Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dave McBride

 Dave McBride was the newsman for two legendary Chicago radio shows, Murphy in the Morning and the Steve Dahl Show. He is currently program director and newsman at NewsRadio 1620 in Pensacola Florida.

Rick: Before we get to your legendary Chicago career, let's talk about what you're up to now. You wear a few hats at your station in Florida . Tell us a little bit about that.
Dave: Well, Rick, as the Program Director of a news/talk on the Gulf Coast in a part of the panhandle so far west we are in Chicago’s time zone, it falls to me to oversee talk content that leans so far to the right as to be horizontal. We are the Red State Riviera where there is a giant billboard rising beside a Publix that declares the building blocks of America to have been, “God, Guns and Guts.”  When I periodically backslide into compassionate conservatism, I ask myself, “What would dad do?”  And then I fit in just fine. I manage staff and anchor morning news and voice promos and commercials and was just awarded a local Addy for my stentorian performance on a Roto Rooter spot. 

The audience is a mix of small town, beach resort (whitest sand on the Gulf) and military (where one of every three dollars in the local economy is a defense department dollar). And I get to hang out with heroes at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the birthplace of naval aviation, where they have the coolest warplane museum anywhere and where I can show you where they park the Blue Angels. You can see my video tour of Pensacola at My name for purposes of squandering time on MySpace and Twitter is veterannewsman.

Rick: I've been a big fan of yours for many years for lots of reasons, but mainly because of your obvious talent as a writer. There aren't many writer/performers in radio anymore. Why do you think that is?
Dave: For many reasons probably, but I can think of three. Talent is farther removed from the epoch in radio when MOST content was written. They prefer to be spontaneous.  But my experience has been that spontaneity is often inferior to a crisply written paragraph over which one has cogitated for a spell. The exceptions to this observation are the great ones like Steve Dahl, whose mind is sufficiently fluid to write on the fly and who is an Olympic gold medalist in spontaneity. Second reason is that you can’t write if you don’t read. And I mean Dickens and not Drudge. Many young talents are students of radio and not of the wider world. They have squandered time on how to sound like a radio personality, and haven’t the depth of experience or understanding to convey entertaining insight. Also, the fault lies in radio programmers who no longer have a place in radio for writer/performers. 

Paul Harvey was the writer/performer whose voice pulled me into the transistor radio hanging from the bent coat hanger hooked to my ladder as I painted houses as an Ohio teenager. I used to write and perform a three to four minute radio essay daily on Chicago drive-time radio. It was the content that told me how long it would be. Today Paul Harvey would play his audition tape for a syndicator who would tell him he would distribute his commentary if he could get it under a minute to make it easy for the station traffic departments to schedule it in their computer automation systems. A radio segment of three minutes or twenty-three minutes is either too short or too long. That’s why there is NPR. There is stuff there that the commercial radio audience would love. Funny. Edgy. Often brilliant in insight. And scripted. But commercial radio has programmed brains out of radio.

Rick: We remember you in Chicago as the newsman on Murphy in the Morning on Q-101 and the Steve Dahl show at WCKG, and I'll get to both of those shows in a moment, but first I wanted to ask you about some of the other people you worked with in Chicago. You were at Q-101 before Murphy started and after he left. One of the pre-Murphy morning hosts was my old boss John Landecker's hero, the late Joel Sebastian. Joel was a very important voice in Chicago radio history. How was that experience?
Dave: Boy, Rick, you make me feel like the Forrest Gump of Chicago radio, popping up beside the radio greats across the years, but I guess that’s the sort of luck I had. I’ve worked with some of the funniest and with some of the smartest. Joel Sebastian was the warmest. Eleanor Roosevelt said nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent, and the day I walked into the Merchandise Mart Studios of WKQX-FM, a formerly automated sister station to AM legend WMAQ (both owned by NBC) I consented to feel inferior.  I was thirty-two years old, and had worked in radio for ten years, but I felt completely out of my league. Because this was NBC Studios Chicago where Amos and Andy once lived and where The Breakfast Club had members coast to coast and where WMAQ Will Make You Rich!  I was hired at what would become Q-101 by Frank Beaman, the long-time newsman for the iconic Wally Phillips, and I felt the pressure of the rookie of which much is expected and nothing is guaranteed. 

When I delivered my first newscast on the Joel Sebastian Show, I was both visibly and audibly nervous. Joel leaned over and said he’d heard I was from Ohio . And he said the listeners are the same here and that Chicago is just the biggest small town in the Midwest and so don’t sweat it. Joel was a kind and classy friend and mentor and six years after his famous voice welcomed me to Chicago he died. He was 54.

