Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Loop Files: Bob Stroud

 I'm working on a special project this year about a certain radio station, so I've been going back into my files and pulling out some old interviews with former Loop colleagues and pals. I'll feature one a week here on the blog. This week, it's Bob Stroud. Bob was a key member of the second Loop heyday in the 80s/early 90s as the midday host on the Loop FM, and the host of Rock & Roll Roots, which played on both the AM & FM. I've interviewed him a number of times over the years. We got into a Loop discussion one of those times for Chicago Radio Spotlight...

Rick: When people think of Bob Stroud, they think of “Rock and Roll Roots” I don’t think I’ve ever heard the story of how that show originated.

In May of 1980 I was working at WMET (95.5 FM) as the production director. MET's general manager Bruce Holberg and I used to hang out in the hallways and talk about the great old records we loved. He was from Philly and grew up listening to those big time Philly top-40 jocks and I grew up in Kalamazoo listening to those great Chicago top-40 jocks. We both had such a passion for those rock and roll songs from the 60s, but nobody played them anywhere. Bruce thought it would be a good idea to do a show of rock oldies as opposed to the Fabian, Shelly Fabres-type oldies, and we were just about to put the show on the air when the Loop announced they were hiring Dick Biondi to do the same thing on the same start date. I remember feeling totally deflated. But when we went on the air with Roots, people liked it, and I got such a kick out of doing it. I got to play whatever I wanted. It was great.

Rick: Dick Biondi was on the Loop?

Bob: Not for long. It didn’t work out for him there.

Rick: So how did you end up at the Loop?

Bob: Well, in 1983, WMET fired everybody on staff except me. They wanted me to stay on and do production, but it just didn’t feel right. I got an offer in Philly and moved there for a while.

Rick: Did you like Philly?

Bob: Hated it. They don’t even sell beer in grocery stores there. Can you believe it?

Rick: (laughs) So the Loop called you at the right time?

Bob: Yes. Greg Solk (The Loop’s PD at the time) called me and said they had done some research in the market and discovered that people missed “Rock and Roll Roots” and asked if I would consider recording it in Philly and sending it to him.

Rick: On reel to reel tape?

Bob:  Yes. So that’s what I did. After a few months, in April of 1984, they asked me to come back to Chicago full-time and replace Matt Bisbee in the production department (Bisbee had been moved to middays at the time). I jumped at the chance. Not too long after that, Biz and I switched places, and I started doing Lunchtime Roots in addition to the weekend shows. That lasted almost ten years.

Rick: And those are some pretty memorable years. How would you describe the vibe at the Loop during the 80s and early 90s?

Bob: Dangerous. At any given moment anything at all could happen. Everybody from all walks of the entertainment business came to that radio station. Milton Berle. Robert Plant. Richard Lewis. Jimmy Webb. Every rock star you can think of. TV stars. Movie stars. I was on the air down the hall at the same time as Kevin Matthews (The Loop AM-1000) every day. One day, Tom Thayer and Steve McMichael came into the studio and duct-taped Kevin Matthews to a chair. While Thayer rolled Kevin down Michigan Avenue, McMichael literally took over the show. Stuff like that happened all the time. Remember the time Wiser was sent out to be a rodeo clown by Brandmeier? I can still hear him in that barrel at the rodeo… “Johnny, I’m not kidding around here! This isn’t funny!” The stuff that you producers had to go through was unbelievable.

Rick: Would you consider that the classic Loop era?

Bob: There were two classic Loop eras. The first one was the one in the late 70s and early 80s—with Steve & Garry, Mitch Michaels, and Sky Daniels. Those guys were the kings of Chicago at the time. The second classic Loop era was the mid-80s through the early 90s, and I’m really proud to have been a part of it. Think of all the talent we had there at one time—Brandmeier, Steve & Garry, Kevin Matthews, Bobby Skafish, Patti Haze, my God, the list goes on and on.

Bob later spent even more years working at the Drive, but it was clear that his time at the Loop meant a lot to him. In fact, you can hear it in his voice on this clip. It aired on the Drive the week the Loop signed off the air for good...

When Bob retired from the Drive last year, I had him on my podcast to discuss his career. We got into more Loop stories, and I even confessed an embarrassing tale to him about getting locked in his bathroom during a party at his house. You can listen to that here.

Next week: Rock and Roll stories from Bobby Skafish.