Valentine’s Day 1985

As you can probably tell by now, Valentine’s Day has always been special to us. Being lucky enough to have found “the one” isn’t a gift that’s given to everyone and we know how lucky we are to have received it.

However, there is one particular Valentine’s Day that will always stand out for us

Valentine’s Day, 1985.

Even though Steve made his first appearance on WGN radio on Christmas Eve of 1984, it wasn’t until Febuary 14th of the following year that Johnnie joined him behind those microphones.

While we both had worked at WIND radio, we’d never been paired to do a show together at that station. When it was announced that WIND was being sold and changing to a Hispanic format, we both increased our focus on individual free-lance opportunities at several stations. Johnnie was doing traffic at WCLR-FM (now WTMX-FM) and producing a TV show on WFLD-TV that Steve hosted. Along with hosting the TV show, Steve hosted weekend shows and fill-in at WKQX-FM and WGN.

Dan Fabian, who was WGN’s Program Director at the time, had always wanted to have a show co-hosted by a he-person and a fe-person. He’d tapped Catherine Catalane and Michael Feldman to give it a try but, for various reasons, the two never got along and their show went away.

Dan Fabian during his 2016 induction into WGN radio’s Walk Of Fame

Months later Dan still hadn’t abandoned the idea of a male/female team. At this point, even though Steve had only been with WGN a little over a month, he was being scheduled more often. During that time Dan had been introduced to Johnnie and took the time to listen to her at WCLR. Steve was scheduled for some evening fill-in and one of the evenings was going to be Thursday, Febuary, 14. One evening when both of us happened to be at WGN, Dan approached us with the idea of trying an experiment. Using Valentine’s Day as a hook, while Steve was on the air, Johnnie would walk in and “surprise” him.

We, of course, loved the idea but, as the target evening grew closer, we became increasingly apprehensive about how it would turn out. After all, to us, this was a big deal, at a pretty big deal radio station, that had the potential of changing the trajectory of our radio careers.

Spoiler alert: It did!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but, from our perspective, looking back on that night, we really do think it’s fair to say that things worked out pretty well. We will be forever grateful to Dan (or, as Bob Collins used to call him, “The Memo Fairy”) for not abandoning his idea and taking a chance on us to make it happen.

It won’t surprise you to know that, THAT was a Valentine’s Day we’ll never forget! After the show, we celebrated by having our “special occasion” decadent chocolate dessert from our favorite, local, Houlihan’s restaurant.

In the days that followed we were asked if we wanted to start doing a regular Saturday night show together. Of course, we said yes and began our journey together at one of the world’s great radio stations.

It wasn’t long after our on-air pairing that the station’s promotion department set up a photo shoot for us with a legendary photographer, Paul Natkin. For those of you not familiar with Paul, among his many credits is the classic photo of Bruce Springsteen that appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in the 70s and, trust us, that’s just the tip of the tip of Paul’s iceberg.

Our first promotional photo for WGN taken by Paul Natkin.

This was our first promotional photo for WGN radio and, if you look closely, you’ll see that Johnnie was wearing heart earrings.

Just a coincidence? Well … maybe.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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Speaking of Valentine’s Day …

Blame it on the pandemic and/or wanting to make our “bubble” as pretty as possible?

Who knows the reason.

All we do know is that, for 25 years, the Wonderful Tree Lady has magically decorated our house and one 6 foot tree for that month’s holiday or season.

Now, however, … we have three!

And, trust us, nobody is complaining.

The Wonderful Tree Lady appears to like Valentine’s Day.

2 of the Wonderful Tree Lady’s Valentine’s Day trees.

We think she like’s it a lot!

The third of the Wonderful Tree Lady’s Valentine’s Day trees.

Really, she like’s it A LOT!

Lighted trees are really good medicine on a cold winter night!

And she really, really, likes it when we take the time to look closely at her work.

That couple dancing has been with us since we got married.

Really close!

As has this couple in their very formal attire.

Some friends gathered in our “bubble” to celebrate dressed in their Valentine’s finery.

Naturally, they all quarantined before joining us. Some of them bear-ly made it.

And, of course, to celebrate the day, love is in the air.

Nothing to see here, just a little bit a-courtin going on.

Steve’s Dad always said that Valentine’s Day was his favorite holiday because, unlike a birthday or Christmas, when a gift is expected, Valentine’s Day is the day you get to show someone you care for them, just because you care for them and they are special to you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We hope you know that all of you who take the time to hang out with us are very special to us. Hopefully, this year, a little of the Wonderful Tree Lady’s magic will spread from our “bubble” to yours along with our wishes for a very happy Valentine’s Day.

