Saturday, February 05, 2022

Garry Meier

 I got a chance to reconnect with a couple of old colleagues yesterday when I appeared on Garry Meier's podcast. Great talking to Garry and Leslie Keiling.

You can listen to it here.

The Daily Herald

 Thanks so much to Jim O'Donnell at the Daily Herald. This was part of his column in the Sunday version of the paper...

Boutique bookman Rick Kaempfer reports that the updated 2022 "EveryCubEver" (, $30) includes the record 44 players who made their debuts with the Cubs in 2021. (The previous high was 34 new Wigglies in 2013.) ...

Also from the Eckhartz file, Der Bookman said that Jim Baumann's "Grammar Moses" ($20) was the holiday season's bestseller. (Topping even "Catskill Fever: Sam Smith's 100 Funniest Bulls Post-Game Questions.") Baumann is the executive editor of The Daily Herald. ...

Friday, February 04, 2022

Cubs Birthday Tweet of the Week

A Boris Johnson Primer

In case you want an explanation of what is happening in Jolly Old. This is pretty good.

Colbert surprises

Did not see this coming...

Eckhartz Everyday


*On this day in 2014, Chicago broadcasting icon Joel Daly got the first copy of his Eckhartz Press book The Daly News. This is the photo we took of him at his favorite breakfast joint, the day he got the book. Dave and I had breakfast with Joel at this place in Western Springs every other month from the day his book was published until just a few months before his death. Great guy. We loved him.

*Today is Alice Cooper's birthday. Alice is featured in Bobby Skafish's book We Have Company. He's also featured in my book The Radio Producer's Handbook, and in the pages of Father Knows Nothing, I rewrote the words to "Schools Out" to more appropriately convey the subject from the parent's point of view.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

From the Writing Archives

 February 3, 1959 is the date of the Buddy Holly plane crash. I've written about this quite a bit during my fourty years of writing, and here are a few of those things...

On February 3, 1959, a plane crash claimed the life of rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Over the years, Eckhartz Press co-publisher Rick Kaempfer has interviewed several people about that day, including the MC of that last concert (DJ Bob Hale), one of the Crickets (Niki Sullivan), and the man who analyzed the famous song written about that day “American Pie” (DJ Bob Dearborn). Here a few highlights to help you better understand the impact of Buddy Holly on rock and roll, and his death on America…

Rick: I know you’ve had to answer this question a million times, but please indulge us by answering it one more time. You were the Master of Ceremonies on February 2, 1959 in Clear Lake, Iowa–the last concert by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Describe the scene backstage for us, and explain your part in that ill-fated coin-flip.


Bob Hale: The bus with Valens, Holly, Richardson, Dion, and Frankie Sardo arrived in the late afternoon…actually around 6PM . We hurriedly got them something to eat, and then all pitched in to set up for the performance. Those days were pre-high-fi days, so we had to deal with only one microphone. The tour manager was Sam Geller of the GAC Corporation (which would go on to purchase Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus). As the set-up was taking place, Buddy was playing the piano. Sam and I were listening and he said to me, “This guy is going to be one of the greatest popular music composers of our time. He’s so talented – he can play so many instruments, and he creates such interesting music.”

Buddy’s talents were put to use during the concert as he played the drums during the Dion set. The regular drummer, Charlie Bunch was in the hospital in Green Bay , Wisconsin , having suffered frostbite on the broken down bus! Buddy would play the drums for Dion’s set, which began the second half of the show. The first half was Frankie Sardo, and Big Bopper.

The second half, Dion and the Belmonts, followed by Buddy.


When Dion’s set was over, I sat down with him on the riser in front of the drum set and asked him to introduce his musicians. (Photo: Dion & The Belmonts 1959) When it came time for the drummer Dion said something like: “This fellow is taking the place of Charlie Bunch, our regular drummer who is in the hospital in Green Bay suffering from frost bite. Um…let’s see…the drummer’s name…is…ah, oh yeah! BUDDY HOLLY!”