Rick: After Murphy's show ended, you remained aboard for a little while with the new format, providing news for the former VJ Mark Goodman. I saw you once described that time as having "had less chemistry than the curriculum at Karate School ." That really wasn't a good fit for you was it?
Dave: No, but it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Q-101 Program Director Bill Gamble (who is now programming what used to be WCKG, oddly enough) was kind enough to keep me on after Murphy went away. I suppose it was a way to have continuity. And I appreciated it greatly. But Mark and I had little in common and I also had the sense that the listener to whom my stuff appealed had probably migrated elsewhere when Billy Joel was bumped by Toad the Wet Sprocket. (Photo: Dave speaks to the Grammy's)

Rick: Murphy in the Morning was one of the most popular shows in Chicago during the 80s, and you were a big part of it. I interviewed Murph a few years ago and he described you as "our venerable newsman, the intelligent and eloquent Dave McBride." How would you describe him?
Dave: Some call him Murph, and some call him Robert, and he hated it when anybody made the mistake of calling him Bob. I still call him Mr. Murphy. Mr. Murphy is a well-read wry wit (say that five times fast) who is always dapperly dressed to kill.  His name was on the show but he was not egocentric and was happy to showcase the talents of his support cast members. When Murphy retired, he packed us show-partners into his limo and we enjoyed a few hours ride to his log cabin in the Michigan woods, where we spent a farewell weekend discharging weapons and consuming alcohol.

Rick: Looking back on those Murphy years now, do you have any favorite memories?
Dave: When dementia takes my short-term memory, I wouldn’t mind reliving the Murphy years in assisted living. A recurring gag during my time with the Murphster was his pestering me about smoking. In the years when I still smoked, he would look for any opportunity (when the air staff gathered socially in restaurants and saloons) to find my pack of cigarettes unattended. When my back was turned he would insert a cigarette load. My cigarette exploded in my face on a half-dozen occasions and hilarity ensued. I was scrupulous about taking precautions but he would always find a moment when my guard was down to place the charge. To this day I am honored to be among the recipients of his occasional E-mailed poetry; droll verses about some current event in pop culture. We get together a couple of times a year and my wife Anita and I will reunite with Murf and his fiancĂ© Cheryl in Florida next week to lift a glass to good times. I’ll say hi for you.

Rick: Another one of the Murphy in the Morning show members was Joy Masada. A few years later you ended up working with Joy again on the Steve Dahl Show on WCKG. I know when you left the show, you said that "It was a pleasure to inhabit a studio in which the talent genuinely liked one another." I take it that your long working relationship with Joy contributed greatly to that.
Dave: Joy was well-named. It was great to work with Joy for so many years. A perfect female point of view in a radio roomful of testosterone. I count myself lucky for having been able to work on two great Chicago radio shows. But Joy was on three, supporting Danny Bonaduce on The Loop. But yes, I am glad to be able to call her a close friend in real life and Facebook. Same with Danger Dan Walker from the Murphy Show. A great person and one of the funniest men in the world.

Rick: You had a nice long run on Steve's show (7 years), and he really highlighted your writing ability. He allowed you to start and finish the show every day with Dave's Rave, which was always one of my favorite parts of the show. That was very un-Steve-like to turn over such an important part of the show to someone else, especially for a segment that was for the most part, completely autonomous from the rest of the show.  Did you realize that at the time?
Dave: Absolutely. But remember until Steve I was doing my short essays as a goofy sidebar to newscasts and it was Steve who picked the familiar soundtrack he would play under my monologues and it was Steve who named them Dave’s Raves. I had developed the feature, but it was Steve who made it a thing. (Photo: Steve in Cozumel)

When he brought me on to his show, others told me that Steve’s reputation was that of a difficult person with whom to work, but I learned the reality is that Steve requires complete control of his show because he alone recognizes everything it needs to be. And we enjoyed the most freedom from bosses I ever experienced in radio. The sovereign power of Steve shielded us all from the sort of constant tweaking programmers engage in to inflict their own impression (improvements?) on shows. You are correct that Steve was generous in book-ending the show with my comic commentaries but I don’t know that it should be called uncharacteristic, because he was unfailingly supportive of anything he judged of benefit to the show.

