Saturday, January 20, 2024

Reviews for The Loop Files


I hadn't checked in on Amazon and GoodReads in a few weeks. Surprised to see almost 100 reviews/ratings for The Loop Files. It has a 4.6 out of 5 on Amazon, and 4.7 out of 5 on GoodReads. Thought I'd share a handful...

Five Stars/TG Nelson/GoodReads

This has been my favorite read of 2023. There was a good 20 year stretch of my life where the only radio stations I listened to were the AM & FM Loop stations. Kevin Mathews, Steve & Garry, Brandmeier, and all their co-hosts and hanger ons lived rent free in my head. This book, written by a former producer, is an intimate oral history from the mouths of the people who worked there from 1977 until 1998. Its not just a nostalgia trip but a chronicle of the radio industry going from an anything goes Wild West atmosphere to the current sanitized corporate product terrestrial radio has become. I can’t recommend it enough.

Five Stars/Marco G./GoodReads

I could not put this book down. I read it in less than 48 hours possibly? I was humongous fan this radio station including Kevin Matthews Jonathan brandmeier, Steve and Garry , chet coppock, the list goes on and on. In 1991 approximately I was working at a gas station and I remember during that time I would have the loop on literally all day from 5:00 in the morning then I would continue to listen it on my way home, leave it on until 10:00 11:00 at night. It was amazing lineup of talent and it kept me company for enormous parts of the day. I will never forget how much I enjoyed listening to that lineup. It was truly a unique time in Chicago radio. This book does a decent job putting together a history of the radio stations on the am and FM dial. It was a truly enjoyable experience reading these collections of history, and my one complaint is I just wish it was longer. I am sure there were many other stories that were left out. I have so much fondness for the people in this book, I genuinely hope they are all doing well. I hope this book does well too, as it's a love letter to a radio station that was mythical in it's lineup of personalities. And as the author writes at the end it's a salute to the fans who supported the radio station through the years. That was heartening to read. It's a good breezy book, you can read it in a day or two if the history of this radio station is relevant to you.

Five Stars/Matthew Krecun/GoodReads

What a great trip down memory lane. I grew up listening to the Loop and if you did as well, then you’ll love this one. The author interviews most of the personalities from that era and gets their take on the station and what was going on during the heyday. He even digs up old interviews to put some perspective on what they were saying to the media back then. It’s a fun, quick-read with great photos from the era. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Five Stars/Brian Fuss/GoodReads

As an avid listener to The Loop in high school and when back home during college, this book really took me back. So many hours listening to the on air talent, this gave a peak into the studios and lets the reader in on the behind the scenes shenanigans and stories that made The Loop such great listening. Highly recommended to anyone who made The Loop part of their lives and let them provide a soundtrack to it.

Five Stars/Eric/GoodReads

This is a very special book about a very special radio station in a very special place during a very special period of time. The story of the Loop from everyone who was there.

Five Stars/John Demus/amazon

Fantastic book about one of the most influential and often imitated Chicago radio stations by a long time Producer/insider. A must read!

Five Stars/Christine/Amazon

I'm a boomer and of course this brought back those memories. Generation X was just getting into it. This book was so interesting and it tells you so much about RADIO - what an invention radio was and this digs into it very deep. Thanks to the author.

Five Stars/Marcus C/Amazon

Growing up as a teenager in Chicago during the 80s, "The Loop" was not just a radio station; it was the soundtrack of our lives. The memories of tuning into WLUP 97.9, with its incredible cast of on-air personalities like Steve Dahl, Garry Meier, Johnny B, and Kevin Matthews, still resonate deeply with me. To call them "DJ's" was a fundamental misunderstanding of what was being broadcast. Their unique blend of rock-n-roll, humor, and pop culture was the pulse of the city, and Rick Kaempfer's "The Loop Files" captures this essence perfectly.

Rick's first-hand experience as a producer and on-air host at The Loop, brings an authentic and vivid portrayal of the station's heyday. His interviews and stories, told by those who were right in the thick of it, reveal the wild, innovative spirit that made The Loop a cultural icon. As someone who experienced the manic energy, talent, and pure rock & roll decadence of Chicago radio in that era, reading "The Loop Files" felt like a reunion with old friends.

