reason?

Steve: Well, that list certainly begins with Don and Roma! (Photo) Any discussion of Hall of Fame-quality radio personalities in Chicago over the past quarter century is incomplete if Don and Roma are not on the list. The consistency they have brought to WLS for so long is amazing. Absolutely amazing. I don’t think they’re given enough credit for evolving and adapting to the Chicago radio landscape as it evolved. Remember, Don started as a swinging rock jock in his early days. Roma – who’s mastered more crafts than I have socks (what the heck is a “shrimp pot weaver,” any way, Roma?) – started in radio as a sidekick. As radio in Chicago evolved, so did they. They became a respected and highly-rated talk team. Do you know how hard that is? And, they’ve kept it up for over 20 years! Agree or disagree with their on-air opinions, you can’t argue with the success they’ve had.

You know what I learned from Don and Roma? From the moment I first started working with them as their traffic reporter in 1993, I was amazed by how prepared they were every day. Every day! I mentioned that to Don one time – I asked him how he could always be so “on,” so prepared every morning. I remember that he gave me an incredulous look that said, “How could you not be ready to go every day?” Every day I was on the air with them, I never wanted to be the guy who wasn’t prepared – who had the bad day that messed up their show. They instilled that in me, and I’m grateful to them for that.

As good as they’ve been on the air, Don and Roma are even better people. I wish every one had the chance to meet them and get to know them as I have. They treated Jeanne and me as if we were family. It was very hard to leave them behind when I came here to New York in 2006, but that decision was made easier by the encouragement they gave me to spread my wings and give it a shot at WCBS. I miss them a lot!

Roe Conn is a wonderful talent and a great guy. He is incredibly smart and witty – and, he has an excellent sense of comedic timing. His pairing with Garry Meier, another amazing talent, was lighting in a bottle. Like many of their fans, I keep hoping that the bolt may hit the bottle again someday.

Jonathon Brandmeier
is a genius. I’m only sorry that, because I worked mornings my entire 20+ years in Chicago, I rarely got to hear him on the air.

Steve Dahl – he’s made it work for a long time, huh? I see he’s nominated for the Radio Hall of Fame this year. You sure can’t argue with success. And, Steve + Garry = MAGIC!

Doug Banks – an abundance of talent and class!

Two great rock jocks – John Landecker and Dick Biondi. In an age of iPods and other sources of music, these guys are still disc jockeys who make you want to listen to the radio!

Patti Haze. To me, she was the queen of Chicago Rock and Roll radio.

Mitch Michaels. Yeah, Baby!

And, the late Allan Stagg. His “Sanctuary” program was very good radio. He left us too soon.

Rick: What about fellow newscasters?

Steve: John Hultman. Lyle Dean. Jeff Hendrix. Wow. Can I be them when I grow up? Delivery, knowledge, confidence and authority – the full package.

Jim Johnson tells stories extremely well. He can make you forget that you’re listening to a newscast…which, I think, is one of the keys to his success on Roe’s show. It’s seamless. You don’t last 40 years at one station without being really, really good at what you do. Jim is an absolute treasure.

I think Pat Cassidy (photo) is an excellent anchor – great communicator. I’ve always admired his style and delivery.

Bob Roberts is one of the hardest-working guys in town – he’s also very versatile in the stories he can report. Steve Grzanich, when he was in the field, was just outstanding – he filed some real gems. He’s doing a great job as an anchor, too. The political reporters…Bill Cameron, Bob Crawford, David Stewart, Craig Dellimore. You get smarter just talking to those guys. I’m also a big fan of Julie Mann and Andrea Darlas – both very talented.

Remember great names like Neil Parker, Dan Parker, Charlie Meyerson, and Michelle D’Amico? All tremendous radio news people.

I have great admiration for Barry Keefe, who recently exited WTMX. For a newsman to last 30 years at one FM station - especially in this day and age - is incredible. Barry's a great newsman and a wonderful person.

And, of course, the people who made our little WLS newsroom shine for so many years…Jennifer Keiper, Cisco Cotto, Susan Carlson. They always had to work extra hard to try to keep up with the bigger newsrooms (WBBM, WGN, etc.) – they never let me down.

There are so many others. I know I’m forgetting some.

Rick: People also remember you from your days as the public address announcer at the Chicago Bulls games. You must have a few stories from those days...

Steve: I had a blast announcing the Bulls. It’s funny. I spent more than 20 years in Chicago radio…but, to a lot of people, I was “the Bulls’ announcer.”

I started as the Bulls’ backup P.A. announcer the year before they won their first championship…and, I was Ray Clay’s fill-in guy during their entire championship era. I would usually do maybe four to six games a year filling in for Ray. When Ray and the Bulls parted ways, they asked me to be the regular announcer. I really enjoyed it. Whether the team on the floor was good or struggling, we always put on a good show for the fans. Every timeout had something going on…music, a contest, the Luvabulls – it was a great show. I think the fans always had a good time – even during the lean years, when the team was struggling.

