Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spotlight Update

Rick's note: About six months after Bobby Skafish did a Chicago Radio Spotlight interview with me he got a call from his old boss Greg Solk, who asked him to do a weekend shift on the Drive. It didn't take long before Bobby was back in the saddle again, doing the afternoon show there. He can now be heard every afternoon between 3-8 pm.

I caught up with Bobby again recently and asked him how he liked the new gig...

Bobby: Working at The Drive has been a great source of joy for me. The people are friendly and keep it real-no evidence of ego trippin'. When I get direction on my presentation from Patty Martin or Greg Solk it's done clearly and unambiguously, with the only goal being a better sounding station. The result is that this ol' dog has learned new tricks, for which I'm grateful. They are also quick to compliment, too.

Drive music is so much fun to play. It feels age-appropriate and just plain right. The true test for me is that I instinctively turn The Drive on at home or in the car when I want to listen to music radio. It's a feel good.

Having worked in the Hancock for ten years during my Loop tenure, it's great to be back on a cool stretch of Michigan Avenue. My goal is to not inadvertently plow into pedestrian traffic when I pass the huge Victoria's Secret window display-I'm getting there! Finally, its so boss seeing Bob Stroud again on a daily basis, with the two of us on back to back. Ralph Lauren would be wise to install a webcam in the air studio to give Stroud's Polo wardrobe worldwide exposure on a daily basis.

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Rick's Note: I interviewed Wendy Snyder for Chicago Radio Spotlight last year just after she left the Steve Dahl show. At the time she was auditioning at WLS to join the Don & Roma show, but didn't want to talk about it, because she didn't want to jinx it. I caught up with her again recently and asked her how it's been going...

Wendy: Things are going great for me at WLS. I'm having a lot of fun with Don and Roma in the morning, and I'm finally starting to understand some of the traffic reports that I'm giving! I've been getting around at WLS. I sat in on Roe Conn's Show a couple of times, and every Friday, you can hear me talking about sex on The Jerry Agar Show (his show airs from 9-11 a.m every weekday). My goal is to be heard on WLS all day long!

Speaking of which, I want to tell you about my weekend show, too. There are three of us who do the show; Maura Myles (who is also on WLS with Jerry), my former partner-in-crime from the Kevin Matthews show, Dorothy Humphrey, and me. Wendy, Maura, and Dorothy....WMD....Women of Mass Discussion. It is a blast! We talk about anything and everything and nothing is taboo. Plus, we have a great time interacting with our callers. Be sure to check it out, Sundays from 12noon to 2pm on WLS 890AM.

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

Scott: I am having a great time - in late January, I transitioned from The River to Star 96.7 where I am afternoon host. It's a blast being back at a Hot AC station, playing new music again! Most of my career has been spent at either AC or CHR formatted stations. Hey, I like Steve Miller and Fleetwood Mac, but it's nice to be someplace that is a bit more current-based.

I'm also doing some fun things in the afternoon - the Brainbuster Question has followed me over to Star -- we do that in the 3 o'clock hour and it's nice to be able to banter with Marti Jones (who does traffic). Marti and I have known each other for many years, but this is the first time we have worked together on the air every day. I also put together some fun bits here and there, and we play listener requests back with "Your Four at 4:30." I'll bet you can't guess when we do that! We just recently gave away a wedding package worth over 27 thousand dollars to a lucky couple. I was the one that called them and they were ecxtatic. Star 96.7 is on the verge of a transmitter and tower move which will greatly increase our signal coverage in the western portion of the suburbs. We have a great staff with a wonderful product that I am happy to be able to contibute to.

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

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

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Joe Collins

Joe Collins is the afternoon traffic anchor at WBBM-AM, Newsradio 780


* Worked as a jock at the college radio station, WSXC, which broadcast to 27 rooms and the cafeteria, when I was at St. Xavier on the South Side

* Got a job as afternoon news anchor on WJOB-AM (1230) in Hammond, starting in January 1981

* Got work as a jock on WKDC-AM (1530) in Elmhurst, the format of which was (believe it or not) Broadway show tunes, in December 1982

* Got weekend work as a Saturday overnights at WBYG (99.9), "The Big One", In January 1983, so I worked during the week at WKDC and Saturday nights at WBYG

* When WKDC shut its doors after bankruptcy in September, 1983, got part-time work for WYEN (106.7) in Des Plaines; format change at WBYG in early 1984 lost me that gig

* Finally got hired at WAUR (107.9) in Aurora for the "All-Gold Weekend" in early 1984; then was hired for the afternoon talk-show shift at their sister station, WMRO (1280) shortly thereafter. Fired (it was inevitable for a broadcaster) from WMRO/WAUR in August 1987.

* Hired by Shadow Broadcast Services on Dec. 31, 1987; did split shift traffic on WMAQ (670) until they lost the station to Metro in 1992; continued at Shadow doing traffic on other stations until getting out of the business to work at Navigation Technologies (now NavTeq) in August, 1994;

* Returned to Shadow to do traffic on WMAQ again in August, 1997; sometime during 1999-2000 (I can get the exact date), became AM drive reporter on WBBM-AM (780); after MAQ folded, Bart Shore moved to BBM mornings and I shifted to afternoons and HAVE BEEN THERE EVER SINCE!!! YIKES!!!

Rick: I think most people in Chicago have heard your voice on the radio over the past twenty years. I get a kick out of the way you like to describe this phenomenon: "reverse celebrity." What do you mean by that?

Joe: When I meet someone and the question comes up, "What do you do for a living?", I always answer "I do traffic reports on the radio." Then they say, "Really? What station?" and when I answer "WBBM", they then ask my name, and when I tell them, they almost always answer. "I've heard you!" Then they start to remember when and where they've heard traffic reports, and usually get very excited about this, thereby elevating me to some sort of celebrity status. Hence, "reverse celebrity."

Rick: You are among the best known and most respected traffic reporters in Chicago. What do you think is the secret to your longevity?

Joe: Thanks! I enjoy it a lot, and I want the listener to know what I'm talking about when I describe what's happening. They don't ask much; they simply want it to be in the same order: outbound is Kennedy, Edens, Ike, Stevenson, Ryan, I-57, Ford, LSD, Tri-State, Jane Addams, Reagan, 53 and the Veterans Tollway, Elgin-O'Hare and the Indiana Roads. I'll change it up and start with the tollways first and go back to the expressways, but it's always in the same order. And I still get a few complaints that we talk too fast, but we only have a set amount of time and I want to get in as much as I can...those complaints have faded because people have been driving for many years and have gotten used to the quick pace. I guess my "secret" is I'm there to make it as simple and accessible for the motorist as I possibly can.

Rick: You've had two lengthy runs in the all-news format (WMAQ and WBBM). Talk about some of the time constraints involved in doing traffic in that format.

Joe: Well, there are definitely times when we can't fit it all in and people blame us, but frankly, there days when we could easily go 3-4 minutes with all the traffic that may be going on, but there are commercials to play, weather, sports, the network news to cut to and reporters in the field talking about all the news. And we're back with more traffic is just a few minutes. Plus, we have a traffic tip line at 312-202-CARS if we haven't mentioned some huge problem. That's a huge help, too; it makes everything more interactive with the listeners, and as a person who has commuted during bad rush hours, I feel their pain.

Rick: I'm sure after nearly twenty years of doing this, you've discovered a few constants in traffic reports. So much so, you could probably do the traffic without even seeing the travel times. Let's say it's 4:38 in the afternoon, you hear the WBBM news anchor coming to you, and you don't have any traffic information in front of you. What would you say?

Joe: Well, this has happened, certainly, when just as you're about to go on, the computer blanks out. But as I've often said, I can do this in my sleep...I often do! (That's a joke, by the way.) Mostly, it's a matter of just remembering what you just said in the last report, so rarely does anything change drastically in the last few minutes. When it does, like an accident is blocking all lanes or something, we're usually aware of it. One of the things I've learned in 17-plus years of doing traffic on WMAQ and WBBM is how to ad-lib and be ready for any eventuality. When things are crazed, the adrenalin rush helps you through that, and I figure I'm best in a crisis. The trick is to sound good...and interested...when it's bo-ring.

Rick: You've also done your fair share of news over the years. What do you prefer doing, traffic or news, and why?

Joe: I did news on WJOB in Hammond in the 1980s when it was a very serious news operation, and news on WAUR in Aurora, and even some news on several stations while working at Shadow/Metro. I kind of fell into the traffic thing when Rick Sirovatka hired me to start on New Years Day 1988--back then I also handled taping race results on a harness racing hotline. Myself and Ken Zurski both started doing the hotline reading results from Hawthorne, Balmoral and Sportsman's and taping Phil Georgeff's stretch call from each race (You know, "here they come, spinning out of the turn"). But traffic was immediate, it was (mostly) exciting, and I got good at it pretty quickly. So I like it!

