Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Byrd is the night jock (weeknights 7pm-Midnight) at the Loop, WLUP FM 97.9.


Byrd: I got my first on-air gig at a tiny station near International Falls, MN when I was 15 years old. Almost 30 years later, I find myself fortunate enough to be at the legendary Loop (97.9 WLUP-FM) here in Chicago. Some notable stops along the way include mornings at KSHE St. Louis, 98 Rock Baltimore/Washington, D.C., and KOMP Las Vegas; nights at Q107 Toronto and afternoons at 97 Rock Winnipeg. All totaled up, 15 years of mornings and the other half doing various other shifts.

Rick: Just looking at the list of cities and the stations you've worked at is pretty impressive--but you've been at the Loop now for over three years. Do you see Chicago as your final destination or are you just a wandering man?

Byrd: Actually, it will be four years in a few weeks! Time sure flies when you're having fun. As a kid, I grew up listening to the great radio in Chicago, dreaming that I might someday get the opportunity to work here. Chicago has the most intelligent and loyal radio audiences anywhere... and therefore the best radio in my opinion. People here are very appreciative and supportive of radio as an art form. So to answer your question, I am where I have always hoped and aspired to be... in Chicago and at the Loop, no less! I don't want to be anywhere else, so I would like to stay as long as the fine citizens of Chicago will have me.

Rick: You're the night guy now, but they've moved you around a little bit as far as day-parts, and you even did the morning show for awhile there between the Morning Loop Guys departure and the arrival of Johnny B. You seem more like a night owl than an early riser to me. Am I right about that? And what are the pros and cons of each shift?

Byrd: I enjoy each equally. I enjoy doing mornings or afternoons because it plays to my humorous/comedic side, and I enjoy doing nights because it plays to my love of and knowledge of the music. In other words, I go both ways! (laughs) A true Gemini... two different personalities. Convenient and handy in this business!

Rick: You are quite an accomplished interviewer, especially when it comes to rock and rollers. Some great ones can be downloaded from the Loop's website, including interviews with the likes of Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters, and Sammy Hagar. Are there any that you've enjoyed more than the others?

Byrd: Thank you Rick, that's very kind of you. Having Robert Plant tell me how much he enjoyed our conversation, and having Paul McCartney spontaneously sing for me stand out in my memory. Also having former President Clinton, Heather Locklear, Sam Kinison and Nia Vardalos tell me they were fans of the show sure felt nice. Sharing some laughs and conversation with people like Pam Anderson, Jay Leno, Ed Asner, George Foreman, Patrick Stewart, Tony Randall, Dan Aykroyd, Ed Norton, Peter Jennings, Janet Reno, Johnny Unitas, Timothy Leary, Bob Denver, Joey Slotnick, Gary Burghoff and Jon Stewart stand out in my memory as well. There have been many other highlights, too. Chatting with and getting to know members of the Rolling Stones, Rush, Guns n' Roses, The Who, Metallica, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Stone Temple Pilots, Black Sabbath, The Doors, Van Halen (photo: Byrd with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony), Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue, Pearl Jam, The Beatles, AC/DC, Styx and well, you get the picture. Some very talented, wonderful and fascinating people.

Rick: Are there any that were painful experiences for whatever reason?

Byrd: The most "challenging" interview I ever conducted was with the late Stevie Ray Vaughn (photo). At the time (1984), Stevie was still imbibing quite a bit. He came in pretty sloshed and was nodding his head "yes" or "no" to all of the questions. I had to stop the tape and explain as gently as I could that this was an interview for radio and the audience wouldn't be able to hear him shake his head. We resumed, he tried to speak a little, but it wasn't the most usable piece I've ever done. Suffice to say that very little made it on the air, but I wish I still had that tape. I'm pretty good at saving and cataloging most every interview I do, but somehow that one got lost along the way. Having Ace Frehley of KISS pass out on the phone (you could even hear the body drop) while we were on the air qualifies as the most bizarre. All in all though, the listeners are still the ones I have the most fun talking to. They have the wildest stories and funniest things to say of anyone, hands down!

Rick: When I'm in the car at night time I will punch in the Loop because I really like those features you do at 10:00 every night. Tell us a little bit about those features, and how they came to be.

Byrd: Monday's at 10pm, it's "The Loop Thinks Pink", an hour of Pink Floyd with deep cuts, live tracks and rarities along with the latest Floyd news. This one actually was in existence already before I came aboard at the Loop. I've attempted to add to an already great concept. Kick back with the black light, the Doritos and the bean-bag chair.

Tuesday's at 10pm is the "10 0'Clock News." Every week I play the latest offerings from heritage Loop artists along with some new "baby" bands we think you might like. A sense of discovering something before anyone else is fun.