Stay safe!

Steve & Johnnie

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Chicago Auto Show Throwback

If you’re wondering why the Chicago weather is so sucky it’s because it’s that time of year again … Chicago Auto Show time🚗🚘!

We know it’s not happening, in February, this year but, in the “before time,” the Chicago Auto Show was traditionally held in early February and, unusual as it may have seemed to some, many couples included it as a part of their Valentines Day activities.

For whatever cosmic reason, Valentines Day usually coincided with some of the worst of Chicago’s Winter weather that would make getting to the Auto Show for some of our radio and TV broadcasts, as Bob Collins use to say, a “character builder.”

In the late 80’s Johnnie oversaw WGN radio‘s in-house Traffic department, did traffic (and lots of other stuff) on the Bob Collins show and co-hosted a few hours of the overnight show with Steve leading into Bob. To help throw herself, even more, into the mission, Johnnie found this top with toy cars front and back and down the sleeves plus traffic sign earrings was … just perfect!

Johnnie wearing her traffic top.

In case you’re wondering, after 30 plus years, Johnnie’s traffic top is still with us. Here it is in living color.

Does this look like the Kennedy expressway “spaghetti bowl?”
This is the back but, we think, these may be the frontage roads.

This is one of those things you just don’t throw in the donation bin. It was originally found hanging up high in a display at Carson’s. Johnnie asked where she could find it and was told there was only one “thank goodness.” Of course, Johnnie said, “I’ll take it.”

Whenever little kids were around Johnnie was like the Pied Piper with the kids trailing her to get a closer look.

There were a lot of fun broadcasts and still are a lot of good memories tied up in this silly top!

Posted in Automotive, Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Snow Days

As I (Steve) write this, it’s the wee hours of the morning of January 26, 2021, and snow is falling over the Chicago area. The forecast is for around 8 inches over the next 24 hours thanks to a major winter storm that is offering up a bunch of the white stuff along with dangerous driving conditions to a broad section of the Plains and Midwest.

Of course we’ll survive, but not without the requisite trips to, or “safer at home” orders from, the grocery store for milk and bread.

As the Chicago area buckles up and prepares for whatever Mother Nature has in store for us over the next couple of days, my mind went back to a similar, but much more intense event that happened on this same date 54 years ago.

It was January 26, 1967 when a record setting 23 inches of snow began falling, paralyzing the Chicago area.  The snow fell so quickly and brought everything to such a complete stop that although my Dad, who worked at South Works Steel on Chicago’s South side, just a little over a 10 minute drive from where we lived, did his best to navigate the snow drifts, he was forced to leave his car about 2 blocks from our house and only made it home with the help of a neighbor.

Snow covering Lake Shore Drive in 1967. Chicago Tribune Photo.

I was working at my first radio station, WJOB, in Hammond, IN. It normally took 25 min. to get to the station. That first night of the blizzard there was no way I could dig my car out and, even if I was somehow able to, there was no way I could drive down the block let alone make the trip to Hammond.

The next day, I still couldn’t get my 59 Chevy out of the snow drifts and public transportation was also still trying to dig out. A phone call to my friend, WJOB newsman, Larry Peterson, who also lived on Chicago’s South Side, confirmed my thought that Larry’s Volkswagen Beetle might be an easier car to dig out and try making our way to the station.

So, I started walking over to Larry’s house. That walk turned out to be one of those “I really should have thought it through” moments … or rather hours. I hadn’t made the calculation that the walk from our house at 8039 Manistee to Larry’s house around 77th and South Chicago Avenue would be about 25 blocks.

25 BLOCKS!

25 BLOCKS OF STREETS THAT WERE MOSTLY STILL FILLED WITH SNOW!!!

Go ahead … Google it … I’ll wait.

Probably good exercise in good weather but, in 23 inches of snow, … not so much.

Once I got to Larry’s we dug out his Beetle and started on our mission. By this time, some of the main streets were being cleared so we decided to stick with one of the big main streets (Stony Island) and take it to the Calumet expressway (Now known as the Bishop Ford expressway). What seemed like a good idea turned out not to be because the expressway hadn’t been cleared and was still impassible. So, we turned around and headed to the Chicago Skyway. When we got there, we found that it, also, had not been cleared, but the plows were on the way.

So … we waited.

Finally a plow or two arrived and we were able to follow them across the Skyway bridge into Indiana and to the exit closest to the radio station.

I’ll spare you the details of the rest of our trip but, suffice it to say that, what was normally a 25 minute trip took us 8 HOURS!

