Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thank You!

The radio community has been very kind about helping me get the word out about my new novel (co-written with fellow former radio guy Brendan Sullivan) "The Living Wills"

Larz at Chicagoland Radio & Media was particularly kind.

So was Larry Shannon at RadioTVDaily (December 1st edition), Tom Taylor at and Don Anthony at the Morning Mouth/Jockline Daily.

Thanks to everyone for your support! The book is officially available here, as of today. I know a lot of readers of this site have already purchased a copy. I greatly appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Living Wills

I've been getting e-mails for the past few months wondering why Chicago Radio Spotlight has been on hiatus this long. Robert Feder explained it well this morning in his Time Out Chicago column...

"Two former Chicago radio producers, Rick Kaempfer and Brendan Sullivan, have co-written The Living Wills, a novel about “a split-second decision made 30 years ago and the ripple effects it caused.” Harnessing the power of collaborative creativity, the two improvised the book’s three interweaving story lines. Set for release December 1 by Eckhartz Press, it’s available online at Kaempfer, whose previous novel, $everance, was a brilliant satire about the radio business, also writes an impressive series of blogs, including the Chicago Radio Spotlight."

That was very kind of Mr. Feder to write.

For those of you not familiar with my co-author Brendan Sullivan, he was a producer for Jonathon Brandmeier's show for many years. He has had a very interesting pre-radio and post-radio career, and I'll be featuring him here on Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2012. Also, one more radio connection to this book is the cover design. It was done by artist Jon Langford, a frequent contributor to WXRT.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back in 2012

It pains me to report that Chicago Radio Spotlight will not be back until after the first of the year.

I've been preparing my latest novel "The Living Wills" for publication (it comes out around Christmastime this year), and I haven't had the time to conduct any new interviews.

After the book comes out my plan is to bring back Chicago Radio Spotlight as a monthly feature. Thanks for all of your e-mails asking about it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Penny Lane

Penny Lane was part of the all-female WSDM-Chicago (97.9 FM) lineup in the 1970s, but has been in the advertising/voice-over world for many years.

Rick: I have very fond memories of listening to WSDM radio in the days before it became the Loop, but I confess that it wasn't for the music. It was for the all-female on-air lineup, including of course, Penny Lane. How did you end up getting the job there?

Penny: I graduated from Goodman Theater School of Drama, which is now the theatre school of DePaul University. I worked in their box office after graduating while looking for work. My boss had WSDM-FM radio on all the time. It was known as "The Station with the Girls and all that Jazz." One day I heard them announce a contest. They were looking for the most creative letter written answering the question: "Why I want to win a week on the air." So I submitted my letter and won. After the week was up, they liked what I did and offered me a regular time slot.

Rick: Last year I interviewed Connie Szerszen, and she told me that each of the girls were asked to come up with an air name. She chose "Dawn" because she was doing mornings. You chose "Penny Lane" because...

Penny: Our program director, Burt Burdeen, who had an incredible ear for choosing music and comedy bits for the station,asked me what name I wanted. I hadnt given it much thought and the next track that played on the air was, "Penny Lane". He said, "Why dont you use that?" It has been a great name for me because everyone remembers it because of the Beatles tune.

Rick: What are some of your favorite memories from those days?

Penny: The creative spots and promos the station wrote. I loved performing them! The parties for launching new artists and records. So much fun. Being the first to play a new record and playing so many new releases when they first came out, before anyone else. I liked hearing from listeners who enjoyed my work as well as the station. It was, as they say, all good!

The perks: Being invited to The Playboy Mansion and Bill Cosby opening the door to greet the guests! Being able to ask listeners to send in money to buy recording equipment for the handicapped children at Children's Memorial Hospital in the name of Jim Croce (the recording star, who had recently been killed in a plane crash). I knew Jim. A very close friend of mine who was also a radio personality, Morgan Tell, introduced us. Morgan became his road manager and was killed with him in that crash. I wanted something good to come out of this sad event. We raised enough money to put 3 players and audio systems in the hospital.

If you want the one memory that was by far the best and most important to was meeting my future husband Wayne Juhlin. He was writing a comedy album on the late Mayor Richard J. Daley (photo). He needed a female on the "CHICAGA" album and since he was also a record promotion man and knew (WSDM PD) Burt, he asked him for a suggestion. Because of my theater background, Burt suggested me. What fun! It also led to me leaving the station and going on to WFYR with Wayne as the morning duo. We also did many commercials and syndicated radio shows first for Dick Orkin ("Chicken Man" and "Tooth Fairy") and then we went out on our own.

Rick: I know the whole idea of the all-female lineup was sort of a take-off on the Playboy Club. You were even called "The Den Pals." But despite that sort of sexist (by today's standards) approach, there really were quite a few very talented radio personalities that worked there. I think people that aren't familiar with that station, might be surprised by some of the names that later went on to become famous.

Penny: You are so right! The famous journalist Linda Elerbee. Danae Alexander, who only recently left radio after a long career on the smooth jazz station (WNUA). Mary Dee of WGN-TV. Cindy Morgan who went out to L.A. and did movies like "Caddyshack" and "Tron." Wanda Wells who was on (and may still be on) WFLD TV. You mentioned Connie. There were quite a few but I don't know what happened to them all. (Photo: The Den Pals. Back Row, Yvonne Daniels, Connie Szerszen, Danae Alexander, Jan. Front Row: Cheryl, Penny Lane, Janice)

Rick: I know one of your former colleagues at WSDM was Yvonne Daniels, who died way too young. When the Radio Hall of Fame honored her posthumously a few years ago, several of the former WSDM jocks were there, including you. What was that night like for you?

Penny: Yvonne, who went on to be the first female DJ on a major rock station, and whose father was the great singer, Billy Daniels, was in a class by herself. What a voice, and smooth as can be. Her upbringing and knowledge of music and the performers was amazing. That night, I felt lucky to have worked with her and so happy she was honored!

