Thursday, August 17, 2006

Real Oldies

I've written here before about Larry Lujack, the legendary Chicago DJ who's largely responsible for making me want to be a radio guy. His dominance in Chicago ended in the mid-80s, and 19 years ago this month, WLS bought out the 12-year contract he had signed only three years before. The radio industry was changing, yes, but Lujack was clearly burned out after 20 years at the top in Chicago--to hear him in the later years was almost painful. Unable to work as a condition of the buyout, he lived in the Chicago area for several years afterward, but eventually retired to New Mexico, where he often said he was "dodging rattlesnakes and waiting to die."

In 2000, Chicago's WUBT re-upped him for a weekend show that ran for about seven months. In the fall of 2003, Clear Channel paired him with former WLS jock Tommy Edwards on Real Oldies 1690. (In the 70s and 80, Edwards and Lujack had co-hosted "Animal Stories" on WLS, perhaps the most hilarious use of a simple concept in the history of radio.) As he'd done on WUBT, Lujack provided his bits for the morning show from a studio in his New Mexico home. Tuesday, Real Oldies 1690 ceased to be--Lujack, Edwards, and the rest of the jocks, who included fellow Chicago legends Scotty Brink, Ron Brittain, and Tom Murphy (and the overnight guy, Len O'Kelly, with whom I worked in Davenport, Iowa, in the late 80s), were turfed, and the signal is going to be leased to another station effective tomorrow.

That kind of thing happens in the industry, of course. I couldn't begin to guess the number of format-change-related firings among five guys the likes of Edwards, Lujack, Brink, Brittain, and Murphy, who must have nearly 250 years' experience altogether. But the fact that Real Oldies 1690 lasted nearly three years was a bit of an upset to begin with. The signal was terrible. Most of the jocks were voice-tracking their shows from faraway places. Promotion was nonexistent. And the music, far from being the stuff of classic AM Top 40, was largely 50s and 60s MOR. It's what kids like me who listened to WLS were escaping from--the stuff our parents liked.

Asked for a comment, Lujack was quintessentially Lujack. If you know the voice, you can hear it:
Given the fact that I am still charming, still delightful, and still blessed with the God-given ability to pleasure the listeners in every conceivable way, you would think that some station manager would be eager to throw money at me. But with the idiots running radio stations these days, who knows?
I could have said the same thing myself when I got out of radio the last time.

Lujack is 66 now, and most likely doesn't need to work anymore. But I never expected him to come back the last time, or the time before that. And as I know from my own experience, radio's a funny thing. You miss it, even when you try hard not to, or tell yourself you don't.

(Thanks to Willie for the tip.)


(Further commentary on Real Oldies 1690 is here.)

24 Comments:

At 1:55 PM, Blogger The Stepfather of Soul said...

What's ironic about the demise of WRLL ("Real Oldies") is that its frequency is going to be leased to WVON, the historic black radio station (which has been all-talk since the late '80s and is one of very few black talk radio stations in the US), which is owned by Midway Broadcasting, which is owned by Pervis Spann, "The All-Night Blues Man," who has been on the air in Chicago since the late '50s and was one of the WVON "Good Guys" of the classic era. Spann still does his thing, playing soul-blues records from midnight to 5 AM, five nights a week.

 
At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure gonna miss Ol' Uncle Larry (again).

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger Anyacat said...

I keenly miss RealOldies and find nothing to take the place of Tommy Edwards and Larry Lujack in the morning. Had Clear Channel been supportive, I believe RealOldies would still be on the air. But Clear Channel has no use for me, or people like me, who enjoy not just the fine music offered at RealOldies but the entertainment provided by Tommy Edwards and Larry Lujack. And although we know it's useless to protest, we will protest anyway (www.realoldiesfans.com). Meanwhile, I refuse to buy anything with the Clear Channel brand on it.

 
At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 53, born in '53. I enjoy the Real Oldies on 1690 since it was the stuff I heard on the radio in the car with my folks or in the stores when I was a kid. Even the flat, tinny sound of 50s'-60s AM radio was faithfully reproduced! I am furious that Real Oldies 1690 is going off the air, since had it been properly promoted, I think this station would have been a big hit. And who was going around selling commercial air time for Real Oldies? A bunch of 25-year olds? At 53, I am in good health, do NOT wear dentures, have no grand-children, and no extra money to invest. Yet all the commercial spots I heard on Real Oldies 1690 were BORING: remedial treatments, banking, and other products or services that I would never patronize. Why not just general mainstream spots for Target, restaurants, movies, travel, etc? I spend money much the same way as I did in my 30s and 40s. Somebody at Clear Channel blew it big time in running spots that the 50's age group could not relate to.

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger jabartlett said...

The previous commenter gets at an important point--oftentimes, the people selling radio stations are far younger than the demos of those radio stations. Never mind that the 45-64 and 55-death age groups often have high amount of disposable income--the kids in the sales departments can't relate. Agencies, for whatever reason, often don't want to buy those age groups either--which is why you hear so many spots for Garlique and life insurance on radio stations targeted at older audiences. Those companies can get the time, cheap.

 
At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 32 yrs.old and Real Oldies 1690 is the only radio station I ever listened to, I can't believe they're getting rid of it. The FM oldies station sucks. When will radio stations learn that people don't like listening to the same forty songs over and over again. Thank you Real Oldies 1690 for lasting as long as you did.

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so upset over the loss of real oldies 1690. It is the only station I listen to day and night all over my house and in my car. It is the only oldies station with music from the 50's and 60's. September 17 will be very sad day in my house. I don't have anything against WVON but I still want my oldies 1690!

 
At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry Lujack and Tommy Edwards are two great oldies legends.I am 60 and enjoyed people and music I understand and relate to.It's to bad you higher ups don't have the ability to recognize that there are still people out here that appreicate what Larry Lujack and Tommy Edwards have to offer the older generation with things we understand and music that we know what is being sung. Very Disappointed

 
At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's ashame you so-called know it alls can't reconize real talent when it faces you square in the eyes.I like listening to music that I know what is being sung.The music that is being sung is all about praising violence,drugs,and sex.And it takes no brain power to make that type of listening.

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger jabartlett said...

Uhh . . . to the person or persons who posted the last two comments, and to any Real Oldies fans who might be moved to comment further--I have *nothing* to do with Clear Channel or Real Oldies 1690, so accusing me of anything having to do with the demise of the radio station is misplaced. I'm a fan, just like you.

If you want to pound lumps into somebody at Clear Channel, start here: http://realoldiesfans.com/.

 
At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WRLL was the best oldies/dusties station received in Chicago.The only one left(on FM)that I know of is not as good. So many businesses that I relyed on for years are suddenly gone. The American culture I have lived with is becoming extinct.Look what Eon has done to James Bond (American via British)given us the "ugly Bond".Must be the George Bush affect.

 
At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Down with Clear Channel Communications and down with WVON.

 
At 7:18 PM, Anonymous ben said...

is there any radio station that will air the same format of real oldies?

 
At 9:43 PM, Anonymous SUE G said...

IN THEIR ONLINE COMMENT, "ANYACAT" EXPRESSED MY FEELINGS EXACTLY ABOUT LOSING THE FANTASTIC ON-AIR TEAM OF UNCLE LAR AND & LI'L TOMMY AND ALL THE REALOLDIES 1690 MUSIC. ANYONE ASSOCIATED WITH CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS SHOULD BURN IN HADES FOR NOT GIVING 1690AM THE SUPPORT THEY NEEDED TO STAY ON THE AIR AND THEN ABRUPTLY YANKING 1690'S DJ'S OFF THE AIR WITHOUT A THOUGHT FOR THE LISTENERS. THE "OLDIES" STATION CURRENTLY ON FM IS A JOKE -- SAME SONGS OVER & OVER AND NO LOCAL HUMAN ELEMENT, EVERYTHING RUN REMOTELY BY COMPUTERS. THIS IS PROGRESS?? GIVE ME LARRY LUJACK AND TOMMY EDWARDS! THEY MADE ME LAUGH EVERY MORNING WHEREVER I HAPPENED TO BE -- HOME, CAR, WORK. I LISTENED TO REALOLDIES 1690AM WHEREVER AND WHENEVER I COULD PULL IN THEIR SIGNAL, BUT UNFORTUNATELY CLEAR CHANNEL DIDN'T HAVE THE GUTS OR BRAINS TO BOOST THAT SIGNAL TO HELP KEEP THEM ON THE AIR! I'M ANGRY AT CLEAR CHANNEL, AND I'M STILL GRIEVING THE LOSS OF REALOLDIES 1690AM. I'M ANXIOUSLY WAITING TO FIND OUT IF I'LL EVER HEAR AGAIN OL' UNCLE LAR, LI'L TOMMY, ANIMAL STORIES, CELEBRITY WORSHIP, GREAT OLDIES MUSIC, AND THE STORIES BEHIND ALL THAT GREAT MUSIC. BRING BACK REALOLDIES!

 
At 9:50 PM, Anonymous SUE G said...

