Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Reader Reviews of "Records Truly Is My Middle Name"

The following reviews of "Records Truly Is My Middle Name" were posted in the past few days on Good Reads. If you've read it, and enjoyed it, please review it there too. It's an important way to let people know about the book...

Len O'Kelly writes...

Radio fans and students alike need to read this book: Records Truly Is My Middle Name by John Landecker and Rick Kaempfer.

I got my copy last night and read through the whole thing. John is one of the legends of Chicago broadcasting that I was fortunate enough to work with, and I learned more than a few things from this book.

It's rare that we can benefit from the experience and wisdom of our career role models, and John's book provides - interwoven with stories both hilarious and touching - insight into what motivates talent to excel, re-invent themselves, and grow.

The next generation of broadcasters/webcasters/podcasters/whatever "casters" they are, who didn't grow up with the transistor radio under the pillow like we did, can learn a lot.

Paul writes...

For anyone who grew up in Chicago, you heard John Records Landecker on the radio. Even if you didn't, after reading this memoir, you'll wish you had. "Records Truly Is My Middle Name" is just like Landecker's various radio shows: often funny, sometimes serious, always entertaining, and uniquely John Records Landecker.

And Tony Almquist writes...

Records Truly Is My Middle Name is like John Records Landecker himself: intelligent, honest, and funnier than a one-legged man with a rubber crutch in an ass-kicking contest on a frozen pond.

I first started listening to John Landecker as a pimple-faced, angst-ridden adolescent in Dubuque, Iowa. It was around 1975, I just started junior high, and I was looking around the radio for some music that didn't suck. Came across this station in the middle of the dial playing music better than the local fare. I heard some ads letting me know this was out of the big city, Chicago, then, through the static, I heard what sounded like kids my age chanting about...boobies?! Right then I was hooked. Then the DJ took calls from kids in rapid succession. Later I realized I had just lost my Boogie Check cherry. For the entirety of my teen years, John Landecker and WLS were an indispensable part.

While reading the book, I was struck by how John's life is the quintessential baby boomer's life. His father is a German Jew who was the last Jew to get a law degree in Berlin and makes it to America to raise a family in America's postwar optimism. John recalls being in school when JFK is killed, he watches the Beatles on Ed Sullivan (remembering Mitzi Gaynor's cleavage sweat)and even ends up marrying the granddaughter of Senator McCarthy's nemesis, Joseph N. Welch. And of course, he falls in love with rock and roll. Each chapter of the book begins with the significant historical and cultural events of that particular era which not only give the book a nostalgic flavor but also give a context to make it a baby-boomer's life story.

My favorite part of the book is John's first tour with WLS since that was the time I got to know him through the radio. The behind-the-scenes stories of the all-star on-air talent off the air (that's awkward) are hilarious. I can just hear Larry Lujack growling," Phil-a-del-phia f**k!" My favorite story is the story of a foosball game between Elton John and Hugh Hefner at the Chicago Playboy mansion in which John served as play-by-play announcer. "Elton, you came from behind to win," said John. "I usually do," said Sir Elton.

Being the quintessential baby boomer story, the optimistic halcyon days give way to darker days for Landecker as he journeys from station to station, not finding the success he had with WLS in the '70's. The second half of the book finds John in what he describes as his darkest days, finding his career and family harmed by the excesses his alcohol and drug use brought, which he freely discusses. To John's credit, he doesn't use his book to settle scores or make excuses but takes responsibility for his failings. And again, to his credit, he puts away the drugs and booze, settles down with his soul mate, Nika, and enjoys rebirth at WJMK and currently on WLS-FM, in the time slot of his glory days,6PM to 10 PM, spinning (or whatever a jock does with music in the digital era) classic '70's and '80's hits.

Aside the larger context of John's story being the quintessential story of his generation, for me it is a story of coming back home. I started listening to John at the beginning of my teen years. Through my teen years, I listened to him nightly, cheered by his jokes, the music and the double entendres of which JRL was the all time master. I loved Boogie Check, Can I get a Witness News, Americana Panorama and John's general bemusement at the goofiness in the world. I graduated from high school when John left WLS in 1981, and like John I went out in the world, occasionally stumbled but eventually found my way back home. And thanks to the internet I have rediscovered John Records Landecker every weeknight from 6PM to 10PM. Coming back home.

A story John tells about his father seems to sum up the book. In Werner Landecker's student days he visited a library run by Nazis. Why would he do that, since as a Jew, he wasn't allowed to study there, John asks. Mr Landecker replied, "I wanted to see what it felt like." John says this describes his father perfectly. It also describes Werner Landecker's son perfectly. John takes us on a ride through his life and let's us know what it felt like. Fun, exciting, sometimes bumpy, but all in all, one hell of a ride. Thanks John for taking us along.