Wednesday's at 10pm it's "High Voltage." As the name might indicate, it's a segment devoted to bands and songs that are a little "harder, louder and faster" like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Pantera, etc. "It goes to 11!"

Thursday's at 10pm it's "3-Some Thursday." Three songs with a theme, from the same artist, etc. The audience comes up with some killer ideas and concepts.

Friday's at 10pm is "The Loop On-Stage", a virtual concert with some of the biggest names in rock, complete with "stage announcements" from me. Love that echo chamber and the girls in the front row! (laughing)

And finally, every night at 11pm, it's the "11 O'Clock Shocker." I dig deep into the music library for a song that perhaps you've forgotten about, or maybe a song you've missed along the way, but always a great song. The "Oh WOW!!!" factor. The listeners suggest some great ones here, too.

Rick: Why do you think that you're given so much more freedom than the other rock jocks on the Loop, or is that just a misconception?

Byrd: Everyone at Emmis is really terrific at encouraging and supporting all of us to take our personal passions, knowledge and skill-sets and to actively seek out ways to employ those to create great, compelling shows. After all, great, compelling shows mean better ratings. Simple, but brilliant!

Rick: When we were both working at the Loop your mail-slot was right next to mine. Suffice it to say, "Byrd" isn't a play on your real first name or your real last name, so here's a question I'm sure you're asked all the time: Where did the name "Byrd" come from?

Byrd: It was a nickname I somehow acquired in grade school (Photo: Byrd as a young lad and his little brother with Bobby Hull.) I'm not sure why (perhaps because I'm thin?), but it stuck and I thought it would be easier for people to remember, so I carried it over. Byrd it became, then.

Rick: Tell us something about yourself that would really surprise your listeners.

Byrd: I enjoy a good cup of tea (Bill Klaproth, our assistant PD/music director finds this endlessly amusing), and I had designs on becoming a genetic biologist before radio's theater of the mind and rock 'n' roll stole my soul. And that was the end of that!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Joe Bartosch

Joe Bartosch is one of radio's jack of all trades. He currently plies that trade with CBS Radio in Chicago, at WSCR, WBBM-News Radio, and Jack-FM.


WBBM-AM Sept 1999 - present Senior producer, Bears football

WBBM-AM March 2007-present news writer

WJMK Chicago June 2006-present writer/board-op

Super Groovy 70's 2003-present writer/host/producer/engineer

WSCR June 1999-present sports anchor/host

KOOL 95-9 Aurora 2004-2005 weekends/mornings (pre-River)

WCKG January 2006 - June 2006 Producer, Rover's Morning Glory

Mediatracks May 1999 - April 2006 Engineer/producer Radio Health Journal (won 2 Lisagor Awards)

WGN Radio 1993-1998 Senior producer/ Producer for Punnett and Roy Leonard Show - Host - The Joe Show

WLLI Joliet 1992 Morning Host

WBXX Battle Creek, Michigan 1991 morning host/music director

Satellite Music Network "Starstation" 1989-1990 music director/weekend host

Shadow Traffic 1985-1989 Reporter

Before that - WAUR-Aurora/WGSB-St. Charles/WLTD-Evanston WRHS Ridgewood High School

Rick: I'll get to your on-air career in a second, but as a former producer myself, there was one thing that really jumped off the page from your list of jobs when I read it. You have produced both Roy Leonard's show and Rover's show. I don't think there's anyone out there who has a more diverse producing history than that. Tell me about both of those of shows, the similarities, the differences, the pros and the cons.

Joe: I'm glad you pointed that out - it highlights my incredibly amazing range. What can you say about Roy? (shown here with Joe) Legend, role model, great guy. Always prepared. He taught me one thing that many people on the air, even "successful" ones just don't get - it's a better conversation if you let the other person talk. Then respond to their answer. Too many people are so into themselves, or have an agenda, and it's a one-way street that doesn't include listening. Roy's was an established show, so my job was to keep it fresh and organized, toss in a few new ideas, and hang out with Roy and watch movies. He even bought lunch.

Rover's show was the most stressful time I've had in radio. Though my input on the actual on-air product turned out to be minimal. They weren't very much into taking suggestions from 'outsiders'. There were some guilty pleasures - like being part of a three-man crew shooting pool balls out of a giant slingshot at the show's resident crazy guy, Dieter. Once I saw we hadn't killed him, I laughed for an hour. Some of the goofy stunts were actually a blast.

Rick: Take me inside the Rover show. That show came on the air with so much pressure it's hard to even imagine what it must have been like (taking over for Howard Stern in several different Midwestern markets). How quickly into that experience did you sense it wasn't going to last, and/or do you think the plug was pulled before it had a chance to make it's mark?

