Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Loop Files: Jack Silver


 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 Jack Silver. Jack was the program director of the AM Loop during it's craziest time, in the early 1990s. I got a chance to interview him in 2009. At the time he was working as a program director in Los Angeles. We talked about a lot of things going on that time, but we also chatted a bit about his days at the Loop.

Rick: You’ve been out in LA a long time now, but you grew up here in Chicago. I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this before...but who did you listen to as a kid?

Jack: Easy one. I was a big WLS and WCFL fan. I’m 51, so we’re talking about the 60s and early 70s. I loved Kris Erik Stevens (photo), Larry Lujack, Joel Sebastian, really all of the guys at both of those stations. I would hang out and watch them doing their thing. In those days they’d actually let you do that. My buddies and I would watch from the windows at 360 N. Michigan for awhile (WLS), and then we would go over to Marina City (WCFL). I was always more into the jocks than I was into the music. All the big top 40 guys.

My brother and his friends would listen to WXRT and WVVX, which I think was out of Highland Park, but I never really liked that. They were into the music, and they would give me a hard time about listening to those “bubble gum tunes.” But it wasn’t about the music for me. It was those guys on the air. I’ve been real fortunate over time to get to know a lot of them. Kris Stevens, for instance, lives near me out here in LA, and we’ve become friends.

Rick: People in Chicago obviously remember you from your time at AM 1000. You were the program director of the station during its personality talk era, and you were on the air all the time with Kevin Matthews, Steve & Garry, et al. I know that’s a role you’re comfortable with because you’ve done it your whole career—including most recently with the Adam Carolla show. What do you think are the pros and cons of being such a public program director?

Jack: No cons. Zero cons. One of the things I learned is that the listeners have a boss too, so if you become a boss that can be made fun of, the listeners seem to absolutely love that. I probably met more of the listeners than any other program director, because they knew me. (In LA, they called me Jack-S, or jackass). This whole radio thing is about the listeners, and when you put yourself out there, they go out of their way to meet you. The guys that sit in the offices and don’t get out there are usually the guys who never been on the air, and don’t really understand what a personality is thinking or what they’re dealing with, that moment of panic that can set in when you’re not 100% what you’re going to say next. If you haven’t had that, haven’t experienced that, what good are you?

Jimmy DeCastro (photo), Larry Wert, and all those guys at the Loop in Chicago, they totally got that. There was no con in it. If you’ve ever spent any time in public with Danny Bonaduce, he’s a perfect example of the right mindset. I hired Danny in Chicago and LA, and now he’s in Philly, but going to an airport with Danny is an experience. It takes him a half hour just to get to his car because people stop him every few seconds. When you ask him about it, he always says: “These people pay my salary. I will take all day talking to them if necessary.” He means it too. Some of those other guys who don’t want to be bothered might be missing the big picture there.

Rick: You were the producer of the Rick Dees show in LA before you came back home to work at the Loop. I remember you used to tell the producers here in Chicago a few stories about your days with that show, just to make them feel better about the daily humiliations they had to endure. Is there any way I can convince you to share one of those publicly?

Jack: The one I always tell was the one that made me change my career trajectory. Rick Dees (photo) and I were in Florida at Disney World doing a live broadcast. The sun was rising in the sky and barreling onto Rick’s back and at one point, he looked at me and asked if I would mind standing behind him to block the sun. That was an eye-opening moment for me. I didn’t want to be a 31-year-old sun shield.

I actually went home after that broadcast and called Jimmy (DeCastro) and Larry (Wert). They had told me that if I ever wanted to join them in Chicago to let them know—and that was the moment I decided I wanted to pursue it. This isn’t a slam on Rick. Rick is actually a great guy. They all have their quirks—it’s what makes them the guys in the spotlight and us the guys in the background—but I decided that wasn’t the way I wanted to go anymore.

Next week: Jeff Hoover