Rick: You're a Chicago boy--born and bred. Over your twenty years on the air here, there must have been times when you've appeared on radio shows hosted by some of your radio heroes. Talk about a few of your appearances on some legendary shows, and what that meant to you.

Joe: I still remember working with Joel Sebastian in my first radio experience back at Country-Music WMAQ back in 1980 when John Lennon died. Joel was very cool, and because the only Beatles tune we could find at a country station seemed to be "Yesterday," a Paul McCartney song, we played it. Also during that time, one of the "Good Morning Guys" (along with Pat Cassidy) was Tim Weigel, and I used to call him during the show and wake him to give him some of the late-night scores. Also worked occasionally producing Mary Frances and Bill Veeck's show.

On the air myself, I've done traffic reporting with people like John Landecker (one of my first radio idols--it was a real thrill working with him); radio legend Clark Weber, who has been very helpful to me for awhile; truly fun people like Brant Miller, Catherine Johns, Jim Frank, Dean Richards, Steve Dahl (he called me once to find out how the Ryan project would work), Mike North (he told me the best way to get women was to stick a $100 bill to my forehead and say, "How ya doin', babe?"). I also treasure the moments with the people I still get to work with like Felicia Middlebrooks, Pat Cassidy, John Hultman and so many other great folks at WBBM.

Rick: In the mid-90s you actually left the business for a few years. Why did you do that, and what drew you back in?

Joe: I had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor at Navigation Technologies (now NavTeq), a company that produces digital map databases for navigation vehicles. It's obviously grown to a much more affordable product. I enjoyed my time there, but I truly loved doing traffic on WMAQ, so when Rick Sirovatka called me and invited me back into radio, I went.

Rick: When I read your radio-ography, I got a kick out of your 1980s tour of suburban radio--particularly that "Broadway Show Tunes" format. Ironically, that turned out to be a foreshadowing for you, didn't it?
>Joe: Yeah, that was WKDC in Elmhurst, and the second day I worked there Rob Feder's column had an item about how the station had declared bankruptcy. Hello! The station manager was convinced that Broadway show tunes were the format of the 1980s (I think he was about four or five decades too late.) I always enjoyed theatre anyway, onstage and off, and because I still do acting, directing, and producing of a lot of plays at the community theatre level, I took to that format quite easily--until the station closed its doors a few months later. I also worked on radio shows in several languages: Spanish, Greek, Polish and even Gaelic--none of which I speak--mostly at WJOB in Hammond.

I also had my own talk show at WMRO in Aurora, interviewing numerous celebrities like Larry King, Oprah Winfrey (right after she first came to Chicago), Werner "Col. Klink" Klemperer, and Gavin "Capt. Stubing" MacLeod. There was the time I interviewed comic Emo Philips and then had to drive him home to Downers Grove, and he kept making truly bizarre comments on passersby all the way home. WMRO was where I enjoyed one of my fondest memories: broadcasting the Aurora Memorial Day parade in Aurora on WMRO with P.J. Harrigan. And one of the strangest moments, having to follow Joe Bartosch on the air after he was, shall we say, relieved of his duties after nailing himself shut in the studio until the Cubs won another game. Let's just say it hasn't been boring.

Rick: I understand that you're working on a book. What's it about?

Joe: I am in the process of interviewing some of the leading players on WLS and WCFL in the 1960s and 1970s in an effort to create sort of an oral history of a time when there were only two rock-and-roll stations in town. People have been very welcoming and forthcoming, and I hope to speak to everybody who was there in those days, to get their great stories on paper so we can all enjoy them. I first pitched the idea to a publisher about six years ago, but my biggest flaw--among many--is that I put the "pro" in procrastination, so progress had been slow. But I'm excited and working hard on it now, and hope to have a really fun book in a few months. If some of your readers were at all involved in that era, I'd love to hear from them at You know about books Rick, and I really appreciate your allowing me to talk about it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Matt DuBiel

Two interviews of Matt follow. This first one is the most recent, from April of 2011...

Matt DuBiel has been in the news recently because of his Save The Loop campaign.I previously interviewed Matt when he was the program director of The River.

Rick: First of all, it's been three years since I last interviewed you and you've done a lot of different things since then. Could you get us caught up on what's been going on with you in the past few years, and what you're doing right now?

Matt: Man how time flies, huh Rick! If you believe what you read on the internet, I am "unemployed." I could bore you with the inconsequential details of my career I suppose...but the Reader's Digest version is simple: I am free from the shackles of corporate radio!

Over the last 3 years Mike Noonan and I built a nationally syndicated show from scratch, hosted by Donny Osmond. We built the network to 75 stations including WLS FM in Chicago and sold the show to McVay Syndication last year. Building a business is an experience in and of itself, but selling one is a wild ride!

I’ve been experimenting a lot with my personal and professional life over the last year or so especially and chronicling some of it at You could almost define the last year more by what I am NOT doing.

For the last 3 years (even as early as my 9 FM days), I have immersed myself in the fusion of audio entertainment and internet marketing. I stopped listening to radio people and going to radio conventions and started paying attention to the people trailblazing the internet media movement. I have been studying and engaging with people like Leo Laporte, Chris Pirillo, Alex Jones and Gary Vaynerchuk. I have put lots of what I have learned into practice, and the results are paradigm shifting.

We’ve cracked the code for making money on the web, powered by radio. Leo is doing it. Alex is doing it. We know how to do it, and the weird thing is, no one cares. They’re still caught up in paying Arbitron ridiculous amounts of money, to define the rules of radio advertising, and then suffering at the hand of those very rules, which in the long run are killing radio.

Meanwhile Arbitron is realizing profits and radio is transferring wealth to Groupon, Google, Youtube and Facebook.

Rick: You were in the news recently because of the "Save the Loop" campaign. Robert Feder wrote a column quoting Loop GM Marv Nyron. Nyron outed you and your partner Mike Noonan as the brains behind the operation. I've seen a few quotes from you since that story came out, and you kept saying it wasn't just the two of you. Who else was (and is) involved?

Matt: Well now…in fairness to Marv, I don’t think he used the word “brains." I KNOW Feder didn’t. (laughs) This whole Save The Loop thing blew my mind. Here’s Emmis openly saying OUTLOUD, “We’re not cutting it in Chicago…we’re gonna move on….we’d like the industry and the world to know we’re totally open to selling WLUP and WKQX”. They weren’t pussy-footing around the issue at all. It was in corporate conference calls and reports…industry trades, you name it. The Loop and Q101 all but had shiny for sale signs in their front yards!

We happened to launch the video online right after they did a format tweak at The Loop. Incidentally, we bought over a year ago! Naturally, we knew some folks would be disenfranchised by the format change. The timing was right. We finalized the script, the audio, and the video and pushed the button. Within a week we had thousands of people signing up. We documented everything by the way. We knew we were going to get bombarded with naysayers and a negative response, but we also knew we’d get some buy in and we might make some good contacts or start some interesting conversations.

Unfortunately, somehow…someway…Marv and a few others took this as a negative and an attack. The tenor of this was nothing but to elevate and edify the institution that is WLUP Chicago. You don’t want it Emmis? Cool…no sweat. We think it would be radical if we could put together a group of Chicagoans to make this a Chicago thing. We spoke to some radio pals and we had some buy in from some names we thought would resonate with Chicago.

The plan all along was to appeal to real Chicago people who are passionate about WLUP, if in fact anyone is passionate about an FM radio station anymore in 2011. The fans were the coolest. Some of the radio folks were the coolest too, but sadly many of the radio people who said “I’m in!” never made good on any follow up whatsoever.

Two people made good on the videos as promised. I don’t want to mention the first name because I don’t want to ruffle any feathers at his day job. The second was Jeff Schwartz. Those two guys are men among men. They just get it.

As far as who else said they’d be on board, and who else said they’d talk and so on… It would be sour grapes for me to name them and list them as they did not come through. I will say this, throw out a name of a person who you wish would have consider this and we either heard from them…once, or they heard from us and declined.

No matter though…and here’s why, the list of people who have opted into the email list for is growing every day. The people, or “folks” as Bill O’Reilly would say, are responding favorably. They believe in the concept. So do a few merger and acquisition experts we’ve met with.

Rick: Are you still working on it?

Matt: We’re going to continue to engage with the people who are part of the community for sure. These people are awesome. The open rate of the emails we send to them is better than 70%. These people are plugged in. They will decide how far goes.

I will say, I expect Emmis to hold out longer now that their finances are looking up. Combine that with the fact that those stations aren’t worth what they want to sell them for…and I think Emmis is going to be in Chicago for a while.

Rick: A few years ago you programmed the first "we play anything" station in the Chicago area, 9-FM. That same general format was used by CBS for "Jack-FM". In the light of Jack-FM's demise, I'm curious about your opinion of the entire format/genre.