Joe: I've managed to suppress most of the memories of those six months. It was amazing pressure for Rover (photo) and his crew - and maybe a no-win situation following Howard. We all came into it with high hopes and enthusiasm. I felt the one chance we had to make a mark here was to be a locally-focused "Chicago" show. They had some really good ideas - but weren't ready to take themselves out of Cleveland. So now they're back there doing well. They never embraced the audience in Chicago -- and that meant doom.

Rick: I previously interviewed Punnett, and I think that's a guy who wasn't given a fair shake in Chicago. You were his producer and witnessed what it was like from a unique perspective. You heard the complaint calls from the listeners, but you also helped Ian put his show together. How was that experience similar or dissimilar to the Rover one?

Joe: The experience with Ian (photo) - though it only lasted a couple of years - was at times tough, but generally a positive one. We had some really fun times. He had been brought in by one program director who was gone by the time he started. So the cards were stacked against him from the start. We did some great radio - the timing just wasn't right. I can see him coming back to Chicago and doing just fine in the future - if that's something he wants to do.

Rick: I love talking to people like you because you really know the radio business. You've been a music director, a producer, an engineer, a host, a traffic reporter, a sports anchor, a writer, an editor, and just about everything in between. Having seen the business from all those different angles, what have you learned about the business that people who specialize in one thing will never quite understand?

Joe: I find it amazing how much people don't know about what other people in their company, station, or even on their own show actually do. Part of it is they don't work their way up through the small and medium markets anymore - where you learn about everything - because you have to do it all. There's a lot of tunnel vision.

Rick: Which of those jobs is the most rewarding and why? Are there any jobs that you would warn people against ever trying?

Joe: Being a music director has been my favorite job, and in my dream world, I am programming a station playing all the 70's pop that I love and not under the oppressive thumb of consultants. Or becoming a consultant and putting my oppressive thumb on others. To my surprise, I've found in my latest jobs that I also really love to write, both serious news for 'BBM-AM and goofy, sarcastic cracks for Jack-FM. There's something about that creative process that's satisfying. As far as warnings - never take a job with a company where the checks start to come late or bounce just a couple of weeks after you've moved your whole life there. Not that anything like that ever happened to me..

Rick: You've been on the air in Chicago (off and on) for more than twenty years now. Currently there are a few different places that people can hear you, including the Score (WSCR). You've been doing sports updates there for quite awhile now, meaning you've probably done updates on almost every show. Which of the hosts have been the most fun to work with and why?

Joe: I've worked with just about everybody there but Mike (North ). The nice thing about the Score is that each show is very different. I've always had a good rapport and interaction with Murph - and Brian Hanley and Mike Mulligan have been really supportive - though I'm only on with them occasionally. In terms of sheer laughs - it's definitely Boers and Bernstein. They bring out the sports weirdness in me - and seem to make me dig deeper for the tangental, semi-obscure references I occasionally throw in. Both of those guys are nuts - especially Terry.

Rick: You're also the host of Super Groovy 70s, which is a syndicated show paying homage to the music of our childhood (at least yours and mine...I think we're about the same age). How did that show originate?

Joe: I started it on WGN when I was doing weekends. It later ran on WKKD-FM in Aurora for a while. When I was out of music radio and no longer had an outlet, I decided to do it simply for the love of doing it. And I have a couple of small, faithful affiliates who run it every week. Anyone across America (or anound the world) interested in more can go to I have a great fan of the show and friend of mine, Allison, who runs the website and has kept the show alive.

Rick: I know you've got your hands full with all of these projects, but if somebody was putting together the dream radio job for Joe Bartosch to take you away from all of this, what would it be?

Joe: Being Barry Williams' (Greg Brady) personal assistant. But if that's not open, programming a fun, upbeat music station with a ton of pop culture as part of the presentation would be it . I think HD radio would be a perfect vehicle for that.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jenniffer Weigel & Clay Champlin

UPDATED: November 25, 2008

Jenniffer Weigel & Clay Champlin
I interviewed Jenniffer and her husband (and fellow broadcaster) Clay Champlin in December of 2007, not too long after her book "Stay Tuned: Conversations with Dad from the Other Side" came out. She has since turned that into a one woman play, and I asked her about the status of that show...

Jen: The producer of Tony N Tina's wedding has picked up my one woman show, "I'm Spiritual, Dammit!"! It re-opens at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts on Dec 10th. The show is based on my book and talks about my life in broadcasting and all that got me where I am, so broadcasting is definitely in there! It runs until Feb 1st- on Wednesday and Thursday nights 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm.

The original interview is below...

Jenniffer and Clay have been on the radio in Chicago for more than a decade. They also happen to be married to each other.

Rick: I've known both of you for a long time, but I don't think I've ever heard the story of how you met and wooed each other. Is there a good story there?

