Sunday, August 26, 2007

Andrea Darlas

Updated 9/5/09


I interviewed Andrea two years ago when she was doing news on the WGN Morning show with Spike O'Dell. She's still doing the morning news on WGN, but has since worked with two other morning hosts; John Williams and Greg Jarrett. I caught up with her again this week and asked her what that experience has been like...

Andrea: It's true! I have had the good fortune of working with 3 different "major market" personalities in the past year. I think each of our hosts brings with him/brought with him to the table something unique, and hopefully enjoyable for our listeners.

Spike was "the guy next door," someone everyone could relate to! He was-- and is-- one of the nicest, most down to earth, humble people you would ever want to meet. Spike had a unique way of blending current events with fun and humor into his show, and it showed... he was "KING" of morning radio during his reign! We keep in touch several times a week via email, facebook, etc, and he STILL makes me smile every time we talk!

John Williams brought a whole different persona to the morning show. As a morning show host, John was much more serious and much more into current events and the news of the day. But, John also has a very DRY sense of humor and -- like Spike-- John doesn't mind "throwing himself under the bus" every now and again to get a few laughs!

Greg Jarrett is kind of a combination of John and Spike. Greg is a total "News Guy"...he's been around the world literally "in the trenches" covering all kinds of interesting stories and is able to bring those stories to the show and incorporate them into his interviews. But, he's not "all news".... he has a great sense of humor, too!

I think the biggest similarity they all share is that they, like all of us, are very proud to be affiliated with WGN because the radio station has always been such a staple in the Chicago area!

The original interview follows...

Andrea Darlas is the morning news anchor of the Spike O'Dell show on WGN Radio 720AM


My first radio gig was for WPGU-FM ('91-93), back when it was a classic rock station in the basement of Westin Hall in Champaign-Urbana. (Slogan: "Rock and roll till the cows come home") I was assigned the 2a-6a overnight shift on Sunday. It worked out perfectly...I would end my shift, eat breakfast at the Illini Orange, then walk over to my 8am chemistry class at Noyes. Not sure which was more brilliant...walking to Westin from my dorm in Urbana at 1 in the morning or taking Chem 101 my Freshman Year. Then, my Jr. Year I moved from music to news and accepted a news internship at WLRW-FM ('93), working for then-News Director Steve Grzanich (now of WBBM-AM fame). My senior year I went to all news station, WDWS-AM, the Voice of the Fighting Illini ('93'-94) and worked under the brilliant direction of then News Director Robin Neal (Kaler).

When I graduated, I didn't have a job, even though I spent months (and my last dime) sending resumes all over kingdom come, so I did what any out-of-work-college-graduate would do...I went to Greece. When I came back, I was very lucky to have received a call from an all-news station in Joliet, WJOL-AM (along with sister stations WLLI-FM and WJTW-FM). I interviewed and was hired as a General Assignment Reporter in May of 1994. After a year, I was promoted to Morning Anchor. Then, in 1996, I was promoted to News Director. I had a four-person staff, which nowadays is unheard of, for a station in a small/medium size market! In 1997, I worked as a freelance News Anchor for WMAQ-AM, then as a freelance anchor for WGN-AM. Finally, in 1998, WGN hired me FULL TIME! My first shift at WGN was Reporter and Evening News Anchor. In 2006, I was promoted to Morning Anchor for the Spike O'Dell radio show...and here I am today...

Rick: You and I have something in common. We both got our radio start during our days at the University of Illinois via WPGU Radio. Can you explain what it is about that radio station that has given all of us who worked there such an advantage after we left college?

Andrea: The best thing about WPGU was that it was so hands on! You didn't spend months watching how to hone your craft actually got to spin the dials, program the station, field listener calls, and attend remotes. The initial training at WDBS was intense...baptism by fire...either you had it or you didn't. It was run by students who had the drive and the desire to succeed. I worked with brilliant, young broadcasters who worked countless hours at the station making sure 'PGU was as competitive a station as the other stations in the market.