Rick: I know you have a lot of respect for Steve, as do I. He's intelligent, naturally funny, and brutally honest about himself and those around him. When people ask me what he's really like, I just say, listen to his show. That's the real Steve. With the benefit of hindsight, how do you look back on your years with his show, and how do you describe him to people who ask?
Dave: I have worked with talented people, but of all of them I think Steve is closest to what I’d call a radio genius. Because he lived on the radio. When he plays the old clips of himself speaking as a boy into a microphone, you can plainly hear the young Steve already developing the stream of consciousness never-ending soliloquies, questioning authority and examining himself for defects, of which he found plenty. And Steve’s appeal is that he is, like all of us, more multi-dimensional than talk radio cartoon characterizations of conservatives and liberals, and his reaction to events is from the perspective of an everyman, only funnier and more twisted. And sometimes when you figured you knew how he’d react to something, he’d surprise you and go the other way. 

Off the air we didn’t engage in a lot of small talk in the studio, because he didn’t see the point in it. Because the microphone wasn’t on. Like you said, I know as much about Steve Dahl as you do, because I listened to the show. Steve gave me the opportunity to do the most creative work I’ve ever done. How would I describe him? Complicated. Sometimes self-loathing. Evolving. To paraphrase Tom Wolfe: “A Shock Jock in Full.”

Rick: You were a big part of the Chicago radio dial for more than twenty years, and you obviously made a lot of friends here during your time in Chicago . Do you ever make it back to town?
Dave: Yes, because my son Jonathan, who listeners knew growing up as a small boy on the Murphy in the Morning Show and as a teenager and college student on the Steve Dahl Show, is still there working in Chicago recording studios. And I have friends and family there and so does Anita, who is Chicago born.  It’s nice in the tropics but it’s always great to come back to Chi-town My Town. I know nobody calls it Chi-town but it rhymes with My Town. If you want to put Chi-town My Town on a T-shirt, it’s yours. You’re welcome.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ray Stevens

Ray Stevens is the morning man at Chicago's country music station, WUSN-FM, US-99

Rick: The nickname...what’s the origin of Ramblin Ray?

Ray: I was doing an on the street segment for the morning show at Y-108 in 1986. We did this thing called “The Morning Mugging” where we would go out and deliver coffee and donuts to people (with a mug—get it? mugging?). Well this one day they sent me out to this construction site and these guys were totally crazy. They had cut a port-a-potty in half, and were using it as a sled. So I was sledding on the port-a-potty on the air. Joe Collins (photo) was doing traffic, and Joe said “That Ray is a ramblin’ guy.” And the name stuck.

There’s a story behind the name Stevens too. That’s not my real last name. It’s actually Stejskal. I showed up for an interview at this station in Aurora, for my first radio gig. I was supposed to be meeting the PD Bruce Summers. Well, I pulled up to the station in this cool old mustang convertible, and there was a front window to the station. This guy saw my car and came running out to talk to me. He said: “I need to use your car in a parade. Would you mind?” I told him I was supposed to meet Bruce Summers. He said: “That’s me.” So, you know, I used some of that Chicago moxie and made a bargain. I said: “Sure, you can use it if you give me an airshift.” And I’ve been on the air ever since.

Before my first air-shift he pulled out an R&R, and started reading out the last names in the positions sought section. I had never been on the air before, and I didn’t really give any thought to selling out my mother and father’s name like that—I was just green. So he listed off a bunch of names, and when he got to Stevens, I thought, that’ll work. That’s pretty close to Stejskal, and I just stuck with it.

Rick: Did you know about the singer?

Ray: Oh sure, I knew about him—The Streak, and all those songs, but it didn’t really apply to us. We weren’t doing country at all.  We were doing a bad old 70s format. But you know, there are a lot of people in Chicago radio that worked at that station at one time or another. Megan Reed was working out there at the time. Scott Wagner. On and on it goes. I eventually moved to the morning shift, and then moved to US-99 in 1990. I’ve been there ever since.

Rick: There are people that just work at country stations. But then there are people like you, who not only work there, they really live the country music lifestyle. You know what I mean by that. You’re an outdoorsman—snowmobiler, you drive a truck, you love NASCAR. Do you think that’s been part of the secret of your appeal: Your authenticity?

Ray: I drive the truck because I get paid to drive it. (laughs) I make more to drive this truck than I made my first 5 years in radio.  In all seriousness, I do think you have a point there. I have a pretty blue collar background. I worked for my dad in heating/air conditioning/architectural sheet metal starting in eighth grade. And I worked construction, which is hard work. The first day I worked in radio in an air conditioned studio on a really hot day I thought, hey this isn’t so bad.