Clay: Not really. We met at Actually, it was a lot like how you and Bridget met. (Rick's note: My wife Bridget and I met while working together at the Loop in the 80s.) She had just started at Shadow, and we got to know each other through work. But she had to ask me out first. Actually, she had to ask me on our first two dates. Technically, she still had a boyfriend, and I didn't know if he could beat me up, so I was waiting until the coast was clear before asking Jenny out.

Jen: Clay is right that we met at Shadow- but I had BROKEN UP with my boyfriend- but I guess I wasn’t clear about that with him because he seemed TOTALLY not interested in me- I’d asked him out twice- and gotten the good ole’ friendly “hug” goodbye at the end of the night- so I wasn’t picking up any signals… so I backed off. Then, a couple weeks after our second date- he asked ME out- and we’ve been together ever since.

Rick: This is fun, I've never done a couples interview before. I feel like Oprah. Obviously both of you are multi-media stars, but this is called Chicago Radio Spotlight, so I have to ask you about that first. I'll get to some of the stuff you did separately in a second, but I want to hear about it was like doing a radio show with your spouse. (They hosted a show together on WGN Radio)

Clay: I really enjoyed it. The cool part was appreciating her as a professional in a way I hadn't before. We'd done stuff on TV before, but radio is such an intimate medium (at least from the broadcasting side) that I experienced her a unique way only that environment could provide. The part that sucked was when we were pissed at each other and had to drive home together. Honestly, I thought we'd fight a lot more than we did, but I'd be lying if I said we didn't squabble over when to take a break, or who was going to do the next live read.

Jen: It was easy in a lot of ways because we both knew the ins and outs of radio- and I think we made a nice team because he wanted to talk about Nascar and I wanted to talk about Wayne Dyer. But when we would argue about content- it did make things tough on the drive home!! But I loved doing a show with Clay. After my maternity leave, we went back in to WGN to talk about getting back on the schedule, and they said they were “going in a different direction”- so we haven’t been on the air together since. But I am going to start hosting a weekly show for the Grapevine Radio network in January.

Rick: You've also worked with a long list of radio stars in this town. Between the two of you, you've been on with just about every major radio star who has been here since the mid-90s, whether you worked with them as a co-host, a news reporter, a traffic reporter, or a sports reporter. What are some of your fondest memories from those days and who was the most fun to work with?

Clay: I had a lot of fun working with Wendy Snyder (photo) and Bill Leff at the Loop. I also liked quoting the Simpsons on the WBEZ talkback line, in an attempt to make Lisa Labuz crack up as she introduced traffic. My least favorite memory is filling-in on the WJMK morning show because the producers were so mean. They hit me a few times.

Rick: I'm sure you had it coming. What about you, Jen?

Jen: Steve Cochran (photo) treated me so well- and I just loved sitting in the studio with him and watching him do interviews because it was so effortless for him. Johnny Brandmeier was also a blast. I was never in the same room as Johnny- but I think the two of them are the best in the business. They taught me everything I know about radio. When Buzz went on vacation for a week- I got to do the news for Johnny instead of just traffic- and that was a huge step for me. It gave me the confidence to walk into my job as the news anchor for Steve and I will always be grateful to both of them for helping me get my start.

Rick: Jen, you have written a book "Stay Tuned: Conversations with Dad from the Other Side." What has the reaction been like, and specifically what has it been like from people who knew your dad (Tim Weigel)?

Jen: I never thought I would write a book- I’d always had this feeling that there was more to life than broadcasting- or at least the kind of broadcasting I was assigned to cover- (which included celebrity interviews, or fires and car accidents, depending on which boss I had at the time.) Whenever a certain “spiritual” guru came through town, I requested interviews, and felt very moved by the conversations. I kept a journal about it- and even wrote articles to pitch to the papers or to magazines. After an encounter with Carolyn Myss (best selling author of “Sacred Contracts” and “Anatomy of the Spirit”) I had the courage to walk out on my reporter job- and after my Dad died- I then became obsessed with interviewing all these “mediums” who claimed they could talk to dead people. I wanted to continue the conversation with my Dad- but I knew he was gone- and so my grief took me on a journey of discovery and soul searching that has been incredible.

I’ve gotten more reaction from people who DIDN’T know my Dad (photo), than from those who DID. One man out of California- (60 years old, CEO, work-a-holic) wrote me an email saying my book changed his life- which is still hard to imagine for me. He says he now works fewer hours, and tells his family and loved ones how he feels about them every day, because he realizes that it’s his EGO that wants to make money and chase his tail. He now gets that it’s about the relationships you have, and the people whose lives you touch that matter most.

I got another email from a 20 year old college student on the East Coast saying after reading the book, she decided to follow her OWN career path instead of one her parents set out for her. It’s these kinds of reactions that just blow me away.