The book is a time capsule, taking us back to an era where radio wasn't just background noise but an influential part of our daily lives. It wasn't just about the music; The Loop was a community, a movement. Attending their free concerts and events, even if it were at a car dealership, was like being part of an exclusive club. Kaempfer's narrative is fast-paced, fun, and filled with the kind of insider knowledge that only someone who lived through it could provide.

For anyone who grew up in Chicago during the 70s and 80s, "The Loop Files" is a must-read. It's more than just a chronicle of a radio station; it's a love letter to a bygone era, a tribute to the power of music and radio in shaping our youth. Every page is a nostalgic trip down memory lane, reminding us of the time when The Loop was the king of Chicago's airwaves.

Five stars/Chris Coleman/amazon

Read this cover to cover in one sitting. Relived the glory days of radio, *our* glory days. We the fans, were a part of the glory that was The Loop. Growing up in the suburbs, everyone was glued to the station. Times we would get to our home, school or work and have to sit outside in the car waiting to hear the next outrageous vector. They created the mold for others to see, then smashed it, over and over. As I’m reading, I’m laughing so hard my wife is asking if the book is supposed to be funny. Not really, but reading about the bits, the interviews, the characters, it brings me back to those moments and reminds me of how hard I laughed back then. She wasn’t a listener but those who were will love the inside scoops, the back stories, people behind the scenes and the interplay between them all. Tune in and rip the knob off!

Five stars/Austen fan/amazon

Rick Kaempfer's book, The Loop Files, is a treasure. Many people talk about the first generation of rock radio in Chicago with WLS and WCFL. It was the Loop that eventually deposed WLS to become a legend itself. The Loop Files explains the alchemy that made the station work.

Rick uses quotes from hundreds of interviews with the people who were there making it happen. The insights make clear that the Loop was a once in a lifetime occurrence. Part brilliant radio strategy, part great timing, part happenstance, and a lot great talent, the Loop AM and FM were must-listen appointments for close to two decades. You won't really know how it happened until you read this book. Highly recommended.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Media Notebook--1-19-24


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



*WLS 100

=April 24th of this year is the 100th anniversary of WLS-AM. If you haven’t been paying attention, current WLS morning man Steve Cochran has been doing some great interviews with some of the most important figures in the station’s history. For instance, this is his chat with famous former WLS program director John Gehron. He has also chatted with Tommy Edwards, Roe Conn, Jeff Davis, Garry Meier and more. More interviews and a photo gallery are here. 

=Also, if you are/were a WLS fan, you should be following Scott Childers’ Chicago’s WLS Radio History page on Facebook. Scott wrote the book on the subject (literally) and has been posting some incredible photos every day. 


*Phil Manicki

=Me-TV FM has a new program director, longtime Chicago jock Phil Manicki. Phil replaces Rick O’Dell who retired late last year. Phil has previously worked in Chicago at WDRV, WLUP, WCKG, and WGN. “Thanks to Weigel Broadcasting for creating the coolest radio station in Chicago,” Manicki said. “I’m excited to join the incredible team at MeTV FM following fellow WPGU alumni, Rick O’Dell to write the next chapter in the station’s story.”  

=WPGU, by the way, is the student run radio station at the University of Illinois. Other prominent alumni in Chicago media include Roger Ebert, Dane Placko, Charlie Meyerson, Wendy Rice, Kathy Voltmer, Robin Baumgarten, Gene Honda, Jon Hansen, Andrea Darlas, Alex Quigley, Ben Ponzio, Greg Easterling, and Steve Ennen. And me too.


*Ashley Bihun Named Operations Manager at WGN

=Ashley had previously worked at WGN as a producer and for the past four years she had been a supervising producer for the station.


*BIN Promotes Thompson & Ingram

=Chris Thompson and Angela Ingram have been promoted at BIN (Black Information Network). Thompson will now be the Senior VP of News/Programming. Ingram adds the title of Senior VP of Public Engagement. She will continue her work at iHeart Chicago where she has been since the mid-90s. 