Rick: As you already mentioned, after your WSDM days you later worked at WFYR with your husband, Wayne Juhlin. What are some of your favorite memories from your stint at WFYR?

Penny: Oooooh gosh! A whole different ball game! We had to do promotion after promotion! We got up at 4 am, were on the air from 6 to 10, then had meetings, and then we were expected to go all over the suburbs and city to do promotions in the afternoon and night! Clubs, clubs and clubs! Going to clients and giving away prizes and emceeing events for them! Crazy promotions, like the station hiding gold bars and giving clues as to where in the city they might be. They had a "FYRE" truck that lugged us all over the city to make appearances at both nightclubs and clients. Once they made Wayne into a human ice cream sundae! We judged "Miss Nude World Contest"...everyone was without clothes...even little kids...a whole way of life I had never been exposed (so to speak!) to.

Sadly, one client was a resort in Lake Geneva. They were hoding a hot air balloon race. We were expected to go up in a balloon, and we decided to go up with a lady who was an experienced balloonist. Because of Wayne's fondness for pinball machines (he saw one in the lobby of the resort and kept playing and winning games), we were late for the event, so they took off without us. 20 minutes later the balloonist hit a wire. The basket turned over and she was killed.

Rick: You've stayed in the business since your on-air days through your company Penway Productions. Tell us a little about the company and some of things you've done.

Penny: After working with Dick Orkin (photo), we fell in love with the art of doing funny commercials. We opened the company in about 1977 and have freelanced for some of the biggest agencies. Our commercials have been heard nationally, and we have won Addys, Clios and Windys. We have written for trade shows and performed for them as well. Wayne still writes commercials and has written and adapted plays in Chicago. I do publicity on a freelance basis and enjoy meeting new people and learning about products, places, and events that need exposure and media placement.

Rick: I know you've been doing this now a lot longer than you ever did radio, but do you ever see a way that radio could lure you back in someday, or is that chapter of your life officially closed in your mind?

Penny: I feel like I'm still on the radio part time because of the commercials. I just recently did a a spot for the National Soybean Association. But to answer your question, if, as so many ex jocks and talk show hosts like to say, it was an interesting offer...sure. I would consider it.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Jim Moran

Jim Moran is a long-time traffic reporter for Metro Traffic in Chicago.

Rick: You've been doing traffic in Chicago now for nearly a decade. What are the best and worst parts of being a traffic reporter in this town?

Jim: I think the best thing is the fact that traffic reports are such an important resource in Chicago. There are very few cities that have the traffic, and the traffic reporting technology that Chicago has - it's exciting to be a part of that. Another great thing about reporting traffic - is we're usually at work during the worst traffic times, it's much more fun to talk about traffic, than to sit in it. (Laughs)

I don't think it's the worst thing, but sometimes the most difficult is trying to touch on everything going on. During the summer, it feels like traffic is bad nearly 24/7. Trying to fit everything in during a :60 to :90 report can be a challenge....but that's keeps it fun!

Rick: Working at a place like Metro you literally have gotten to know every other person in Chicago that does traffic. Do you have a traffic mentor, someone that you look up to, and try to emulate?

Jim: One of the things I've been very grateful for is the opportunity to work with some of the most talented people in our industry. When I first started Bart Shore (photo) and Joe Collins helped me out quite a bit. I still turn to them for advice and as a radio listener, I love to hear them deliver traffic reports - they are two of the best in the business! Someone who also served as my mentor and a close friend is Mark Nepolean. As far as others that had helped me in the begining - Ric Federighi and Rick Sirovatka - I wouldn't have lasted long at all without their help.

I am also grateful for the chance to work with some outstanding news folks - I have always thought Mike Scott at WIND-AM is one of the best in the business. When I was a program director at WKRS-AM in Waukegan, I would instruct my interns/aspiring news people, to listen to Mike's reports (he was doing sports for WBBM at the time). He has such a great delivery!

Rick: Just from a traffic perspective, are there any days that stand out to you as particularly memorable broadcasts?

Jim: The day before Thanksgiving is generally the worst of the year. One year in particular, I remember a young Mike Pries and Jeanette Ditzler had just started with us - (Mike is now the evening reporter for WBBM and Jeanette spent a good amount of time as an airborne reporter for WGN) - they were both at our editor's desk, and a snowstorm came through and created what has been one of the single worst traffic days in the past decade. Both handled the situation like was fun to see these guys take charge and kick ass. It was such a crazy day for everyone, and it could have been much worse if Mike and Jeanette didn't pull through like they did.

Rick: The other thing that is fascinating to me about doing traffic, is that you get the opportunity to work with radio personalities from all different formats on many different stations. Of the many you've worked with, who were some of your favorites?

Jim: I can't even begin to think of everyone - over the past nine years, I've had a chance to be on almost every radio station in the market. Some of the top names I can think of are from my days as the evening news/traffic guy for WLS-AM. I was able to work with some personalities that I'm still starstruck to be around - Jay Marvin, Don and Roma, Roe and Garry, Steve Scott, Cisco Cotto, Jim Johnson, Jennifer Keiper, Deb Rowe...this list can go on forever.. (laughs). WLS' current PD is another person who I think is one of the best in the business, I can't say enough about Drew Hayes - great guy! I was also fortunate enough to work with two other great WLS program directors - Mike Elder and Kipper McGee.

I also spent time as a reporter for several NextMedia stations - I loved working with Alison Gerard, Todd Thomspon and Todd Boss at WCCQ, Tom Keif at 95 WIIL Rock is always fun to work with, and he's someone I consider a close friend. Big John at WIND-AM was great to work with - I've listened to him since I was in high school - it was outstanding to share the WIND airwaves with him. I think the most inspiring person I've had a chance to work with is Drew Walker (photo) at US99 - he is the epitome of what people in radio should be - a fan who loves their job and is grateful to be working in radio, in the greatest city in the world.