Matt: Here’s the hi-comedy. Radio kills oldies. Radio gives birth to variety hits. Radio kills variety hits (even though listeners love it if done right). Radio revives oldies? It should be noted I missed the Jammin Oldies birth and death in there too. The bottom line, radio knee jerks at different paces like clockwork.

Now if you flip around the dial in Chicago you have Rewind, K-Hits, The Drive, The Loop, and WLS FM. You can even throw in Lite FM, The River….all shades or degrees of Classic Hits. K-Hits and Rewind remind me a lot of 9 FM. When I left 9 FM, the cume was 750,000. Newsweb killed it anyway. Anyone want 750,000 cume, raise your hand? WSCR? WMVP? WIND?

Everyone’s got the PPM sweats and it’s sad. The problem is what’s good doesn’t matter. What matters is which format can appeal to the 2,500 people carrying PPMs in Chicago. It’s crazy, because it’s directly counter to what serves advertisers.

So radio’s target is satisfying 2,500 PPM carriers, while their sales reps are talking to advertisers about targeting hundreds of thousands, even millions. The kicker is, advertisers don’t actually need to reach millions of people who will ignore them. They would MUCH RATHER reach thousands or just hundreds of people who will buy, or at least engage.

Now radio managers play this shell game with stations and formats to make it feel like they know what’s going on, and Robert Feder calls me a hoaxster!

Steve Dahl, Mancow, Brandmeier, and Mike North should all be on the air daily in Chicago. Don’t fire the talent, fire Arbitron and cultivate sales talent who can sell personality based radio. Chicago retail needs it. Suburban retail needs it.

Rick: Do you think there's a hole in the Chicago radio market that still needs to be served?

Matt: Well I think we’ve got classic hits pretty much locked up. (laughs)

I am 34 years old. I am a “professional” Gen X husband and father of 3 living in the suburbs. Sports radio isn’t my thing. I’ve got nothing to listen to. There is no rock station. There is no station super serving men 25-54 or 18-49. I am at the age where men cross over to talk radio. It’s too angry for me. It’s too left vs. right for me.

I’d be less worried about format and more worried about generation programming. The Drive programs to a generation. It’s a station for Boomers. They own it. XRT used to say they were growing old with their listeners, but I am not sure they have it on lock down like The Drive.

The Mix is the closest thing to a generation station for my g-g-g-g-generation….but it’s not made for me. I think that’s why their male numbers are higher than you’d expect for a Hot AC.

There’s a hole for a Male driven format in Chicago, especially targeted to Gen X, whether that be music or talk. I think there’s room for another country station in Chicago, especially male leaning. Noonan and I have long believed our Blue Collar Radio format would do very well in Chicago.

Another non-format specific niche is no one owns the suburbs like they could. The suburban stations don’t own the suburbs, and the Chicago stations don’t own the suburbs. There’s a lot of money out there, but they don’t care about ratings. They need to move the register.

There’s a hole for rock now of course. I also have long been a believer in the Movin’ format which Rewind dabbled in for a bit but never really jumped all the way in on. At some point I think a business talk station with regular Bloomberg updates and financial talk mixed with real estate talk would do very well.

If I had an underperforming suburban station I’d throw Jack FM on off the bird asap. CBS spent millions marketing that station over 5 years and people know what it is. It wasn’t a bomb, it just wasn’t good enough for CBS. That’s what people don’t realize. A lot of these shows and formats are NOT failures. Steve Dahl is NOT a failure. He just doesn’t fit into the formula corporate radio is forcing themselves to use. The mind job is this: Corporate Radio can change the formula anytime they want. Someone needs to shake them and say YOU DON’T HAVE TO FOLLOW THESE RULES. Make your own like Google did, and Facebook, and Groupon, and Craigslist and Drudge.

Rick: People that haven't seen you in awhile may be surprised by your appearance. You're a shell of your former self. How much weight have you lost and how did you do it?

Matt: Well that’s sweet of ya Rick. I'm blushing. I recently lost 70lbs. When I did afternoons at WLLI my on air name was Fat Matt. It was a playful name given to me by Rob Halford (Singer of Judas Priest) off the cuff, but at the time I was about 205. From there I ballooned up to 240!

It was pretty disgusting frankly. I was a fat mess. (Photo: Matt before weight loss)

Last fall, I lost 30 lbs in 40 days. Then I took a break and lost another 30 in 40. Over the last few months I’ve paired down another 10-15 and I weighed in at 168 this morning.

The secret….is women’s urine. I am serious. If I took a pregnancy test right now I would fail. Dr. Oz just did a whole show on the HCG Diet, and that’s what I did. In fact, Nina Chantelle from Kiss did it too, although she did the holistic drops which don’t actually have any hormone in them. I did the injections which are much more effective and require Doctor supervision.

It sounds like a pretty radical undertaking, and it is somewhat. But when you’re 30 pounds overweight or more, you need to do something radical. I did it with a local Doctor and it has changed my life forever. No more heartburn. No more high cholesterol (they wanted me to take crestor!). My jeans are a 32 inch waste and they are hanging off of me!

There’s a certain larger than life radio guy I turned onto the diet recently who’s doing very well with it. His results are going to be very exciting.

If radio personalities want to talk to Dr. Tom about how the diet works, drop me an email. I might even be able to get you “taken care of” if you’re willing to do a testimonial for their website! It’s life changing!

The following is my original interview with Matt from 2008

Matt DuBiel is the director of programming and operations, and the afternoon host, at WERV-FM.


1995, WMVP – AM 1000, STEVE DAHL SHOW (Intern)

1995-1996, WLUP – 97.9 FM, WENDY & BILL SHOW (Intern)

1995-1996, WYKT (COAL CITY) – 105.5 FM, (overnights)

1996-1997, WKQX – 101.1 FM, WENDY & BILL MORNING SHOW (Intern/Producer)

1997-1998, WDEK (DEKALB) – 92.5 FM, (Part-time jock, interim middays)

1999-2000, WTMX – 101.9 FM THE MIX, HOT AC (Weekend/fill in jock)

2000-2002, WLLI (JOLIET) – 96.7 WILL ROCK, (afternoon/imaging director), WJTW (JOLIET) – 93.5 FM, AC (middays voicetracked/imaging), WJOL (JOLIET) – 1340 AM, (imaging)

*Spent 2002-2004 as stay-at-home dad, and imaging various active rock stations throughout the countr.

2004 – 2007, WDEK/WKIE/WRZA – 92.5/92.7/99.9 FM, NINE FM (Creative Services Director, Director of Programming, middays, afternoons)

2007-PRESENT, WERV – 95.9 THE RIVER, (afternoons)

Rick: This has been a tough time for radio, and your company (Next Media) is feeling the pinch as much as anyone. Is that what was behind the recent changes at The River?

Matt: Actually it’s quite the opposite. NextMedia has stepped up in a big way with The River by hiring a dedicated GM (Bill Cavanaugh) and a dedicated OM/PD in yours truly. They recently just invested in some other tools for us that are unique to this radio station also. There has only been one change that was budget related since I have been on-board. The rest have been decisions to improve the product we’re putting out.

Rick: You're the Director of Programming & Operations there, which basically means that you are responsible for just about everything. With a title like that comes perks and burdens. What are a few examples of each?

Matt: The perk among perks is that I am not digging ditches for a living. Let’s face it, working in radio is a dream for many of us and I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work in an industry I have chosen, doing what I’ve always wanted to do! Burdens are a different story. They come in all shapes and sizes and for the right people are really just challenges that need to be conquered. I am always up for that. (Photo: Cheech Marin, Matt DuBiel, Tony Shalhoub)

Rick: Before you joined this company, you were the head of programming at 9-FM. That station got a lot of buzz. Certainly within the industry, everybody was talking about it. Yet, for some reason it hasn't taken off in terms of ratings. Why do think that is, and what were some of the challenges that we might not realize from the outside looking in?

Matt: Wow, where do I begin? I could probably do a talk show just on the subject of 9 FM….taking calls from radio people, message board aficionados and listeners for hours and hours. “Let’s go to Mappo on line 2”….

If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have even have subscribed to Arbitron. The problem is, to get “good ratings” you need a core who listens for long amounts of time, or an enormous amount of people who listen often. WXRT has a smaller cume of loyal listeners who spend a lot of time listening, whereas Kiss FM has a huge cume made up of less loyal listeners who tend to listen in smaller doses. 9 FM wasn’t built to be great at either.

For starters 9 FM isn’t a Chicago radio station. It’s 1 Suburban station, 1 Dekalb station, and 1 Peotone station. In drive times, the BIG cume is leaving the area. That’s why staying true to being a Suburban station is important. There are 2 real scenarios to make those stations successful. #1 is split em up, and make them the best 3 midgets they can be. Sell them locally, and format them based on the region they serve. All 3 regions have very different needs. This was my hope. I wanted to put a classic rock or male leaning country station on 99.9 serving the Southside all the way to Peotone, an Adult Alternative or Dance/CHR on 92.7 serving the Northwest Suburbs, and depending on the arrangement of the previous 2 stations either a Fox Valley focused Hot AC or Country station on 92.5.