After doing a few interviews about the book- one reporter said “Are you worried that your former broadcasting colleagues won’t take you as seriously now that you’ve put this information out there?” and I just laughed and said, “Look at the quotes on the book jacket- most of them are from nationally known broadcasting colleagues. I don’t think they think less of me. I think they respect me MORE for telling people what was true for me..”

(Read Laura Caldwell's review of "Stay Tuned" in Chicago Magazine.)

Rick: And now, Clay is writing too. I've been checking out your blog, and I've read some of the stuff you've written for Chicago Sports Weekly, and Clay, would I be incorrect if I assumed you knew your way around a casino?

Clay: Yeah, I've spent a lot of time gambling. While I've wagered the GNP of a small Balkan nation in my lifetime, I'm not some high-roller hanging out at the Bellagio. Nowadays I only have time for low-limit online hold'em games. More importantly, all of that time in a casino has shown the enormous impact gambling has on our society, but, because it's a taboo subject, it's difficult to have an honest dialogue on how that impact effects us. My writing has allowed me to explore that, and Chicago Sports Weekly has been kind enough to publish some of my work.

Rick: You've also both done television work (Jen's show "Taste" is currently airing on NBC in Chicago), in addition to radio and writing. Is one of you dragging the other one into these new mediums or has it just kind of worked out that way?

Clay: I think to work in news, in any medium, you have to be able to write. So we've always been writers, it's just now we're writing about stuff we enjoy. But Jenny hasn't been dragging me along - she's been leading the way. If it weren't for her I'd be nothing more than a pale version of Ronnie Woo-Woo. But she's very inspirational to watch work. I mean, how many women do you know, not named Oprah, who have their own TV show, production company, and book?

Jen: I think we’re really lucky- because if people weren’t knocking down our doors, we created shows for ourselves. I created Taste for NBC- but a lot of people don’t know that Clay created, hosted and Executive Produced a sports talk show for CBS in “Notre Dame country” out of South Bend Indiana for over a year when he moved there to take care of his mom. (she was diagnosed with cancer a few months after my Dad died- GOOD TIMES!) To wear all those hats is hard work- and we’ve both done it.

Broadcasting is so “hit or miss” and so I think we both realized that we needed to arm ourselves with as many skills as possible to stay busy!

Rick: So here's my last question. I know you have a little boy. (See video of Jen, Clay and Britt on Jen's TV show "Taste") With all of this stuff going on for both of you, how do you juggle that with your family duties, and how have you managed to split up the assignments at home?

Clay: I was going to ask you about that! Three boys? Jesus, I watch our son for three hours and need a nap. We used to arm wrestle to divide the chores, but Jenny kept beating me. Now it's rocks, paper, scissors.

Jen: Grandma has been a big help- but luckily- we both love our son so much- we WANT to be with him as much as possible. He’s so active, it gets exhausting, but we really make an effort to “co-parent” as much as possible. Since we both work from home a lot, that gives us a lot of flexibility- which is handy. But I have SOOO much respect for people who have more than one child! Don’t know how you do it!!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Jerry Agar

UPDATED 9/4/10


Last time I spoke with Jerry Agar he had moved over to WGN as a fill-in host. He has since landed another full-time gig in his native Canada. I asked him how the new job is going, and if it was more difficult to do conservative talk in a more liberal country...

Jerry: I am currently doing the 9 am to 1 pm show on Canada's heritage, and largest talk station News Talk 1010, formerly known as CFRB in Toronto.

Canada has gone even further to the left since the days when I grew up here and it seems I got back just in time to fight the socialism.

The people at the station are great. Like WGN it is live and local all day and evening, with a full news room.

I am still proudly associated with WGN as I get to do some Saturday evenings for them.

One of my sons has just started his senior year in high school so my family is still in the Chicago area as we want to let him finish it out with his friends and sports teams.

Updated 9/5/09


I first met and interviewed Jerry shortly after he arrived in town, and was doing the midday show at WLS. He was moved out of that time slot to make way for Mancow and Pat Cassidy, and then a few months ago, made the move down the dial to WGN Radio. I caught up with him the other day and asked how the transition has gone...

Jerry: All is well. I am doing up to three shows on the weekend, depending on the Cubs schedule. I also do fill-in for various weekday shows. I was on for Cochran a few times and I will be doing the over-night soon.

I was the guy who did the first several weeks in mid-morning after they let Kathy and Judy go, so I took the hits and the hate for the radio station. No problem - as an opinionated host, I am used to that.

The original interview follows...

Jerry Agar hosts the midday show on WLS AM 890, from 9-11 a.m. every weekday


Jerry: Started in Canada in 1973 fresh out of high scool at CKDM, a small station in Dauphin, Manitoba doing the overnight DJ show. Then to CJME, Regina, Saskatchewan to do morning traffic and a midday two hour show. At CKLQ, Brandon, Manitoba, a country music station, I was the PD and afternoon host in the late ‘70s.