P.S.--Sorry about leaving CAPs lock on above... I'm new at this blogging stuff.

 
At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really sad to see real oldies go. I think they had the best variety of music then any other oldies station. They played songs you just didn't hear anywhere else. The only proble I had was that I couln't pick it up most of the time which would force me to listen to the FM oldies station. I think the one biggest thing that did it in was the signal strenght of the station. I will miss it.

 
At 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the reasons for the decline of the oldies has to do with these stations hiring the same old jocks to play the music the same way they did back then - by talking, no - barking over the microphone halfway thru a song. It sucked back then and it's even worse now. Why do you think FM made such inroads to the market in the late 60's and early 70's? They played the ENTIRE song, without the DJ selling something halfway through.

While we won't be able to hear 1690 over the air in your car, (a real loss, believe me) they apparently will still be streaming out over the web. Guess what - rumor has it that there will not be any of those old DJs to put up with! Perhaps there is a silver lining after all.

 
At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just about everyone on this BLOG is of the same mindset: hate to see WRLL go and will definitely miss Uncle Lar' and Li'l Tommy. We must also agree that WRLL RealOldies 1690 was an experiment that failed due to poor planning up front and even less planning for a future. Despite efforts to introduce RealOldies into the new HD Radio world, lack of promotion doomed all Clear Channel efforts from the very beginning.

Of course, I'm not the first to state the obvious. Lots of well-informed people have already posted these observations on this blog.

Where's all this leave the RealOldies 1690 listeners? No where! Listeners are not human beings with allegiances and loyalties to the station and its personalities. They're only numbers in the ratings which drives the bottom line. Look what the "bottom line" has done for the careers of the likes of: Larry Lujack, Tommy Edwards, Fred Winston, Jerry G. Bishop, and Dick Biondi. Not so much as a gold watch and a "job well done". They're out looking for work (again) or are finally retired.

Yep...really miss the good old days and the good old guys on the radio. But we're (boomers) can't do much about the way business are run...even if they make us sad.

 
At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well you can do something. visit realoldiesfans.com and join the effort the stop clear channel expansion

 
At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from Majic Jim:

An era is slowly coming to an end..yet there's a little bit of hope where our children and grandchildren can sample the era of classioc Top 40 personality rario. Joe Madigan,now in his fourth year at John Carroll University located near Cleveland has been hosting "Retro Radio" an oldies program playing the lost,the forgotten and the classics of the 1960s and using the classic PAMS jingles from Cleveland's legendary 60s/70s Top 40 station "WIXY-1260." Origainally aired on Tuesday afternoons,it has since moved to Tuesday evenings from 6-9pm Eastern time at http://www.wjcu.org the official website of John Carroll's non-commercial radio station WJCU-FM(88.7 in University Heights,Ohio)

Also "Oldies 1160" WDJO Florence/Cincinnati has been on the air since February of 2006 picking up where "Real Oldies 1530" WSAI(now Fox Sports "1530 Homer WCKY") left off a year earlier..playing first generation old school Top 40 oldies from the 1950s and 60s. Dusty Rhodes,a Cincinnati Top 40 radio legend since his days at the original 1360 WSAI(Cincy's top rated Top 40s station in the 60s and 70s) and the other "good guys" from "Real Oldies" WSAI are back on the air. Listen online at http://www.oldies1160.com. Cool Bobby B's Do-Wop Stop can be heard too! Friday evenigs from 7-10pm EAstern time

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous C Marigan said...

The old adage if its not broken why fix it.......Us oldies need to have something to listen to...and Real Oldies gave us the memories of our teen years....todays stations are filled with a lot of so called music you cant understand and don't want to.. I am from Chicago and was listening to it on my computer our in CA....I truly miss all the DJ's really dont listen to radio now..too much garbage and swearing and lots of other stuff not fit for kids ears...Our world is more and more going to the dogs....

 
At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

BRING BACK REAL OLDIES 1690 (WRLL). I wish that WVON GOES OFF & the (Real Oldies 1690AM WRLL) Back on the AIR! OR Listen To the NEW Oldies Station 94.7 Chicago's True Oldies Channel!

 
At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you like oldies check out
BigOldiesChicago.com. Favorites from the 60's and 70's and lost and forgotten songs! www.bigoldieschicago.com

 
At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like oldies? Check out BigOldiesChicago.com. 20 in a row each hour of the biggest hits of the 60's and 70's. There's even some DJ drop in's from Clark Weber, Kris Erik Stevens, Scott Miller and Bob Dearborn. Just go to www.bigoldieschicago.com . ou'll also hear the "hits just keep on comin" sounder!

 

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