I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I think that if you’re honest, and if you’re authentic, it makes a difference. The guy that really taught me that was John Howell. (Photo: John & Ray) He said ‘hey, they’re either gonna like ya or they won’t,’ might as well be who you really are. Ever since he told me to be myself on the air, I have been, and I think that’s what works. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I’m from here, and people from Chicago appreciate that.

Rick: I know that Mayor Daley is a big country music fan. I hear some of the Blackhawks on your show, and it’s obvious that they’re country fans too. As the morning guy at the country station you know this better than anyone, because you run into celebrities all the time. Give me a few names of celebrity country music fans in Chicago or beyond that might surprise the non-country world.

Ray: Mayor Daley used to call in occasionally. Yes, he’s a big country music guy. Pat Quinn, our governor, is a fan and a listener. Dr. Oz is a fan. Not just of the music—he’s a fan of the show, a fan of mine. He invites me on his show. I’ve been on his show a few times. You’d be surprised how many people are into country music.

Rick: You’ve been with US-99 forever now, and it’s been a ratings juggernaut for going on twenty years. Why do you think that your show doesn’t get the kind of attention within the industry that some of the other stations in other formats in this town?

Ray: Everybody says we’re format exclusive, which we are, but we’re obviously much more than that. We’re a hit morning show that talks about everything, and we still get judged up against the Eric and Kathys of this world.  (Photo: Ray and Lisa Dent) Being format exclusive, by the way, is a double-edged sword. We have to appeal to all age groups. We get beat up for not being country enough. We get beat up for being too country. We have all ages listening to us, from the 17-year-olds that want to hear Taylor Swift to the 65 year-olds that want to hear Johnny Cash. It’s not easy to pull that off, to be all things to all people.

As far as being respected by other people in the business, I just think that’s not an issue. I know that people like Steve Dahl, Steve Cochran, Garry Meier, Lin Brehmer, Felicia Middlebrooks, you name ‘em, they respect our show and what we do. I know because they’ve told me. Eric Ferguson said this in that Tribune article a few weeks ago, and it’s true. Eric said: “look at the ratings.” That’s the bottom line.

Rick: Let’s talk about the ladies on your show, Lisa Dent and Bonnie Greene. Bonnie and I worked together at WJMK a million years ago and she’s a real character. Lisa just signed a new multi-million dollar contract to stay with the show too. They really are an important part of what you do, aren’t they?

Ray: I call them the crazies. Lisa, Bonnie, and our producer Lisa Kosty. This is a different kind of show than the one I did with John Howell. I would say that the greatest success I’ve had came with Howell because he and I are really good friends, we’re true friends, and that came through the radio. I’m friends with Lisa too, but we don’t hang out, and that’s probably a good thing because Howell and I used to go out, and stir up some trouble. How some of the things we did never ended up in Feder’s column is a mystery to me. Pure luck.

With Dent, it seems to work on a different level because she’s a woman, and nothing, no topics of any kind, seem to be off-limits. She’s fun and honest and great to work with—a radio pro. And Bonnie is just Bonnie. (Photo)  It’s like Mark McGwire facing an eighth grade pitcher. She just serves ‘em up for me—fastballs right down the middle—a great set up person. Our producer Lisa Kosty, is like Jersey Shore incarnate. She was Jersey Shore before Jersey Shore.

I love having all of ‘em on the show, and it’s great for the station too. Let’s face it, it’s a highly listened to female radio station, and they can relate to the women on the show. I’m there for the guy appeal, although I think the women like me too because I’m sort of the bad boy. Lisa can be a bad boy too. That’s one of the things I like about her.

Rick: You really worked your way up through the ranks, paid your dues, learned all the different parts of doing a radio show. Has that helped you as a host?

Ray: I think so, yeah. I get it. I was doing 10-2 at night in 1994 when John Katzbeck died. He was a great guy—we all loved him. But they asked me to step in and take his place, and I gotta tell ya, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to be the guy who stepped in to a show that had just lost a good friend, and then try to replace him. But they told me if I didn’t take it, I was out of a job. I was lucky. It worked out. I must have done something right, because I’m still here.