Rick: You are a rare breed in this business now--an actual radio journalist. In addition to anchoring the news on the Spike O'Dell show, you also go out and cover stories. Why do you think that has become such a rarity in radio these days?

Andrea: I hate to say this, but so many Anchors (in both radio and television) come into work, read their scripts that are prepared for them, then go home. What kind of a challenge is that? We are very fortunate here at WGN to be able to cover our own stories, write our own news stories-- and our own scripts for that matter! I don't want to blame laziness on the fact that so many Anchors are not Reporters as well, but perhaps it is just a role or a pattern that is allowed by station management. Our managers continually challenge us and keep us on our toes...and frankly, I wouldn't want it any other way. (Photo: WGN newsies Wes Bleed, Judy Pielach, Lyle Dean, Steve Bertrand, and Andrea) Being out there as a Reporter helps you maintain a closeness with the community as well as solidify communication with your contacts, which really are the bread and butter of a news organization, as are our listeners of course.

Rick: What are some of the most memorable stories you've covered and why?

Andrea: The most memorable story I ever covered was an execution at Stateville Prison in 1996. It's the "resume grabber" everyone asks me about. All I can say is, I'm glad I covered it as a Reporter, but it's something I don't know if I would cover a second time. It was though a human and humbling experience. I also enjoyed covering the George Ryan trial, in addition to recent series' I've reported including ex-convicts vying for a second chance and how the state of IL is lacking when it comes to background checks affecting people associated with our children.

Rick: When you were named the full-time morning news anchor at WGN, you beat out some of the best radio journalists in the country who were also vying for that slot. What has it been like following in the footsteps of Tom Petersen, and how have you been received by WGN staffers and listeners?

Andrea: Tom Petersen hired me...he was a mentor to me and is still a very good friend. I knew when I was being considered for the position, I would have big shoes to fill. As for our listeners, all I can say is that they are the best. I received so many wonderful emails when I took over as Morning Anchor. I actually tried to save them in an online folder, but there were so many, it nearly crashed the system!! I can honestly say I have not received one disgruntled comment...from anyone. I hope my partnership with the station will continue for many years to come.

Rick: Your on-air partner Spike O'Dell has been doing the #1 show in Chicago now for something like seven years. Why do you think he doesn't get the credit he deserves?

Spike (photo) is one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. What you hear it what you get. He doesn't have an attitude or an ego, which is pretty rare, considering he really is the "KING" of morning radio in Chicago. I think the fact that he IS so down-to-earth opens him up to critics, who usually feed on the "bad boy image". But, I think ratings speak louder than anything else-- he is consistently the number one rated program in the #3 market in the country. Not too shabby....

Rick: I've met Spike a few times, and every time I talk to him, I think--is it possible that such a big star is really that nice? Tell us about the dark side of Spike O'Dell :).

Andrea: Honestly, there really is no dark side...unless you want to tease him about his love for gadgets or space, which we do every now an again.

Rick: You've also done (and continue to do) some television work. Can you compare and contrast the experience of doing television and radio?

Andrea: Well, to start with, TV news is a lot more demanding for a Reporter. You have to drive to a story, have the photog shoot the video, put a package together and really let the pictures tell the story. Radio is much more can still "chase" the story, but the beauty of radio is that you can get the story on the air right away, instead of having to wait through the prime time television shows. Plus, you get to use your creative side since YOU are the one telling the story...not letting pictures or video images speak for you.

I also serve as a correspondent for the TV show "House Smarts" with Lou Manfredini on NBC-5, Chicago (Saturdays at 5am and 6:30pm). Working on this show is an absolute blast! Lou and the HS crew came up with a revolutionary idea for a show like this-- it is unlike any other "home improvement" show you see on TV. House Smarts was shooting "Green Pieces" before it was "chic to be green". We start shooting our third season in August!

Rick: Thanks Andrea. ILL...

Andrea: INI!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scott Dirks

Scott Dirks has been a radio personality in Chicago since the early '80s. He is now the Commercial Production Director and Assistant Program Director at WZZN True Oldies 94.7.


