R.I.P. Thom Bresh

We’re so sorry to hear the news that Thom Bresh has passed away.

Among the many hats he wore, Thom (The biological son of legendary guitarist/entertainer Merle Travis) was one of the world’s great fingerstyle guitarists, a wonderful humorist and storyteller, an incredible photographer and a man who lived life to the fullest and left you knowing you’d just spent time with someone special.

So, if he was the biological son of Merle Travis, then why the last name Bresh? Because he was raised by Bud Bresh who ran an outdoor movie lot in California.

We’d both been fans of “The Breshman” for a long time and saw him onstage, in 2003, as part of Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night tribute to Les Paul, at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. However, since most of our time on that day was spent backstage with Les, we didn’t have the chance to meet Thom.

One of my favorite Thom Bresh memories is the night, a few years ago, after Johnnie and I had spent an evening at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention, in Nashville. Johnnie was still inside the hotel and I went out for some fresh air and came upon Thom sitting at a round table just outside the main entrance hanging with some fans and fellow guitarists, playing guitar. I stayed off to the side and just watched this incredible talent playing, singing and telling stories for this small, informal, but completely enthralled audience. At one point, he reached back into his mental jukebox and pulled out some favorites from the 30s and 40s. I’ve seen enough live performances to know when an artist is really into the moment … and Thom really was. And, from the smiles all around that table, everyone else was, too.

There had been a number headline worthy performers and performances on the schedule at the convention that day, but none more special than what was happening as things wrapped up and the sun went down on this little informal gathering outside the building, around that table.

I didn’t want to interrupt what was going on, but I couldn’t help feeling like a kid in a candy store when Johnnie walked up with our dear friend Doyle Dykes. Doyle was a long time friend of Thom’s and made the introductions.

After that night we stayed in touch and, after having been on our “wish list” for some time, finally, in 2019 Thom accompanied Muriel Anderson and joined us on WGN Radio for some wonderful conversation and live performances on a show we’ll never forget.

Steve, Thom Bresh, Johnnie, Muriel Anderson, Bryan Allen

As he frequently did, a few days later, Thom posted a video documenting his Thanksgiving trip to Chicago with Muriel and Bryan Allen, including our show.

As much as we and anyone else who was fortunate enough to come into his orbit, even for a short period of time, are feeling the loss, we do know that there are some great stories and jokes being told in Heaven right now … accompanied by some incredible guitar playing.

R.I.P. Thom Bresh.

Stay safe,

Steve

Posted in Guitar Related, Les Paul, Music, Partly Personal, R.I.P., Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“100 Years of WGN Radio: A Retrospective”

We’ve heard from a lot of you from various points around the globe who were not able to see the WGN Radio documentary, “100 Years of WGN Radio: A Retrospective.”

So, for those of you who have been asking about it, you can now see it on WGN Radio’s website.

Just click this link to watch.

We may be a little biased, but we think it’s really well done. However, we’re going to have to take a second look at it to be sure. We both must have gotten a little something in our eyes when we watched it the first time.

You may have heard the phrase “the WGN Radio family” and, yeah, that’s a real thing.

We’re incredibly proud to be a part of it.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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We’re Turning 100!

Well, not us, really, but a place we’re very proud to have spent a sizeable amount of our broadcast career at is and we’re very excited to be a part of that celebration.

“100 Years of WGN Radio: A Retrospective” will air Thursday, May 19 at 7pm (Central) with a repeat broadcast Sunday, May 22 at 2pm on Chicago’s channel 9, WGN-TV.

At this writing, we haven’t seen the finished product but, knowing some of the people putting together the special and having seen, up close and personal, some of the hard work they’re putting into it, we can’t wait to see the finished product.

We can tell you that you’ll see a lot of the friends whose voices have kept you company for many years. You’ll be treated to archival footage of some of WGN radio’s most famous broadcast legends along with many new interviews done just for this special, including – unless it got left on the cutting room floor – ours!

For more information, just click on this link. You’ll find a video commercial for the show in this story and, if you click on that, you just might see slightly younger versions of HimNHer!😁

We’ll be watching. We hope you will, too.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

Posted in Events, Partly Personal, Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s 4/20 Day!

Since this is 4/20 day, it seemed appropriate to share this song from our very talented friend, the late Bob Young. FYI, in addition to writing and singing this song, EVERY instrument you hear was played by Bob. Few talents we’ve known could tell a story any better.

To hear Bob’s song celebrating 4/20 day, just click here.

Bob Young

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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We’re Not Lisa

Our friend Jessie Colter had a big hit in the 80’s called “I’m Not Lisa.” We meant to use a little of that song as a little humorous “bump” coming out of a commercial break when we filled in for Lisa Dent recently on WGN radio.

That’s one of many things we had planned that didn’t get done due to breaking news, guests and a plethora of other show elements that kept raising their hands like reporters at a White House briefing and shouting “Me, Me, Me.”

However, a lot did get done and we wanted to take up a little space in this forum to revisit a few moments for those of you who might have missed or want to hear them again.

And, yes, we’ll share a “behind the scenes” photo or three.

We have to start by thanking Brian Althimer and Curtis Koch, two exceptional producers who held our hands and made sure we didn’t veer too far off track. We’ve worked with a lot of producers and this team is right at the top of our list of favorites.

Brian & Curtis

And, speaking of producers, we always look forward to seeing Bob Kessler, who we first hired as a producer years ago. Bob has proven his versatility as a man who can and does wear many hats and can currently be heard displaying his considerable talent as an anchor in WGN’s newsroom. Of course, since we like any excuse for a party, we had to have an on-air celebration for his 50th birthday.

Bob Kessler having discovered “the ultimate F word.”

Although we were still exercising “covid caution” and talking to most of our guests on the phone, there were a couple of safe-distanced exceptions. One that was really a lot of fun and a very cool moment for us was getting to spend a little time and celebrate National Margarita Day with two sports legends, Chicago Blackhawks Hall of Famer, Chris Chelios & former Green Bay Packers safety, Jim Bob Morris.

Chris Chelios, Jim Bob Morris and Margarita

You can hear our conversation with Chris and Jim Bob just by clicking this link.

We also had a safe-distanced, in-studio visit from our friend Dave Plier.

Dave Plier with Her & Him

While we enjoyed a moment or two that lightened the mood, a certain amount of time each day was spent documenting the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine. While doing some research, we came across a Facebook post from Lyudmila Dulenko, a woman who was posting pictures from her front window which happened to look out on Kyiv. We contacted Lyudmila and, after a few back and forth messages, she agreed to join us and share her story on the air. She and her husband, Vitaly, like many in Ukraine, are extraordinarily brave people. We continue staying in touch with them. The gift of their friendship was an unexpected highlight of our recent time at WGN. Please keep them and all of Ukraine in your thoughts and prayers.

If you’d like to hear our conversation with Lyudmila, just click this link.

Each day had it’s own share of breaking news, fun and serious moments. Fortunately, with Steve Bertrand, Mary Van De Velde, Bob Kessler, Lauren Lapka and Kevin Powell along with Brian and Curtis, we were reasonably confident that we had all the bases covered.

Steve Bertrand, Kevin Powell, Mary Van De Velde & other WGN radio views seen through a monitor in Studio A

There were really too many special moments to focus on them individually, so how about we just share some links to each day’s full show?

Here’s a link to Friday’s show.

Here’s a link to Monday’s show.

Here’s a link to Tuesday’s show.

And

Here’s a link to Wednesday’s show.

Depending on the day, you’ll hear two dear friends who just happen to be Chicago broadcast legends, Roger Triemstra & Tom Skilling, small business shout-outs to terrific “Mom & Pop” stores like Qi Kratom Tea and CBD or Tom Lounges Record Bin, a daytime version of “Website Wednesday” with Patrick Crispen and a lot more.