To answer your question, yeah, I do think it helps. I’m really not that much different than I was in high school, for better or worse (laughs). I know what it’s like to do the grunt work. I was a producer. I was the guy on the street. I was the sidekick. All those crazy things that help build you. It’s too bad that you can’t rise through the ranks like that anymore—there’s nowhere you can go to be bad. All the suburban stations and small market stations are doing syndicated shows, and they don’t give talent a chance to learn on the job anymore. We have an assistant producer on our show, and he doesn’t have the chance to do the stuff that I did twenty years ago. It doesn’t seem fair.

Rick: How do you like your new PD?

Ray: I know this is going to sound like BS, but I really think that Bill Gamble (photo) is one of the smartest guys I ever worked for—he leaves us alone and lets us do our thing. Plus, I told him that if he ever fires me and takes food out of my kids’ mouths, I’ll kill him. (laughs). Just kidding. I really did say that to him. But I’m just kidding.

Rick: Speaking of killing, I was going through some of my old videotapes the other day, getting rid of stuff from my radio days, and I ran into the Chicago radio version of the game show “The Weakest Link." There you were, with Steve Cochran, Leslie Keiling, Jeanne Sparrow, and Steve Dahl. Am I missing anyone?

Ray: I was in the finals against Steve Dahl. They gave me an impossible question and threw him some softball question, and he won. (laughs) Not that I’m bitter.

Rick: OK, one last thing that I’ve been dying to ask somebody in country radio, and it’s about the Dixie Chicks. I was working on John Landecker’s show when that whole controversy went down in early 2003. After 9/11 we started the show every morning with their beautiful version of the National Anthem. When Natalie Maines made her comments a little over a year later, our program director told us that if we ever played that song again, we would be fired. I know there was a similar reaction at your station. At the time, your station played a ton of Dixie Chicks songs, but that ended the moment the controversy erupted. Suddenly they were dead to the entire format across the country. How do you look back at that time now?

Ray: I can see why you thought it was weird for you guys, but I think for us, I still get it. We had just come through this tumultuous time as a country, we had just gotten kicked in the balls, and then the Dixie Chicks said what they said, and it felt like we were getting kicked in the balls again. And while that one comment Natalie Maines said was famous— she said a lot of other things after that too. It was like she was trying to alienate our audience. When the country’s in trouble, people come to country radio for comfort. It just seemed like the Dixie Chicks wanted to seem edgy, and that definitely wasn’t where we were. Was the reaction to them a little weird, a little over the edge? Yeah, maybe it was. I think they would be welcomed back now—although they aren’t even together anymore.

To tell you the truth, I don’t like to talk politics on the show—it just seems to tick people off. Just the other day I said some nice things about Pat Quinn because he’s a fan of the show, and people ripped me. I’ll leave the discussion of politics to the other shows.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dave Fogel

Dave Fogel is the new morning man at WLS-FM 94.7.

Rick: Congrats on the new gig at WLS-FM. You'll be back on the air in Chicago in a few weeks, doing the morning show. What sort of a morning show do you plan on doing?

Dave: It'll be a music intensive morning show. I'm a disc jockey, just a regular guy playin' the records, (or downloads now)! I'm just gonna be myself, have fun and relate to the audience.

Rick: This isn't your first go-around on the radio dial in this town. A lot of Chicago radio fans remember you from your stint as the afternoon guy on the Mix. Many of your old pals still work there. Have you reached out to them since the news came out?

Dave: Brian Peck called me before I could call him! He and I are pretty good friends. Kathy's husband Bert and I have kept in touch, but that's about it so far. I haven't had a chance to call anyone with getting ready to move and all, I certainly will as soon as I'm in town. We were all very close.

Rick: You were here in Chicago for awhile (1997-2004). What are some of your favorite memories of your time here, and what are you most looking forward to upon your return?

Dave: My kids grew up in Chicago. We all have lived there longer than anywhere, it's our family hometown! Cubs games, boating on Lake Michigan, the food, it's all great. I'll be back in time for St. Patrick's Day, wahooo!

Rick: I know you sort of grew up in the business. Your dad was a rock jock before becoming an actor. I'm trying to picture how I would feel if my boys went into the business...probably a mixture of pride and fear. How did your dad react when you told him you were going into radio?

Dave: You're so right-on! He begged me NOT to go into the business. I have been really lucky in my career. I try to work hard and never take myself seriously. My Pop (Photo: Jerry Fogel) is very proud of me, and that's pretty cool. In fact, he's having open-heart surgery TWO DAYS before I come back, and he still encouraged me to take this job.