I currently provide traffic for WBBM-AM - I've had the opportunity to work at the station as a sales rep, and also work on air for the station for the past four years. From Rod Zimmerman and Ron Gleason, all the way to the newest intern - that station is a well oiled news machine. Every member of the air staff is tremendous at what they do. Plus, it's a fun place to work - the personalities and skill sets of the staff are perfect!

Rick: Of course, as you've already mentioned, you're not just a traffic reporter. You've been a sales rep, a newsman, and a program director. You've also branched out into other areas. For one thing, you're a published author. Tell me about the origin of your book about Libertyville.

Jim: I love my hometown of Libertyville! The Arcadia Publishing book I was able to publish back in 2006 was an opportunity for me to share some photographs and postcards from my personal collection, plus help share and spread my passion for my hometown. The book is available through most online book sellers - Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Rick: And now you've even become an elected official in Libertyville. What made you decide to run for Village Board Trustee, and do you think your name recognition from the radio helped get you elected?

Jim: My world of covering politics and my love of Libertyville finally collided this spring when I was elected to the Village Board in Libertyville. I can't even begin to describe how honored I am to have been elected by my neighbors to serve our awesome community!

It's funny - I don't think a lot of people in Libertyville associate me with my radio career. I think more people associate me through my family or my work in the community.

Rick: How has it been going so far?

Jim: So far, it's been great serving on the Village Board. My experience working with various municipalities throughout the years as a news/traffic reporter has already allowed me to provide some valuable insight and perspective to our board.

Rick: I know you've also dabbled in doing your own talk show at WKRS (AM 1220). How are you enjoying that experience?

Jim: Being back home at WKRS has been fun - so far, I've been joining Jerry and Nick on Monday mornings on WKRS. We'll see where this grows to - it's a chance for me to talk local politics and be on the air at a great local radio station. Early in my career I was the program director and morning host at WKRS, plus this is the station I was on the air at, the morning of September 11th. It will always be a special place for me.

Rick: You and I share an affliction too. We're both Cubs fans. As Mr. Burns says on the Simpsons..."Oh Ziggy, will you ever win?" Jim, are we doomed to a lifetime as Ziggy, or is there hope?

Jim: Rick, I wish I could say there was hope. As a Cub fan, we're supposed to be the foolish optimist that thinks, "we'll do it next year for sure!" I wish I could say I was smarter than this...(laughs). The Cubs are the only team in the world who could be 20 games out by the end of June, then put together a six game winning streak - then have fans start talking playoffs. I love it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ron Smith

Ron Smith is the author of five books including the most recent "Eight Days a Week." He's also a long time Oldies music programmer, including in Chicago for WJMK (104.3) and Real Oldies (AM 1690).

Rick: I just got my hands on your excellent new book "Eight Days A Week," which is the printed version of your Oldies calendar from your excellent website What inspired you to put this out in book form?

Ron: It was always my intention to put it out in book form someday. But it seemed like the chart books were a higher priority. I’m glad I waited, though. First of all, imagine how much smaller the book would have been 15 years ago. Plus, my experience in publishing the other books allowed me to create what I think is not only an informative, but attractive volume. I guess that judgment’s up to the general public, though. Your readers can get a day’s sample (along with a link to buy the entire book) at

By the way, I’m especially proud of the rock ‘n’ roll caricatures in the book which I had drawn by a 25 year-old woman from the Ukraine! This music is truly universal.

Rick: In your Introduction you describe the way misinformation appears on many "This Day in History" sites on the Internet--something I've found to be true. I was burned several times during my producing days. What are a few of the most egregiously incorrect facts you've spotted over the years?

Ron: I once saw the birthday of George “Spanky” McFarland of “Our Gang” comedies listed as that of Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane from the group, Spanky & Our Gang. The 14-year difference in their ages was a dead giveaway. I mention in my book how, for years, half the sources you read said October 13 was Paul Simon’s birthday and the other half said it was Art Garfunkel’s. I asked the visitors to my web site to give me definitive proof and each anecdote I received made it clearer that Paul was born in October and Art in November. That’s now accepted as fact. I’ve had DJs all the over the country help me sort out discrepancies with birth dates for artists like Bobby Lewis and Len Barry. And with the Internet and email, I’ve been able to ask Ben E. King and Nick Gilder for their help directly.

Rick: I know this whole Oldies calendar concept goes back to your days as the music director of WJMK (in the 80s and early 90s). I just missed working with you there (I started in 1993, you left in 1992), but people still talked about you and the calendar you provided for the jocks. How did that come to be?

Ron: The calendar actually goes back to my college days but really got started when I was the morning personality at then-Oldies WCCQ-FM in Joliet. I simply presented it to the jocks at WJMK (and later Real Oldies 1690) as show prep. That’s what Music Directors are supposed to do-- help the air talent sound their best. What’s not well known is that I was eventually asked to stop distributing the calendar at WJMK because mentioning events from the past “just makes people feel old.” For a long time they wouldn’t say the word, “Oldies” for the same reason.

Rick: The Foreword to your book is written by the legendary Dick Biondi. You're a Chicago radio historian. Where you would you place Biondi among the all-time Chicago radio greats?

Ron: We’ve been so fortunate to be able to listen to Dick almost every day for the last 28 years (and for eight years in the ‘60s and ‘70s) that we tend to take him for granted and forget how influential he was even before coming to Chicago. Dick Biondi’s appeal is truly national. He’s better known across the country, I’d say, than any other jock to work in this town. In their own way, Larry Lujack, Howard Miller, Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier also influenced the course of radio but Dick certainly belongs on, if not atop, that list.

I should also add that, having known Dick for decades now, he is the most honest and loyal friend anyone could have. He’s been there for countless people over the years. I’m so glad to see him get the recognition (like the dedication of “Dick Biondi Way” last year) that he richly deserves.