Buddy jumped up, grabbed his guitar and began singing “Gotta Travel On.” The backup men quickly changed places and joined Buddy before he was half way through the first stanza.


There was some drama taking place off-stage, even before we got started, actually. At one point Bopper (photo) was sitting with my wife, Kathy, and me in a booth. Kathy was expecting our first child, and Bopper said something like, “That’s what I miss most…being around my wife when the baby moves. Kathy, may I feel your baby moving?” Kathy took Bopper’s hand and placed it on her stomach as the baby moved. Bopper smiled: “I can’t wait to get home to do that.”

Interestingly, no such conversation took place involving Buddy. We didn’t even know at that point that Maria was expecting.

During intermission the back-and-forth conversation between Bopper and Waylon Jennings took place, resulting in Waylon giving up his seat to Bopper. At that point Waylon uttered a phrase that would haunt him all his life – “Well, OKAY, but I hope your plane crashes!”


Years later, at a social gathering in Kentucky, Waylon (photo) and I recalled that night. He said: “Man, there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t wish I could take back that comment. The next day when I got the news in Fargo, I went nuts. I cried, I yelled. And I began to drink. Drugs helped along the way. Of course, I realized years down the road I was killing myself, so I quit. I don’t know, maybe deep inside I was so damned guilty, I was trying to kill myself!” He admitted that no matter how long he’d live, he’d always be haunted by Feb 3rd 1959.

After the show was over that night, Tommy Allsup, pressured by Ritchie Valens, said, “Let’s flip a coin.” It’s at this point that two versions of the coin flip emerge. Tommy maintains he flipped the coin; I maintain that as soon as he suggested it, he reached into his pocket and realized he had no money – he was still in his stage clothes. He asked me if I had a coin. I took out a 50 cent piece, said to Ritchie, “OKAY, Ritchie, you want to go, you call it.”


“Heads it is, Ritchie, you’re flying.”

Tommy said, “OKAY,” and went out to the car to retrieve his bags which he’d already put in Carroll Anderson’s car. Regardless which version of the coin toss you hear or accept neither Tommy nor I demand “ownership.” We’ve talked about this, and have no emotional investment in either version. What we agree on is that night was a tragedy and an extremely emotional one for us all.

Rick: What was that next day like?

Bob: February 3rd would be a painful day for family, friends, fellow-musicians, and for those who attended the Winter Dance Party. Within minutes of my announcing the plane crash – I was pulling the 9 to noon shift on the 3rd, teens began arriving at the station (KRIB) just to talk. It became a day-long wake, Pepsi and Coke distributors brought extra cases to our studios – we had so many people just “hanging around.” Parents came, too. Many had been at the Surf the night before. It was the custom of Carroll Anderson to invite parents to the weekly record hops free of charge. Many teens and parents were in tears.

Some students from Waldorf College had been at the Surf the night before. Some came to the studios. I interviewed college as well as high school students. What I didn’t know at the time was that Waldorf, a two-year Lutheran college, did not condone dancing! The school had a rigid Danish-Lutheran background which was extremely conservative in social activities – “Sad Danes,” they were called in Lutheran circles. When the school heard about the students who’d been to the Surf, they immediately suspended the dozen or so students for a couple of weeks. No comments on the deaths – just on “school policy.” Fortunately time has given Waldorf a more enlightened school administration, as well as transforming the college into a four-year, well respected liberal arts college.

On the way home in the afternoon, after conducting about two-dozen telephone interviews with radio stations across the country, I drove by the crash site. The bodies had still not been removed, as the ambulances were still in the corn field. I could not bring myself to walk the hundred yards to the site – and to this day, I’ve not been able to make that walk!