Rick: I see that you've had your share of brushes with greatness growing up. Talk about some of your high school (Valerie Bertinelli) and college classmates (Brad Pitt, Sheryl Crow) that we may know, and what you remember about them from those days.

Dave: We were all just kids. I had the famous father, I might have been the big-shot back then. (Times sure have changed!) Sheryl visited me once at WTMX and claimed to remember me, Val has called in a few times promoting stuff and I had to remind her who I am. Brad doesn't call, doesn't write... I'm still mad at him for leaving Jennifer Aniston anyway.

Rick: For the past few years you've been working in Kansas City, at a couple of different stations--but mostly versions of adult contemporary formats. Is this going to be your first foray into Oldies?

Dave: It's my first time to actually play "Oldies" on the radio, but I've been listening to the music all of my life! Some of the songs I played as currents, others my dad did! It's just playing the hits, I've done that my entire career.

Rick: WLS is teaming you up with Maura Myles. Do you know Maura from your years in Chicago?

Dave: So glad you asked! Maura and I were together for about FIVE years when I was at MIX! I love her! We're being "reunited" to do mornings on WLS-FM. (Peaches & Herb reference intended to show off my knowledge of Oldies...)

Rick: You'll also be sharing the WLS airwaves with a Hall of Famer (Dick Biondi) and a Chicago Oldies institution (Greg Brown). I worked with both of those guys at WJMK, and I can't say enough about either one of them. Obviously, Dick Biondi in particular knows the historical significance of the call letters WLS--he was there when the format began in the early 1960s. I know you didn't grow up in Chicago, but I'm assuming you know all about the history of WLS. Does that have any special significance to you?

Dave: Oh believe me, I know the meaning of WLS. I'm honored, humbled and a little nervous to be working with those guys and those call letters. Even Hall of Famer Scott Shannon is gonna be airchecking me. But, I love being on the radio and playing great songs. All I can do is get in there and have a good time, respect the music, my coworkers and the listeners. I started in Chicago at WLUP, that place was pretty well respected once too!

Rick: Looking forward to your show, Dave. Best of luck.

Dave: Thank you very much. I hope my answers aren't too short. I'm brief so I can play more music...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Vince Argento

Vince Argento was recently named the Production Director of the Loop FM 97.9. Before taking that job he had worked as a technical producer for Steve & Garry, John Records Landecker, and most recently, Jonathon Brandmeier.

Rick: First of all, congratulations on the new job. This must be exciting for you—this is the same job that was once held by your radio hero Matt Bisbee.

Vince: This is true. I talked to Matt (photo) two weeks ago and we were talking about how people all over the dial were getting fired left and right and he jokingly asked “why DID we get into this business?” I said “I got into the business to be like Matt Bisbee”—and I think he thought I was joking, but I really mean it. I would come home from high school and listen to Steve and Garry every day. When I heard those great Bisbee promos, I realized that was what I wanted to do. That’s what inspired me to get into this business in the first place.

Rick: So I suppose this new job means that when Johnny B resurfaces you won’t be a part of the new show. I’m sure that you have some mixed feelings about that. Have you talked to Johnny about this since the news of your promotion came out last week?

Vince: To tell you the truth, the way that radio stations are tightening their budgets these days, I wasn’t even sure that the next station would be in a position to hire me anyway. That’s just a fact of life in the business—it’s a very difficult time economically. But when I told Johnny, he was very encouraging about this opportunity for me...for now.

Johnny (photo) is a family oriented guy, and he understands that family comes first—he’s always been that way. The whole time I worked for him if something came up at home—like one of my kids got sick, had a first day of kindergarten, or I needed to take care of something at home, he always believed that was more important than the job. He knows this new job is good for me and my family.

Rick: You and I have worked together on two big radio shows (Steve & Garry and John Landecker), but our time together on the Steve & Garry show lasted literally thirty seconds. Tell the story about the day we met, because it’s a good one. I still tell that story twenty years later.

Vince: My first entry point into the business was when I heard that Steve and Garry’s cabin boy (Jim) was going to college, and that they needed a new sandwich boy. I called the request line and you answered. I believe you said; “Are you sure you want to get into this?”

Anyway, you gave me all the information to get in, tips for what to say, who to talk to, and all that stuff, including the address to Steve Dahl and company. I wrote a letter to Garry. In the letter I said I would call in three days to get their answer. When I called they said ‘Sure, come on down for an interview.” I came downtown and met their manager Swifty, and he said: “You got the job, kid. It pays $4.25 an hour.”