Rick: I have your other books (Chicago Top 40 Charts 1960-1969, Chicago Top 40 Charts 1970-1979, Chicago Top 40 Charts 1980-1990, WCFL Chicago Top 40 Charts 1965-1976) in my archives and find them to be an invaluable resource. What I've always found interesting about the Chicago charts from that 60s and 70s era is how much they differed from the national charts. That's not really the case anymore. You've obviously studied this subject matter in great detail. How and when did that change?

Ron: There were over 150 songs in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that made the top ten in Chicago without cracking the top 40 nationally. That’s a credit to people like Sam Holman, Gene Taylor, Art Roberts, Clark Weber, Ken Draper, John Rook, Jim Smith, Steve Perun and John Gehron who made these stations unique to Chicago. Part of the reason for my writing my chart books was to document the music we grew up with in Chicago that’s been lost as Oldies radio relies on the top ten from a Joel Whitburn book for its playlists.

You ask how things changed. That’s the same answer. Radio gradually started taking the safe approach-- shorter playlists, over-reliance on research and cookie-cutter consultants. I’m not pointing fingers here. Program Directors used to play “You Bet Your Desk” four times a year when the ratings came out. Now it’s twelve times a year. Ratings used to cover 16 weeks a year. Now it’s 52. The big national chains have too much money invested in their stations to wait for long-term results. They want quick fixes. There’s a certain safety in always watching your behind.

Rick: You've been working in the Oldies format/genre now for nearly 40 years. What is it about that era's music that makes it so timeless?

Ron: Obviously, the music’s been groundbreaking. The rock revolution of the mid-‘50s and the British Invasion of the mid-‘60s were earth-shattering sociologically as well as musically. And the personality radio of the times had a lot to do with it. The two were intertwined and synergistic (am I getting too intellectual here?). Most of all, though, it was “our music.” We went out and bought those 45s and made them hits with our hard-earned allowances. Nowadays, stations play the latest tunes the record labels are “working” and the audience has little say in the matter. Often they can’t even buy the tunes. There’s nothing “timeless” about music you’re force-fed.

Rick: There are really two Oldies stations, or at least Oldies-like stations in Chicago now, WLS-FM and K-Hits (WJMK). I know as a Chicago-area resident you check both of those stations out. What's your take on their current formats?

Ron: I’m not sure I would classify either station as “Oldies.” K-Hits is clearly intended as a Classic Hits station. It plays a smattering of late ‘60s music, but the focus is on the late ‘70s and ‘80s. It reminds me musically very much of the Drive ten years ago. And the air sound is not unlike that of B-96 in the early ‘80s. Those, by the way, are good things. But not “Oldies.”

WLS-FM has been very successful as an Oldies station but is now trying to lower its demographics by playing music into the ‘80s. While the variety is staggering, this is leading to “whiplash” in both era and timbre. The strangest segue I’ve heard was going from the Platters to Foghat. If I had to predict, I’d say they’ll eventually solve this by phasing out the earlier music and becoming more of a Classic Hits station, as well. In the immortal words of Johnny Cash, “I don’t like it but I guess things happen that way.”

Both stations are fortunate in having excellent on-air personalities-- Eddie and JoBo, Gary Spears and Tommy Edwards on K-Hits and Dick Biondi, Greg Brown and Scott Shannon on 94.7. That’s a real plus.

Rick: You were also a pioneer in internet radio world, and continue to program channels for (50s hits and 60s hits). Do you think that internet radio will ever overtake terrestrial radio?

Ron: I think Internet radio has a lot going for it-- low (or even no) commercial loads, deep libraries, specialized genres and true audience interaction. I’m very proud of the channels at Slacker. Compared to the computer-algorithms that come out of the competition, our radio experts (actual human beings like you and me) are creating high-quality listening experiences and we’re adding cutting-edge features like personalized news and sports and-- just added this week-- songs on-demand. The future is truly limitless.

Having said that though, I have to admit that Internet radio has a way to go before it really competes with terrestrial radio. The programming tools are still a bit primitive, songs don’t actually segue and there’s very little personality. Plus I’d kill for a good jingle package. The good news is that each of those faults is easily overcome. And as the channels grow in listenership and profitability, they will be overcome. That’s when the fun begins.

Rick: The acknowledgments section of "Eight Days a Week" reads like a Who's Who of Chicago radio. You've obviously been inspired by and worked with some of the best. Let me put you on the spot here. If you could put together a dream line up (with an unlimited budget), who would it include?

Ron: You do want to get me in trouble, don’t you?

Certainly Larry Lujack would be doing mornings. I doubt that there’s any disk jockey in the last 45 years who hasn’t been influenced by Old Uncle Lar’. Even on his worst days, he outshone every other jock. And Tommy Edwards is the perfect complement to Larry. Separately they’re both outstanding. Together, they’re damn near perfect.

The late Art Roberts is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a mentor in the business. His sage advice is still a part of who I am. He was a thinking-man’s DJ who never overthought anything and was totally relatable to his audience. Whopper waffles, I miss him.

I never had a chance to work with either Bob Sirott or John Landecker but I’ve met them both and stay in touch with Bob by email. They’re a study in contrasts-- Bob is the local-boy-made-good, approachable, with easygoing charm and natural intelligence while John is quick-witted, hard-working, often sarcastic and at times quite bombastic. They were and are true personalities. I so wish radio was developing talents like these today. Television, by the way, has really expanded my perception of Bob. He’s proven to be an outstanding interviewer and I don’t think Channel 11 has ever really recovered from his loss.

Of course, I’ve already mentioned Dick Biondi. But here’s a name that might prove surprising-- Kris Eric Stevens. I loved his rapid-fire style, humor and “talk-up-to-the-post-without-ever-stepping-on-that-vocal” delivery. If the others I’ve mentioned taught me how to be a personality, Kris taught me how to be an announcer. I was fortunate to have worked with him when he filled in for a week on Real Oldies 1690.

