Saturday, August 06, 2022

Free Kicks--Season 5 Premiere

 Hard to believe we're about to begin our 5th year of this podcast. I must admit I really enjoy doing it. First episode of the season has dropped. Listen to it here.

The 5th season of Free Kicks begins with a dramatic English win in the Women’s Euro Cup Finals, Plus, a discussion of the upcoming Premier League season, which returns this weekend. [Ep156]

Friday, August 05, 2022

Media Notebook--8-5-22


A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago…


*Bob Stroud Profile

=The latest issue of Illinois Entertainer is out and features my interview with the recently-semi-retired rock and roll jock Bob Stroud. (Read the full interview here) We discussed his entire career, including what led him into this business in the first place…

            “The DJ that sent me on the course to where I am is Dick Biondi,” he says. “It was so important in my life – sixth grade, living in Kalamazoo, a friend of mine said, ‘Have you heard this disc jockey named Dick Biondi on WLS in Chicago? He’s crazy.’ I went home that night and listened, and it changed my life. The other guy who I always mention because I thought he was so brilliant was Ron Britain from WCFL. When I met him the first time, it was like meeting a Beatle for me.”

=Coming up next month (September 1st), Garry Meier.


*Update on the WTMX lawsuits

=Inside Radio has the full story with the latest updates. You can read that here.   Bottom line, according to the article is that Melissa McGurren, former Eric Ferguson sidekick and current morning co-host at US-99, is appealing the dismissal of her lawsuit. The case brought by former producer Cynthia DiNicola is still in the midst of litigation in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

*Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully passes away

=How much of a part of the American broadcast world was Scully? 67 years behind the microphone calling games for the Dodgers. The youngest person to broadcast a World Series game (age 25). 3 perfect games. 18 no-hitters. Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A presidential medal of freedom from Barack Obama. The street leading to Dodger Stadium is named after him, and so is the press box. Vin Scully was simply the best there ever was. Read the AP obit of Scully here.

=To me, this is a great example of Scully’s greatness. It’s his radio play-by-play of the 9th inning of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game against the Cubs in 1965.


*WGN Radio News

=There was a big announcement this week about the WGN radio archives being donated to Northwestern. This includes everything from 1941-2011. 70 years of audio is now in the hands of Northwestern University Libraries in the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections and University Archives. Some truly historic material has been donated by WGN and their corporate bosses Nexstar. More details here.

=Editor & Publisher also reports that Nexstar CEO Perry Sook has been extended through 2026. 

*Maybe radio jobs aren’t extinct after all

=This announcement came from EP of WBEZ’s Reset…


*Audacy Stock Price

=Audacy owns quite a few radio stations in Chicago, including WBBM-AM, B-96, The Score, WXRT, US99 and 104.3 Jamz, but the company is facing a serious financial crisis. The stock price hasn’t been over $1.00 since the beginning of July (it closed at 70 cents a share yesterday), and now they are in danger of being de-listed by the New York Stock Exchange. (Details are here) How that will impact Chicago’s Audacy stations remains to be seen. Cumulus faced a similar financial emergency a few years ago and managed to recover.


*Podcast Roundup

=The film industry is jumping into the podcasting world. Lionsgate is the latest major player to announce they are joining the crowd. Podcast Business Journal has the details. 

= The New York Times recommends six new political scandal podcasts. They are about (pick your topic): Hurricane Katrina, Putin’s obsession about Ukraine, Chappaquiddick, British scandals, a BBC look at Bush & Blair, and a little-known Australian coup from the 1970s. Something for everybody here.

=Bloomberg has a story this week about some podcast guests paying a fortune to appear on popular shows. I’ve clearly been doing this all wrong.


*Chicago radio anniversary

=The late great WNUA signed on with their smooth jazz format exactly 35 years ago this week. If you’re feeling nostalgic, here are a few places to read or listen to some highlights.

=My interview with WNUA star RickO’Dell (2010) 

=Former Ramsey Lewis producer BobKessler reminisces (2012) 

=Charlie Meyerson’s WNUA interviews with Richard M. Daley and Jane Byrne 


*WXRT Hall of Fame

=This tweet by Johnny Mars has a photo from 25 years ago that features nearly every one of the all-time WXRT greats. See if you can identify all of them.