By the time I started, though, you had quit as their producer, so I didn’t meet you face to face for about three weeks. I got sandwiches every day, Matza Ball soup and corn beef sandwiches, no mayo for Steve, and coffee with three creams for Garry, and then I was running late one day.

When I got into the producer’s booth, the producer, Phil Inzinga, had just been fired. You were there instead.

Rick: They had asked me to come back and fill in while they looked for someone new.

Vince: Right, but I didn’t know anything about it. When Steve saw me through the glass, he said ‘Hey, what’s he doing here? I thought I fired him too.” And you kind of looked at me like, boy this is really uncomfortable. Then the hotline rang. It was Swifty saying come downstairs, I have something to talk to you about. And that was it. I was gone. Steve was doing a housecleaning, and I was swept out too.

So I took the train home and was all sad. I was still in college--I was studying art for about a year, and I started listening to the show again, and by that time you had left again.

I heard them say they needed an intern—so I thought, hey I can do that. So I changed my major to communications and immediately called Swifty (photo). I said “Hey I’m a broadcasting student now, can I be an intern?” He said: “Sure, come on in. We can’t pay you, but you’re hired.”

And that was a really weird time on the show. They had gone through so many producers after you left, and none of them worked out. They were using an AV cart, and calling it “the producer,” so I became the person that prepped the producer, and before you knew it, I had producer duties, even though they weren’t calling me that.

Rick: There must have been some memorable moments during those Steve & Garry years.

Vince: Lots of em. I’ll never forget one morning when Steve came in really hung over, so I laid down couch cushions in the corner of the air studio and got a mike stand, and aimed the microphone at his face. He did the show lying down.

Rick: (laughs) I never thought of using the couch cushions. I always put down newspapers for him.

Vince: But the best part of that day for me was that I got to run the board! I couldn’t believe it. Here I was running the board for Steve and Garry! This was the show I listened to every day. I can still remember how exciting it was.

The best part of those Loop years, though, was meeting all the Loop kids. That’s what we called all the behind the scenes people—people who were really just the grunts, the young 20-somethings that worked on all the different shows—people like Artie Kennedy (photo, with his wife Mary), who was with Brandmeier’s show at the time, and Tony "Stony" Frothingham, who was my best pal at the station. We all hung out together, spent our free time together drinking beer at Flapjaws Bar.

Rick: By the time Steve and Garry broke up in 1993 you were the de-facto technical producer of the show. I know that was obviously a very weird and tense time. Looking back on that now with the benefit of nearly seventeen years of hindsight, what are the things you remember most from those tense days?

Vince: After Garry’s (photo) wedding he was gone for two weeks and we all assumed he was going to be back that next Monday. That morning Steve called me on the producer’s line, and I told him “Garry must be late. He’s not even here yet,” and Steve said “I don’t think he’s coming Vinnie.” I’ll be honest with you; I don’t really remember what we did on the show that day. We were in all in a fog.

At some point, they pulled Steve off the air, because they were worried that he was going to say something that would mess up the chances of getting them back together—so Stony and I hosted the Best of Steve & Garry while they negotiated behind the scenes. Every single local news outlet was reporting that they broke up—there were reporters in the lobby, in the hallway, and here’s me and Stony on the air...we had no idea what to do.

When they finally decided what to do, Garry got his own show mid-days on the Loop FM, and Steve was put on mornings on the AM along with Leslie (Keiling), Laura Witek (photo), and I believe Les Grobstein. I stayed with Steve.

Rick: So it wasn’t like a child of divorce—no fighting over the kids.

Vince: Not at all. Garry was totally cool about it. He and I remain friends to this day.

Rick: I’m trying to remember the time-line. Were you still there when it became the Steve & Bruce show on AM 1000?

Vince: Just at the very beginning. That’s when you guys hired me at WJMK.

Rick: We were excited to get you to come aboard the John Records Landecker show. That took our show to another level, in my opinion. John really allowed us the freedom to create, and this was really your first chance to flex your creative muscles on a daily basis. What did you discover about yourself during those nine years?

Vince: I learned that I had denied my love of production to be a producer—I hated the producing stuff like booking guests and things like that, and I didn’t even realize it until I was doing production only, and running the board for Landecker. That was amazing. Following John’s lead—and then adding stuff of my own, was so much fun. He really gave me “cart” blanche to play whatever I wanted. Ahem. We played carts in those days. (Photo: WJMK morning show--Rick Kaempfer, John Records Landecker, Leslie Keiling, Richard Cantu, and Vince Argento)

He let me do voices, which was something I always wanted to do. Mel Blanc was one of my heroes. One time he made me do improv cartoon voices with June Foray (the voice of Rocky from Rocky & Bullwinkle among many other cartoon voices) live on the air. I didn’t want to do it, but I’m glad he forced me to.