*Honoring Les

=Mark Grote did a tremendous job on the Score Wednesday morning paying tribute to the late-great Les Grobstein who died two years ago this week. If you missed it, you can listen to it here. 


*Podcast Corner

=The incredible shrinking podcast industry. Apple’s new policy is driving down listener numbers. Max Tani at Semafor explains. 

=Meanwhile in Rosemont, Steve Dahl brought aboard Tom Thayer as a guest on his podcast. Rick Gieser was on hand to watch the recording. 

=Rick Kogan recommends two Chicago sports books. One is George Ofman’s book chronicling the sports guests he’s had on his podcasts.

*Regional Oversight

=I’m keeping a close eye on Audacy since they announced their Chapter 11 restructuring. There has been a flurry of activity in executive positions, but most of those changes so far have been in other markets. This is the first news about the Chicago market. Brian Purdy, who has served as a Regional President and Dallas Market Manager since 2017, has added regional oversight for Audacy Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee. Chicago was previously overseen by Rachel Williamson, who last month was promoted to President of Local Sales Strategy & Innovation.


*Music News

=This year’s inductees to the Songwriters Hall of Fame include Steely Dan and REM. More info here. 

=The Smashing Pumpkins announced they were looking for a new guitarist. 10,000 people applied. 


*Rest In Peace

=Ruth Ashton Taylor

The last surviving member of Edward R. Murrow’s radio team (and only female). She was 101. 


*The Loop Files

=Don’t forget to come out this weekend. Come for the records, and swing by my table to buy a signed book. If you've already bought the book and want it signed, I'm happy to do that too. Any former Loopers in the area are invited. I have a poster I'm asking former Loopers to sign that we are auctioning off for charity when this book tour concludes. Additional details below…

 Media birthdays/Milestones


*January 15—Martin Luther King Jr. birthday

=This year his holiday and birthday synched up. Every year I like to highlight this song, put together in 1970 by Detroit disc jockey Tom Clay. It’s a beautiful tribute to JFK, MLK, and RFK.

 *January 15—Mary Sandberg Boyle birthday

=Mary is the boss at WGN Radio these days, having previously produced classic shows by the likes of Steve Cochran and Steve Dahl. She is the first female GM in WGN’s 100-year history. I interviewed her last year for Illinois Entertainer. 


*January 17—Zach Harris birthday

=Harris worked previously with Q101, B96,  and WCKG.


*January 17, 1956—Chuck Goudie birthday

=Channel 7’s premier investigative reporter has been with WLS-TV since 1980 and has been their chief investigative reporter since 1990. He has won every award imaginable, including Emmys, Lisagors, Murrows, and more.


*January 17—Tom Marker birthday

=Marker is still heard on the radio at WDCB spinning his blues classics. He is best known for his multi-decade run at Chicago’s WXRT. He also just appeared on the Car Con Carne podcast.


*January 17—Ted Novak birthday

=Ted was a long-time traffic reporter for WGN radio and became a favorite of the late-night and overnight crowd.


*January 17—Rick Zurick birthday

=Zurick was the morning news anchor and news director at WLIT for many years, and also anchored news for WGN Radio.


*January 18, 1922—Bob Bell birthday

=Simply one of the most beloved local media people in Chicago history. Bob Bell was none other than Bozo the Clown at WGN television for decades.


*January 18—Corey Morris birthday

=The former Chicago traffic reporter now lives in Laredo, Texas.


*January 18—Jim Gronemann Birthday

=Producer Jim, as he is known on Melissa Forman’s WLIT morning show, worked with Melissa for twenty years. When I interviewed Forman for Illinois Entertainer in 2021, she said: “He’s Lenny to my Squiggy”.


*January 18—Jake Hamilton Birthday

=Entertainment reporter at Good Day Chicago on Channel 32.


*January 18—Reed Pence birthday

=The former WLUP and WBBM-FM newsman was the co-owner of MediaTracks which produced public affairs programs for hundreds of radio stations nationwide. He is now retired.