*Jerry G. Bishop

=The anniversary of Chicago broadcasting icon Jerry G. Bishop’s birth was this week. His protégé (as both Svengoolie and in radio) Rich Koz mentioned Bishop on his Facebook page this week: “An amazing talent, a good man, and a good friend- his generosity to me could never be paid back.” 

=When I interviewed Koz in 2009, he went into a little more detail about what Jerry G. meant to him…

“The job with Jerry actually came about when he was leaving WFLD after they cancelled his Svengoolie show he was in talks with NBC for both radio and TV, and he thought enough of me to try and get me involved as part of his team for the radio side. He did some fill in at WMAQ, with me filling the afore-mentioned sidekick/producer/goofball role- and, when they brought him in full time- first, in afternoon drive, then in morning drive- I went along for the ride.

It was a great gig, other than having to get up so early for the morning show- we’d ride in, going over the papers, and he’d read something about Dean Martin, and say-“let’s do a bit on this- you be Dean!” I’d write stuff and be about 85% of the characters and “celebrities” that called in- I’d write song parodies for him, invent new bits, and we’d do sponsored commercials as bits- for example, I played the president of a lumber/home improvement chain, playing him as a sort of dopey guy, in a running series of live read commercials, and they went over really well.

Plus, on Monday mornings, when the show started an hour earlier than usual, for a while, Jerry had me do that first hour by myself! Jerry was the best--very generous, and, as I’ve always said, the guy who’s responsible for me getting into the broadcasting business…so blame him!”


*Former Loop/Drive jock (and current WGN fill-in) Phil Manicki celebrated a birthday August 4th. My 2019 Illinois Entertainer interview with Phil is here. 

*Former WIND/WCKG talker Geoff Pinkus celebrated a birthday on August 5th. My 2008 Chicago Radio Spotlight interview with Geoff is here. 

*Chicago sports broadcasting pioneer Chet Coppock released his final (and most critically acclaimed) book Your Dime, My Dance Floor this week in 2018. Less than a year after this book came out, Chet died tragically in a car crash. My final Q&A with Chet is here. 

*Former Chicago traffic reporter Joe Collins passed away five years ago this week. It would be difficult to find someone more universally loved than Joe. I had the chance to interview him for Illinois Entertainer just a few months before he passed away. 

*One of the biggest names in Chicago television news history, Fahey Flynn, was born this week in 1916. He also passed away this week in 1983. His Eyewitness News (Channel 7) co-anchor Joel Daly delivered the eulogy, which he published in his book The Daly News.  The following is a short excerpt from Joel’s speech…

            Fahey had very strong feelings, deeply held political and philosophical convictions. But he never let them show on the air. During this time of great change and great debate, Fahey was steadfast…his eyebrows as straight as his familiar bow tie. Fahey was the original, quintessential anchorman. Unmoved, unemotional, a man whom people trusted to tell them the truth… without endorsement or embellishment. Fahey Flynn fought the odds of time in a very tough business in a very tough town. And his tenure, all that time as a broadcaster and newsman belie the unfortunate myths which cloud our profession: that it is cosmetic…that it is shallow… that it is ‘slick and superficial.’ For Fahey, the most successful of all, was none of these.

On the contrary, what you saw was what you got…what he was—a decent, caring human being, so obvious and so visible every night at 6:00 and 10:00. For many years, at the beginning and end of our news programs, the camera would show the two of us talking. You couldn’t tell what we were saying to each other. That, naturally, aroused a lot of curiosity. People would invariably ask me; “What do you and Fahey talk about every night?”

Usually, I’d just smile and remain noncommittal, as if it were some kind of secret. We were two men bound in time—victims of the unrelenting clock. And we talked about living and dying…of where we had been…and where we were going…if we only had time. And those conversations would often last long after the studio lights went out. We would sit there in the darkness, as if unwilling to let go. Those were the moments I will most remember.