We always look forward to doing the occasional “radio drive-by” and this series of shows was particularly enjoyable.

Till next time, thanks for listening.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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CBD

During our recent “radio drive-by,” at WGN we devoted a little time each day to a small business. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on them and we thought it wouldn’t be a bad thing to shine a spotlight on some of them and, hopefully, give a few of the “mom and pop” stores a little help staying in business.

On one of the shows we talked about CBD and the store I go to. After the show, our email was overflowing with requests for more information. So, we thought it might be a good idea to post something in this space to provide easy access for anyone who has questions.

So, without further ado …

I’ve been using CBD for fibromyalgia for 3 years this month. My rheumatologist recommended medical marijuana, but thought I should start by trying CBD which has no THC in it to cause a “high.” After trial and lots of error I ended up with a brand that works for me, Qi CBD.  I purchase it at Qi Kratom Tea and CBD store at 624 Grove, in Evanston, IL. It is available in 500mg, 1000mg and 2000 mg bottles. It is not inexpensive so, you may want to start with the small bottle (same strength as the others).

500mg, 1000mg and 2000 mg bottles

I purchase Qi CBD from the owner, Sae, who you can call at 847-859-6064. Sae cannot advise you on anything other than the product he sells. He can’t address your medical condition specifically and, if you take other prescription drugs, I recommend googling CBD and those drugs as well as checking with your doctor before trying it. There’s an excellent piece posted by Harvard you might google. I wanted my Dad to try CBD for insomnia but, various heart meds he took were a conflict.

How much to take?  I take the dropper full to the top line on the dropper and put it under my tongue for at least a full minute. You are getting it into your bloodstream quicker sublingually. I use it first thing in the morning when I’m moving like the “Tin Man” and within the hour I’m moving more freely.  I also have Restless Legs so I take a dropper full in the evening.  My Fitbit that monitors my sleep documented the changes for me.  Pre CBD I slept in 3 or 4 1-2 hour fitful periods. Now, with the oil, I can get stretches of 4-6 hours of sleep with REM.

Many in mainstream medicine are still very unfamiliar with CBD. Even though my rheumatologist is with a well known Chicago area hospital and certainly “mainstream” she researched it.  I had hernia surgery last year and I was asked for my meds list.  Thankfully, CBD is it! The nurse put me on hold for a very long time to come back and say doctors feel you should stay off for a week prior to surgery. No medical reason just being cautious.  It was a miserable, pain filled week. Steve picked me up at the hospital after surgery and handed me the bottle of CBD. I took a dropper full and by the time we were home my body aches were gone.

So, it truly has been a life changer for me!

If you have any other questions drop me a line and let me know if you
try it and your experience.

Good luck!

Stay safe,
Johnnie

Posted in Partly Personal, Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The First Of Four

Well, one show is in the books with 3 more to go. It was fun sliding back into your radio speakers, this past Friday, to fill-in for Lisa Dent and host Chicago’s Afternoon News on WGN radio.

We thought you might like to see a couple samples of our view looking out from WGN’s 18th floor Studio A.

This is our view looking out east, over the Chicago River, toward Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.

It was a beautiful afternoon to be in downtown Chicago.

This is our view looking northwest.

The sunset was pretty cool, too!

And, here’s a view of a happy Mary Van De Velde as she was getting ready to head out to a Blackhawks game.

And, of course, Mary is always cool!

And, in case you missed our Friday show, just click this link to hear it all.

We’ll be back to do more Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 21,22 and 23, from 2-6PM. If you’re outside the Chicago area, just click this link to WGN radio’s live stream.

Hope you’ll join us!

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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Valentine’s Day 2022

In case you were wondering, the Wonderful Tree Lady has, once again, worked her magic throughout our house for Valentine’s Day, 2022.

And, once again, there isn’t just one tree.

Tree #1

And, if you guessed two trees, you really don’t know her very well.

Tree #2

For Valentine’s Day, the magic number is three!