My first American station was WFXW, Geneva/St. Charles, as PD/Morning Host in the early 80s, then Star 96 in St. Cloud, Minn. in the same roles. From there to Toledo, Ohio to a soft rock station, WLQR to do mornings. Got fired. KOOL 108 in Minneapolis as a part-timer until I got a morning gig at MIX-FM in Tucson, Arizona in 1996. Got fired. Hired by same company (Journal) to mornings at their oldies station in Knoxville, Tenn. Got fired again.

After some career reflection, not wanting to bounce around mid-level markets getting fired I decided to either get into talk radio or try long haul truck driving. Hired by WPTF, Raleigh, North Carolina for afternoons on the first business day of 2000. Stayed almost 5 years and then, after winning R&R Magazine’s Rising Talk Star of 2004 I moved to KMBZ in Kansas City for middays, moving up to afternoon drive.

A year ago I was offered the astounding opportunity to move to Chicago to do 9 am to 11 am on WLS and an evening show, broadcast from Chicago, on WABC in New York. I did both for a year and then was replaced in NY by the legendary Bob Grant.

Rick: You're a relative newcomer to Chicago, but your listeners might not realize that you worked at a suburban station here early in your career. Tell us a little about that station and your time there.

Jerry: WFXW is no longer on the air. It was on 1570 AM. I was getting no attention whatsoever from Chicago radio stations and being from a small Canadian town, I did not know about suburban radio. I had a job as a manufacturer’s rep and was making a sales call in Geneva at the Ace store. I saw the radio station across the parking lot and after my call I threw the samples in the back seat of the car and walked into the radio station with no tape, resume or appointment. They were so thrilled to see a guy who had actually been on the air (so he said) that they hired me on the spot for Saturday mornings. A few months later I was the morning host and PD. We did a news/talk morning show and AC music during the day. High school sports at night and signed off at midnight.

The station moved into the transmitter building, which was actually a split level house, with a bedroom and two bathrooms. I would sign the station on in the morning and since the news guy was a guy, and we were the only people in the building at 5 am, I would start taking my clothes off while the sign-on cart played. Then I would run downstairs to shower while he read a 15 minute newscast. Is this too much information?

I loved my time there since it was a trial to do a show like that with no talk experience and no phone calls, possibly due to the fact that we may have had practically no listeners.

Rick: Now you're working at the powerhouse WLS. I'm guessing it's been a little different this second time around. How has Chicago welcomed (or not welcomed) you?

Jerry: It has been my experience for the most part that talk radio listeners do not care as much about where a host is from as they do about where he is “coming from.” If they like the topic, like the way the show is put together and believe that the host has done some homework, they get engaged in the issues and the conversation. Of course it would have been an advantage to have grown up here as Maura Myles did, but I didn’t and I don’t try for a moment to pretend I did. That I have lived here before helps a little.

Rick: How does your time slot (between two powerhouse shows like Don & Roma and Rush Limbaugh) affect the way you do your show, or does it? Do you feel any added pressure?

Jerry: The first morning I walked into the studio Roma said, “Welcome. Don’t suck.” But she said it with love. It is an honor to be on WLS at all and more so to be in a lineup that goes from Don and Roma to Rush to the Roe Conn show and the powerhouse lineup we have all around the clock. I listen to the station a lot and between those hosts and the great news department, I know that I can’t have a day when I slack off. It isn’t so much that I feel pressure as it is that I feel a responsibility to live up to the station’s presence and heritage in the market. I am not kidding when I say that while my mouth says the call letters my mind says, “LarryLujackJohnLandeckerFredWinstonDickBiondiDonandRomaRoeConnJerryAgarOhMyGod.”

Rick: To people who haven't yet heard your show, how would you describe it to the uninitiated?

Jerry: I try to walk a line between the full on political shows we get from Rush, Hannity and Levin and the more lifestyle, comedy show that Roe, Bill, Christina and Jim do. In that regard I guess it is an attempt to be a continuation of what Don and Roma do. I am very conservative, but I don’t think talk radio has to be for policy wonks. Life is fun. If we don’t laugh we cry and who better to laugh at than politicians? Sure, I get on my soap box from time to time and I always will. But I really enjoy developing a parody song about the news, twisting a topic into a fun phone call segment or talking about a lifestyle issue with Maura. The show is also more likely to be about Chicago area happenings than national, since we have the top national hosts on the station already.

Rick: How would you describe Maura Myles' role on the show?

Jerry: Her primary responsibility is the news. As such she lays back on many of the more hardcore opinion related topics such as illegal immigration or why Hillary is the anti-Christ. But she can be a great foil on some of those topics by saying, “Now, just to play Devil’s advocate here….” Which can take me in a direction I had not planned but that is always fun. Maura (photo) is a top notch “reactor” on lifestyle topics and she makes me laugh. Anyone who thinks that a smart, funny person lobbing some bombs from the sidelines isn’t worth gold has likely never done a talk show. She also is the type of person who can take the heat when I disagree strongly with what she says. That is also rare. Too many people take it personally and this is no business for wimps. She isn’t one.