Of course, I have great memories of introducing Michael Jordan and that great Bulls championship lineup. I remember Michael’s final appearance as a player at the United Center – that was pretty special. “From North Carolina!!!”

I remember the time Antonio Davis jumped onto and over the scorer’s table – almost stepping on me – to run into the stands when he thought he saw someone bothering his wife. I caught a few errant passes through the years. It was either catch the ball, or get hit in the face! I liked interacting with the players and referees. And, I had a lot of fun working with the other Bulls’ staffers at the scorer’s table. It’s funny – Tommy Edwards was the main PA guy when I started as the backup…and, he took over for me when I left to come to New York. Tommy is the best – he played a huge role in creating the Bulls’ famous introductions.

I’m keeping my hand in it here in New York by announcing some Knicks and Rangers games at Madison Square Garden. I really enjoy it!

Rick: You're the afternoon anchor now at WCBS in New York. How do you like that job and how are you adjusting to life in the Big Apple?

Steve: I love my job! I hope people understand that I didn’t leave WLS because of some sort of problem there – I loved working there. But, an opportunity came along to try something new. I had always been a supporting player on Don and Roma’s show – an important part of the team, but a supporting player. Now, I had a chance to be a main anchor at a station where news is the priority. And, although I think market size is very much overrated, I have to admit there was an allure to giving it a shot on the largest stage.

CBS has been great to me. I work with a great news team here at WCBS. We have some really, really good people…both on and off the air. I think our team is especially good on breaking news stories – we can shift gears and change our focus on a moment’s notice. That’s a lot of fun. (Photo: Steve with John Bolton)

There’s certainly been a learning curve. In addition to learning a new format on a new station, I also had to a whole new geographic area…the names of towns. You don’t want to mispronounce Mamaroneck or Massapequa or Hauppauge on the air – it can kill your credibility. And, since we are big in three states (NY, NJ and CT), you need to know about three governors, three legislatures and three different sets of laws – everything from the death penalty to whether the states allow cameras in courtrooms.

My on-air co-anchor, Wayne Cabot, is a lifelong New Jersey guy who’s been at WCBS for 20 years. He never tires of answering my questions of “where’s this town?” or “how do I pronounce this town?” He has really helped me adjust. I’ve been here since September of 2006…and, I’m finally not feeling like “the new guy” any more.

And, working in the CBS Broadcast Center is pretty cool. You never know who you may see walking the halls…Katie Couric, Andy Rooney, correspondents from the CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes or 48 Hours Mystery – you could bump into any of them. Katie comes on the air with us every day – that’s fun. Oh, Guiding Light films in our building, too – we see them in the cafeteria sometimes.

As for New York – it’s a great city! The restaurants, theater, nightlife, etc. are all very cool. We hit Broadway shows quite often – we’ve seen some wonderful shows. There is something about New York City – I guess you either like it or you don’t. I took to it right away. It’s very fast-paced. You walk at a brisk pace, just to keep up with the crowds on the sidewalk. Then, when you go to another city, you can’t figure out why every one is walking so slowly! There really is an energy in New York that is unlike anywhere else I’ve been.

We live in New Jersey, right on the Hudson River, directly across from lower Manhattan. We look across the river into NYC from our balcony, and the back door to our building opens directly to a lovely riverwalk. I never used public transit a whole lot in Chicago, because we lived downtown. Now that we’re in the suburbs, my wife and I both take ferries across the river to work (we can also take trains). So, it’s very convenient. The public transit here is great. We’ve gotten to be pretty good at getting around town via the subway. Driving in Manhattan can be a little crazy, but we do it when we have to – it’s not that bad.

Rick: Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans in Chicago?

Steve: Fans? Well, I don’t know about that. But, to any one who remembers me, I would like to say that I enjoyed my 20+ years in Chicago. It’s a great city, and I met a lot of wonderful people – it’s where I met my wife! I also had a chance to work with a lot of fantastic radio people. To those with whom I worked…and, to those who listened through the years…thank you!

I hope they’ll keep listening to the radio. Sure, it’s a difficult time for the industry, and there’s a lot of competition for the listener’s attention. But, radio – when done right – is local, immediate and intimate. That’s what has kept the medium viable for nearly 90 years. And, if you happen to patronize an advertiser on your favorite radio station, please tell them you heard their commercial on the air – and that’s why you’re there. Radio advertising still works – but every bit of reinforcement helps!

Finally, if any one would like to say hello, I hope they’ll drop me an email at It’s always nice to hear from old friends!