*January 19—Roy Leonard birthday

=One of the smoothest air personalities in Chicago radio history. I was lucky to get a chance to interview Roy just a few years before he passed away. It was one of my all-time favorite interviews. You can read it here, if you’re interested. After I posted it, he e-mailed me and said: "You didn't have to print ALL of it."  Yes I did.


*January 20—Chris Witting birthday

=The founder and CEO of Syndication Networks Corporation (based in Chicago). His Success Journal airs in Chicago on WBBM NewsRadio 780.


*January 20—Rich Renik birthday

=The former WMAQ and WUSN personality is now part of the Alpha Media group in Crest Hill.


*January 20—Mick Kahler birthday

=Mick produced legendary personalities in Chicago for decades (including Larry Lujack at WLS and Big John & Ray at US-99) before leaving radio to become a teacher. He still writes parody songs that are occasionally featured on WGN-TV.




*Another honor for Tom Skilling

=He is being inducted into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame. We only have a little over a month to enjoy Skilling on WGN-TV. He signs off at the end of February.

*You Can See Why the White Sox Didn’t Want Him

=Congrats and last laugh to Jason…

=Jeff Agrest ranked the top sportscasters in Chicago. He has Pat Hughes #1 on his list.

*New host at Fox-32

=Brian Jackson begins next week...


*The Emmy Awards

=Great night for The Bear, Succession, and Beef. Also kind of fun to see the reunions of old TV show casts, but whoo boy, was the writing painful.

=People Magazine’s Top 12 moments of the show. 

=The full list of winners 

=Elton John becomes 19th EGOT winner. All of them are here. 

=The ratings were the lowest in Emmy history. 


*Best and Worst NFL Announcer teams for 2023

=The website Awful Announcing ranks them every year. Last year the team of Ian Eagle & Charles Davis (CBS) was ranked #1. This year, they fall to #2, behind Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (ESPN). All 17 teams that broadcasted NFL games this year are ranked here. 


*A Groundhogs Day Tribute to Harold Ramis

=February 2nd. Good morning, woodchuck-chuckers. I think of this film every time I hear “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher. 


*Cable News Corner

=Elle Magazine has a great profile of CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in their current issue. 

 =NewsNation adds a Sunday morning public affairs show.

*Happy Days at 50

=Surviving cast Ron Howard, Anson Williams, Donnie Most, and Marion Ross talk to the New York Times


*High School Basketball

=It's high school basketball season again, and The U (WCIU-TV) will broadcast live girls and boys local high school basketball on “Game of the Week” in February, including the Girls & Boys Chicago Public Schools (CPS) championships as well as the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Super-Sectionals.


*He Won’t Be Back

=Seems like a petty reason, but as a German, Arnold knows that his papers must be in order.  (I'm allowed to say that, I'm a German too)


*Rest in Peace

=Joyce Randolph

The last surviving member of The Honeymooners. She played Trixie, Ed Norton’s wife. Joyce was 99 years old.

=Alec Musser

Star of All My Children and Grown Ups. He was only 50.



*Bulls Fans Boo Jerry Krause

Honestly, one of the most shameful moments in Chicago fans history (just shy of Bartman)…

=Rick Morissey of The Sun Times points the finger of blame at Jordan. 

=So does the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board


*LA Times Staffers Stage One-Day Walkout

=They are protesting the impending (and promised) layoffs.

*Inside The Messenger’s Money-Torching Bet to Make the Media Great Again

=Quite the headline, no? The article in the Washington Post tells the tale. The publication trying to present unbiased news (The Messenger) is being forced to lay off staff and is searching for additional funding after blowing through their initial $50 million stake. 


*CEO of Barstool Sports Steps Down

=Erika Ayers Badan made the announcement via X (Twitter)… 


*Rest in Peace

=Tom Shales

The great Washington Post television critic. He was 79. His book about Saturday Night Live served as a model for me when I was writing The Loop Files




*Sheryl Sandberg Leaving Meta Board

=Arguably the most famous female businesswoman in America is stepping down from the board of directors at Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram. Axios has the story. 