That rich voice rolling out of the darkness, spinning a tale from the past…or posing a question of the future—often funny, sometimes sad—intimate words that could be said and shared without the presence of the clock…without the witness of the world. But now time has run out! No more deadlines, my dear friend…no more rush. No more stories to send…no more fuss. So rest in peace, dear friend…and be to heaven bound. We’ll follow, for time must end…Just pray the bridge is down”




*Devil in White City to film in Chicago

=One of the most famous books ever written about Chicago, The Devil in White City, is about to become a television series. Some big-time names are attached. Keanu Reaves to star. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to produce. And most importantly, it will actually be filmed here in Chicago. Reel Chicago has the details. 


*I want my MTV

=It’s hard to believe it’s already 41 years, but one of the original VJs Martha Quinn tweeted about the anniversary this week. Do you remember where you were? I was in college at the University of Illinois, and it was a groundbreaking moment.


*Whoopsie-Doopsie moment for Alex Jones

=The InfoWars host/founder had a very bad week. He discovered live on the stand that his lawyer had accidentally given all of Jones’ phone records (all of them) to the lawyers representing the Sandy Hook families. He lost in court and was ordered to pay a $4 million settlement. The January 6th committee then asked for the files too, which may have further implications for him in future legal matters.

=NBCNews has the details on the whoopsie moment

=NPR has the story about the Jan 6 angle of this story. 

=US News & World Report has the story about the settlement. 


*Batgirl must be really, really, bad

The movie Batgirl is not coming out at all…anywhere. I get why they don’t want to spend money marketing it, or they don’t think it’s big enough for nationwide theater release, but I don’t get why they won’t just release it on HBO Max. Supposedly they are taking it as tax write off, but even that doesn’t quite smell right. They’ve already spent $90 million (see below). Rumors have been trickling out that it tested very badly, despite their initial quotes to Variety this week. Here’s a short excerpt…

            Studio insiders insist the decision to axe “Batgirl” was not driven by the quality of the film or the commitment of the filmmakers, but by the desire for the studio’s slate of DC features to be at a blockbuster scale. “Batgirl” was budgeted to screen in homes on HBO Max, and not for a major global release in theaters. The initial $75 million production budget for the project, which finished principal photography earlier this year and was in post-production, reached $90 million, due in part to COVID-related delays and protocols.


*RIP Nichelle Nicols

=The actress who brought Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura to life passed away this week. The Washington Post has a great obit of this amazing woman.  What a fascinating life. I didn’t realize that she was from Chicago, or that she was discovered by Duke Ellington, or that she dated Gene Rodenberry and Sammy Davis Jr. it’s worth a read. RIP Nichelle.


If you have any media stories (Chicago or national) that you think I might like to share in future columns, feel free to drop me a line at or


Eckhartz Everyday

 *On this day in 2018, Eckhartz Press author Richard Reeder (1001 Train Rides in Chicago) appeared on WCGO Radio to talk about his book...

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Cubs Tweet of the Week

Eckhartz Everyday

 *Today is former Cubs pitcher Rich Nye's birthday. Rich appeared at our Cubsessions launch party (photo with me) in 2018, along with a few other teammates (Ferguson Jenkins and Gene Hiser)

*Today is former president Barack Obama's birthday. You'll find stories about the former president in Randy Merkin's book Behind the Glass and Rich King's book Ike and Me.

*On this day in 2021, Paul M. Banks got the first copy of his book Transatlantic Passage.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Q&A with Will Wagner

 This was posted this morning on Eckhartz Press...

Talking ‘Bout My Generation is a brand new novel by William Wagner. It’s available for pre-order right now, and ships the week of August 18th. The novel is an imagining of what happened to Pete Townshend’s guitar from Woodstock after he tossed it into the crowd. We caught up with him recently to chat about the book.


EP: The genius of Talking ‘Bout My Generation is the premise of the book, the journey taken by Pete Townshend’s guitar after he tossed it into the crowd at Woodstock. When did you have that Eureka moment, and did you know immediately that you had something special here?