WRRG ( Triton College , River Grove , IL ) late 1978 – 1986

WLUP-FM (and WLUP-AM/WMVP) Chicago , IL 1980 – 1996

WRKR Kalamazoo , MI 1988-1989

WCBR Arlington Heights , IL 1995-1996

WXCD/WZZN Chicago 1997-present

(There’s a lot of overlap with the Loop in there – much of my time at WLUP was part-time, so I usually had another job, or two, or three, at the same time, and thankfully the Loop was pretty good about me working at these other jobs as long as it didn’t create any conflicts.)

Rick: You are one of the few radio personalities I know who didn't work his way up the radio ladder by working in smaller markets first. How did you get your first radio job in Chicago?

Scott: One night in the summer of 1979 I was roller skating around the Hancock Building with a friend. Yes, I know, it’s a mental picture that even makes me uncomfortable now. [laughs]

Anyway, I saw this kid wearing a satin Loop jacket standing in front of the building, so I skated up to him and asked him where he got the jacket from, and he said he worked at the Loop. I didn’t believe him – I mean, this kid was clearly younger than me, he looked like he was 16 or so. He told me he was Steve Dahl’s producer. Steve was already huge (photo, with Garry Meier, circa 1979)– this was around the time of Disco Demolition, which I’d attended – and I thought this kid was pulling my leg. I was already doing a show at a college station, WRRG, and thought I was pretty cool, and then this kid tells me he also does a weekend show at The Loop. I still wasn’t quite buying it, so I asked him if I could come up and see the studio. Surprisingly, he agreed, and of course the punch line is that this kid was Greg Solk, who eventually became Program Director of The Loop – at age 21 or 22 if I’m not mistaken – and has had a long and successful radio career that continues in Chicago to this day.

So I go up to the Loop on a Saturday night and hang out with Greg before his Saturday overnight show. I’m thinking, jeez, this high school kid’s on The Loop, the coolest station on the planet as far as I was concerned, and I’m still on a little 100 watt college station in the suburbs…what the hell am I doing wrong? [laughs]

I asked a lot of questions, and found out that The Loop had a student intern program. At the time they had an in-house research department run by Kurt Hansen (who later founded Strategic Accuratings), and they needed people to do call outs, so even though I wasn’t actually a student at the time I eventually B.S.’d my way into an internship at the Loop. I started in December of 1979, and from then on every minute that I wasn’t working at my full-time job as an assistant manager of a stereo store, or doing an airshift at WRRG, I was hanging out at the Loop and trying to make myself useful.

This developed into a Sunday morning 6am to noon board op shift running some public affairs programs plus a recorded oldies show Dick Biondi produced for the Loop for a little while. One Sunday morning a couple of hours of the recorded public affairs programming came up missing, and I had to call program director Max Floyd and wake him up at around 6:55am and ask him what I should do about the missing show that was supposed to start in five minutes. He mumbled, “Just go on the air and play music” and hung up the phone. So I just pulled a bunch of my favorite records – they were still playing vinyl at the time – and went on the air and faked my way through a two hour show. It didn’t occur to me until years later, after I was on the receiving end of a similar call, that that’s probably not exactly what Max had in mind – he probably wanted me to JUST play music, without all my snappy DJ patter - but anyway it wasn’t too long after that that they started using me for some overnight fill-ins and things like that.

Rick: You worked at the Loop through all kinds of eras and regimes. Was a there a favorite time for you? What about least favorite?

Scott: I had so many good times there, over such a long period, I don’t even know where to begin. The early ‘80s “Kick Ass Rock & Roll”, black t-shirt days were a good time to be there. The Loop wasn’t just a choice on the radio dial, it was like a cultural phenomenon.

They went through some unpleasant changes in the mid and late ‘80s…in retrospect it seems like a revolving door of new owners, new PDs, new consultants, and new talent for a few years in there. I suppose a lot of people don’t remember that during that time they were playing things like Madonna, Prince and Sheila E. Nothing against those artists, but it wasn’t a good fit alongside Zeppelin and The Who. Thankfully that didn’t last long.