As always, if you have any media story you’d like to share or think that I might be interested in sharing, drop me a line at or If you're in Chicago media and wondering why I didn't mention your birthday, it's probably because I don't know it. Drop me a line and let me know and I'll put you on my calendar.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

20 Years: Back in the DDR excerpt



This year marks my 20th year as a professional writer. Over the course of 2024, I'll be sharing a few of those offerings you may have missed along the way...


This week in 1993, Camp King, an American Air Force Base in Oberursel, Germany closed its doors. The base was given back to the Germans. I lived there in 1976, and it's featured in my novel Back in the DDR (Eckhartz Press 2022). Today I'm presenting the following excerpt from Chapter 4 of the book, the day the main character of Back in the DDR (Rudi) goes to school the first day in his new home.


It was pitch black when my alarm went off at 6:00 in the morning. I stood in the cold darkness waiting for the school bus, which turned out to be an Army bus. Same thing, different color. It was packed. No one got a seat to themselves, so I asked a kid with glasses if I could sit next to him.

                “Sure,” he said, “have a seat.”

                Because it was still dark, and all of us were barely awake, not a word was uttered for the next thirty minutes. We drove through the town of Oberursel (home of Camp King), and a couple other small villages on our way to Frankfurt American Junior High School. The big school bus made a few turns on these tiny streets that didn’t seem physically possible. I don’t know who this driver was, but he could have given AJ Foyt a run for his money.

                We stopped at a red light next to a movie theater. The poster advertising the current movie will be etched forever in my mind. A completely naked woman was staring back at me.

                I pointed out the poster to my seatmate.

                He laughed. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”

                I nodded.

                “The Krauts are very free with the nudity,” he said.

That didn’t sound like any of the Krauts I’ve known all my life, but I guess it explains the sex shop in the airport.

                “I’m David,” he said, reaching out his hand. “Eighth grade.”

                “Rudi,” I replied. “Seventh grade.”

                “Stick with me,” David said, “And I’ll make sure the ninth graders don’t pick on you. This is a school for seventh through ninth grade, so you’re an underclassman.”


                He didn’t look like he could protect me from anything, but I appreciated the gesture from the upperclassman with thick glasses and skinny arms.

                “Where are you from?” he asked.

                “Chicago,” I replied.

                “Well in that case, you probably don’t need my protection. I’ve seen The Untouchables. Robert Stack, Al Capone.” He made the motion as if he were shooting a machine gun. “I hear people from Chicago are pretty tough.”

                “Um, yeah, I guess.”

“So are New Yorkers,” he said. It sounded more like New Yawkers. “That’s me. I come from New York City. Brooklyn.”

                “Isn’t Brooklyn the home of Welcome Back Kotter?” I asked.

                “Never heard of it.”

                “It’s a TV show,” I said. “A comedy.”

                “Well, here’s something you’re going to have to get used to. We only have one American television channel here, and it’s always behind the States. We just got Starsky and Hutch this week. I’ve been seeing those guys on magazine covers for months without having the slightest idea what their show is about.”

“It’s one of the best shows,” I said.

“I know that now,” David replied. “This sort of thing will happen to you too. Next year at this time, if you go back to America, you won’t understand what people are talking about. Look at me. I didn’t even know there was a show about Brooklyn. And I watch TV five hours a day.”

“Our TV won’t even be here for a month,” I said.

“Oof,” he said. It was like I punched him in the gut. “That’s rough.”

“I know!”

“At least you can go to the movies. We have a movie theater at Camp King.”

“New movies?” I asked.

“Sort of. Have you seen the movie ‘Tommy’ yet?”

                “Last year,” I said. “The Acid Queen scene gave me nightmares for a week.”

                “Don’t tell me!” David replied, holding his hands over his ears. “It’s the brand-new movie at the Camp King theater this week.”

                I was crestfallen.

                “What am I going to do?” I asked. “I have no records. No record player. No TV. Two movie theaters, one with movies I’ve already seen and another with movies I’ll never be allowed to see. I don’t even have my baseball cards.”

David sensed my desperation, even if he didn’t fully understand what I was going through.

                “Don’t worry about losing touch with America,” he said. “I’ll tell you four things that will save you. Are you ready?”