And how about letting Bob Stroud go nuts and “roots salute” all night long?

I’d still have to find a place for such unique individuals as Fred Winston, Jerry G. Bishop, Robert Murphy and Connie Szerszen. But then, weekends during the ‘60s and ‘70s were always manned by top-notch talent who were every bit as good as the full-time staff. Why not on my station? In addition, Dick Orkin would have to be creating features.

Now, can I cheat and create an HD-2 channel for out-of-towners and fill it with guys like Don Imus, Charlie Tuna, Gary Burbank, Dick Purtan and Dr. Don Rose? And how about an HD-3 channel for talk hosts like Howard Miller, Clark Weber, Dave Baum, Bill Berg and Eddie Schwartz? Okay, I think I’ve spent enough money.

UPDATE: Ron just sent me the following via Facebook..."In reading the interview I realize I made a big mistake. After talking about Chicago's top 40 jocks, I meant to bring up its R&B talent. But I got sidetracked. My apologies to Herb Kent, Richard Steele and the late Al Benson for the glaring omission. Especially Herb, who I loved working with for 3 years. Mea culpa."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tommy Edwards

Tommy Edwards is a Chicago radio legend. He can currently be heard on K-Hits (WJMK), and he is the operations manager of several channels of AccuRadio's Chicago Radio Online.

Rick: First of all, good to hear you back on WJMK. This is actually your second go-round at this frequency, isn't it?

Tommy: I guess you could say it's my third go around. The first occurred in early 1986. My WLS contract expired in November 1985 and I was offered a 10 year deal but decided it was time to move on. I took the month of December off and shortly after the first of the year I went to New York and was offered a prime position at WCBS-FM. I decided it wasn't right for me so I came back to Chicago and had discussions with a couple of stations.

One day Harvey Pearlman, GM of WJMK, called and said he needed someone to fill in for Joel Sebastian who was ill and all he needed was a couple of weeks of work. I agreed and tragically Joel passed away during that time. So Harvey asked me to stay permanently and I wasn't sure that's what I wanted to do. I decided after the Bears won the Superbowl to resign and program WKQX. After a couple of years Harvey invited me to lunch and convinced me to come back to do mornings at WJMK. I did that until late 1989 or early 1990 and left for Boston to program WODS for CBS Radio. That lead to two years in Boston and I was transferred to Los Angeles to program KCBS-FM for about 12 years.

Rick: I interviewed Gary Spears a few weeks ago, and he agreed with me that this format is very reminiscent of WLS back in the late 70s or so. You were part of that powerhouse lineup in those days, and you've started doing this format now too, so I suppose I should pose the same question to you. Does it feel similar?

Tommy: K-HITS feels a lot like WLS in some ways. I guess the music is most associated with my days at The Big 89. The jingles and the encouragement of the programming staff to have a clear Chicago personality in our delivery which also reminds me of those days at WLS.

Rick: You've worked at many stations in Chicago, but people probably remember you the most from your time at WLS. There aren't many people that can claim quite as much of authorship of that memorable era than you; as program director, production director, and of course, air personality. Looking back on that era now, what do you think was the secret to Music Radio WLS' tremendous success?

Tommy: I feel very proud of the time I spent at WLS. It was a time of great AM radio between WLS and WCFL. I believe the secret to WLS had many elements. I hired Bob Sirott (photo), Yvonne Daniels, Steve King and music director Jim Smith. I changed the moniker of The Rock of Chicago to MusicRadio WLS. And when I left the programming position and went back on the air, the station had a very unique environment. John Gehron was the new PD and our whole staff was very tight. We would socialize together, dine together and we spent a huge amount of time in the production studio creating terrific promos and spots. Remember we had American Federation of Musicians record-turners - the only people that could play the actual records. So production was always a fun challenge.

But the huge promotion we created while I was PD was "What's Your Favorite Radio Station - - say WLS and Win!" That carried us a long time and provided the mechanics to the biggest promotion we ever did - "Track On Down To Walt Disney World". The Disney execs came to us and said that their research showed east coast people vacationed in Disney World, west coast people visited Disneyland and they wanted to tap the huge mid-western market. So WLS was the first radio station they ever did a promotion with outside of Orlando, Fla. We were very honored and we built a giant promotion of sending three trainloads of people on Amtrak to Disneyworld - all expenses paid.

That major contest was followed by the Forty Ford Giveaway - Forty Fords to forty winners! The Disney World promotion set the bar extremely high. WLS had exceptional talent on the air, exceptional talent in the promotions, engineering, marketing, sales and every other department of the radio station. It was a very unique experience - and you know what? We didn't realize how influential it was to the rest of the industry. That became evident later.

Rick: Do you have any favorite memories from that time?

Tommy: Along with having fun in the production studio, we did cause some mischief. The time we spent calling listeners to ask them about their favorite radio station, we used the outgoing news telephone lines. Our special studio for that was small and located in the isolated area of the station. We could hear our news people making outgoing calls to news sources. Well on more than one occasion after our news person was put on hold, I'd pick up the phone and say: "Peacock. This is Ted Peacock can I help you?" The news person would identify themselves and we'd chat - not knowing it was actually me and my production engineer Al Rosen. They'd ask for a statement and I'd start to come up with something until I heard a click on the other end and stop talking. The real news source would start the conversation and our news person would say: "never mind, I got what I need from Ted Peacock". Well, then it would get very funny when everyone would be searching for this guy Peacock. We eventually got caught by the news director. But we were all known for causing mischief and having fun. (Photo above: Tommy Edwards in the WLS Studio, from Scott Childers excellent WLS History site)

Rick: Of course, you were also the co-host of what may be the most famous bit in Chicago radio history; Animal Stories. I listened every day when I was a kid, but I don't remember how it started. Is there a good story there?