The second scenario for those stations to be successful would be to fill a market wide niche on all 3 stations, but yet something major stations wouldn’t steal. I believe that is a male leaning country station. The biggest thing people got confused about was what those stations could be, and what they could not be. You can’t make those things something they’re not. Moving into the future, radio companies (even in the city) are going to have to start asking themselves why they care what Arbitron’s measurement (PP or otherwise) shows, when they can see exactly how many people are listening minute by minute on their stream. Arbitron is killing radio.

Rick: I know you were named one of Edison Media's Top 30 under 30 last year, but you started in the business back in the mid-90s as an intern on Steve Dahl's show. How old were you then, and what was it like working for someone like Steve Dahl at such a young age?

Matt: I was 7 and a half. Actually I was 17 at the time. I was so excited to meet Steve and learn from the best, I couldn’t wait to get started. I secured my internship before school even started.

At that time, Mancow had just gotten to town and everyone my age wanted to intern for him. He was in the Rock 103.5 studios in a closet at the Evergreen facilities, and then there was AM 1000 and The Loop. Between Mancow and Chet Coppock (photo), there were about 100 interns. There were at least 6 studios, because you had 3 stations, then the production studios and dub rooms. All the studios had studio windows so you could see what was going on. If you watched the action in the hours surrounding Mancow’s and Chet’s show you’d see these dudes floating back and forth from studio to studio, constantly doing something or nothing while making it look like something. They looked like schools of fish, and so everyone called them the boy-quarium. I didn’t want to be in the boy-quariums… I wanted to learn about the kind of radio I grew up listening to with my Dad. So I went right for Dahl’s show.

Meeting Steve (photo) and working on the show was a charge to begin with, and then a bit disappointing as time passed. I believe he was having a tough time around then, and as a result everyone around him was in slow motion. So there was rarely any action. And compared with all the action everywhere else in the building it felt like I made the wrong choice. I pulled his carts and prepped his diet colas for a few months, and once I even brought the Farrah Faucet Playboy to Bruce Wolf at the Fox studios. I did meet Brandmeier there and he was everything I thought he would be. Matt Bisbee was also very nice to me there.

Rick: You went from there to the Wendy & Bill show at the Loop-FM, and then followed them down the dial to Q-101. What kind of an impact did those two have on your career?

Matt: Across the hall from WMVP, The Loop had a morning show on all day long. I went over to talk to Ross Silverberg the producer, and the next week I was working for Wendy and Bill and loving it. I found the show to be everything I wanted to be a part of. Wendy was like a big sister (photo), Bill Leff was hilarious and real, and Steve Saur (the technical producer) was as solid as they come. They all taught me so much. I thought the show was excellent, and even better I was a part of the show. They would include us in planning, booking, writing, you name it. They had great bits, great listener interaction and an energy that was contagious. There was no better place to learn about radio than The Loop at that time, and this show was perfect for me to be a part of.

When W&B got mornings at Q101, they took us all out, sprung the news and asked us to come along. It was a great group and a fun time. I learned a lot from that show, those people, and the managers above them. At Q101, Bill Gamble was the PD, and I listened and absorbed everything I could from everyone. As you can probably tell, it had a huge impact. Wendy and Bill started in mornings about the time Eric & Kathy were getting cooking at WTMX, but W&B were cut short when Q101 brought Mancow over. I have long believed that W&B just got the wrong set of circumstances and they would have been a franchise here.

Rick: Since leaving their show in 1997, you've been all over the dial, and done air shifts for stations like WTMX, WDEK (Dekalb), WLLI, WJTW (Joliet), WJOL (Joliet), Nine-FM, and now the River. How would you describe your on-air style, how has it changed with each successive call letter change?

Matt: I was loving the Mix when I was there. When I got hired to do afternoons at Will Rock, I was very uncomfortable and out of place, and still working at The Mix. Lonny Tyler (the PD at WLLI) was very patient and let me find my way on my own, which made a big difference for me. Everyone falls into the age old jock traps when they are getting started and I was no different. I crutched a lot. Now, my on air style is just me. It isn’t always all of me….but it is me….a somewhat chipper, sometimes critical, sarcastic but happy, pop culture minded, suburban father and husband.

Working at The Mix and Will Rock at the same time helped me learn how to take the same information and make it work for different audiences. For a while the conventional wisdom was that Rock listeners lived in a bubble….Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy….but the thing is, they know who Britney is too. Their interest in her is very different from the Hot AC audience’s interest though. Let’s just say the Rock listeners don’t want to go shopping with her.

Rick: Where did you have the most fun?

Matt: That’s tough. I had an amazing amount of fun with Wendy & Bill. Will Rock was an unbelievable time. We achieved a .7 with that station and made a lot of things happen in the community. 9 FM was an unreal experience. I had a run there where I got to see that I could do things. I tried things I always wanted to do, and thought I could do …and many of them were successes. Harvey gave me that opportunity there and I always appreciated how rare that chance was. That was fun and then some.

Rick: It must be a little difficult doing both the programming and the on-air work. There are only so many hours in the day. When push comes to shove, how do you prioritize?

Matt: I focus on whatever I will have the most impact on. That changes from day to day, and week to week. In my days at 9 FM, many times I was more focused on sales & marketing related efforts. My contributions in that arena have proven to be valuable, and if the question is voicetrack and help a client, or be live this afternoon and miss an opportunity to aid the sales/promotions staff, my greater impact is usually going to be in the board room, not the studio. That makes it sound like I am an advocate for voicetracking, which I really am not in the long term. But in the short term, it’s vital. The best way to keep from having a weird sales/programming vibe is to be a friend to sales by creating win/win ideas. That is becoming more and more a part of a programmer’s job in music radio as things shift.

Rick: In addition to all the other things you're doing, you're also one of the founders of Broadcast Barter Radio Networks (along with Mike Noonan). Tell us a little bit about that company and what you do.

Matt: Mike and I met at WLLI a few years back. He’s become a valued friend. While he has been building his production stable ( voicing and producing creative for clients nationally and locally, we’ve been building Broadcast Barter Radio Networks.

Pretty simply, we design programming solutions that serve radio audiences, and provide radio stations additional revenue opportunities. We make these programs available via syndication. Our first 2 projects are The 8 Track Playback with Donny Osmond, and Blue Collar Radio ™. Donny’s show is a shortform daily feature designed for Oldies/Classic Hits/Variety Hits/AC stations where Donny talks about “today” in music and pop culture and then plays a 70s song. It’s on over 17 stations nationally (including WZZN Chicago), and growing every day!

Blue Collar Radio ( is a radio format we designed around 2003. Traditionally country radio is geared toward women, and as a result men have to put up with an AC presentation of country. Blue Collar Radio is a lifestyle format geared toward men who grew up with the Dukes of Hazard, Farrah Faucet posters, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Garth Brooks, and Star Wars, love country music and love to rock! A lot of radio folks think this idea has been done, but it has not been done with the amount of conviction and discipline we think is required to make it successful. Morning drive, middays and afternoon drive would all be shifted to coincide with more Blue Collar friendly hours, making everything seem earlier. Non-blue collar folks wouldn’t be alienated but this format is designed for a very specific psychographic that we think is very underserved in many markets.

Rick: You've got a unique perspective on the business because you're one of the few from your generation that's working in the business--especially here in Chicago. What does radio have to do to attract young talent?

Matt: I think radio needs to attract new talent, whether they are old or young. Rush isn’t that good. Bob & Tom aren’t that good. There are many show’s that are just not that bad. I believe there is talent everywhere, and one of the biggest mistakes we make is looking for radio talent. Sales does it and programming does it. Now that doesn’t mean that Whoopi Goldberg is the answer, but it was a good try. That waitress that is personality plus and knows how to upsell at Lonestar should be in radio sales! That Wendella driver who’s tours always sell out because he’s always got something to say and knows how to have a one on one conversation with people, should have a show……..on the weekend….overnight…until he gets good. We need entertainers and we really need talented sellers. When we add “radio” to the front we limit ourselves.

We need communicators, entertainers, relationship builders, hosts and hostesses, and they’re all over. More importantly, we need sellers ready and willing to build businesses for our clients using the talent we have. Too often we have the talent, or the numbers, but no one to turn it into money. It’s a very delicate yin/yang. There’s a lot of talent podcasting, and building streaming stations. They don’t need radio.

The other million dollar question is, “What will radio do to keep the talent we already have?”

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Dobie Maxwell

Updated 9/5/09


One of the contributors to Jerry Agar's show is Dobie Maxwell. He's a part of the segment known as "Jerry's Kidders." I first interviewed Dobie last year when he was doing that segment on WLS. Dobie had a big summer. He made his national television debut as a comedian (on Craig Ferguson's show). I recently caught up with him and asked him how that went, and what it's like to do "Jerry's Kidders" on a different radio station...

Dobie: Getting on national television was like my whole life flashing in front of my eyes. I thought about all the horrific gigs I had to endure to get there and starting out in Milwaukee and my mentors over the years and it was like going down a waterslide of my entire past. It was also like an out of body experience in that I felt like I was watching it from afar rather than living it in person. I'd heard that from others who did their first shot and wasn't sure what it meant. Now I know exactly what they meant and they were 100% accurate.

It was also important to add legitimacy to an entire lifetime of struggle. The very first thing anyone asks when they hear someone is a comedian is "Ever been on TV?" Now I can say yes and not have to fudge something like Good Morning Albuquerque. Craig Ferguson's show is very credibile and it was a terrific experience and one I won't soon forget.

Jerry's Kidders is a little different only because we have to watch out for kids on Saturday mornings when that wasn't much of an issue on WLS, mainly because of the day and time we're on. WLS was Mondays at 11:30. Most kids are in school or at least not listening to WLS in the summer. WGN is on Saturday and there are a lot more kids. We don't try to do an off color show but once in a while when something approaches 'the line', we now have to push that line back a little, or at least we choose to. We're not trying to push any envelopes other than one with a paycheck in it. Other than that, it's been great fun. We all love to have the studios on Michigan Avenue because people can watch us perorm, and that's what we're used to so we don't mind at all.

The original interview follows...

Dobie Maxwell is a regular contributer to the Jerry Agar show (every Monday) on WLS-AM 890.


I've been all over the road like a dead skunk. After Dick Biondi I might just be right up there with times fired in radio. It's to the point now every time I'm in a radio studio and the hot line rings I start looking for a cubicle to clean out.

(My first radio gig)

(I ended up getting on the morning show and it was a total disaster from day one. My partner and I didn't hit it off at all. He fancied himself as the funny guy and always tried to one up me no matter what. It got to be a huge pain in the shorts because he was very lazy but still wanted to be the funny guy. I tried working with him and changing my style to fit his and no matter what I did we were just not cut out to work together. That lasted about ten months and I got fired the day before Thanksgiving of 1991.)

KQNV-Reno (100.9 FM)
(I liked Reno but again got blown out after one book because the owner was too impatient with the format change and decided it was better to fire everyone rather than wait for the product to catch on.)

'Extreme Country 104.7'-Kenosa, Wisconsin
(One morning the GM said to me: 'If my husband didn't think you were the funniest person walking the earth you would be SO fired.' Hey, thanks a lot for the vote of confidence! I quit before I got fired but eventually it would have happened.)

Salt Lake City
(I got a call from my ex-partner in Reno asking if I would come to Salt Lake City and do a morning show with him there. He had to fire his morning show because one of them got caught exposing himself on video camera at a department store in town. I lasted a year and a week and they decided to 'go in a different direction'.)

(It's a good thing my partners were fantastic and we still get along well today. Those were some hectic times in many ways and trying to build a show from scratch was not pleasant at all.)

(Jerry Agar's show, every Monday at 10:30 a.m)

Rick: You've always been a stand up comedian who did radio, instead of a radio guy who did stand up comedy. How did you get that first radio job?

Dobie: I started in radio doing comedy bits up in Milwaukee where I'm originally from. A morning guy saw me when I was starting out as a standup and asked if I wanted to do a regular weekly bit on his show. It went pretty well and then of course he died. That's why my moniker of 'Mr. Lucky' fits so well. It couldn't be that he got fired or promoted, my only connection had to actually DIE. I felt bad for him but I felt bad for me too because I liked the pressure of a deadline to come up with new stuff every week. That was also my first experience of being without a gig, and even though I wasn't getting paid I did enjoy the exposure, so getting let go was a let down. This was probably around 1985 or '86. The station was WMYX and the guy that passed away was Keith Moore. His partner Jane Matanaer is still there today, and I just was a guest on that show two weeks ago.

After that I hooked up with another guy who ended up living a little longer. In fact he's still living today. His name is Jeff Rowe, and he's done all kinds of big things from being the PD at VH-1, to developing sitcoms at NBC in Hollywood, to being a bigwig at AOL. He was running WKTI back in the 80s and hired me to do a bit called 'Milwaukee Vice'. Miami Vice was hot back then and I wrote a bit that ran a couple times a week on the Reitman and Mueller show. Looking back at it I was HORRIBLE, but Jeff gave me a shot and the concept was ok. That was my next foray into radio and it ended when Jeff got his promotion to VH-1 in New York. His replacement was an anal rententive pinhead who clashed with me right away.

My first real job was at classic rock WMMQ in Lansing, MI. I was a guest comedian on the morning show and the owner heard me and said 'Hey, you're pretty funny. How would you like to fill in on the morning show for a couple of weeks?' I told him I guess I wouldn't mind, but what I didn't know was that I wasn't 'filling in.' The other morning guy was in cocaine rehab, and I had the job but didn't know it. What a ride that was. There was a great staff there, and three months after I got there the PD left, and one by one the staff did too. The owner was a total moron and nobody liked working for him. He was very hands on with everything. If his wife thought Beetle Bailey was funny that morning he'd call me on the hot line at 6:30 and tell me to do a bit about it at 7:10. I lasted about six months, and it was brutal, but I sure learned a lot about radio at that job.

(Photo: Dobie with Jackie Mason)

Many comedians think they can do radio and many jocks think they can do comedy. WRONG. They are both very different and I happen to be able to do them both well enough to get hired professionally, but that's very rare. It's like an athlete playing two sports professionally. Yes, a few have done it but not all that often.

A few other examples of people who have done both successfully are Dennis Miller, Steve Cochran (photo), Bill Leff and my old partner at the Loop Spike Manton. Spike was great to work with even though our comedic styles are very very different. I'm not sure if we should work together on radio again only because we're just from two different schools. That's not good or bad, but it would be like drafting a punishing running back for a west coast offense in football. It doesn't fit together, but it doesn't mean they can't all have a successful career. A big part of radio is chemistry and I usually got fired in most places before I could let that chemistry gel a little. Spike is funny and very good at what he does and I thought he was especially effective with Steve Dahl.

Rick: I know you're originally from Milwaukee, but you've been based in Chicago for quite a long time. What is it about Chicago that made you decide to make it your home?

Dobie: That's a great question. You should do this for a living. Seriously, places just have a vibe and Chicago and I have always been a match. I can still remember going on vacation with my grandparents when I was a kid and driving through Chicago and loving all the tall buildings and overhead restaurants on the tollway and the big neon signs on the side of the road for Magikist and Dad's Root Beer and Budweiser. I knew at about six years old that I wanted to live in Chicago and my grandmother thought I was possessed by a demon. "Why would ANYBODY want to live in this ghetto-fied hell hole??" That's a typical Milwaukee reaction to Chicago but I'm not very typical in a lot of ways. I loved Chicago then and I love it even more now. I was born in Milwaukee but Chicago is my home. It's like Steve Dahl. He was born in LA but Chicago is his home now as well.

Milwaukee was never a good comedy town and still isn't. Chicago is 90 miles on a map but 90 light years as far as being an entertainment city. I hooked up with Zanies and have been a regular there for years and I still love working there today. I also teach comedy classes there and that's very rewarding actually. It's like a sports fantasy camp where people who want to see what comedy is all about can live the dream for a night. I have been doing that since about 1995 and it's still fun.

Whenever I've gotten fired from a radio job I've always drifted back to Chicago at my lowest point and rebuilt my life. That's happened WAY more times than I'd hoped but at least I have a place I feel at home. I'm bulletproof here. I even like it in Gary. Well, maybe that's a little stretch.

Rick: People probably remember you best from your stint on the Loop, as co-host of the Morning Loop Guys (photo). One feature of that show was your 60 second soapbox, which was essentially a rant on whatever was bugging on you on that particular day. How did that ever start?

Dobie: Well a lot of things bug me at any given time and that's what makes good comedy. I was in Utah and had to follow that horrible situation of the guy exposing himself in the department store on video camera. He was the sidekick and the lead guy on the show had been an icon in town for many years. My partner and I had to field calls of 'What happened to the other guys?' for weeks after we started and one day I just told him to crank up my mike and I went off on everything that was bugging me about it.

I really let loose and told it like it was. "You wanna know what happened to those two idiots? They got FIRED. And you know what? They're NOT coming back so SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND STOP WHINING. And better yet if we stink WE'LL get fired soon enough too so QUIT CALLING US and let us sink or swim on our own." I thought my partner was going to soil his shorts because it was a country station in Salt Lake City, but we started to get calls immediately saying "I like this guy - he can stay." Even the GM came in the studio and said "Now THERE'S a fresh way to handle it."