Once we got to WJOB, since hardly anyone else had made it to the station, Larry and I wound up being on the air for over 24 hours. During that time we broadcast information about what stores in the region were open, who needed help, where to get help and anything else that was needed to help that area survive the storm and get back up and running.

THAT was a radio baptism by fire and taught me just how important LOCAL radio is in times of emergency.

To this day, that 1967 snowstorm remains the greatest snowfall in one storm in Chicago history.

Would I ever want to go through that again? Nope! Would I trade that experience for anything? Nope!

Of course, that “baptism by fire” (or snow) experience was to prove itself an invaluable preamble to my adventures in broadcasting. For example, years later, at WGN, Johnnie and I had days and nights when we battled the conditions getting to and from the station. One of the most memorable was during the blizzard of 2011. No, it didn’t take us 8 hours, but that trip was a nail biter, too. We archived some of that experience in this video from our YouTube channel.

Some of the sights and sounds of our trips to and from the WGN radio studios during the 2011 Chicago blizzard.

Additionally, Roger Badesch writes about his experience in the snow and on the air with us during the blizzard of 2011 in his book, “The Unplanned Life.”

I just stepped away from this computer for a moment and walked to the living room to take a look outside. That, predicted, 8 inches of snow is still accumulating but, this time, I can just enjoy the snow globe like beauty I’m seeing through our living room window.

We don’t have to go out in it.

And, we still have our Christmas tree up!

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A New Year? Heck yeah!

New Year’s Eve 2020 marks the 26th anniversary of our first “Cheap Date Life After Dark New Year’s Eve Extravaganza” broadcast on WGN radio. Sadly, 2020 being what it has been, our annual kicking out the old and welcoming in the new celebratory radio party joins the ranks of many of the year’s sidelined events.

Do we like a good radio party with a studio full of talented guests? Yup!

During this Covid 19 year, do we think it would be a good idea to ask our talented friends to join us in a close studio environment that could put all of us at-risk? Nope!

So, even as we take a pass on partying this year, we’re hoping that a year from now when, hopefully, Covid 19 has been put in check, we’ll all be able to gather again in studio A and party like it’s …. well, a normal year.

But, to prime the pump for future possibilities, we thought it might be fun to look back at a few “moments” from our past celebrations.

During our 2015/16 New Year’s Eve party in WGN radio’s Michigan Avenue Showcase Studio a Jimmy Reed jam broke out with Ronnie Rice, Magoo and Steve. As you can see, we had fun and thought you might like to crank your speakers up to the threshold of pain and join in. A HUGE thank you to Dr. Daiki Ishiyama for capturing it all on video.

2015/16 New Year’s party blues jam

And, speaking of our broadcasts from the Showcase Studio, as you can see from the photo below, taken during our 2016/17 broadcast, there were times when the size of the crowd right outside our studio on Michigan Avenue made it a little hard to concentrate. Thank goodness for soundproof glass.

Just a small portion of the Michigan Ave. crowd right outside the WGN studio during our 2016/17 broadcast.
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Back in the days of the Y2k scare, we broadcast from inside the Tribune Tower in our regular studio as we prepared for who knew what when the clocks ticked over to the new year and potential computer havoc all over the world. Spoiler alert: we survived.

HimNHer getting ready for the Y2k New Year’s broadcast.

More recently, we loved the view from WGN’s Skyline Studio A when the New Year’s fireworks went off.

Part of the 2019/20 New Year’s fireworks display.

We’d never looked down on a fireworks display before.

And, speaking of a crowded studio ….

Empty Pockets, Ronnie Rice and the River Road Trio were just part of last year’s show.

OK, that’s just a taste of the past and, “if the fates allow,” we look forward to more “cheap date” celebrations with you.

For now, like many of you, we’re celebrating “safer at home” with Johnnie’s Dad, John, and Steve’s brother, Lee, who safely quarantined to be with us . As we’ve said each year, “What you do on New Year’s sets the tone for what you’ll do the rest of the year” and, after the year all of us have been through, starting 2021 safely with family seemed like a very good idea.

We wish you a healthy, happy 2021!

Stay safe.

Steve & Johnnie

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Squirrel!

Well, as you can see, this nice couple of bears have been residing under the big tree outside our house for the holidays.

A couple of bears happily hanging out on the bench underneath the big tree outside our house.

All was well.

Until …

One of our neighborhood squirrels developed an attraction to one of the bear’s hats.

So, THAT’S where the bear’s hat went!!

Nuts!

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A Christmas Video Present From Us To You

Just in time for Christmas, here’s a little video present from us to you.

This is a song Steve wrote and recorded at Jim Peterik‘s World Stage studio. Except for the drum track, Steve played all the instruments. The idea for the song first popped up in the late 90’s when we hosted the “Street Carols” concerts at the Star Plaza Theatre, in Merrillville, Indiana.

The promotional tag line for the concerts was “Christmas From The Roots Of Rock & Roll.” That tag line was too good not to be a song and now a video, so now it is.

The song was recorded a while ago but, 2020 being what it is and needing whatever fun we can find for it, this seemed like the time to add a video to the lyrics. While this is a Christmas song, don’t be surprised if you find an Easter egg or two slipped in to the video.

Christmas From The Roots Of Rock & Roll Video

Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the song and Santa will recover from the trauma.

Have a very Merry Christmas … and stay safe.

Steve & Johnnie

Posted in Guitar Related, Holidays, Music, Partly Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How About Some Eggnog Cake!

If you’re like us, it’s not the holidays without eggnog! But, if you’re like us, you think it’s too sweet, too rich and has too many calories. So, why drink it when you can eat it and it’s wonderfully gluten-free?

Eggnog Cake With A Dusting Of Powdered Sugar

Eggnog cake:

Preheat oven to 350

Grease bundt pan well

1 (15 or 17 oz) box yellow cake mix (I use Pillsbury gluten free classic yellow available at most grocery stores)

1 pk vanilla instant pudding 

1 cup egg nog

4 large eggs

1/3 c oil

1/4 c water

1 tsp vanilla extract1 tsp rum extract(optional but adds to the nogginess of the flavor)

Glaze:

1/4 c melted butter

1/4 c egg nog

1/2 tsp vanilla extract1/2 tsp rum extract

2 cups powdered (confectioners)sugar

Mix cake mix and dry pudding mix. Add nog and eggs and oil blend well Add water and extracts mix well. Pour into well greased bundt pan and smooth surface
Bake at 350 45-55 mins 

Remove from oven and cool 10 mins before turning out onto plate
Cool cake while mixing glaze

For the glaze melt the 1/4 c butter. Add nog to melted butter. Add extracts then blend in 2 cups of powdered sugar. Stir until sugar melts into butter/nog combo. If it becomes thick before sugar is incorporated put back on low flame to warm the sugar and stir til no more lumps.
Pour over cooled cake.

Betcha can’t eat just one slice!

**The eggnog cake pictured has powdered sugar on it, not glaze**

Enjoy … and stay safe!

Johnnie

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December 8, 1980

40 years ago I was getting ready to come in and do my overnight shift on Chicago’s WIND radio when I heard a news bulletin that said John Lennon had been shot.

When I got to the station, I was surprised that Clark Weber, who did the show before mine, hadn’t switched from his game plan to cover the story. I told my producer, Cheryl Morton, that we were going to scrap what we had planned and devote the show to covering the unfolding story.

John Lennon in the Beatles’ movie, “Help!”

For the next 5 hours, along with tracking down guests who knew Lennon and getting updates from New York and Liverpool, it felt like I was hosting a radio version of a psychiatrist’s office with callers who just needed to vent, share memories, cry and just express their disbelief at what had happened.

Excerpt From Chicago Media Critic Ron Alridge’s Column In The Chicago Tribune

It was a night I won’t forget and a loss that, to this day, is a definable part of the DNA of those of us who lived it.

Steve

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Happy Birthday, Dick Clark!

This isn’t Throwback Thursday but, Monday, November 30th, would have been, the legendary, Dick Clark‘s 91st birthday.

We had the extreme pleasure of hosting several ALS Mammoth Music Mart events with Dick and having him on our show many times.

Johnnie, Dick Clark & Steve at an ALS Mammoth Music Mart appearance

This man defined the term “class act.” If we had an interview scheduled with Dick and we saw the hot line ringing at the scheduled time, we didn’t have to wait for our producer to screen the call, we knew it would be Dick. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later, always right on time, always prepared and, unlike some well known personalities we sometimes felt we had to pull answers out of, always “on” for the interview.

One night as we were interviewing him, Dick mentioned that he’d just returned from a celebrity event. Johnnie asked him what he was wearing and he said that, since he’d just gotten home and was changing out of his tux, at the moment, he was naked. He laughed and told us he just looked at himself in the mirror. Then, like the teen girls in his audience for years, squealed “I Look Good” parodying the James Brown song. So, we probably have the distinction of being the only people who interviewed a naked Dick Clark.

In his later years, his bravery in still maintaining a pubic profile after his stroke was inspiring. He was a true professional and a genuinely nice guy we will always feel privileged for having known.

Posted in Appearances, Music, Partly Personal, Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments