A Major Inspiration

Scott –

Your site has kicked a mighty hole into my 6 hour lunch!  That perk (or curse, take your pick) is courtesy of my current gig reporting traffic in the Mighty Metro of Des Moines! As you can imagine, there’s traffic here in Des Moines, just not as much and not as long. Formats may come and go, but there will always be traffic. It’s not the career path I envisioned in my rather humble, off and on radio career, but it’s serving me well.  Just as I would have never envisioned that a legend like WLS would drop music for talk. And a generation or so prior it dropped country and farm for the Rock and roll phase that I knew. It’s nice to see some things stay the same … but it’s also good to have them change. And to be able to roll with the changes and still maintain such a long term identity is very rare indeed, which is what WLS has done. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a talk listener, but they do pay homage to their heritage well while executing the talk format.  I have to say I’ve learned A LOT about the history of WLS, particularly the Prairie Farmer era, from this web site.  And I didn’t realize that WLS was a shared time station for many, many years until reading about it here.

Radio was a major inspiration for me growing up. Like many distant listeners, in southeast Iowa WLS was mostly a nighttime habit, although we were close enough that a WLS daytime signal was there, but barely. Just about everyone in this section went to their daytime home, KIOA. (another station with great sing-able calls…KIOA, minor key – 940, major key) Earliest recollection was my oldest brother listening to some Biondi cat. I was all of 4 years old.

Later I would learn that Dick Biondi was a Buffalo but more importantly a Chicago radio legend. My generation was full tilt Landecker….”Boogie Check” and the whole bit. I think the program “That 70’s Show” is rather stupid, but their opening shot of the characters in a somewhat decrepit land yacht, with WLS on the radio, would hit my high school cruising days exactly on the mark. Just a group of friends hangin’ loose.

Things do change, though. Soon my radio would spend less and less time on the AM side, with a new, solidly produced local FM from Iowa City boosting its power. I’d still check on WLS from time to time, but even in the early 80’s, one could sense the times and technology was changing. So, it made good sense for the shift to all talk on 890.  Phil Duncan, who played the last song on WLS, said it well when he said that by the time you realize your dream, “your dream is out of date and the world has decided to move on.”  So many more “entertainments” available today … it’s hard for any one of them today to have the impact that 60’s and70’s, even 80’s music radio had on their times.

Thanks again for a great site….

-Russell Johnson
Des Moines, Iowa

 

Recollections from Joliet

Scott,

Your web page sparked many great memories of “The Big Eighty-Nine.”  My first recollection of WLS dates back to the mid ’60s when as a child of six, I would frequently alternate my rock-n’-roll listening between WLS and WOKY in Milwaukee.  At the time, my father had an old Hallicrafters shortwave receiver with a great AM tuner section which became the basis for my AM radio addiction and eventual entry into broadcasting.  By the time I was in my teen-age years, my family had moved to Joliet, a southwestern suburb of Chicago and not too far from the WLS Tinley Park transmitter site.  From Joliet, it was an incredible experience to hear the thunderous roar of the WLS transmitter which oftentimes blanked-out the entire AM band.  My fondest memories of WLS include Larry Lujack’s “Klunk Letter of the Day,” and John R. Landecker’s “Boogie Check.” And who could ever forget the sound of that gorgeous reverb, which became a WLS signature and hallmark.  I spent nearly twenty-five years in radio with about ten years as Director of Engineering.  I eventually left radio in the mid ’90s when seemingly every station and broadcast group was turning ownership several times during the course of a year.  It was time to leave.  Today, I’m a corporate communications attorney and engineer for AT&T.  I’m having a great time but it will never match the fun, mystique and entrepreneurial spirit we all enjoyed at one time in broadcasting.

Scott, thanks for chronicling the history of WLS and for offering this great tribute to those who were a part of the world’s greatest radio station.

-Paul Christensen
Jacksonville, Florida

Dex Card, Larry Lujack, Steve King

Hey Scott,

One of my fondest memories was hearing Larry Lujack brag about having the exclusive new Beatles release Lady Madonna/The Inner Light when nobody else in Chicago had it.  I have that on audio tape and it is awesome to hear yet today.   Do you know where Dex Card is?  He was the best when I was a kid playing the top 40 every afternoon.  AM top 40 radio was a way of life for me.  God knows I’ll never be the same.

PS: I remember listening to WGN on my way home and heard Steve King (ex WLS) and he was discussing old top 40 radio and he gave you a nice plug for your web site.  He said you have a great web site on WLS and I agree.  I thought you would be pleased to know that you’ve got some good friends on the air.

-Mark Stegall
Wataga, Illinois

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Mark, After owning some teen dance clubs and a radio station or two in Wisconsin, Dex has retired to the warm sunshine of Florida! But he’ll always be “the crew cut fellow in the first row!”  And Steve & Johnnie have been great supporters and friends. They are first rate! ~Scott

A Great First job

Scott,

Your site makes me want to cry (and that’s a good thing)! Where did you get all those old photos. People I haven’t seen for a thousand years (Steve Casey, Tom Graye, Tom Kent, Steve Perun, Chris Shebel).

