Friday, April 23, 2021

30 Years of Media Writing

Posted on the Studio Walls blog at Eckhartz Press...

Eckhartz Press co-publisher Rick Kaempfer is a former radio producer and host who still writes about the media regularly as the media columnist for Illinois Entertainer. This is his 30th year as a media writer, so throughout the year we are featuring excerpts from the more than 200 current and former Chicago radio and television stars he has interviewed, including many people who are celebrating birthdays thimonth. Here are ten examples…

Eddie Volkman’s birthday is April 1st. He has been on the air in Chicago for decades, including many high-profile years with Jobo Coburn on B-96. Rick first interviewed Ed in 2008, and the subject of his famous father (weatherman Harry Volkman) obviously came up…

Eddie Volkman and Rick Kaempfer

By the time I was born my father had already been on television for several years. In fact, both of my older brothers’ births were announced on my dad’s weather segment. It was so normal to us that my brother, Jerry actually asked a kindergarten classmate, “What channel is your dad on?” High school was a little tougher. As an athlete, opposing teams would yell things like “Are you puttin’ on the High Pressure Defense?”. I’d shut ’em up by “raining” 3-pointers! You have to remember, in the 70’s & 80’s–pre-cable days–the channel 2 or channel 9 news had higher ratings than “American Idol” or other hit shows these days. The recognition factor was pretty high.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Chet Coppock’s birthday is April 30th. Chet is the father of sports-talk radio in Chicago, and entertained Chicago radio and television audiences for forty years. Sadly Chet passed away in 2019. Rick interviewed Chet many times over the years, and even teamed up with him to publish the Eckhartz Press book Your Dime, My Dance Floor. In his 2014 interview for Illinois Entertainer, Chet exhibited some of his famous bravado while praising the competing sports talk radio station The Score…


What I admired the most about the Score in those early days was they knew they couldn’t compete with me as far as getting the big guests, so they invited everyone who was ticked off to vent on the air. They said, we are your open forum to express your anger. Where they did catch lightning in a bottle was hiring their midday show. I am number one as a solo act – I am Hulk Hogan, Mickey Mantle, George Halas and Joe DiMaggio as a solo act. But as a team – [Mike] North and [Dan] Jiggetts are bar none the greatest tag-team ever. They understood how do that kind of show, and ran with it.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Melissa Forman’s birthday is April 7th. Rick has interviewed Melissa three times over the years, twice while she was doing mornings at WLIT-FM (2007 and 2021), with one interview during television career sandwiched in-between (2016). In that most recent interview Melissa talked about the joy she feels doing the station’s Christmas format, particularly the wishes the station grants…


These Christmas wishes are so meaningful to me. I’m so appreciative that I’m allowed to do this. I really mean it. We’re all going through this time together. When things seem hard or difficult, I keep telling myself that I’m so blessed to be able to grant wishes to people. I mean, who gets to do that? The people are so joyous, so grateful, and it’s so meaningful to them. You can’t help but get emotional. It makes me feel so good; it’s like I’m the one that gets a gift. We had wish, upon wish, upon wish for other people. A husband to a wife. A teacher to her students. A mother-in-law to her son-in-law. The expression of love from one person to another is so incredible. How many times have you wished you could do that for a special person in your life? Even my own family got into it this year. We’re all quarantined together, so I played these wishes back to my family at dinner sometimes. It just made us all feel good.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Jim Johnson’s birthday is April 2nd. Jim was a newsman at WLS Radio for nearly 50 years. He worked with the likes of Steve & Garry, Roe & Garry, Roe & Roeper, and many more. Rick interviewed Jim in 2010, and asked him about his earliest days at the legendary radio station…


1968 was a life changing year for me. Not only had I just started as a newswriter-editor at WLS…but some of the biggest stories of my career happened soon after I arrived. Martin Luther King was assassinated (followed by the west side riots in Chicago.) Bobby Kennedy was shot. The Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago and the anti-war protests and riots broke out. Although I was a rookie reporter, the new news director at WLS, Bob Benson, decided I should become a street reporter and cover these events. Little did I know that these stories in my first year were some of the biggest stories ever. I was only 23. In addition to filing reports for WLS, the ABC network began using my reports on a regular basis. I was used as a fill in network anchor on ABC network newscasts. I covered the clash between anti war protesters and the police at the corner of Balbo and Michigan. It was pretty “heady” stuff for someone my age.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Sherman Kaplan’s birthday is April 25th. Sherman was a reporter and anchor at WBBM NewsRadio for four decades. Rick interviewed Sherman in 2010 about some of the stories he covered for the news station…


 Most of these stories I covered in the studio, but many of them happened during my show. The crash of the Illinois Central Railroad on the south side. The Nixon resignation. The explosion of the Challenger. I’ll never forget that day. We carried the launch live at 10:30. At that time we had a business report from Len Walter at 20 and 40, and as I threw it to Len, I had my eye on the television monitor and saw something that didn’t look quite right. I mentioned it to my producer in the talkback, and when we came back from Len, I started to describe what I was seeing, before the network was on it. They cut to it shortly thereafter. There have been so many other memorable days as well. Daley’s death. Harold Washington’s death. Of course, 9-11.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Bob Stroud’s birthday is April 13th. He has been a fixture on the FM dial in Chicago for 40 years, at places like the Loop, WCKG, and his home for the last two decades, The Drive. Rick has interviewed Bob several times. One of those interviews took place in 2007, and Rick asked Stroud about his 1980 arrival in Chicago…


Oh, it was. I was working in Sarasota Florida before that, and Bob Coburn was the PD at WMET. He flew me up to Chicago for an interview. I told my boss in Florida about it, and he gave me the worst advice of my radio career. He said, “Now, Bob, this is the big city—you better clean yourself up. Get a haircut. Buy some nice clothes.” So I did. When I landed in Chicago I was met at the airport by a guy with shoulder-length hair, wearing a satin radio jacket and jeans. I thought “Oh great.” When I got to WMET, everybody looked at me like, “Who’s the geek?” I knew right away that this was a badass station. It had an attitude that was totally catchy. The general manager of the radio station, Harvey Pearlman, was walking up and down the hallways holding an empty bottle of vodka, screaming “TAKE NO PRISONERS!”

To read the entire interview, click here.

Robert Murphy’s birthday is April 10th. Murphy had a few long and successful stints on Chicago’s radio dial, most famously at Q-101 in the 1980s. Rick interviewed Murph in 2008 about that time period, which is widely remembered for his television ads wearing a straight jacket…


Well, “embrace” may be too strong a word, but I am very aware of the commercials positive influence on my career. My initial objection was that it seemed kind of a lowbrow concept (“That Murphy’s Cray-zee!) but most of the commercials were exceptionally well executed. Though it is inarguable that the straitjacket helped to bring me recognition and thereby bolster my ratings when I first started, I wanted to move on after a while. But No! If there was a smidgen of a drop in the ratings, management whipped that bad boy out again, and I was back on TV, running through Chicago with my arms restrained and my feet bare.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Dan Sorkin’s birthday was April 6. Unfortunately, Dan passed away a few years ago (2016). He was the morning man at WCFL in the late 50s/early 60s, and was incredibly influential in the career of a little known comedian in Chicago at the time, Bob Newhart. Rick interviewed Dan in 2010, and asked him about that relationship…


Playhouse 90 writer Jim Gallagher and I were friends. Jim and Bob had put together and were selling to radio stations a 5 minute taped comedy “man on the street show” for $5 a show. It cost them $7 a show to produce. The more successful the sale, the more money they lost. I loved the comedy routines and asked Jim to Bring Bob to the WCFL studios for a live interview. He did. Bob performed several of his routines on air. When Warner Bros. President Jim Conkling came to Chicago I performed Bob’s routines for him and suggested a contract. Jim Conkling contracted and had Bob booked into the Tides Hotel in Dallas and recorded live, “The Button Down Mind Of Bob Newhart”. He got a recording deal and a television show, and I became his staff announcer. Every Friday after finishing my WCFL Morning Show I would cab to the roof of the Merchandise Mart where a helicopter took me to O’Hare Field in time to Catch a Continental Non-Stop to Burbank where I had a Honda Motorcycle stashed at the air freight office. I strapped my bag to the Honda and drove to the NBC Burbank sound stage where I arrived in time to announce the Bob Newhart TV Show. It was a wonderful year!

To read the entire interview, click here.

Kathy Voltmer’s birthday is April 27th. The veteran news anchor has worked at several radio stations in Chicago including WXRT, WLUP, and a long stint at the Drive (WDRV). Rick has interviewed Kathy several times, including one of his first interviews for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2007. He asked her to talk about the worst thing she’s experienced in the business…


Years ago (long before I worked at the Drive), I was asked to lie about the weather forecast because the station was sponsoring a big outdoor promotion and rain was expected!!!! When I didn’t do it I was screamed at and accused of trying to single handedly bring down the entire promotion! By telling the truth about the weather. It’s hilarious in retrospect.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Bernie Tafoya’s birthday is April 1st. Bernie has been a reporter for WBBM News Radio 780 for more than 30 years. Rick interviewed Bernie in 2009, and asked him about his years on the streets of Chicago, covering the news…


I started this shift in August of 2000, and it used to be a cops and robbers beat, but very early on my news director decided to use me in a different way. She knew I had sources in all sorts of other areas, like in education or the church, and she let me cultivate those sources and use them. Plus, the main spokespeople of the various different agencies all knew me. I was very happy to be given that role, because the old cops and robbers stuff wouldn’t have interested me nearly as much.

I have seen a few things that stick with you. The Amtrack crash, the Brown’s Chicken murder. Believe it or not, though, I still have faith in people. People ask me if I’m ever afraid going into so-called bad neighborhoods, and I’m really not. Most people in most neighborhoods are good people. So-called bad neighborhoods are not to be feared. There are only a few bad eggs.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Free Kicks

Happy birthday Dolph


~Dolph Camilli 1907–1997 (Cubs 1933-1934)
After Cubs owner William Wrigley and team president Bill Veeck Sr. died, the club was handed to an inexperienced fish wholesaler named William Walker. He traded Dolph to the Phillies for Don Hurst. Camilli went on to hit over 200 home runs, made two All-Star teams, and led the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers to the World Series. He won the MVP that year too. Cubs fans might have been forgiven if they found themselves rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1941 World Series. Seven ex-Cubs led that Brooklyn team to the National League pennant. Dolph Camilli played first base. Billy Herman played second. Augie Galan was an outfielder. Kirby Higbe won 22 games. Hugh Casey won 14 games. Larry French pitched valuable innings out of the bullpen, and Babe Phelps was a backup catcher. (Photo: Helmar Baseball Art Card Company)

Thursday, April 22, 2021

RIP Les McKeown

Happy Birthday Bob Smith


~Bob Smith 1895–1987 (Cubs 1931-1932)
One of three Bob Smiths to play for the Cubs, this one has the distinction of being the first. He had a very unusual career. After coming up with Boston as a shortstop, Smith was moved to pitcher in his third big league season. Smith then pitched in the big leagues for thirteen seasons, and posted double-digit wins six years in a row. His last time doing it was for the 1931 Cubs. In that tumultuous year (when star player Hack Wilson and his manager Rogers Hornsby were at war all season), Bob won 15 games. The following year he was moved to the bullpen, and pitched for the Cubs in that capacity in the 1932 World Series. The team traded him in 1933 as part of the package used to acquire slugger Babe Herman.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Minutia Men Celebrity Interview--Kevin Matthews


Happy Birthday Bill Faul



 APR 21ST, 2021

~Bill Faul 1940–2002 (Cubs 1965-1966)
Some players are known as characters. Some are known as eccentrics. Still others seem to have come from another planet. Bill Faul was one of those guys…and he wasn’t even a lefty…or a Californian. Faul pitched for the Cubs in 1965 and 1966. It’s safe to say that he had a quirk or two. He claimed that he could hypnotize himself before games. He had been a Karate instructor in the Air Force, and his hands and feet were both considered registered weapons. He talked to his arm. He allegedly swallowed live toads (to get “extra hop” on his fastball), and ripped the heads off parakeets with his teeth. He once held a guy off a fourth floor balcony by his shoes. Faul also insisted on wearing #13. But as wild and unpredictable as Faul was, he was cool as a cucumber on the field. He had to be awakened in the clubhouse only thirty minutes before his first major league start. Faul shook out the cobwebs, grabbed the ball, warmed up, and pitched a three-hitter. Faul always seemed to be in the middle of the excitement. He was one of only a handful of pitchers to be involved in fielding a triple play, and one of only two major league pitchers in history to have three triple plays in one season while he was on the mound. Unfortunately for Faul, the league figured him out in 1966. When his ERA climbed over five, he was sent down to the minors and never returned to the Cubs. He kicked around the minor leagues for a few seasons before turning up for a cup of coffee with the Giants in 1970. Bill Faul died in 2002, at the age of 62.
(Photo: Topps 1965 Baseball Card)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

RIP Walter Mondale

First presidential candidate I ever voted for. I got to know his daughter Eleanor (also deceased) a bit during my radio career. She was a fun one. They just seemed like good people. RIP.

Little Steven & Ken Korber

 Congrats to Eckhartz Press author Ken Korber for his involvement with this project with Little Steven. This is from Bruce Springsteen's Backstreets website yesterday...