There was a P.D. for a while named Rick Balis, who decided to take the station’s music head-to-head against WXRT, and that was fun time to be there as a music jock, but that didn’t last too long either.

But probably the most fun was during what I think of as the second heyday of The Loop in the early ‘90s, when the format was basically ‘all morning shows all the time’: Steve and Garry, Kevin Mathews (photo), Johnny B., and Danny Bonaduce. The lunatics really had taken over the asylum, it seemed like the business was booming, and everyone was getting away with everything. Around that time Dave Logan came in as PD, and thanks to him I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had in radio.

The station had pretty much evolved away from playing music, so I hadn’t been getting many shifts, and I talked Logan into letting me try doing a talk show on weekend overnights. He took a little convincing, but from the day he said, “OK”, until the day he left the station a year and a half later, he never said one word to me about my show. Literally not one word of direction – I was completely free to do whatever I wanted, and I did. It was pretty wild at times, but he had so many other things occupying his attention, and I was flying completely under the radar, so I lived out most of the radio fantasies that drew me into the business in the first place. I’m not sure I’d want to listen to the tapes today, but I sure had fun at the time.

Rick: I always like talking to guys like you because you know where all the bodies are buried. Tell us a few stories about your days at the Loop that we've never heard before.

Scott: Can I plead the 5th? [laughs] I’m not sure it’d be a good idea to say too much, since most of the juiciest stories involve people who are still alive. I guess I can make a blanket statement and say that all of the sex and drugs and rock & roll stories that anyone has ever imagined about The Loop are true, or were at one time anyway.

I’ll tell you one funny story that probably won’t get me in any trouble now. When I started out at the college station I became friends with another one of the jocks there, and we followed almost identical paths for a while – he ended up working weekend overnights at WMET, when I was doing the same shifts at the Loop . The Loop and WMET were bitter rivals in a legendary rock radio war, but he and I were friends, and lived not too far from each other. We’d carpool to work together, or meet after we got off in the air in the morning and go have breakfast somewhere. While we were on the air we’d usually get each other on the phone and have these epic all-night conversations to keep each other awake and on our toes through the overnight shift.

One New Years Eve we were both scheduled to start work at midnight , so we met up a little earlier, toasted the New Year with a drink or two, and then went to work. For me it was just a slightly sloppier than usual airshift, but when he got to work, he kept drinking, and eventually decided it would be a good idea to throw the ‘more rock and less talk’ format out the window, and do very lengthy on-air commentary about the state of the radio business, share his thoughts on various other people on the air, his bosses, etc.

I got off the air at 6am, and he was scheduled to be on until 7am, and I’d made plans to drive him home that morning. So as I was driving down the street to WMET, I turn on the car radio I hear him inviting listeners to come on up to the studio, and bring something to drink while they’re at it. I get there, and there are listeners wandering up and down the halls of the radio station, the studio door is propped open and people are just walking in and out, and the unscheduled talk show has taken a somewhat less than G-rated turn.

I tried to get him to cool it, but he just tried to get me to join in the fun. I wouldn’t say a word. So I stood in the studio and basically watched this guy commit career suicide for the last hour of what, as you might imagine, was his last shift in Chicago. The epilogue is that about five years later someone who didn’t even know I knew this guy asks if I want a dub of this hilarious tape that’s been circulating among radio people, it’s a guy who got drunk on the air on New Year’s Eve. A very valuable lesson there - you never know who might be listening…and recording.

One more: there was a guy there doing afternoons in early ‘80s, a good guy and a good jock. The PD at the time was a real stickler for doing aircheck sessions with all the jocks once a week or something like that. This jock was doing exactly what the PD was asking him to do, but the PD was still picking apart every syllable of every aircheck, and one day the jock felt the PD had gone too far and they ended up having some heated words. So the jock took the same aircheck into the production studio, edited out any references to the date, and when it was time for his next aircheck session, gave the PD back the same show. The PD was very pleased, and said, “Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! You should have been listening to me all along.” This guy is still a PD, by the way, although not in Chicago .