Tommy: I'd spend about a half-hour in Studio A next to Larry preparing for my 10am-2pm show. We did a lot of True Value Hardware live 60" spots and sometimes I'd chime in and make comments and he and I would start laughing. Management wasn't all that happy about that until True Value mentioned they loved the spots.

WLS' FCC License required one minute of agriculture news each day for several years and Larry would find stories about farm animals. I'm not sure when that requirement ended. One day Larry mentioned that he had a couple of stories about animals and he was going to intro it as "Gather the moppets around the radio, Moms and Dads. It's time for Uncle Lar's Animal Stories with his little friend, Little Tommy". I said "OK, call me Little Snot Nose Tommy". So he did and that's how it started.

The first T-Shirts WLS created had artwork of a rooster with a hat on with "press" on it and a wrap of "Larry Lujack's Animal Stories". It evolved into the Uncle Lar and Li'l Tommy beavers and became the main promotional identity of the radio station including re-painting the promotion van from the "Magic Bus" to the "Animal Stories Mobile Unit". We did movie trailers for the Plitt Theatres and we even had a flavor of ice-cream named after us one summer.

Rick: When I was producing Landecker's show on WJMK we had both you and Larry on the show for John's 50th birthday, and I believe that was your first time on the air together in something like ten years. At the time you were preparing to release Animal Stories on CD. I see that they're still available now.

Tommy: Larry and I own the service mark of the name "Animal Stories" and the recordings. We released them on vinyl discs a number of years ago and since that time we have made them available on CD. Plus, there are recordings made after we left WLS. So there are five volumes now with Volume 1 out of print at the moment. But they're all available at

Rick: If you don't mind, I'd like to take you back even further. What was it about radio that drew you in the first place, and how did that journey eventually bring you to Chicago?

Tommy: I was in a lot of theater in school. As a sophomore in high school, I had a part in a school play where everyone else in the cast was a senior. One cast member was also a DJ at the local radio station in Topeka, Kansas. I asked if I could visit him at the station, KTOP-AM, and I eventually got a job as a "go-fer". I'd prepare newscasts, update the weather, run and get food and drink for the jocks and anything else they wanted me to do. And I didn't get paid a dime. Eventually I got a paying job watching the Associated Press teletype machine and listening to the police radios. And from that I started reading news on the air and when the all-night DJ called in sick, I volunteered to do the show and the manager liked it and gave me a weekend shift. Years later I worked in suburban Washington, DC, at WEAM-AM while serving in the Pentagon in the U.S. Navy. And after a few years I was offered a weekend shift in New York City until I was discharged from the Navy and then began a full time midday shift on WOR-FM. From there I came to Chicago and WLS.

Rick: You've actually been in programming many times in your career--and you continue to program portions of Accuradio's Chicago Radio Online. Do you actually prefer it to being on the air?

Tommy: Honestly I enjoy both a great deal. I am Operations Manager of 9 Chicago Radio Online channels. At radio stations I love working with talent and the other departments to create promotions and spots and enjoy listening to the end result 'out of the box'. And I really enjoy working on-air where the talent is encouraged to be creative like it is working at K-HITS.

Rick: I also can't let you go before I ask you about your time with the Bulls. You've been the PA announcer for the Bulls for the past five years, but you also did it for many years before that (1976-1990). Unfortunately for you, you missed the championship years in that window you were gone, but you must have a few favorite Bulls memories from your front row seat.

Tommy: I love basketball and I feel very fortunate to be able to go to every Bulls' home game and sit at center court. Mary Lou and I have made friends with colleagues and players including being godparents to a former player's daughter. I haven't been fortunate enough to enjoy a championship season at the table, but I have a great deal of respect for the Bulls organization. It's a very classy bunch of professionals. Watching great players up close like "Pistol" Pete Maravich, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Derrick Rose and Jerry Sloan has been a highlight in my life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter!

I'm not posting a Chicago Radio Spotlight interview this weekend or the following two weekends because of family commitments (Easter, First Communion, and Mother's Day), but Chicago Radio Spotlight will return on May 14th with an interview of a Chicago radio legend that I've never interviewed before. I'm really looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gary Spears

Gary Spears is the midday host at K-Hits, WJMK-FM (104.3 FM)

Rick: First of all, welcome back to Chicago. You’re certainly no stranger to this town. What did you miss most about it when you were gone?

Gary: Deep dish pizza.

Rick: Wow, no hesitation.

Gary: (Laughs) Has to be the deep dish pizza! I grew up in Lafayette Indiana and listened to Chicago radio growing up, and came up here to visit once in high school. I had my first deep dish pizza then, and I was hooked. It’s amazing that I’m still relatively thin because I love it that much.

Rick: It must be nice to come right into a situation there at K-Hits with people you already know, people that you’re comfortable with; PD Todd Cavanaugh, Eddie & Jobo, etc...

Gary: You’re so right about that. Todd and I were good friends. We lived in the same apartment building and everything. I talked to Eddie and Jobo (photo) about this when I first got into town. When you start up at a new radio station, you have a tendency to feel a little insecure—stations can be a little cliquey. You usually go around and meet everyone, shake their hands and say hello, but in this case I went around and hugged everyone. I knew Todd, and Eddie, and JoBo, and George. I didn’t know Bo—I believe I took over for him when I came back to B-96 in 1990, but he’s a great guy too.

This really is a great atmosphere. No huge egos trips. We’re all in it to win it, and we’re all in it to have fun. By the time you get to this point in your career the ego thing is definitely tamer than it might have been earlier in your career.

Rick: If memory serves, you actually pre-dated those guys at B-96. You were one of the original jocks in that format, and now you’re one of the original jocks in this new format. How are the two experiences similar or different?