He even let me sing some parody songs and put a few of them on his CDs, which was a big thrill.

Rick: I remember the day we discovered how well you could sing. We had Ron Magers on the show just after the Jerry Springer controversy at Channel 5. I had written this parody song about that whole situation, but John didn’t have time to sing it before the show, so you went in the studio and came back with this four part harmony thing that blew us away. (AUDIO: "Magers" featuring Vince on all vocals)

Vince: I just remember Ron Magers' reaction to finally having a Landecker parody song about him. (AUDIO: Ron's reaction)

Rick: One of the many things that was great about working with Landecker was that he really made all of us part of the show. Some of the biggest moments of our personal lives took place on the air. You were even wired for sound when you asked your lovely wife Liz to marry you. Tell that story (and how radio brought you two together), if you don’t mind.

Vince: After I left Dahl's solo show, Dave Logan (photo), the PD at the Loop, put me on the air with Stony to do entertainment reports on the Loop FM. We went out on our bikes with our cell-phones and reported from street fairs and art festivals and interviewed whoever we found. We did that all summer and near the end of the summer they did a promotion called “Win a trip to Woodstock with Vince and Stony.” (The 1994 version).

(Listen to Matt Bisbee's promo for the Woodstock contest)

So, listeners were invited to send a postcard or fax to the radio station. When it was time to pick a winner, Stoney reached into the box, and pulled out a fax, that said: “From Liz O’Malley” and it was on O’Malley Brothers stationery (her father’s company). I still remember what Stoney said— ‘Look, it’s a chick that owns her own business with great handwriting.” That chick was using a “Hand writing font” on her entry and has now been my wife for eleven years.

Not too long after I joined Landecker’s show, I told John I was going to propose to Liz, and he said ‘You gotta get that on tape.” So I wore a wire hooked up to a portable DAT machine and wore a lavaliere microphone, and recorded the whole thing. We played it on the air the next day, and then over the years we played it any time there was a story about romance in the news. We also played it every year on Valentine’s Day. (Listen to it here)

Brandmeier played that tape on his show when I worked for him too.

Rick: When the rest of the Landecker show was fired, you were the only one the station retained. The same thing happened when the Brandmeier show was let go. How did you manage to pull that off?

They call me the radio cockroach. (laughs) I’m not sure what it is exactly. I think it’s because most people want to be on the air, and there aren’t that many people that just love doing production. That’s me. That’s the only thing I can think of. That, and I’m versatile. I can do a lot of different things. I know that’s why they kept me after the Landecker show. I could run the board, I could produce a show, I did production and I could solder. That’s probably the only reason they kept me.

Rick: For the past four years you were the technical producer for Brandmeier. I know you had to hustle in your previous jobs, but Brandmeier’s show took it to whole different level, didn’t it?

Vince: It sure did. Johnny just moves at a pace like no other and commands the most from his staff. He pushes you to produce the best that you can, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. He’s like a quarterback calling out the plays. He motivated without demoralizing us—he was constructive, not destructive.

With all of his successes you forget that he ultimately is a regular guy from Wisconsin. He’s a family man, totally grounded and fun.

Rick: What will you remember most about your years with him?

Vince: When he reacted to a something I produced. When a compliment came over the intercom from Johnny during the show, with the bullets flying all around—in the middle of the battle—and it blasted my ears out—that’s the sort of thing that will stay with me for a long time. I have so much respect for him that when he returned the respect it meant more to me than I could ever say.

Rick: Do you think you’ll miss doing the personality-show stuff?

Vince: Being part of a show is like being a part of a family. I don’t know how else to put it. Working with you and the gang at WJMK for all those years, we were more than colleagues. We were a family on that show. That’s why we’re all still friends. (Photo: The Kaempfers and the Argentos on a double date, circa 1995)

And the same is true of Brandmeier’s gang. I’m sure I’ll be friends with Guy and the guys forever. That’s probably what I’ll miss more than the day to day grind of doing a show. (Photo: Vince on the left, Guy on the right, and Loop superfan Jan Engle in between)

I’m really excited about this new opportunity though. In many ways, being the production director at the Loop is my dream job.