Rick: You're a Canadian doing a talk show in America. What are the pros and cons of your background while discussing the issues confronting America today?

Jerry: The only real pro I see is that it blunts the attack on me as being xenophobic or anti-immigrant when I take on the illegal alien issue, which I frequently do. It isn’t as much of a con now, but at first I had to get up to speed on a lot of things I didn’t live through other than on the TV news. Occasionally a caller will attack me by saying I have no right to be on an American station telling Americans how to think about politics. My response is that if all they have is an attack on me personally, rather than to take on the issue we are discussing, I win. I also invite them to send management a tape, they hire Americans. Most listeners don’t care. Again, as I said earlier, it is about the topic and what the host brings to it, not picky personal stuff.

Rick: When you listen to talk radio or watch cable television talk, you hear a lot of absolutes. One side is always right and the other side is always wrong. Of course, everybody knows it's ridiculous to believe that one political party is always right or wrong. So, as a conservative talk show host, let me ask you this...what is one thing the Republicans are absolutely wrong about, or one thing the Democrats are right about?

Jerry: Well, Rick, that is because one side is wrong. It is the side that isn’t the host.

Actually, I don’t see it as a party issue. I see America’s salvation in a philosophy, not a party. I believe the overall conservative philosophy of getting back to smaller government as outlined by the Constitution with a moral compass guiding our affairs as much better for all Americans rich and poor. The Republicans are often a big disappointment in that regard. What we have right now are Big Government Republicans and that should be an oxymoron.

What are the Democrats right about? That is as fair a question as you could ask a conservative talk show host and I honestly can’t think of a thing. I am not talking about the ordinary American who is registered a Democrat. Those are good people who have some differences in philosophy from mine. That is OK. But if we are talking about the Democratic Party as represented by those at the top, I think the people of the party have let the communists take over. They are a bunch of screeching, anti-Bush, anti-military power freaks with no ideas of their own other than more, more, more government control of our lives and economy and they are a danger to the nation. See why it is a daily chore to find humor in all of this?

Rick: Another thing you hear a lot about is the liberal media and/or the conservative media. Both sides think the other side has total control over the media (conservatives point to liberal reporters/story selection, liberals point to conservative Wall Street's hold over the owners). You've worked in the media here for many years. What is your opinion about that hot button issue? Which conspiracy theory is correct, or are neither?

Jerry: That the media leans left is not even worth debating. Just a week or so ago yet another study came out bearing that conclusion. The study was done by Harvard University, hardly a member of the vast right wing conspiracy. They concluded (did I mention this was Harvard University?) that the dominant media in this country are vastly more supportive of the Democrats and left leaning policies. What was the media’s response? They proved the point by choosing not to report the finding. But Thank God your pesky local talk show host was here to point it out.

See more of Jerry & Maura in the latest commercial for WLS AM

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

I wanted to thank everyone that has been checking out this little radio blog. When I started it in January, I just thought it would be fun to showcase people in Chicago radio that I respect and admire. I figured I might get a handful of fellow radio fans to check it out, but I never expected so many people to share my interest. Most of the credit for that goes to the people who have helped me spread the word, especially the newspaper columnists and reporters (Robert Feder, Eric Zorn, Rick Kogan, Ted Cox, Steve Rhodes), the radio message boards and websites (Chicagoland Radio & Media, Crow On, All Access, RadioDailyNews), and the radio shows (too numerous to mention).

I plan on doing Chicago Radio Spotlight for one more year, but I need your help. Please drop me a line (at the "e-mail me" link on the right) if you have a suggestion for a future Chicago Radio Spotlight. There are lots of radio folks who have done, and continue to do, great work in Chicago. Unfortunately, I may not know all of them, especially the up and comers. Also, if there are some Chicago radio pros from the past that you'd like me to track down (or even better--that you have already tracked down for me), let me know that too.

I've had a great time talking to everyone so far. I knew some of them already, and hadn't yet met some others, but every one of them had great stories to tell. It's a fascinating business filled with fascinating people. Below this note, I'll be answering some of the frequently asked questions I receive.

The number one question I get: "Why don't you answer any of our questions on the blog?" is the inspiration for this week's post.

Thanks for your support,
Rick Kaempfer

Frequently Asked Questions

I do try to answer every question via e-mail. If I haven't answered yours, you might have gotten trapped in my spam filter. I apologize.

Q: Why don't you allow comments on this blog?

A: I answered the phones at radio stations for a long time and I know that there are a lot of people out there who like to bash people. I wanted this site to be a totally positive place.