Gary: You’re showing my age, thanks a lot. (laughs) Yes, I was one of the original jocks of the Hot Hits format, and there are quite a few similarities. If I’m not mistaken, that was also in the springtime. Same time of year, brand new station, and even the on-air approach is similar. This station is getting back into personality with energized air talent. That was also the case back in 1982. Mike Joseph was the consultant that owned that Hot Hits name back then, and that was his approach. Lots of jingles, sweepers, and high energy.

Rick: I’ve been listening to K-hits the past few days, and it’s an interesting blend of music. It’s more contemporary than the old WJMK (Full disclosure: I worked there for ten years), but it’s not quite the mix that you played early on at B-96. It’s sort of in between. To me it’s like listening to the format on WLS-AM in the late 70s, early 80s. Would you agree with that assessment?

Gary: It does have a retro feel to it. The music and the on air feel. That’s my take on it—I’m not speaking for management. I listened to that station growing up, and I absolutely loved those guys on WLS at the time; Bob Sirott, Larry Lujack, Tommy Edwards, and especially John Records Landecker. Loved John Records Landecker (Photo). He had the ability to communicate, entertain, and inform in short energetic bursts like nobody else.

Rick: How would you describe your on-air approach in this format?

Gary: I’ve always looked as personality as the icing on the cake. This is my first time being judged in the PPM world, but I always felt that my style was they very well suited to what the PPM tells us people want—short bursts of personality. People’s attention spans are like 10 seconds. If you can get the point across in that amount of time, you’re really accomplishing something. That’s my approach. Every break has to have something interesting, informative, or entertaining.

Rick: But get right to the point.

Gary: Exactly. I’ve had discussions with other jocks about it that don’t like it, that aren’t adjusting well to it, but I honestly believe it’s totally doable. You just need to think about what you’re going to do before you get on the air. You need to edit, to squeeze 40 seconds into 20 seconds. It takes work, but I’m here to tell you it can be done.

Rick: I was listening to you the other day, and you did a quick bit about the government shutdown over a fifteen second Bee Gees intro. I thought "Wow, actual content over a record intro."

Gary: (laughs) That’s what I mean. Exactly.

Rick: It’s been more than 15 years since you were last on the air in Chicago. In the meantime, you’ve mainly been out in LA—most famously working for Kiss-FM there. I understand that you also really got the acting bug while you were out there.

Gary: I did, but not while I was doing radio. When I was still working in radio I was totally focused on that. I’m not one of those guys that get involved in a million different things at once. But I was part of the budget crunch at Clear Channel in ’07, and after that, I did begin to focus more on acting and voice-overs. I did lots of commercials—and a few of them are still on the air. I just got an e-mail from Bobby Skafish the other day because he thought he saw me in a Party City commercial. Yup, that was me. I also did some ads for Panda Security. I was in one Hallmark movie “Mrs. Washington Goes to Smith.” I did some Grey’s Anatomy. In the background, but definitely on camera.

Still, it was all small stuff. It takes so long to break into that business. It’s really a struggle. I must admit I had a hard time adjusting to it. I was used to getting a paycheck every two weeks, and now I was waiting for the phone to ring—just for an audition. And then the economy fell apart, and one of the first things to go in a recession is advertising. Commercials were cut back, and some agencies started going non-union, and the other ones were hiring big name stars. I’d go to auditions, and see these big names there. They had to do it too. It became a struggle for them too.

Rick: When you were at Kiss-FM you followed Rick Dees every morning.

Gary: Yes, and Rick Dees (photo) is an amazing guy. One of the nicer guys I’ve met in the business. He was a huge success there from 1982 until 2005 or 2006 or 2007, I forget the exact year the change took place. He wasn’t just a radio guy, obviously. He was also on television with Solid Gold. He had a line of cigars and golf clubs. He’s very diversified, and has done very well for himself, but at heart he is a radio guy, and a trailblazer at that. I remember hearing his early stuff and it was really impressive, amazing stuff. He still does great radio. I was lucky enough to co-host his countdown show with him a few times, and he has this beautiful studio out there. I believe he just signed a deal with Cumulus.

Rick: Did your tour of duty at Kiss cross over at all with Ryan Seacrest?

Gary: Yes it did. He was there the last couple of years I was there.

Rick: And what is he like?

Gary: Well, I’m not sure exactly how to describe him. Ryan’s Ryan. At that time he already wasn’t doing the show from where the rest of us did. He was located in the E! building. But I’ve known him for a long time. When I first got to LA, I worked at a place called Star 98.7. He was doing nights at the time, and was a nice enough guy back then. I don’t know what he is like now, but I do know this; he sure is rich. (laughs) Guys like Ryan do a service for radio because they bring recognition to the medium, so that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the other side of the coin is that they also take away jobs from other people after they’re syndicated nationwide.

Rick: You had two tours of duty at B-96, one in the 80s and one in the 90s. Do you have any favorite memories from both of those eras?

Gary: I worked for some really impressive guys. Buddy Scott. He’s a brilliant programmer. And then I worked for another brilliant guy the second time I came here, Dave Shakes. I was lucky to work for people like that. Professional, smart, in it to win it. Todd Cavanaugh is the same way. He’s always been very hungry, and I love that about him. I think it’s going to be a good run.

Rick: I read that you had just bought a house in Florida and were planning on retiring down there when you got the call to come to K-Hits. Is that true?

Gary: Yes it’s true.

Rick: But aren’t you too young to retire?

Gary: Yes, yes, let's go with that. Yes I am. (laughs) It was weird how all this came down. I was in LA and getting tired of the acting thing, and I found this great house in Florida CHEAP, so I bought it and relocated there. This was only in December. But living in this area of Florida was like being in a tropical Chicago because it’s filled with Chicagoans. They even had Chicago bars. When the Bears were playing, you could see all their games.