The following morning my partner asked me if I had anything else on my mind and I said "Well as a matter of fact I do..." and I went off on the Mormons. It wasn't bad or mean spirited but everyone was afraid of what the Mormons would do or say or think and I just said I knew they were out there and I knew I wasn't one of them but that didn't mean we couldn't still have fun and that started getting calls too.

It started from there and eventually I'd do one almost every day if I could think of something to write about. I mentioned it as a possible bit at the Loop in a meeting and Greg Solk wanted to hear it and we gave it a shot and that was it. I did it every single day for over a year and I still get people at comedy shows asking me if I'll do it again. Jerry Agar has asked me to start doing it on WLS and we're almost ready to let it rip. I love doing it for many reasons, mainly because again it gives me a deadline and something to write for. I think that makes a good entertainer. If a person can deliver consistently in a pressure situation that's what makes a pro. It's like sports. I definitely want the ball in the clutch situation.

Rick: You're co-hosts on that Loop show were Spike Manton, Max Bumgardner, and Bruce Wolf. You've already talked a little bit about Spike, but what it was like working with the other two?

Dobie: Spike (photo) is really the reason I got the job. I was a guest on his overnight show with Harry Teinowitz on WMVP AM 1000 and he suggested me to Greg Solk. I thought we would eventually end up fighting because that year was so hectic but just the opposite happened. Spike is a great friend and a quality person and I think the world of the guy. That year together bonded the three of us and we still stay in contact now.

Max and I clicked on several levels. We are very close still and probably will be for life. He is not a comedian and never claimed to be but he's a super person and we like to say we're 'dented cans'. Spike had a pretty decent family but Max and I are still haunted by our past. His father and mine were both louts and lowlifes and it's affected us to this day. We bonded on that level right away and I know a lot of listeners have the same kinds of problems Max and I are trying to overcome and break the chains of our painful childhoods.

It's like trying to talk to a woman about the pain of child birth. I can IMAGINE how painful it is but I've never actually experienced it and never will. The same is true with the 'dented can' childhood. Max (photo) had one and I did too and we're both striving to overcome it and salvage a good life for each other. We call each other at times when we're down and it's great knowing there is somebody out there with the same mindset who 'gets it.' I love Spike as a comedian brother but Max and I go a lot deeper than that. I'm a wacky uncle to his kids and think the world of his whole family. He's a great businessman too and has a very bright future and I need work in that area. We've each got strengths the other one doesn't and that's what makes a good show partner.

Bruce Wolf (photo) is a very talented guy. He's extremely intelligent and funny and I loved working with him even though we weren't in the same room. He was at Fox TV doing sports so we only had him twice an hour so I didn't get to know him like I did Spike and Max. I have stayed in contact as much as possible and have only good things to say about him. He should go on Jeopardy and win a lot of money because I think he's that smart. He's the kind of personality people love or loathe and that's what good entertainment is. Not all Loopers got him and that's just how it works. I did, and thought he was really sharp, but many times people who would see me at a comedy show would say they didn't care for his style of humor.

One thing I think may have hurt us is that he was associated with the old regime at the Loop and we were new. Some listeners didn't like that for whatever reason. I'm glad he's back on with Johnny now and that's probably where he belongs. I don't have anything against Johnny but I don't listen just because it still hurts that we got torched for no good reason. We'd really be jamming by now and I wouldn't be struggling to pay rent. I wish Johnny and Bruce both well though and if that's how it was meant to turn out who am I to fight it? But the company could have been nicer.

(Photo: Dobie with former Loop colleague Cara Carriveau)

Rick: OK, anyone who has seen your act knows that you go by the name of Mr. Lucky, because of your legendary streak of bad luck. I'm sure your "luck" has spread to your radio career too. Tell us a few of your favorite Mr. Lucky radio stories.

Dobie: I don't know how one guy could have so many stories of being in the wrong place at the wrong time but I'm your man. I must have been a real evil guy in a past life to keep suffering so much in this one but it sure makes for good comedy and good stories.

I remember one time when I was first starting out I made a mistake on the air and said the old line "Hire the handicapped, they're entertaining." I got a call from a guy which I stupidly took live and he said "I'M handicapped you asshole." I told him I was talking about ME and making fun of the mistake I just made and not about him but he wouldn't hear of it and kept going on about it. I tried to be nice but he kept on 'poking the tiger' so eventually I said "Hey you crippled waterhead, why don't you hang up the phone and change your diaper and put on your bib and helmet and go take one of the good parking spaces a REAL person could be using. There, NOW you have something to be upset about. Keep drooling."

Well of course that was live and the GM got to work and had about 200 faxes about how rotten I was and it turned into a major deal but believe it or not I didn't get fired for that one. The sales manager was listening and he and the GM were tight and he thought it was the funniest thing he ever heard on the air in his life. Still, it was bad timing to take the call live.

Another one I won't forget was when I was in Lansing and had been on the air for about a month. Lansing is a college town and I was 26 at the time and a sales person came up with a 'Win a date with Dobie' promotion. The date was dinner and a movie. The restaurant was a client and I had to choose the movie. I went with it but since I was working so hard I really didn't have a chance to catch up on any movies so I just picked one out of the paper. It turned out to be 'The Silence Of The Lambs.' I thought "Well, it's got the word 'lambs' in the title so it must be a chick flick." True story. That was a total disaster and needless to say we didn't have a second date. We barely got through the first. No kiss that night.

Yet another one happened when I was in Utah. They tried that same gimmick again but this time the 'date' was Utah Jazz tickets. I love sports so I said I'd do it and the woman who won the contest sent a picture and was very hot. I picked her up but we didn't go to dinner because she had kids and could only go to the game. As luck would have it the tickets were in the very last row of the arena so we walked up the stairs and I felt like I was going to have a coronary right then and there. I bought us some hot dogs and nachos and sodas and we sat down and were just about to start eating when she said out of the blue "You know I'm a member of the Mormon Church and I don't believe in having sex with a man unless we're married don't you?" I thought I was being funny and said "Well you could have gotten a couple of dinners out of me first before you told me that." She did NOT find that funny at all and got up and left. I sat there with my hot dogs and sodas and nachos and watched her walk down the steps and out of my life forever. I turned and shrugged to the people sitting around me and started eating my hot dogs and nachos. Go Jazz.

Those are the first few that pop into my head but they're by far not the only ones. One time I was with a chick in her apartment and things were going great and the doorbell rang. It was her brother and after an awkward introduction he said "Well Dobie, I'm sorry to have to meet you on a day like this but I can't think of a way to sugar coat this - Sis...Mom died today." End of date. End of relationship. Another dinner bought wasted. There are ten thousand tales in the Lucky City. These are but a few of them.

Rick: Now you're a regular on the Jerry Agar show on WLS-Radio. What do you do on Jerry's show?

Dobie: I've know Jerry Agar (photo) for about 20 years. Jerry asked if I would help him get a panel of comedians to do jokes on current events and that's what we do on Mondays at 10:30am. The bit is called 'Jerry's Kidders' and it's really a lot of fun because I don't have to get air checked when I'm done with it.

Jerry has his own story of bouncing around the country doing radio, and every time either one of us got fired we'd call each other and have someone to complain to. He's been great and we've stayed in contact all these years. We started out in St. Charles at a tiny AM station 1480 WFXW. He did mornings and I was a guest plugging the new Zanies location in Pheasant Run. I was complaining that I had to go way out to St. Charles at 6am to do some rinky dink low life AM station and he was complaining that the club didn't even send the headliner. I was just the opening act. We laugh about it now but back then it was true. We hit it off after one visit and I was a regular after that. I think that was back around 1988 or 89.

Rick: Can you see yourself ever doing a full-time radio show again, or is your career heading in a different direction now?

Dobie: I'm battle scarred and jaded after years of dealing with radio idiots or 'radiots' as I like to call them. For every Max and Spike and Rick Kaempfer and Jerry Agar I've met there have been ten to twenty imbeciles who tell me to do a Beetle Bailey bit at 7:10. I'd LOVE to have a chance to work at a solid station for a period of time when a show could gel and develop but at this point I'm not sure if that will ever happen.

The only reason I ever wanted to get into radio was so that people would know me as a comedian and come out to see me live. My first three or four jobs in radio I was SO not ready and I freely admit that. Then I found out I was halfway decent at it and it started to come together, and now I feel I could do an outstanding job if I had a chance somewhere. I may never get my own full time show again and I'm ok with that. Working at a place like WLS is as close as I have gotten to doing what I set out to do. I am billed as a comedian and don't have to stop to play a Pink Floyd or a Faith Hill song just when things are going well. My friend Kipper McGee (photo) is the program director and I put him on my short list of positive radio connections I've met over the years. Between him and Jerry they both sit back and let me go because they know I know where I'm going when the mike is on.