Will: My Eureka moment came several years ago, although I’m ashamed to admit I don’t recall the exact details of when the lightbulb went on in my head. As far back as high school, I had been struck by the image of Townshend tossing his guitar into the crowd at the end of The Who’s set at Woodstock; decades later, it occurred to me that a great fictional odyssey could spring from that act. After having my Eureka moment, I wrote the prologue—the jumping-off point for my story. And then I let the prologue sit for about a year as I thought about the journeys—the situations and characters—that would best exemplify my idea of Townshend’s Woodstock guitar as an enduring symbol of hope. Like the guitar itself, most of the people in the story get battered in one way or another during their life journeys, but they keep on keeping on.

EP: It turns out that Chicago and its surroundings play an unexpectedly important role. Why did you make that choice, and for those people here in the area, what are some of the Chicagoland areas that show up in the book?

Will: They say you should write what you know. And since I’ve lived in the Chicago area for most of my life, I know it well. Plus, Chicago is one of the greatest, most authentic cities in the world. And it’s also a little off the radar compared with cities like New York, Los Angeles, Paris or London. In my mind, it was the perfect place for this guitar—this lost piece of history—to be stashed away for a while.

Among the pieces of Chicagoland that show up in the book:

• The old Chicago Amphitheatre on the South Side

• The outdoor concert venue in Tinley Park (known as the World Music Theatre when it appears in the book)

• Wrigley Field

• Walker Bros. Original Pancake House in Wilmette

• The Chuck Wagon, a greasy spoon in Wilmette that is legendary in that neck of the woods

• The Italian restaurant Convito Italiano in Plaza Del Lago in Wilmette

• Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago

• The Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Ave.

• Jewelers Row in Chicago

• Oakton Community College

• The Kane County Flea Market

• A fictional tattoo parlor in Uptown in Chicago

• Arlington Heights (the main character works at the Daily Herald newspaper)

• Evanston (the main character and his wife live in Evanston)

• Winnetka

• Glenview

• Lakeview in Chicago

• Lincoln Park in Chicago

• The Fox River out by McHenry

And there are lots of other nods to places around Chicago. This is, in many ways, “a Chicago book.”

 EP: It’s pretty obvious that you are a huge rock and roll fan. That comes through clearly in this book. What did that music mean to you, and how did that translate into the various different elements of this story?

Will: Music means everything to me, even though I spent a chunk of my career as a sportswriter. The music from the Woodstock era is particularly meaningful to me, because the best of it had a boldness—a bravado—that made you think it could bring about real change in people’s lives individually and in society as a whole. That hopefulness is central to the book’s theme. The power of music permeates the entire book. It is, after all, a guitar—and Pete Townshend’s from the most mythological music festival ever—that binds the various stories and characters together.

EP: I love that Pete Townshend himself, a fictionalized (but totally believable) version of him, is one of the main characters. How much did you know about him and the Who before you started writing, and how much research was necessary, because you really get into the nitty gritty of Pete’s past and prickly personality.

Will: I did a ton of research to create the fictionalized Pete Townshend. I read and listened to scores of interviews with him to get a real feel for his speech patterns and for his temperament away from the stage. Luckily, Townshend is one of the most talkative guys in rock history, so a lot of interviews are out there from which to paint a fictional portrait. I also heavily researched points in Townshend’s life and The Who’s career that appear in my novel to ensure I’d get certain facts right. Otherwise, none of my fictionalized elements would ring true. One thing I didn’t do was read Townshend’s autobiography, which was published while I was writing this book. I didn’t want Pete Townshend’s vision of Pete Townshend to cloud my vision of Pete Townshend.

EP: This book comes out during the anniversary week of the original Woodstock. The first chapters of this book take place there at the festival and its surroundings. It seems so real to me, I just assumed you were there. Then I saw you were still a little kid at the time, so obviously you didn’t attend. What did you learn about Woodstock that you didn’t know when you started this process?

Will: Here’s another area where I did a ton of research. I read as many personal accounts as I could from people who had been there, dug up old articles on the festival to develop a sense for how it was being perceived at the time, and studied maps and such in order to literally get the lay of the land. In my research, one of the more peculiar things I learned about Woodstock—and it’s the tiniest tidbit—is that the organizers built a playground for the children who might be there. To me, that perfectly summed up the naïve idealism of the event and the hippie movement in general. The organizers came up short on so much of the big stuff—food, toilets—yet they had a playground for kids, of whom there obviously were very few. All at once, it was a beautiful and misguided gesture.