Rick: After the Loop , you went up to Kalamazoo for awhile. What did that lesson in smaller-market radio teach you?

Scott: When I took the job in Kalamazoo – I was on the air 10am to 3pm five days a week, and was also production director, all for the princely sum of $18,000 a year – I thought that I was leaving the big city and going to a little Podunk town where I’d be working with a bunch of yokels. That turned out to be a mistaken assumption. There were some very smart and talented people there, both on the air and off. I discovered that the difference wasn’t as dramatic as I thought between a small market and a big market sound, at least in that instance. But there is a difference, mainly in the fine details. There did seem to occasionally be a feeling among people who worked there of, “Well, it’s good enough for Kalamazoo …” I’ve tried to remember that the difference between a small market sound and a big one is in those small details. They’re worth paying attention to, because they do add up, and the end result can be the difference between a small market sound and a big one.

Rick: You've worked on the air, in the production department, and now you're in the programming department. What is your favorite and why?

Scott: Everyone gets into radio to be on the air, and for me that was always the most enjoyable part of the business. I guess I can say it now since I’m not on the air anymore: I can’t believe I actually got paid to do something I enjoyed so much. But I also came to realize that it’s not exactly the most secure job, and as I got older, got married, etc., job security became more important.

I’ve always been a geek for sound and technology – as I mentioned, I was assistant manager of a stereo store when I was first bitten by the radio bug – so production turned out to be a natural fit, and coincidentally also one of the safer jobs to have in radio…as long as a station is running commercials, they’ll need someone to produce them, right? The programming side is also really interesting to me, and strategizing and implementing a format and then hearing the results on the air is rewarding, but I can’t say I enjoy all the meetings and paperwork – I mean, who does? I was the acting Program Director at WZZN for about 14 months after the switch to oldies, and since the beginning of this year, when Michael La Crosse came in as Program Director, I’ve been back in production. These days I do the commercial production and imaging, and I’m also the APD. What was the question again? [laughs] Oh yeah, well, the short answer is that I was lucky enough be in a position to choose the job that’s the best fit for me, and right now that’s production.

Rick: People that follow your radio career might not realize that you are actually a devoted fan of the blues. You even play harp in a blues band. What sparked that love of the blues?

Scott: I’ve been wondering that for years, and I’m not sure I know the answer. I’ve been a pretty serious blues record collector, researcher and writer, and part-time musician for about 30 years. In fact, I googled my name, and there are about 5 pages of different blues related things before you even get to anything about radio! [laughs] You’d think I might have had plenty of time to think about what set me down that path, but there’s no good single answer.

But radio did have something to do with it. I remember a 4th of July afternoon when I was around 14 years old, I was bored and playing around with my radio, and found a little AM station, WIVS in Woodstock , IL that was doing a live broadcast from a 4th of July picnic, and for live entertainment they had the acoustic blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. It just sounded so cool and exotic, the theater of the mind thing kicked in, and it really made me want to be there. The music just created an atmosphere I could feel.

And WXRT played a role too – around 1975 I heard them advertising a Muddy Waters (photo) gig at a little community center out in the western suburbs, which is where Muddy lived at the time. It was a Friday night, there was nothing else going on, so I talked some friends into going, and I ended up sitting close enough to reach out and touch Muddy while he played. I’d been to some big rock concerts at places like the old Stadium and the Amphitheater, but I can tell you that sitting three feet away from Muddy and his band playing at full throttle in a little room was a WHOLE ‘nother thing. I asked for and got my first harmonica for Christmas that year, started buying Muddy’s records, and really it just snowballed from there. By the way, a crazy epilogue to the Muddy story, 20 years later I ended up playing some gigs with Willie Smith, the very same guy who was playing drums with Muddy at that first blues show I saw.

But I think the seed was planted even earlier than all that. The earliest memory I have of hearing blues music was when I was growing up in Maywood , IL , a Chicago suburb with a large black population. There was a record store called Bop City about a block from my house that carried whatever music was popular on black radio at the time, and they had a candy counter there, so I used to go there to spend my allowance on candy. They also had a big jar of pickled pig’s feet on the counter, by the way. It would make a great story to say I worked up the courage to try one, and from the first bite I knew my fate was sealed as a bluesman, wouldn’t it? [laughs] No, it didn’t quite work that way. But there was always music playing there, and they had speakers blaring outside in front too. I can’t say I was consciously paying close attention – I was like 8, 9, 10 years old – but by the time I was in my teens, I’d picked up on who some of the big names were, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, guys who were still selling some records to a black audience in the ‘60s.

Rick: Now you're helping to program WZZN, True Oldies 94.7. You've gone through quite a few changes at that station in the past few years, first with the adding of live personalities like McKay, Landecker & Biondi, and now with the new ownership. What has that experience been like?

Scott: It’s been interesting. I was at the Loop for sixteen years, and at 94.7 for ten now, so I’ve been through more changes than I can remember. I’ve seen lots of people come and go. So I sort got of used to having things change around me, but I’ve kept my head low and been lucky enough to not have my life completely disrupted by it, as a lot of others have. I used to joke that if you stay in the radio business long enough, you’ll work with everyone else in the business. Then I had to change it to “…you’ll work with everyone TWICE”, because it’s basically happened. I was assistant P.D. at 94.7 when we hired McKay to do the imaging during the Classic Rock era in the late ‘90s, I first worked with Landecker when he did afternoons briefly at The Loop in the ‘80s, and of course my first board op gig was running Biondi’s taped show on the Loop, which sort of counts. [laughs] About the recent ownership change, I enjoyed working for Disney, and of course my 6 year old daughter enjoyed the benefits too, but I’m encouraged to be working for a company now that knows and cares about radio, as Citadel does.

Rick: So, after nearly thirty years of radio, is there something you haven't tried that you'd still like to do?

Scott: I’ll probably regret saying this, but no, not really. I’ve done most of the things I dreamt about doing when I started, and the things I didn’t get to do, I know enough about them to not really want to do them anymore. Well, maybe consulting…getting paid to tell people how to program their station, but not having to do any of the heavy lifting, seems like a pretty cushy gig. [laughs]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Jay Marvin

Jay Marvin was a talk show host in Chicago on WJJD, WJEZ, and probably most famously, WLS. He is now hosting the morning show at KKZN in Denver-Boulder.


I've worked at a lot of radio stations so I'm not sure I can name them all. Let me try. KWMC Del Rio, Texas 1973, WWOD Lynchburg, VA 1974, K102 FM El Paso, Texas 1975, KIXZ Amarillo, Texas 1976, WAME Charlotte, North Carolina 1976/1977 WMPS Memphis, Tenn 1978/1978 WJEZ FM Chicago, Ill 1979/1982 KSAN San Francisco, California 1982/1983, KKAT Salt Lake City, Utah 1983/1985, WTKN Tampa-St. Pete 1985/1988, WFLA 1988-1990, WTMJ Milwaukee, WI 1990, WLS AM/FM 1990-1994, KHOW Denver, Colorado 1994/1999 WLS AM 1999/2005. (All dates are approximate)

Rick: People in Chicago remember you well from your days at WLS. What was it like being the only liberal on such a conservative station?

Jay: The great thing about WLS under both Drew Hayes and Mike Elder was it wasn't about being the only liberal on the station. It was about doing great radio (photo: Jay at a live broadcast). The whole "you got to be right-wing" move didn't come until after that under Michael Packer. And then it was boring and just sucked. All the fun was gone. A big thank you to Packer and Phil Boyce out of New York and WABC for destroying what Hayes and Elder had built. Now you have all these shows like Jerry Agar's and the rest. They're not even from Chicago. And it's all the same crap all the time. Chicago deserves better. The last time I was there I listened to WCKG. Best thing in talk on the air right now. Garry Meier sounds great. Roe is the only good thing on WLS besides Don and Roma. The rest is the same old same old.

Rick: You worked at a few stations (WJJD, WJEZ, and WLS) in Chicago and spent many years here. When you think of Chicago what are some of your fondest memories from your time here?

Jay: Oh, there are a lot of them. The time I did my show with Grant Parke from Tower Records in Lincoln Park and drew over a thousand people. The nights people like Tom Russell played live on the air, and of course the Saturday night unplanned/ planned movie viewings of Reservoir Dogs. I could go on and on.

Rick: After all these years as a talk show host, you've had countless politicians and newsmakers on your show. Are there any that really stand out in a positive or negative way?

Jay: Yes. Dick Durbin was great and very humble and honest. Barak Obama was very open and very cool. The current and former Governors of the state were both rude jerks. And of the non politicians, the late Eddy Bunker was great and so was John Riddley.

Rick: Aside from politics, one of the big topics on your show is mental health. As someone who has been diagnosed bipolar manic depressive, this is obviously a subject that is very important to you. When you first revealed your illness on the air, that must have been an emotional moment for you. Can you talk about your internal deliberation before you spoke publicly about it the first time?

Jay: I just blurted it out one day in anger when I was on in Tampa and never stopped talking about it. I often think back now to all the people I talked about it to off the air and the hospital visits I've made.

Rick: You are like the Renaissance Man. You're a painter, a poet, and an author in addition to being a talk show host. How often do you paint or write, and how important is that part of your life?

Jay: Unfortunately, I just don't seem to have time for any of it now. I get up at 2:30 every morning and by the time I'm done there isn't any more time left in the day.

Rick: You're now the morning man at KKZN in Denver-Boulder, doing a left-leaning talk show. You also fill in occasionally for Ed Schultz and you used to fill in for Jerry Springer when he was doing his show. What are your predictions for the future of progressive-talk radio?

Jay: Progressive talk radio needs to stop being agenda driven radio and needs to be entertaining radio. (Photo: Jay Marvin & Randi Rhodes) I think these are bad times for talk. In the old days it used to be about having fun, being serious, talking about all kinds of things. Now it's all politics all the time and it's a drag. Most talk radio around the country sucks.

Rick: Is there anything you'd like to say to the listeners of Chicago that miss your show?

Jay: Yes. Thanks for all the great calls, the fun, and the e-mails I still get from time to time. I was very fortunate to work with some really great people.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mark Zander

Updated 9/5/09


I interviewed Mark two years ago when he was in California programming a few stations out there. He has since returned to his hometown of Chicago, and I had the chance to catch up with him recently to ask him what he is doing these days...

Mark: I left my position as High Desert Broadcasting Rock Programmer (KLKX and KKZQ) in June of 2008. I came back to Chicago, and re-branded my production company (formerly named Zanderadio Productions) as 4C Studios. In addition to producing The Rockin' 80's (we just celebrated 5 years as a national show!), this past March we launched another national show, The Rockin' 70's. We continue to produce other national content for various clients, and soon will launch a new and unique podcast aimed at a very specific and passionate audience. I have recently done some fill-in work at WERV for Next Media, and have gone back to teaching at Illinois Center For Broadcasting, where I previously taught for ten years.

The original interview follows...

Mark Zander rocked Chicago for many years as the host of "The Rockin 80s" at stations like WCKG and WLUP. He is now the afternoon host and program director at KLKX 93-5 The Quake & and also the program director of KKZQ 100.1 The Edge, just outside Los Angeles.


*I started my career as "Mark Edwards" at WDND, an AC station in the middle of a corn field (seriously!) in Wilmington, Illinois.

*I went on to work Top 40 at WBUS.

*Then I scored my first fulltime gig at WCFL being the overnight host & music director (the second coming of WCFL in Morris, IL). It was a 60's and 70's oldies station with high-energy boss jocks and original WCFL jingles. We even had echo processing on-air like the old CFL did!