I doubt that I would pack up the car and head out across the country again to work for some half wit with two first names like "Mike Michaels" or "Steve Stevens" or "Joe Joseph" again. Those days are mercifully over. But I've said that before. On the right day if someone calls I just may find myself back on the air someplace but would take a hell of an offer at this point to make that happen.

What I really enjoy is being a 'friend of the show' to many different shows. I'm on once a week with Jerry on WLS but I also stop in on Max's show in Springfield, IL any time I'm down there. I also have a friend in Rockford who does afternoons and I can stop there any time I want to and hang out on the air. I also am a semi-regular at the ESPN station up in Milwaukee too. I also still have friends in Salt Lake City and Reno who put me on when I'm out that way. That makes radio really fun. I go in and add to a show and then leave and not have to worry about getting yelled at by "Fred Fredericks" or "Walt Walters" when I'm done. I've got the best of both worlds and for once Mr. Lucky is catching the good break.

One more thing I'm working on is a website to sell funny stuff of all kinds called 'Uranus Factory Outlet' or U.F.O. I am going to come up with a character and call myself "The King Of Uranus" and go on radio and TV and do my own commercials like a cheesy used car dealer. Every town is familiar with their own local goofbag who sells cars or carpets or catheters or whatever and those people get known. I've been trying to catch my break for years and have been too busy getting fired at radio to wait for my ship to come in.

This idea is SO stupid and that's exactly what will make it work. My slogan is 'It's ALWAYS funny when it comes from Uranus.' Stay tuned for that because it will either be my million dollar empire or I'll go totally broke trying. Neither one scares me, so here we go. I have a corporate entity set up and am getting things in place and hope to be up and running in just a couple of weeks. My birthday is March 14th and Uranus came to be on March 13th so all this is cosmic. It was meant to be and I have never felt as strong about any idea I've ever done than I do about this one. Who doesn't like to laugh? I will use my radio experience and comedy experience and a lifetime of criss crossing North America as the basis of scouring the planet to find the funniest things on Earth.

So to answer your question I guess I would take a radio job again but it would have to pay more than a King at this point. Thanks for letting me be a part of your interview and a big 'Thumbs Up Uranus!' to your readers.

Oh, one more thing. I will be performing at Zanies both in Vernon Hills and downtown later this month. For exact dates go to If you would like tickets to a show as a very special thanks for reading all the way through this article please send me an email at and I'll make sure you'll get in as my guest absolutely FREE.

Free your mind and your laughs will follow. Hope to see you all at Zanies and hear laughter coming from Uranus!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lisa Greene

Lisa Greene is the midday personality on WCFS-Chicago, 105.9 FM.


1992-1994: News anchor/DJ/Production director, WIUS/Bloomington, IN
1994/95: Fill-in personality, WLUW/Chicago
Aug 93-Dec 93: Continuity assistant, WFIU (NPR Bloomington)

Oct 94-Dec 94: Music research, Q101
Jan 95-Dec 96: Traffic/news reporter, Metro Traffic Chicago
Jan 96-Aug 96: PT personality, WXLC
Aug 96-Dec 96: PT personality, WMYX/Milwaukee

Jan 97-Jun 97: Evening personality, WQLH/Green Bay
Jul 97-Dec 98: Evening personality/Music Coordinator, WPNT/Milwaukee
Dec 98-Sep 99: APD/MD/Middays, WMXB/Richmond
Sep 99-Dec 99: PT personality, WWZZ/Washington, DC
Jun 00-Jan 01: PT feature host/Larry Lujack prod. asst, WUBT/Chicago

Jan 01-Jun 06: News/traffic anchor/co-host, Shadow Broadcast Services
Apr 01-pres: PT feature host (Oldies)/producer (Jack-FM), WJMK/Chicago
Jun 06-Feb 08: PT personality, WILV/Chicago
Feb 08-pres: Midday personality, WCFS/Chicago

Rick: First of all, congrats on the new gig at "Fresh FM." I know this was all a very secretive hiring process. How long had you been talking with Fresh, and how did it all play out?

Lisa: Thank you! It's all very exciting. Kind of a funny beginning for me: It all started last November when I bumped into (my former WJMK GM/current Fresh GM) Dave Robbins--literally. It was pretty clear at the time that WCKG was going to flip to some kind of AC format. Though I loved working part-time at Love-FM, I wanted to get back to jocking full-time, and got my package ready. The day after I put it together, they flipped to the "The New Fresh 105.9."

The music was GREAT! Right up the alley of someone in my age group, and similar to formats I had worked in in the past, so it was something that I clearly was appropriate for. Since I still work for CBS on the 9th floor at WJMK, I walked my package upstairs to drop it off for Dave, instead of risking delays from the glorious Chicago mail system! Dave wasn't in so I left it on his desk and headed out toward the elevator.

As I walked, I heard voices around the corner but it was a blind spot. It turned out to be Dave and a sales guy; we practically crashed, but when he saw me, he had his typical huge smile on his face and hugged me! Can't ask for a better reception than that from a former manager! We were laughing and he asked who I was visiting up there. When I told him I left a demo package for *him*, he said great, that he wanted to talk to me about that--another good sign!

As we caught up, he mentioned some of their initial plans for putting jocks on, which was still a while away, and said he'd put me in touch with Mike (Peterson, Fresh and US99 PD). There was a little phone tag, of course, as it was holiday time and I later learned Mike's wife had given birth to their third baby just then! Hectic time for him. We had a good meeting, I auditioned around Christmas, and though there were some corporate delays mixed in, it was good news from there! It's been a relatively smooth process and will be a great place to work. Dave has a great ability to create a positive working environment, and Mike has been so supportive in getting Mike LeBaron and me all set every step of the way to do our jobs individually, and getting the all departments working as a team.

Rick: You've been a music director during your radio career, and you've worked at nearly every music station in Chicago in some capacity, which may make you uniquely qualified to answer this question. How would you describe the music being played at Fresh Fm, compared to it's competitors in town?

Lisa: You know that old commercial, "This isn't your father's Oldsmobile?" I think of it that way: "This isn't your parents' soft music station." "Today's Soft Music, The New Fresh 105.9" is imaged to be familiar and pleasant, though you'll notice not all the songs can be called "soft," individually! It's an interesting comparison to twenty-some years ago, when 35-54-aged people were having kids and working in offices: stations like WLIT here became popular and established the traditional Adult Contemporary (AC) sound, but artists like Barry Manilow, James Taylor, Streisand, Celine Dion, etc., were contemporary for those listeners.

Over time into the '90s, as you know, traditional AC's spun off into Modern AC thanks to Modern Rock radio, and Hot AC thanks to pop-leaning stations. Traditional AC's maintained the "lite" label, and type of "easy listening" is still how the heritage AC presents itself, today. So now, twenty years later, when people my age are card-carrying adults, working and/or with kids, it's natural to be drawn to styles of music from their college or early-adult years and today, because they grew up with more musical choices and it's all contemporary to them. Even I was surprised when I started hearing songs that are heavy on guitar by Lenny Kravitz or Kelly Clarkson after the launch, here on a station with "soft" in the slogan. But the fact of the matter is, people of my age group grew up with more musical choices, and no one I know in my demo talks about an "easy listening" preference these days!

My take is that "soft"="familiar" here. For the average 30- or 40-something mom driving her kids around, it's obviously recognizable as NOT thumpy like a dance station, not loud like a rock station, doesn't try to be too-cool-for-the-room like a Modern AC. What it IS, is familiar music--all hits--with pleasant imaging, and content and personalities which relate to their lifestyle. People in my demo are digging it.

Rick: My guess is that you are right smack in the middle of the target demo. What do you think Fresh needs to do to get women to start listening to a station that had been programming to a male audience for the past twenty years?

Lisa: I don't know that they have to do anything differently than they're already doing, for now. The TV spots started running immediately after the launch, which even existing stations run a few times a year in order to create awareness. Billboards are up; typical stuff. However, you're correct about the demo: I'm 36, and naturally I have lots of friends and family of similar age. Some are single, married with kids, or divorced, but I've heard from nearly all of them between November and now, telling me they've just...found Fresh 105.9.

Honestly, I think part of it is that we're a nation of button-punchers when it comes to, for example, listening to the radio while driving around in the car. If you hit that "seek" button and land on a station that plays enjoyable tunes from the '90s that were contemporary during your early adult years, plus similar female-friendly songs from recent years and today, you're going to stay there. I'm hearing, "I've added it on my pre-sets!" a lot. Much of the feedback I've gotten is from women outside the industry who didn't know the male-targeted WCKG Talk format was even there. They skipped right over it and have found a station they enjoy, now. The rest is happening by word of mouth.

Rick: As of right now, you and Mike LeBaron are the only two live voices on the air at Fresh FM. Did you know each other before you started there? Is it a little odd signing off and not having a live voice on the air after you?