Q: Has anyone ever turned you down for an interview?

A: Yes. Four people. I won't embarrass them by mentioning their names. One told me that something new was going to be happening to him soon and he wasn't ready to announce it yet. He promised he would do it in the future. Another one has been out of the business for awhile and didn't want to talk about "the good old days" anymore. Another one is a good friend of mine who hates the spotlight. I'm still working on him. And the last one was an old boss of mine. I knew that was a long shot before I asked him.

Q: What is your radio background?

A: I worked in radio for twenty years as a producer (Steve Dahl & Garry Meier, John Records Landecker), a music jock (The Loop FM), and a talk show host (AM 1000).

Q: Would you ever consider going back to radio yourself?

A: Never say never, but I honestly don't see it happening. I'm really enjoying my new life.

Q: Why don't you ever tell some of your radio stories?

A: Check out some of the links on the right there. I've previously written about my days with Steve & Garry, and John Landecker, and about the celebrities I encountered in both jobs (Celebrity Snippets), and of course there many additional stories in my book "The Radio Producer's Handbook." I just don't tell them on this blog, because it's about other people's stories.

Q: Why did you write your producer book?

A: I wrote The Radio Producer's Handbook because I wanted to give something back to the business. When I started as a producer, no one trained me. There was no such thing as a job description. They just kind of tossed producers into the deep end of the pool and expected them to figure out how to swim. That always bothered me, so when my co-author John Swanson ("Swany" from the Eric and Kathy Show) approached me about writing a book about producing radio shows, I thought it was a good idea. It came out in 2004, and it's being used to teach radio production all over the country. We owe the publisher an update in two years, so I guess I'll be diving back into that soon.

Q: Aren't you afraid of ticking off the media giants with your novel $everance.

A: Not really. I'm small potatoes to them. The only time I had to deal with them was when I was pitching it to publishers. Those media giants also own all the major publishing houses, and they certainly didn't want to publish a book about the dangers of media consolidation. That's one of the reasons you won't find $everance in every book store. (But you can get it directly from my publisher at

People working in the media, however, have been very receptive to the message in my book. They've been dying for someone to tell this story.

Here's a small sampling from people you may know...

"Rick cuts the modern media conglomerates to the quick in his alternately hilarious and disturbing Severance. Some readers will think his moguls and media personalities are exaggerated. I'm here to tell you they're pretty dead-on."
--Roe Conn, WLS Radio

"It's about time somebody told this story. $everance certainly captured the world of radio, warts and all."
--Legendary broadcaster Clark Weber

Severance is a black comedy that would be funnier if its darkness weren’t so true. And it crackles with the insights and cynicism that made Network and Broadcast News the seminal cinematic treatments of today’s dumbed-down news business. Move over Christopher Buckley----Rick Kaempfer is in town!”
--ABC-TV News Reporter Andy Shaw

"Other than 'love', 'Severance' is the sweetest word in the English language. This really made me laugh."
--WGN Radio's Steve Cochran

"Told with the keen insight of a veteran insider, it's a humorous indictment of an industry that has lost all sense of purpose -- except for making money, of course."
--Chicago Sun Times media columnist Robert Feder

"A hysterical critique of corporate morality"
--WGN-TV Morning News Anchor Larry Potash

"I think it’s a great, funny, sarcastic, entertaining and thought provoking book…that really shows how broadcasting has changed over the last few years.”
--Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Records Landecker

"Brilliant satire! I got a paper cut from the sarcasm. I wish I could say it was great fiction, but having worked in radio, I think it’s just really funny non-fiction. The reality in between the laughs will scare the hell out of you."
--Longtime radio personality and playwright Spike Manton

"I thought this novel was just going to be an amusing story about radio. But the way Kaempfer has woven in elements of all media and politics is masterful, to say nothing of insightful, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny! It’s a brilliant first entry. I can't wait for his next page-turner!"
--Legendary broadcaster and programmer Bob Dearborn

"Too bad Zagorski (the main character) is fictional. Today's media could use someone like him to shake things up. He's the personification of fairness with just enough wicked cynicism to make him completely irresistible. The thought that a team like Zagorski and Lawrence might actually exist should make some big bosses more than a little uneasy."
--Leslie Keiling, WGN Radio

"Rick Kaempfer’s “$everance” is whiplash-fast, choke-on-your-coffee funny, and ultimately frightening. Kaempfer has seen it all in the radio business, and has some dire predictions for the rest of the media, too. It’s the summer’s must-discuss beach read – and probably a sign of the apocalypse."
--Paige Wiser, Chicago Sun-Times columnist

"I laughed out loud many times while reading it - yeah, it's that funny! If you work in the radio business you'll love the inside view of the industry and if you're not in the media you will certainly learn a lot of eye-opening trade secrets."
--Cara Carriveau