Stevie in a new children's book, and in classrooms virtually
"I'm going on tour," says Steven Van Zandt, "traveling the only way we can right now — on Zoom." Van Zandt has just launched Little Steven's Virtual Classroom Tour, with plans to make an online visit to at least one public-school classroom per week for the remainder of this school year.

"The tours we did with the Disciples of Soul these last few years before the quarantine," says Stevie, "brought me face to face with the teachers we invited to the show every night. In the final week before COVID-19 shut down the U.S., I visited a TeachRock Partner School in Fullerton, CA, and seeing our curriculum come to life in the hands of teachers and students felt like the culmination of my life's work. I miss that interaction. So I've started visiting classrooms virtually every week. I get to see how our skilled teachers are using TeachRock to keep kids focused and engaged in such a crazy time. And I also get to help out where I can, answering questions from the students. I'll be visiting K-12 classrooms each week from now through the end of the school year."

Check out this video to see the kinds of questions that Little Steven can expect from students as he visits them online.

The Virtual Classroom Tour comes on the heels of Little Steven's appearance in the children's book Grace's Rockin' Roll Adventure, written by Ken Korber with illustrations by Jaime Buckley.

Stevie is depicted in interactions with characters from the children's-book series The Musical Adventures of Grace, which connects music with early elementary reading, science, and math. Copies of the book can be purchased with an $8 discount directly through TeachRock, which also will benefit from each direct purchase.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Chicago Radio Ratings

 From Robert Feder's column tonight. For daypart breakdown, click here...

1. WVAZ 102.7-FM R&B, 6.3 (6.0)
2. WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM all news, 6.2 (7.1)
3. WLIT 93.9-FM adult contemporary, 5.7 (5.3)
4. (tie) WBEZ 91.5-FM public radio news talk, 4.7 (6.4); WDRV 97.1-FM classic rock, 4.7 (4.0)
6. WTMX 101.9-FM hot adult contemporary, 4.4 (4.5)
7. WOJO 105.1-FM Mexican regional, 4.2 (4.0)
8. WXRT 93.1-FM adult album alternative, 3.6 (3.8)
9. WGN 720-AM news talk, 3.5 (4.1)
10. WRME 87.7-FM soft rock oldies, 3.2 (2.1)
11. WKSC 103.5-FM Top 40, 3.1 (3.0)
12. WBMX 104.3-FM classic hip-hop, 2.9 (2.5)
13. WUSN 99.5-FM country, 2.6 (2.0)
14. (tie) WKQX 101.1-FM alternative rock, 2.5 (2.5); WLS 94.7-FM classic hits, 2.5 (2.9)
16. (tie) WSCR 670-AM sports talk, 2.4 (2.1); WPPN 106.7-FM Spanish adult contemporary, 2.4 (2.6)
18. WFMT 98.7-FM classical, 2.3 (2.2)
19. (tie) WGCI 107.5-FM hip-hop, 2.2 (1.7); WSHE 100.3-FM adult contemporary, 2.2 (2.4)
21. (tie) WBBM 96.3-FM Top 40, 1.8 (2.0); WLEY 107.9-FM Mexican regional, 1.8 (1.8)
23. WCHI 95.5-FM rock, 1.7 (1.5)
24. (tie) WLS 890-AM news talk, 1.5 (1.6); WPWX 92.3-FM hip-hop, 1.5 (1.1)
26. WVIV 93.5-FM Spanish contemporary, 1.1 (1.2)
27. WMBI 90.1-FM Christian ministry, 1.0 (1.3)
28. WMVP 1000-AM sports talk, 0.9 (0.8)
29. WCKL 97.9-FM contemporary Christian music, 0.8 (0.9)
30. WCPT 820-AM progressive talk, 0.7 (0.9)

Minutia Men

Some 19th century jokes this week...

Cocktails and Conversation

The end of European soccer?

News of a new Super League is going over like a Lead Zeppelin, to paraphrase Pete Townshend. The domestic leagues (including the Premier League) are threatening banning the clubs involved, and FIFA is threatening banning their players from playing in the European and World Cups.  From the Times of London...

The new Super League — including England’s ‘big six’ clubs — has written to Uefa and Fifa warning that it has already filed motions in courts to prevent the footballing authorities imposing bans. The letter states it has secured £3.5billion in funding from a financial institution and that it will take legal action to protect its right to form a breakaway league.As revealed by The Times, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City joined six other teams including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus in joining the Super League.