Lisa: I have heard Mike LeBaron (photo) on the air in the market for a long time, but no, we had never crossed paths til we started at Fresh. Lots of my colleagues down the hall at the Mix have asked me recently to send him congratulations, and have said what a talented, great guy he is--and he is! I want to say he's been kicking around the market as a part-time jock longer than I have, so we're both well-prepared and excited for this opportunity.

Is it odd signing off without a live voice after me? Not really. Back when I was doing the "Saturday Night Dance Party" at WJMK, after my first year, you were there and might remember that they eliminated overnight jock positions. I had to sign off by saying "see you next week" and flip it to automation, which was a bummer after Doug Johnson came on after me for a year. I once had another PD elsewhere who decided we should not formally sign off or introduce the next jock at the end of our show. No disrespect to that PD; I like him and when the PD asks you to do something, you just do it. But it felt weirder to me to just leave without introducing the next person when there's a full staff of jocks than it feels when there's no one to introduce. It's my understanding that there will be an afternoon driver at Fresh in due time, though!

Rick: Before you started at Fresh you were working at Love-FM. I know you were close to Mark Sullivan, who tragically passed away a few months ago. I thought you wrote a beautiful tribute to him on your blog. How would you describe Mark to those of us who never got to know him?

Lisa: Thank you. He was a pain in my ass!! But you know, in a fun way. Those who read the blog would get a more accurate picture because I needed to get it out of my system, there were important stories to share, and I could be more detailed. We were determined to be pains in each other's asses, ribbing each other all the time--you know: friends.

I would not claim to be so close to him as his childhood buddies or anything, but we had a lot in common. From interests (yoga, music, radio), to lifestyles (single, from Chicago, close in age, got let go from radio job and lived back with parents before getting back on our feet with gigs here), to personality traits (ambitious, a sensitive side, compatible senses of humor, and yes, compatible egos, too). I hadn't given it much thought in those terms until last Fall when he was sick and on all of our minds constantly. We had a lot to talk about. I think we saw a little of ourselves in each other. We always talked about getting together outside of work, but radio breeds opposite schedules, so it never happened, and I'm very sad for that.

Mark (photo) was a good guy, very talented jock and musician, made sure the people special to him knew it. Sometimes he talked about his lifelong condition, sometimes he didn't, but imagine what it must have been like, even as a young child, to have a bunch of surgeries and know you might not make it very long. His mother told me 40 years was a gift and that he had cheated death three times before, so they had faith he would recover this time, too. He made an effort to spread smiles and to do what made him happy most of the time. Wouldn't you? I was psyched to give him the ol' teaser about the process moving along with Fresh, in December. I know he'd be very happy for me, as I was for him, about getting full-time here at home. I told him last month when it was officially announced. I like to think he heard me.

Rick: Let's talk about some of your previous stops on the radio dial in Chicago. I mentioned that you had been working at Love-FM (WILV 100.3)
which is a rhythmic oldies station, but you've also worked at WJMK when it was an oldies station, and WUBT ("The Beat") when it was a rhythmic
oldies station. How were each of those stations the same or different from each other?

Lisa: Well, all of those stations hired me and the rest of their airstaff for our CHR backgrounds, in terms of delivery. The Beat was called "Jammin' Oldies," which essentially was Urban Oldies. So, musically, very Motown- and disco-based, and played artists like Wilson Pickett, Prince, Irene Cara, Bee Gees, and the Time to fill it in. It was a fun station but they flipped to Kiss 103.5 after I was there seven months, and the canned everyone despite being initially hired for our CHR backgrounds! Clean slate, I guess.

WJMK's regular format, as you know, played traditional Oldies, including the Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, the usual Motown stuff. It was intended to remind folks who grew up in the 60's of how their favorite Top 40 station sounded at the time. When I was hired, Kevin Robinson wanted a '70s party feature, and heard me adapt to it well on the Beat. (Photo: Lisa with WJMK legend Dick Biondi) So, on my show, I got to play some of the traditional artists that had songs in that decade, plus the disco stuff I played on the Beat, plus cool novelty tunes by the Partridge Family and the Osmonds, which always, personally, make me smile. It morphed into the "Saturday Night Dance Party," so away went some of the novelty tunes and in came more soul music, but I loved that too. I rocked out in the studio in between playing ringmaster, taking phone calls from all over Chicagoland. It was only part-time but was one of the best gigs I ever had!

Love-FM was Motown/disco/soul-based for a while as well, but in recent months scattered some '80s and '90s songs, like "Safety Dance" and artists like Duran Duran, Toni Basil, and even Rick Springfield. All party-ish hit songs that people know and can sing along to. They've struck a good, energy-filled balance, now. All were enjoyable versions of the format to work in.

Rick: You've also had a long stint at Shadow Traffic. People that work at Shadow end up working on just about every station in town. What are some of your fondest moments with Shadow, and what shows were the most fun for you?

Lisa: Oh...I was there for 5 1/2 years, so there are a lot of them! You're thrown into a variety of situations there, so it's a great opportunity to diversify your skills and learn to play off of a talk host, rock host, and other formats. My favorite times include doing Seaver's Afternoon Drive traffic on the Loop for my first couple of years. The PD didn't want us to talk long, so it was good training to get some good, quick rock-friendly banter and the report in, and get back to the music. Seaver's a good guy who can do a rap or cross-talk concisely, while sounding like Mr. Cool at the same time, so you just follow that lead. The playlist rocked back then, so mostly he teased me off the air about singing along in cue before he turned my mic on!

Then there were the days when I frequently filled in on Midday traffic with Steve Cochran (Photo). Oh, man--definitely good times! Everything he says is funny! I think he found that I tapped into his timing and goofy personality well, so he had me contribute quite a bit in conversation and interviews. Another time I was doing WGN traffic on a Saturday morning with the big-voiced Lyle Dean on news. I called him ahead of time to alert him of a scanner report of a naked guy running in an intersection in Palatine, but couldn't confirm it yet. He said to run with the item and follow his lead. When I generically reported "police activity" in Palatine, he matter-of-factly asked, "and, *what* is the activity?" I replied, dryly with a smile, "that would be...a...naked guy running in the street. Details as they become available." He called me off-air and said, "that was SO good!" Maybe you had to hear it, but it was hilarious.

I also loved doing morning traffic and news with my buddy, former WRXQ/Joliet PD Rob Creighton. We go back since college so that was pretty loose and fun.

Rick: You are also involved in local theater. On the surface I know it seems like radio and theater are similar--but they're actually totally different. When you're on the radio you have a lot of people listening to you, but you're in a room all by yourself. When you're on stage, there's nowhere to hide. How has radio helped your theater work, and vice versa?

Lisa: Interesting question. I feel they're mainly different in venue, and method or structure of the entertainment: in theatre, you're on stage with a group of people, playing other people, in front of an audience of limited size, and you don't interact with the audience. In radio, you're in a studio alone, talking to hundreds of thousands of people (in Chicago), who feel like you're individually their companion, playing a version of yourself. They are pretty similar, in that the performers all have creative instincts, urges, and disciplines, want to entertain and contribute to the audience's day, and connect in some kind of meaningful way, however brief. have my radio and theatre experiences contributed to each other? Well, by the time I hit college and decided on radio as a path, I found that my voice lessons as a kid helped me warm up and get the breath and the sound out; most people don't think about that when they're listening to the radio, or thinking of pursuing a broadcast career! I once had a music teacher who said, "your body is your instrument." It's true in radio, absolutely. Both activities contribute to each other and to me as a person because--lots of people are shocked by this--but as a kid I was very shy for a long time, and still can be, today. I made a conscious decision as a teenager to literally get up there and try to find some way to express myself. I was nervous and sucked for a while, but found my way. Whether it's going on the air, hosting a bar gig, or dressing up like a 90-year-old dead woman on stage (photo), I realized in recent years that everything I do in those areas is to kind of..conquer the fear and prove to myself that I can do it!

Rick: Let's end this with a little "Fresh" quiz. If you can answer all of these questions successfully, we'll officially sanction you as a "Fresh" employee.

Lisa: OK, shoot.

Rick: Why would Will Smith be your favorite TV star?

Lisa: Oh my. Well, he was the FRESH Prince, of course!

Rick: Why did teenage boys get slapped by teenage girls in the 1950s?

Lisa: They were FRESH!

Rick: Why is Kool n the Gang your favorite artist?

Lisa: Haha. Um...could it be because they sing a song called, "FRESH?"

Rick: How would you describe your breath after eating a tic tac?

Lisa: Oh, Rick. It's minty!! That's my final answer.

Rick: Why did my mother used to threaten to wash my mouth out with soap?

Lisa: "How you do say 'stop being so FRESH or I'll tighten your lederhosen!' in German?"

Rick: Nicely done. Thanks for doing this, and best of luck with the new gig.

Lisa: Thank you!