Only a month later, the phone rings, and it was Todd Cavanaugh, calling from Chicago. I had just moved across the country, but this offer was Chicago, and I wasn’t going to say no to that. So that house in Florida is going to have to wait. I’m living in downtown Chicago now and loving it. I’m looking out the window right now. I live just north of Millennium Park, and this view is just incredible. The Chicago skyline is the most beautiful in the country.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Matt DuBiel

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!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Megan Reed

Megan Reed hosts the midday show on Rewind 100, WILV.

Rick: Did you really play a DJ in an 8th grade play, and did that really make you want to do this for a living?

I always had an interest in the media, and I was in plays because I wanted to get into show biz, but I couldn’t sing, dance or act. (laughs) So I tried out for West Side Story in 8th grade and I was assigned “Glad-Hand the DJ” role, and I thought that was a lot of fun. And I listened to WLS all the time in those days, and they made the DJ job sound so fun too. I thought, hmmm, I may just have to pursue this.

Rick: You must love this midday gig you have right now. In a lot of ways, for the life you lead outside the station—as a mom of three kids, it’s perfect, really.

Megan: You got that right. It’s absolutely perfect. I can drop them off at school, but still be home in the afternoon to monitor them doing their homework, and put out whatever fires have been started.

Rick: Which is also the typical life of the Rewind 100 demo. You are living their lives, which I think helps you be relatable to the audience.

Megan: Well, thanks. Yes, I agree. It does help. And this format really does feel right to me. It’s a perfect fit. It’s the kind of stuff that I listen to myself.

Rick: I enjoy the Class Reunion lunch show you do. For those that aren’t familiar with it, what’s that all about?

Megan: We basically celebrate your senior year of high school. People write in, via Facebook or e-mail, and tell me the year that they graduated, and pick out three songs from that year. Every weekday at lunch we go back to someone’s senior year of high school. I also test your pop culture knowledge from that year. It’s fun to go back.

Rick: To Rewind?

Megan: (laughs) Yes.

Rick: Rewind 100 is a station that nobody is really talking about, but it’s quietly doing extremely well in the ratings. So well, you just got a new competitor down the dial. What do you think is the secret to your station’s success?

Megan: I think it’s really smart programming. First of all, it’s a good company. We have very smart people running the operation. They’ve been doing this a long time, and they really know what they’re doing. That’s who should get all of the credit for our success. After all, they pick the music. Plus, I think the 80s era really strikes a chord with people of a certain age. It’s just very comfortable for those of us that grew up with it.

Rick: Bonneville (owner of Rewind) really is a different animal, isn’t it? It’s not like the other radio companies. I worked for them briefly, and in a lot of ways, they were a breath of fresh air compared to the faceless corporate behemoths that own every other station. Now that a new owner (Hubbard) is taking over, have you noticed any differences?

Megan: You’re right about Bonneville. They really are great. As for the new company, I haven’t really seen any changes at all yet, and I really don’t anticipate any. Things are going pretty well right now. But to be honest, that’s sort of beyond my pay grade. I’m not in that end of the business at all.

Rick: You grew up in the area. Who were some of your radio heroes growing up?

Megan: I grew up in Batavia, and I LOVED WLS. Loved it. I listened to just about everybody at the station. Bob Sirott, John Records Landecker (photo), Tommy Edwards. You know who else I really liked was Amy Scott. I listened to her when I was in college. I went to school at Iowa State in Ames, and we could get WLS at night—and in the early to mid 80s, she was doing the night shift at the time. WLS was a clear channel station, and it came in pretty well. We listened to it when I was in working in Canada too. We could only pick up one English station and one French station during the day, but at night we could hear WLS.

Rick: Before coming to Bonneville, you worked at the Lite for many years during their heyday. How does this current experience compare to that one?

Megan: Actually in a lot of ways it was very similar. At the time I started at WLIT in 1989, it was relatively new, and it was owned by Viacom at the time, which was still run like a mom and pop organization. We had a great general manager, and a really great programmer, Mark Edwards. They really knew what they wanted to do and stuck with it. I was there for almost twelve years and I really enjoyed it.

Rick: Was it a big shock when they let you go after all those years?

Megan: They let everybody go, so no, it wasn’t a shock. But it wasn’t pleasant. That’s for sure.

Rick: They say that you aren’t really in radio until you’ve been fired at least one time.

Megan: (laughs) Yes, that’s true. So I guess I’m really in radio.

Rick: For awhile there it really looked like the job of radio disc jockey itself was in peril. Big companies were hiring people to voice track multiple stations, and some stations tried to compete directly with iPods by going jock-less. That approach hasn’t really worked out for them. They may have saved money in the short term, but there are precious few success stories of stations that used that approach. What edge do you think a live and local jock gives a radio station?

Megan: A real live person gives a radio station warmth. That’s what it boils down to for me. It’s like the difference between calling somewhere and getting a live person instead of a recording. It really does make a difference. The entire vibe is different. You can relate to a person. It’s hard to define because it’s such an intangible. I don’t think people walk around thinking, “Oh, I like having a real person there,” but it’s more of a feeling they get.

I’ve been hearing these stories that radio is dying, or that radio isn’t any fun anymore, and that nobody cares about it, but I don’t buy that for a second. I don’t think radio is going anywhere. As for me, it’s still great fun. I think you get out of it what you put into it. It’s what you make of it, and I choose to make it as fun as I can.

Rick: Another common complaint I’ve heard from female broadcasters is that there simply aren’t a lot of women in important roles in radio. Do you agree with that, and if so, why do you think that’s the case?

Megan: I don’t know that I totally agree with that. I mean, yes, it’s a male dominated field, but I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with that. There’s a place for everyone. I understand some of the complaints that women have, but I also know a lot of women in the business, and a lot of them have been in it for a very long time. Including me. I’m going on twenty five years.

I’ve always struggled with this subject matter, because I understand why some women would be upset, but I think in the long run the right person gets the job—male or female. It’s different if the station is targeted to women, and doesn’t give women a voice. If there’s a station that’s targeted to men, I certainly don’t have a problem with men having those jobs.