Niki Sullivan was in Buddy Holly’s band. He appeared on the John Landecker show when Rick was the producer (in the 1990s). This is the article Rick wrote about that interview…

Among the people who joined us on the John Landecker Show over the years was the original guitarist of the Crickets, Niki Sullivan. He came to Chicago in the 90s as part of The Buddy Holly Story stage show. He was kind enough to get up real early one morning while he was in town to spend the better part of an hour on the John Landecker show.

We could have listened to Niki’s stories all day long. One of my favorite stories, because it involves two of the biggest stars in rock and roll history, was the story about the day Elvis Presley came to Lubbock, Texas. Buddy had won a contest as the best vocalist in Lubbock, and the prize was performing as opening act for Elvis. Niki was there that day too, and described what happened.

“Boy, Buddy was excited. You have to understand, it was 1955, and Buddy was already pretty well known in the Lubbock area at the time, but just hadn’t been able to break through nationally. Well since he was the opening act, he had access to the backstage area, and he approached Elvis—who had a couple of hit songs at the time–and asked Elvis if he had any advice. Elvis said sure, and invited Buddy into his dressing room. Well, he and Elvis went into that dressin’ room, and when Buddy came out a few minutes later—he was a different person. We asked him what they talked about, but he wouldn’t say. He just smiled. Whatever it was, and he never did tell us, after that night he was even more driven to succeed. It wasn’t too long after that he did.”

Niki was there for the recording of Buddy’s first big hit: “That’ll be the day.” He toured with the band the whole year of 1957, including a famous show at the Apollo Theatre. The black audience there that night had no idea what to think when they saw this group of good ol’ white boys, but the band won them over. It was a critical moment in Buddy Holly’s career, and was
featured in the movie The Buddy Holly Story starring Gary Busey. Unfortunately for Niki, it wasn’t portrayed accurately in the film because it shows only three men on stage that night. The Cricket they omitted was Niki Sullivan.

“It’s because I didn’t talk to the guy who wrote the first biography of Buddy. I was at the hospital because my kids were being born, so I wasn’t around when he came to town. Well, sure enough, when that book came out, I wasn’t a part of the story anymore.”

Sullivan was still part of the Crickets when they performed “Peggy Sue” on the Ed Sullivan Show. He told us what happened when Sullivan met Sullivan.

“He talked to Buddy before the song, but then during ‘Peggy Sue’, I heard him yell ‘Hey, Texas boy, do it!’ So I did a little dance. If you ever see that performance, watch the reaction of our bass player Joe.”

Niki Sullivan left the group just a few weeks after this performance in December of 1957, because he couldn’t take the rigors of touring anymore, and he wanted to be home with his family. He wasn’t part of the band for their biggest year of 1958, and he wasn’t part of Buddy’s tour in 1959. That turned out to be a lucky break.

“But I’ll still never forget that day,” he told us, his voice still choking up nearly forty years later. “I’ll never forget it.”

Niki Sullivan died in his sleep in 2004, 45 years after his good friend Buddy Holly perished in that Clear Lake Iowa cornfield.

Bob Dearborn was a DJ at WCFL-Chicago in the 1970s and became famous for his analysis of the Don McLean song “American Pie”, a song that McLean refused to explain. Bob was also a huge Buddy Holly fan. On the anniversary of the crash (back in 2006), Rick asked Bob to write a piece explaining what that day meant to him. Here it is, reprinted for you today, 16 years after Bob wrote it…

Some dates – December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; August 16, 1977; September 11, 2001 – remain as indelible in our minds as our memory of the shocking events that took place on those dates.

We have just marked the anniversary of another stunning tragedy, one not as big as those others but an important milestone for many people of my generation and, to be sure, for me personally: 47 years ago, three popular young music stars perished on what came to be called a dozen years later, “The Day The Music Died.”

In the very early hours of February 3, 1959, a small plane chartered after a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, crashed shortly after takeoff leaving all four on board dead: the pilot, singer Ritchie Valens (‘La Bamba,’ ‘Donna’), J.P. Richardson who performed under the name, “The Big Bopper” (‘Chantilly Lace’), and Charles Hardin Holley, known by millions of his fans the world over as Buddy Holly.