I nodded.

“First step is the Stars and Stripes newspaper. Make sure your parents subscribe. That will give you all the news you need. Real news. American news. Step two is subscribing to Sports Illustrated. Do you like sports?”


“I’m a basketball man myself. Love the Knicks. The stories arrive about two weeks late, but at least there are photos. Before I subscribed to Sports Illustrated, I didn’t know if Harthorne Wingo was a black guy or a white guy.”

I nodded like I knew.

“Did you see the swimsuit issue?” I whispered conspiratorially.

David smiled broadly. “Might even be better than the Sears catalog,” he said.

“Sears catalog?”

“Oh yeah,” he whispered. “The women’s underwear section is amazing. They use real models to show the bras and panties. And the lingerie...” His eyebrows went up and down a few times. The universal language for yowza. “Of course, in West Germany, you don’t need it. You just saw the movie poster. They have nude women on billboards and television all the time. They have ads for hookers in the newspapers.”


“I’m not kidding,” he said. “Check out the classified ads in the Kraut papers.”

I was sitting next to pure wisdom.

“The third step is subscribing to Mad Magazine. It will keep you up with movies and television,” he pontificated further. “You won’t understand the Mad parodies about the new shows, like I didn’t with Starsky and Hutch, but you’ll get enough info to pretend like you do if they ever come up.”

This sounded like great advice.

“And the last step is AFN Radio. Have you listened to it yet?”


                “They do American Top 40 every week. At least you’ll stay in touch with music. Do you like music?”

                “I love it,” I said.

                “Casey Kasem. He’s the man.”

                Boy, am I glad I sat next to this kid.

A few other pieces from my archives this week...

*A free Father Knows Nothing book excerpt about my brother Peter who is celebrating a birthday this week, plus two Bonus Father Knows Nothing columns that didn't make it into the book. A Frigid Walk to School and My Unimpressible Family.


*A Cub-centric feature about the late Cardinal Francis for Just One Bad Century. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Studio Walls--January 17, 2024


A weekly update/preview of my latest podcasts, and a look back at some of my previous audio work from this week in history over the past 40+ years.

Our podcasting equipment finally broke down after 500+ episodes, so we are in the process of building a new studio. Until that is completed, here are a few audio highlights to chew on.

*January 15--Josh Gondelman birthday

=We interviewed the Last Week Tonight w/John Oliver writer (and Mrs. Maisel comedy consultant) about his impessive comedy career. 

*January 16--Jack McDowell birthday

=The former White Sox pitcher had some great stories about his baseball career including one unforgettable tale about the night the team plane had to make an emergency landing. 

*January 16, 2021—Phil Spector dies in prison

=John Lennon's ex-girlfiend May Pang told us a story about the night Spector almost accidentally shot John Lennon during a recording session. 

*January 17—Muhammad Ali birthday

=Dave told a great story about meeting the champ at a print shop in Michigan. The story was confirmed on the show by the printer who owned the joint.  

*January 17, 1905—First Chainsaw invented.

=Would you believe we've had two guests on the show who used chainsaws in their acts? Kevin Matthews and Tube's lead singer Fee Waybill 

*January 18--Kevin Costner birthday

=This is the episode I told the story of my brush with Costner.  

*January 18—Pep Guardiola birthday. 

=The manager of Manchester City is a constant subject of discussion on Free Kicks with Adam & Rick.

*January 19—John Johnson birthday

=The gazillionaire founder of Ebony was a notorious character in Chicago history. Chicago historian Shermann Dilla Thomas told us what Johnson was really like. 


*January 20—David Lynch birthday. 

=Actress Amy Shiels was part of the Twin Peaks show written and directed by Lynch. She told us what it was like working for the eccentric filmmaker.

*January 20, 1996—New area codes for Chicago area established

=When the 773, 630, and 847 area codes were introduced it sparked a Landecker & the Legends parody song, Land of 1000 Area Codes. Odds are good that song will be appearing in an upcoming Minutia Men episode.

*January 20, 2008—Breaking Bad debuts

=We interviewed one of the actresses from that show, Carmen Serano.