*From there, hired at WQFM-Milwaukee.

*After that, I worked at many stations, including
WYMG (mornings)
WCBR (afternoons and director of operations/production)
WCKG (nights)
WLUP (nights)
and now KLKX (afternoons and program director).

Rick: You're a North-side Chicago boy, born and raised here. Who were some of the people on the radio that you admired growing up?

Zander: Born on the north side, grew up on the south side. Don't even ask whether it's Cubs or Sox!

I admired so many, but to only name a few...Larry Lujack, Johnny Brandmeier, John Landecker, Steve Dahl, Sky Daniels, Frank E. Lee, Dave Benson, Bob Stroud, Bobby Skafish, Terry Gibson. I guess that's more than a few, huh?!

Rick: One of the previous Chicago Radio Spotlights (Terry Gibson) played an important part in your career too. How did he influence you?

Zander: I was a college student attending classes when he first came to town working the night shift at WLUP. I called him once and asked him about know some behind the scenes stuff. He was very gracious in answering all my questions. I called him again and again over the next few years. He eventually invited me up to the old WLUP studios to meet me and critique my tape. Soon after that I started my career, and would check in with him from time to time to let him know how I was doing. Then in 1994, I was sitting in Dave Richards' office at WRCX (ROCK 103-5) after being hired for weekends/fill-in. Terry, doing afternoons, comes walking into Dave's office...and nearly fell down at the sight of me there being hired as the newest member of the staff! Since then Terry (photo) and I have been buddies, never more so since reconnecting in 2005. Now we’re both in L.A. and hang out as much as we can!

Rick: Before you made it to WCKG and the Loop, you worked at just about every suburban radio station in the area. What are some of your fondest memories from those days?

Zander: The charm of the less-than-state of the art studios, owners actually occupying an office in the building, the camaraderie and competition between new talent trying to start their careers. It is so voice-tracked and corporate now; those days seem a million miles behind us. As far as a specific station? I would have to say doing Afternoons and being the Operations Manager at WCBR (92.7 THE BEAR) was a great experience all-around. Musically, it out-xrt’ed WXRT!!

Rick: People remember you most for your 80's show ("Rock of the 80s") which aired on WCKG in the 90s, and then also at WXXY and the Loop after that. Tell us how that show came to be, and it's still on the air now, isn't it?

Zander: I created Rock Of The 80's in 1997 at WCKG. I have Reid Reker, then PD, to thank for the trust he put in me, and opportunity he gave me to create and program my own radio show in Chicago...something FEW can truthfully claim. (Photo: Don Barnes of 38 Special, Zander, Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger) It did well, but eventually got cut from the lineup at WCKG in 2000 (it was the only daily music show remaining on an all-talk station). WXXY then approached me to bring it to The 80’s Channel…which I did…and had lots of fun. Not long after, WLUP brought me on full-time. I did a version of my show at The Loop on Saturday Nights, but it wasn’t the same. In 2004, I created The Rockin' 80's and offered it to stations nationwide. We now have 43 affiliate stations and growing. The program can be heard in the Southern burbs and Northwest Indiana on WXRD 103.9 out of Crown Point. In Milwaukee it’s heard weekly on 97.3 THE BREW.

Rick: After the Loop was sold by Bonneville there were all sorts of changes. You found yourself out of a Chicago radio job. How did you end up in California?

Zander: After working at WLUP, I felt I already reached the only goal that was keeping me in Chicago. (Photo: Sammy Hagar & Zander from his days at the Loop.) I always wanted to program a rock station. An offer came up in the fringes of the Los Angeles market that was too good to pass up. I have now been here a year and a half and things have gone really well.

Rick: Tell us about your radio production company.

Zander: Through my radio production company (specializing in short and long-form syndicated radio products), Zanderadio Productions, I produce the “Rockin’ 80's” as well as "Cheap Psychological Tricks With Dr. Buff" (runs on WLS 890), and launched the new daily feature "Paul Shaffer's Day In Rock" featuring the Musical Director of The Late Show With David Letterman.