EP: Tell us a little bit about you, Will. What’s your background, and why are you the right man to write this book?

Will: I’ve spent virtually my whole career in publishing, both as a writer and editor. It’s certainly not the easiest way to make a living, but there’s nothing else I’d rather do. I was a Creative Writing major at Knox College and the editor of the school’s literary magazine, Catch, my senior year. Upon graduation, however, I decided that I also liked to eat, so I maneuvered from writing fiction to journalism, where one can at least eke out a living. Yet I’ve always had fictional stories floating around in my head. I’m the type of person who likes to watch people at, say, an airport and imagine lives for them. So in a sense, I feel like I’ve come home with this book after a lot of years in the wilderness. I had something to say, and I believe I said it in a way that will entertain, amuse and give folks some hope.


Eckhartz Everyday

*Today is Martha Stewart's birthday. Martha is featured in the book Records Truly Is My Middle Name by John Landecker. John tells a memorable tale about surprising her on a television show.

*On this day in 2018, Judge Michael Ian Bender released his Eckhartz Press book Protecting Children

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

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?

*July 31 is Mark Cuban's birthday. He appeared on our show a few years ago and we had a fun discussion about embarrassing our kids. (Full interview here)

*July 31, 2017, Anthony Scaramucci was fired by the Trump White House after only 11 days on the job. We talked to him about that situation on the show. (Full interview here)

*August 2, 1929, the first suburb (Levittown, NY) was founded. We did an audio bit on the John Landecker show (written by me) that was called Suburban Man (AUDIO)

*August 2 is Broadway composer Glenn Slater's birthday. We had him on the show to talk about a few of his huge hits (with Alan Mencken and Andrew Lloyd Webber). (Full interview here)

*August 3, 1969. The Cubs release a record to thank their fans (AUDIO)

*August 3, 2020, Rick and Dave appear on the Reconsile the Aisle podcast. (Full interview here)

*August 3 is Martha Stewart's birthday. Rick and John Landecker wrote a song about her, and suprised her live on the air (on television) to serenade her with it. (AUDIO)

*August 3 is Maria Breese's birthday. The Hollywood star/producer appeared on our show during the pandemic. (Full interview is here)

*August 4 is Barack Obama's birthday. We had jazz vocalist Kurt Elling on the show, and he told his very own personal Obama story. (Full interview is here)

*August 5, 1921, the very first broadcast of a baseball game (in Pittsburgh). We have audio of the very early Cubs announcers, who began broadcasting in Chicago in 1924 (AUDIO)

*August 5, 1983, the film Risky Business debuts. Harry Teinowitz was in that movie and we talked to him about it. (Full interview here)

*August 5, 1994, Harry Caray appears on the Landecker show and refuses to tell the story of the day he met Elvis (AUDIO)

*August 5, 1996, Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame together for the first and only time (AUDIO)

Eckhartz Everyday

 *On this day in 2019, I made two appearances to promote my book EveryCubEver. The first one was at the Elgin library. I not only signed and sold copies of the book, I appeared on a local Elgin radio show for a full hour live. Later that night, I appeared at Club 400 in Lake in the Hills and handed the book to 2016 World Series champion Pedro Strop.

Monday, August 01, 2022

IE Interview--Bob Stroud

The latest issue of Illinois Entertainer is out and includes my interview with the great Bob Stroud.

You can read it here.

Minutia Men--New Sheriff in Town

 Our latest episode has dropped. You can listen to it here.

Self-love in outer space, toilet terror in Iowa, chess prodigy mishaps, Florida sheriffs, and a chat with one of the stars of the movie The Sandlot. [Ep278]

From the Writing Archives--Struck Dumb by the Beatles

On this day in 2012, the new issue of SHORE magazine came out. It featured my piece about my brush with Beatles producer George Martin. (If you look closely at the cover above, the last notation is about this piece). On the tenth anniversary of the magazine, I'm posting it here again.

Sir George Martin is an icon in the music business. If he had done nothing else in his career, the fact that he was the producer of every Beatles album except “Let it Be” would have been enough to cement his place in rock and roll history. He was their mentor, and they were my heroes.