I worked in programming and music at WLS.  John Gehron was my first boss and Karen Cavaliero my second boss.  She just moved to Las Vegas with her second husband so she’s now Karen Mordue.  A long time friend too.  It makes me feel old to think that you’re on-the-air major market and were just a kid in the ’80’s when I was working at WLS.  It was a special place.  And I don’t think how realized just how special until we did a reunion in 1997.  To hear the old timers speak of being a youngster and hearing WLS in their respective home states and how that was a goal of theirs.  I think of myself as very lucky that I worked there.  I actually was more charmed than that….worked at WGN with Wally Phillips, Roy Leonard and Bob Collins, The Loop with Johnny B, Steve & Garry (for the second time), Danny Bonaduce, and then spent nearly three years at WMAQ which allowed me to be part of that illustrious history.  Boy there’s a book in there somewhere.

There’s a small group of staffers I still see a couple of times a year and the other morning I had a complete trip to the past on the air with Landecker and Brant Miller.  WLS was a great first job.

Take care.  Can’t wait to dig into the site.

-Cindy Gatziolis

 

Wayne Messmer

Scott,

Your tribute to WLS is fantastic! I used to love listening to the mighty 890 at night when I still lived in Indiana.  WLS was many years of listening enjoyment for me. I have to admit the real vocal talent was always Wayne Messmer.  He has just a fantastic radio voice.  Definitely that classic WNBC style voice of the 60’s, without all the over dramatic flair.

-Derek Sailor
Elkhart, Indiana

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Wayne Messmer during his WLS days.

John R. Landecker

My whirlwind career (15 years) in radio were born because of two words: “BOOGULAR” and “CHECK.” And what followed! Wow. John R. Landecker was the best, and can span my panorama anytime. I didn’t even discover WLS till it was practically all over! I got airchecks from a listener who could pick me up in the early ’80s doing overnights on an AM, and he sent me airchecks of Chicago radio. Listening to them transformed me. Someday I want a Saturday night show, if for no other reason than to very obediently pay tribute to John Records – – because his kind of radio is the best.

Thanks for this great site!!

-Angela Allen

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Chicago’s Cultural History

Scott,

Thanks for creating such an awesome site. I work in TV post production and wish that I had spent a little more time pursuing radio. As a kid I used to ride my bike over to the old WCFL towers just to stare at them and admire the magic of radio. Or, I remember back in high school when the GM of WSEX (92.7fm Arlington Heights, IL) gave me a tour of what was one of the last all on-site suburban Chicago stations. Radio is definitely a major part of Chicago’s cultural history. Thanks for sharing some of your info.

-Benton Bullwinkel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The WCFL (now WMVP) towers in Downers Grove, prior to their replacement. (oldradio.com)

Hello From WSM

Scott

I’m a friend of Steve King and Johnny Putnam.  Steve told me about this website and I love it! I’ve got everybody from WSM checking it out. We need something similar for our station. I’ve been at WSM almost 27 years and announce on the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve been a fan of WLS since high school and dreamed of someday working there back in the “Big 89” days. I was recently in Chicago and stayed at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker near the Stone Container Building. That building has a fascination for me much akin to the feeling I have for the Ryman Auditorium here in Nashville. I actually got to see WLS there back in the late 70’s.

Just wanted you to know how much I am enjoying your website.

-Keith Bilbrey
WSM Radio, Nashville

 

Solid Rock Jingles

Hi there.

I am a former radio DJ that worked in Texas markets only, including Houston. I grew up studying radio from a teenager on. My friend and I used to hover over an a. m. radio struggling to pick up WLS. Ever since that time we have both been absolutely blown away by the Rock Of Chicago jingles we used to hear. I cannot find them anywhere on the internet. Do you have any idea where I could hear them again, or even which company recorded them originally? Hope you can help.

Thanks!

-Gary Heath
Houston, Texas

Hi Gary,

Those would be from the Solid Rock jingle package by PAMS of Dallas from 1971. They utilized a younger sounding vocal group in the style “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Fred Winston provides the compelling narration! “Bag that! We are in the age of truckin’!” – Scott

Scott,

I just read the WLS history you posted with Rich Samuels. I grew up listening to WLS Barn Dance in the 1940s. I just purchased (at the auction of Dr. Ralph Muchow’s Elgin Radio Museum) the Bronze Plaque of the WLS Creed dated November 1938, that hung by the WLS front door on Washington Street.

I have been chief engineer of WRMN and WJKL in Elgin for the last 35 years.

– Harold Cattron,
Elgin, Illinois

Actually, Rich’s site and the WLS History site are separate ventures. However, he has quite an extensive look at WMAQ and NBC in Chicago. 
It is located at www.richsamuels.com   -Scott