I had seen death before, close up, although the earlier experience for me was more curious than catastrophic, more surreal than sad. Oh, I liked my grandparents, all right, but I was 10 and 11 years of age when they died and I hadn’t developed enough yet intellectually or emotionally to really understand or feel an impact of their passing.

Of course, two years later, I was much more mature, and starting to realize all kinds of important things. What a revelation it was to discover that music could be about more than the beat, that movies and TV shows could be more than shoot ‘em ups and car chases, that the sudden loss and finality of death could be devastatingly sad.

The first time I was really moved by the passing of someone I cared about was when Buddy Holly died – somebody I “knew” only from his music, his hit records, his appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

I couldn’t have guessed it at the time that his music would have a great influence on future generations of musicians and songwriters, including the young, not-yet-famous Beatles and Rolling Stones. I just knew I liked it. From “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be The Day” through everything that followed, I was first a fan of his music.

He changed the style of rock ‘n’ roll music by altering the chorus and verse pattern of contemporary song composition. He popularized the four-man group configuration. Buddy was the one who advised Elvis to get a drummer (to join Scotty and Bill in Elvis’ backup band). He was the first rock ‘n’ roll singer to use violins, a whole string section, on his records (‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’). For a man who enjoyed fame for only the last year and a half of his young life, he made the most of it. Leaving his fingerprints all over contemporary music, his influence has been felt and his popularity has sustained for almost 50 years.

It was more than the music for me, however. In an era of pretty-boy teenage idols ruling the music charts, here was this young Texan who was kinda … geeky. He wore horn-rimmed glasses on his face and his emotions on his sleeve for all to see and hear – from the youthful pedal-to-the-metal exuberance of songs like “Rave On” and “Oh, Boy!” to the playful intimacy of a song like “Heartbeat.”


This guy was not only different and good, he was the first rock ‘n’ roll star that I could relate to, since I was a gawky, sensitive, geeky kid with black, horn-rimmed glasses, too! Buddy Holly’s acclaim and success confirmed that it was okay to be and look that way, that I was okay. He was MY hero. And his death was a crushing blow.

Ritchie, the Bopper and Buddy were the first popular music/rock ‘n’ roll heroes to die suddenly, shockingly at a young age. Theirs are the first names on a list that we review with heartache for its scope and length: Eddie, Johnny and Jesse … Patsy, Gentleman Jim … Sam, Otis and Frankie … Janis, Jim, Jimi, Ronnie and Duane … Jim, Rick, Karen, John, Harry … Marvin and Stevie Ray. Elvis. John.

Each time the bell has tolled, we’ve been stunned to learn of the loss of another hero, another artist who touched us with their music, a person we never met but who was so much a part of our lives that we viewed them as friends. And, too, with each passage, we’ve felt the loss of yet another important touchstone of our youth.

For me that all started with Buddy Holly. I was changed by his presence while he was alive, profoundly moved by his untimely death, always transformed by his music. And touched yet again by all of that in late 1971 when I first heard Don McLean’s brilliant composition, “American Pie.” Masterpiece is not a big enough word to describe that recording.

The song’s story begins with Buddy Holly’s death … as felt and told by one of his great fans, Don McLean. The clever metaphors of American Pie’s lyrics, then as now, leave many people confused, unable to understand what the song is about. Don and I are the same age, we lived through the same music era with similar reactions to all the changes that occurred, and we were, first and foremost, big Buddy Holly fans. I knew immediately what Don was saying in that song.

Where did all this lead? I invite you to click on the link below that’ll take you to a Web site that Jeff Roteman created in tribute to my analysis of American Pie. I hope you enjoy “the rest of the story” at this site, that it helps you appreciate what a wonderful piece of work American Pie is, that it makes you want to know more about Buddy Holly and his music, and that you find the experience a fitting observation for the 47th anniversary of “The Day The Music Died.”


Bob’s Full “American Pie” analysis can be found right here

Eckhartz Everyday

 *On this day in 2015, the Daily Herald did a big writeup about me and my book Father Knows Nothing. If you are a Daily Herald subscriber, you can still read that article here. If not, like me, you can wonder what it says and imagine it's a glowing tribute. That's how I remember it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

New Podcast: Chicago Writes

Randy Merkin

 The latest episode is out now, and features our interview with author and radio producer/executive @randymerkin. Some great stories. Thanks Randy for doing it!

Tom Weinberg & Nick Digilio

 In addition to the information about Tom provided by Robert Feder in his column today (below), Tom is also the author of Chasing the Lost City. And yes, it's an Eckhartz Press book.

Tonight will mark the test launch of ImageUnion.TV, a new video platform created by famed Chicago television and documentary producer Tom Weinberg. (Here is the link.) The site debuts at 7 p.m. “We’ve been creating this from scratch for over a year and now you get the first peek at the hundreds of short videos our curator-programmers have chosen,” Weinberg said. “Though I know it’s not completely ready for prime time, and we have mountains of work to realize the vision, it’s not like anything you’ve seen before.” For more than 50 years Weinberg has been on the cutting edge of independent video, including creation of WTTW-Channel 11’s long-running “Image Union” series and establishment of the nonprofit Media Burn Independent Video Archive.

 My interview with Nick Digilio also got a mention in today's column. Thanks so much to Robert Feder for the mention...

Nick Digilio, the popular former late-night host at Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM who just launched a new podcast, merits the spotlight in the February issue of Illinois Entertainer. (Here is the link.) In an interview with media columnist Rick Kaempfer, Digilio says: “The podcast will be a lot like the WGN show. Tons of guests that were regulars on my show on WGN, and we cover the world of pop culture. . . . We’ll do all the regular features that we did on the show. I’ll do movie reviews. And I get to swear a little. If you were a fan of the radio show, you’ll like this podcast.” Billed as “The Nick D Podcast,” new episodes upload Tuesdays and Fridays on the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Studio Walls

  Every week I send my Minutia Men Co-Host Dave Stern a list from our audio archives for this week's Studio Walls feature. These are the possibilities for this week. Which one will he choose?

*January 30 is Dwier Brown's birthday. He played Ray Kinsella's father in the movie "Field of Dreams" and we interviewed him about that. (Listen to the entire interview here)

*January 31st was Nolan Ryan's birthday. We had former White Sox slugger Eric Soderholm on the show, and he told us what it was like to face Ryan. (Listen to the entire interview here)

*February 1, 2019, we spoke to the founder of the Bobblehead Museum, Phil Sklar. (Listen to the entire interview here)

*February 2nd is Graham Nash's birthday. We spoke to comedian Mike Toomey about what it was like, opening for a rock act like Crosby, Stills & Nash (Listen to the entire interview here)

*February 4th is Dan Quayle's birthday. In 2000, when Dan Quayle officially retired from politics, Landecker & the Legends did a tribute song to him. (From Landecker & the Legends, 20th Century Hits and Bits)

Groundhog's Day

 The following Cub player is the only Cub ever born in the famous Groundhogs Day town of Punxsutany, Pennsylvania. This is his entry from EveryCubEver.

Wilbur Good 1885--1963 (Cubs 1911-1915)
Wilbur came to the Cubs in the trade that sent popular catcher Johnny Kling to Boston. His nickname was “Lefty” and he played for the Cubs in the years after their dynasty (1906-1910) and before their move to Wrigley Field (1916). Good was a backup outfielder his first few years in Chicago (he hit the first pinch hit HR in Cubs history in 1913), before being given the fulltime rightfield job in 1914. Wilbur responded by stealing more than 30 bases and hitting .272. Those numbers went down the following year, and when the Cubs moved across town to Wrigley Field (then known as Weeghman Park), Wilbur was not invited to join them. He was sold to the Phillies. Good holds the distinction of being the very last player to hit a homer at West Side Grounds. It came on September 29, 1915 in a 5-4 victory over the Braves. (Photo: 1909 Tobacco Card)

Eckhartz Everyday

*Today would have been George Halas' birthday. Eckhartz Press author Chet Coppock had a close relationship with the founder of the NFL (and his son Mugs) and has chapters about each of them in his book Your Dime, My Dance Floor. In fact, Chet was the first one to report Halas' death during Chet's stint as lead sports anchor at Channel 5 in Chicago.

*Graham Nash is celebrating a birthday today. Nash is featured in Bobby Skafish's Eckhartz Press book We Have Company: 40 Years of Rock and Roll Encounters.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Nick Digilio


The latest issue of Illinois Entertainer is out and features my interview with Nick Digilio.

It's right here, if you'd like to read it.

Photo of the Week

 Two years ago today Bridget and I were in LA, took the Warner Brothers studio tour, and got to sit on the Big Bang Theory set. That was a kick.

Eckhartz Everyday

*On this day in 2012, we released our second book, Down at the Golden Coin by Kim Strickland. Paige Wiser from Windy City Live said: “Down at the Golden Coin” couldn’t be more timely or original, with the most eccentric spiritual guide since Clarence the Angel. Prepare to set your set your brain to spin-cycle.

It was also the moment when Dave and I realized we could publish for authors other than ourselves. That was now 80 authors ago.

*On this day in 2011, Roger Badesch was trapped on Lake Shore Drive during a terrible snow storm. It became a famous story as he reported it back to his radio station WGN until his phone died. It also later became the cover of his Eckhartz Press book The Unplanned Life, which was released in 2020, and is still available today.

*On this day in 2016, Dobie Maxwell appeared on Steve Cochran's morning show on WGN Radio to promote his Eckhartz Press book Monkey in the Middle

*On this day in 2019, we started taking pre-orders for Janet Sutherland's book Nose Over Toes. A portion of the proceeds from this book continue to go to the Brain Aneuryism Foundation.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Kyle's Mom


Eckhartz Everyday

*Today is Johnny Rotten's birthday. How strange it must have been to meet the famous Sex Pistols front man back in the day. Well Bobby Skafish did, and that story is in his Eckhartz Press book We Have Company: Four Decades of Rock and Roll Encounters

*The great Ernie Banks would have been 91 years old today. Randy Merkin has a story about Ernie in his new Eckhartz Press book Behind the Glass: Stories from a Sports Radio Producer. Needless to say, Ernie is also featured in EveryCubEver.

Josh Liss

 Today is WBBM NewsRadio sportscaster Josh Liss' birthday. I featured Josh in my Illinois Entertainer column back in 2016. Here's a short excerpt...

He went to Cleveland to cover Game 6 and 7 of the World Series.

“I still have not come down from that high,” he admits, “and I hope I don’t. It was tough riding the fine line between supporting and reporting, being objective and all, but I think I did a good job. After going through that – the whole month of playoffs, going to Cleveland for Games 6 & 7, and the parade coverage, that buzz is still there – and I hope it lasts until spring training because it makes the rest of the Chicago sports scene more palatable.”

Though the Bears may be sliding toward mediocrity, and the Bulls may have a difficult time reclaiming their former glory, they can never take away this once in a lifetime experience from him. “That World Series is without question the greatest sports story I’ve ever covered and I don’t even sense one on the radar that can possibly top it. The generations of fans that stuck with this team—and some of them who didn’t make it to see the championship. To pop that cork with so many people hanging on it for so many years and carrying the emotional investment – to see it pay off. I don’t think it will ever be topped in my career.”

Sunday, January 30, 2022

RIP Howard Hesseman

Loved the Dr...

Rooftop Anniversary

Now that I've finally seen the entire rooftop concert (Thank you Peter Jackson & Get Back), I can't get enough of it. Today's the anniversary. 53 years ago.