When I received a phone call in December of 1995 alerting me to George Martin’s availability for radio interviews to promote the Beatles Anthology project, I was speechless for a moment. I cleared my throat, booked the interview, and bounced off the walls for twenty minutes or so before I told the host of the show—John Landecker. I wasn’t prepared for John’s reaction.

You should interview him,” he said.

“Why me?” I asked. “It’s your show.”

“Because you’re the Beatles fanatic,” he said. “I want you to do it.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but John had a master plan. He figured his normally unflappable German producer would turn into a stuttering, stammering fool if he was forced to interview one of his heroes. In John's mind, that had much more potential than a straight interview. When he started promoting the interview a few days later, he laid it on pretty thick to make me even more nervous.

“Don’t blow this Rick,” he said. “There are millions of Beatles fans in Chicago, and since we’re the only station that gets to interview him, you have to speak for all of them.”


Outwardly I wasn’t showing it, but it was getting to me. I called all of my Beatles friends across the country and asked them to submit questions to me. I carefully considered each of them, crossed off the ones that seemed “too inside” or “too geeky,” and prepared diligently. I knew we only had ten minutes with him, so I couldn’t waste a moment with frivolous questions.

The morning of the interview I came to the studio with a list of questions in my cold sweaty hands. When the hot-line rang to alert us that Mr. Martin was standing by at his microphone in London, the color left my face.

“Look at Rick,” John joked. “He’s white as a ghost.”

“Am not,” I said. My voice cracked.

John couldn’t stop laughing. “Maybe I better start the interview,” he said. “Sir George…are you with us?”

We couldn’t hear anything for a moment and then there he was. His lovely British accent responded: “Hello, John. How are you this morning?”

“I’m great,” John said. “I hope you don’t mind, but we’re going to do something a little different this morning. My producer Rick is a gigantic Beatles fan, and he badgered me to let him do this interview, so I’m turning it over to him now. This will be fun--Producer interviewing Producer. Sir George Martin, this is Rick.”

He was silent for a moment again before answering politely: “Hello Rick.”

I almost fainted. I realize how pathetic this sounds in retrospect, but I don’t think I can find the proper words to explain how excited and nervous I was to be speaking with this man. 

George Martin was the producer of the Beatles! He had been sitting across the glass from John Lennon when he sang “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Hell, he pieced that song together for Lennon, and made suggestions, and…oh my God…I could barely breathe.

It didn’t help that John Landecker was rolling on the floor laughing at me, but I ventured on. I knew I would impress Sir George with my knowledge of the Beatles. I knew he would warm to me instantly when he heard my insightful questions. So I launched right into them.

That’s the last thing I remember. 

No, actually, that’s not entirely true. I do remember his response to my first question—even though I don’t remember the question itself.

Total silence.

That’s when I started flop-sweating. I lost all my confidence instantly. If I had my wits about me I would have realized that his silence was caused by the slight satellite delay, but I was too far gone by then. I was sure he was rolling his eyes at me from across the pond.  He eventually answered me, but I didn’t even listen to his answer. After my second or third question, Landecker was forced to jump in to rescue me. I completely and utterly failed.

John loved every second of the experience. I needed an IV to replenish my fluids.

That happened seventeen years ago, and I can finally laugh about it now. It’s not easy coming to grips with the fact that you’re the Bill Buckner of Beatles interviewers.

Eckhartz Everyday

On this day in 2017, the tenth anniversary of $everance, I re-visited the "Who Owns What" in media from the end of the book. It's changed a bit since then, but for the most part it's still accurate. 

Who Owns What

And Who Owns What Radio

I can't believe the book is now 15 years old. Crazy. It's the main reason I started up this blog in December of 2005. I was going to use this as a promotional vehicle for the upcoming book. The book took two more years to finish, and by the time it came out, I was in too deep. 

By the way, I realize this wasn't an Eckhartz Press book. It's still available at ENC Press.

*Today is also former White Sox first baseman Tony Muser's birthday. He was a member of the '72 Sox and is therefore part of the Eckhartz Press book Chili Dog MVP.