Tree # 3

The Wonderful Tree Lady even sprinkles her jewelry among the trees.

These little guys are earrings the Wonderful Tree Lady got in the ’70s

Some ornaments were handmade gifts from wonderful listeners.

This was handmade by Robin Richer, in 1996. Thank you, Robin!

As you can tell, for both personal and professional reasons, the Wonderful Tree lady and her lucky boyfriend kind of like Valentine’s Day

As we said after she worked her spell last year, hopefully, 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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37 Years Ago Valentines Week …

… we did our first broadcast as a team on WGN radio.

AND, this year we’ll wrap up Valentines week with a return to the scene of the crime.

Since we didn’t lose the station’s license this past New Year’s Eve, we’ve been invited back in to your radio speakers on Chicago’s Afternoon News for a few days while our friend Lisa Dent takes a little time off.

We’ll be on from 2PM-6PM (Central Time) on Friday, Feb. 18th and, the following week, Monday through Wednesday (Feb. 21, 22 & 23).

As we get closer to the show dates and firm up our game plans, we’ll be posting updates on our Events page.

We hope you’ll tune in to 720 AM but, if you’re not in the Chicago area, you can still listen by clicking this link to WGN Radio’s live stream.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

Posted in Appearances, Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Happy Birthday, “Hillbilly Cat”

He was born on January 8, 1935.

He would have other nicknames over the course of his career, such as “Elvis the pelvis” and “The King of Rock & Roll” but, for the purpose of this discourse, I’d like to stick with the one he was identified with during his early days. I’ve always felt it was a good summation of how the music establishment of that time perceived this new kid and his new sound.

Endless volumes have been written about every phase of his career and personal life and they’re easily available in any form you can think of, so I won’t take up your time retelling any of those tales here.

And, I’ve previously recounted my very first exposure to Elvis in a blog post I’ve linked here.

But now, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a “moment” from my past that the Hillbilly Cat played a significant part in.

13 year old me spent a fair amount of time hanging out with a neighborhood friend, Bill Conn, and listening to records on his Webcor phonograph. Bill was a big Bill Haley fan and his Haley collection occupied a lot of our time but, now and then, he’d drop the needle on some new find by another artist. We were both aware of Elvis Presley and his hit “Heartbreak Hotel.” Elvis’s second RCA hit “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” had just been released and Bill had just purchased it. After listening to it, Bill flipped the record over, dropped the needle — and I was transfixed.

D.J. Fontana‘s drums kick/slammed the beat for four bars, followed by another four bars of a room shaking descending stand-up bass run by Bill Black, followed by Scotty Moore‘s guitar blasting the all-time definitive rockabilly riff.

“My Baby Left Me” was off and running.

The Hillbilly Cat hadn’t even stepped up to the mike, yet and I was already hooked by this groove. When the cat started singing, I just started grinning. THIS was the definition of cool. THIS was the definition of ROCK & ROLL!

Yes, I was a Bill Haley fan, but THIS was something else. THIS kicked it into a higher gear.

And remember, this was before the Hillbilly Cat recorded “Hound Dog!”

The only thing better than that first exposure to “My Baby Left Me” on Bill Conn’s Webcore was the first time I heard those drums, that bass, that guitar and the Hillbilly Cat’s voice exploding from much bigger speakers on a Seeburg jukebox.

Nirvana!!

Although, over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for and love of many different flavors of music, to this day, anytime “My Baby Left Me” comes on any speaker, I HAVE to turn it up.

Years later, during my first interview with Scotty Moore, I asked him about that recording session. He said that they just decided to cover another song from Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, whose “That’s All Right Mama” was Elvis’s first record. “My Baby Left Me” was similar in structure to “That’s All Right Mama” but, the difference was, along with the addition of D.J. on drums, the group had matured and developed their own sound.

And, that scared young kid Scotty and Bill worked so hard with before their first recording session had turned into the Hillbilly Cat.

Happy Birthday, Cat!

Stay safe,

Steve

Posted in Music, Partly Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments