R.I.P. Milt Rosenberg

One of the most amazing “perks” of our time spent at WGN radio is that we’ve had the luxury (and pressure!) of working with an incredible cast of genuine broadcast legends.  Wednesday morning we got the sad news that one of those legends, our friend, Milt Rosenberg, passed away.

Milt Rosenberg

Milt Rosenberg was “Old School” in the best of ways.  Many of them ways you probably never knew about because they didn’t happen behind a microphone.  We were reminded of that Wednesday while entering Northwestern Memorial hospital for a regularly scheduled visit with Steve’s hepatologist.

For those of you who may not know, in 2002, Steve was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis.  Being an autoimmune disease, this kind of Hepatitis is not contagious and has nothing to do with drugs or alcohol.

So, what does this have to do with Milt Rosenberg and why were we thinking of him as we entered the hospital?  Well, when Steve was originally diagnosed, because of the severity of his condition at the time, we were off the air for 5 months.  During that time, it was not at all unusual to get a call at home from Milt, just to check on Steve and see how we were doing.  Even though we thanked him, we’re not sure Milt ever really knew just how much those calls meant.  It was that wonderful off-air, “Old School” side of Milt that gave us an even deeper respect for the man.

We’re also not sure Milt ever knew how complimented we were when we found out that, after he got off the air, he would sometimes stay in his office with the radio on because he wanted to hear how we interviewed a particular guest.  Other nights, during the newscast between his show and ours, he would compliment us on something he’d heard us do at 2AM or later because he was up and listening.  Compliments from Milt were compliments we will always treasure.

Speaking of the newscast between Milt’s show and ours, one of the reasons our theme song would sometimes run long was because, occasionally, Milt and his guests would be so enthusiastic about whatever they’d been talking about or about meeting each other that their conversations just continued in the studio.  At some point one or both of us would have to gently remind them that the newscast was now over and another show was starting.

One personality trait of Milt’s that we appreciated was that, while over the years his political leanings shifted from left to right, he understood that we didn’t necessarily lean the same way.  He respected our opinion and would readily engage in a discussion NOT a rant.  We’ll never forget the night we followed Milt expressing how he was going to vote in a particular election.  Steve mentioned that he was going to cancel Milt’s vote.  A woman called and berated Steve for “outing” Milt.  We had to stifle some laughs as we patiently tried to explain to the woman that Milt had already “outed” Milt.

Don’t get us wrong, life with Milt was not always warm and fuzzy.  Just ask any of WGN’s Program Directors or General Managers.  In fact some of them were too intimidated by Milt to suggest small, but significant, corrections.  Apparently they didn’t realize that, yes, they were dealing with a, shall we say, strong personality, BUT a strong personality who, if he found out that he was doing something incorrectly, would correct it.

Case in point: For several YEARS we’d hear Milt miss the time tone for the station ID and newscast.  After a while, we realized that he was missing it by exactly 7 seconds – exactly the time of our on-air delay in case someone drops an “F” bomb – or worse.  So, one night during the newscast between our shows, we asked him why he always hit the station ID and the news late.  He was genuinely shocked.  He said “But, I hit the ID at exactly the top of the hour!”  We asked if anyone had ever explained that, with a 7 second delay, in order for it to time out right, you had to time it to :53 and not :00.  We’d never seen Milt flabbergasted before, but we did that night.  He said “No one ever told me that.”  We have every reason to believe him because, starting the very next night and every night thereafter, Milt hit the ID right on time.

During our last week doing a 5 night a week show at WGN Milt wanted to make time for a private conversation in his office.  We were cleaning out our office and shared some books and prospective author guests with him and he enthusiastically shared some of his favorite reads with us.  He had a few questions about why we were leaving and about who the good guys and villains that brought us to this point might have been. We answered his questions and shared some “radio war stories” with Milt that he hadn’t heard.  He told us a few of his own and, as all three of us reluctantly brought the conversation to a close, went out of his way to wish us well.  We knew his wishes were genuine.  Sadly, it was only one year later that Milt broadcast his final show on WGN and, not surprisingly, walked through the exit the same way he first entered the station – with class.

While on WGN, Milt’s podcasts were the most popular on the station and he continued embracing podcast technology on his own website.  For a while he also returned to radio and hosted a show on Evanston’s WCGO.

Although we still had occasional phone conversations with Milt, the last time we saw him, in person, was at his 2014 induction into the WGN Walk of Fame.

Milt Rosenberg, in 2014, at his WGN Walk of Fame induction

We’ll never forget that day, not only for the celebration of Milt and other legendary WGN talent, but for THE HEAT!  Because of how hot it was, we were concerned about Milt.  Those of us in the audience were able to move around and find some shade.  Those on stage had to sit there enduring the simmering temperatures, smile and, when it was their turn to be inducted, forget the heat and put their best professional foot/voice forward.  Not at all surprising to us and anyone else who knew him personally or through their radio speakers, Milt did just that.

Wonderfully “Old School,” indeed.

We haven’t just lost a friend or a colleague or even a legend.  We’ve lost one of a kind!

We wish him a most cordial goodnight.

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Join Us For An Historic New Year’s Eve Broadcast!

This New Year’s Eve, we’re continuing a tradition that started 23 years ago and we’re hoping you’ll join us for what will be a historic event of sorts.

23 years ago we rang in the New Year on the air with you on WGN Radio from the Showcase Studio for the very first time.  Well, this year will really be an historic event.  Since the WGN studios are moving to a new location, this will be the last time Steve  & Johnnie’s “Cheap Date Life After Dark New Year’s Eve Extravaganza” will welcome in a new year broadcasting from the Showcase studio location!!  We’ll start at 11PM (ish) or whenever the Chicago Blackhawks game ends and go till 3AM.

Among our guests for this special New Year’s show will be one of the featured artists on the PBS Soundstage Special “Cornerstones Of Rock,”  the man who sang lead on many of The New Colony Six’s hit records, Ronnie Rice.

Ronnie Rice

And, since we had so many requests after their last appearance with us, joining us again this year will be Josh Solomon and Erika Brett from The Empty Pockets.

Josh Solomon & Erika Brett

Also, following her New Year’s Eve “Rock The 80’s” show at Harrah’s, Joliet, the incredible, Lisa McClowry will join us along with her guitarist/co-composer, Lavant (Van) Coppock.

Lisa McClowry

Lavant Coppock

And, because we had so much fun with him last year, making a return appearance is the world’s only Musical Mentalist, Sidney Friedman, who will have some predictions for the new year.

Sidney Friedman

We’ll have hourly countdowns from different time zones.

Watch this space for more details as we know them and, of course, expect a surprise or two.

Remember, no cover charge and no dress code!!

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

This is gonna be fun!

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Johnnie’s Gluten Free Date Nut Bread In Cans

I know it’s been a while since you’ve seen any posts here about gluten free cooking.

What can I say, sometimes life gets in the way of my oven.

So, let me rectify that right now by sharing one of the most fun things I’ve done in a while.

Making Date Nut Bread!

Yes, Date Nut Bread!  See, growing up each Christmas my job was to snip the dates and cut out the wax paper to line the cans. Recently I did it all and was rewarded just like I was over 50 years ago. The crown off a can of bread…a smear of cream cheese and wonderful memories.  What could be better?

Johnnie’s Gluten Free Date Nut Bread

OK, let’s get to it.

Preheat oven to 350.

Prep 4 vegetable cans by washing well.

NOTE: The picture above is 6 cans of a double batch.

Do not use pull tab cans, they leave a lip. Labels & sharp edges should be removed. Line with waxed paper. Draw and cut out circles of waxed paper to drop in the bottom of cans and cut sheets of paper that are long enough to line the insides OR you can use a spatula with a paper towel to work butter inside cans instead of cutting the paper. Careful though, there may still be sharp spots around the edge. I also like the paper to insure moistness when the bread is wrapped to store.

2–8 oz bags pitted dates.

Snip into smaller pieces for 2 full cups of dates.
Put dates in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoon baking soda.

Pour 1 & 1/2 cups boiling water over dates and allow to sit while prepping the dough.

1 & 1/2  cups sugar

4 tablespoons melted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large room temperature eggs

2 & 2/3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
( I successfully used Pillsbury All Purpose Gluten Free Flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 & 1/2 to 2 cups chopped pecans

Cream sugar, butter and vanilla

Add eggs mix well

Mix salt into flour

Add to the egg mixture. Mix well.

Don’t over-beat.

With a spatula add dates & water to batter gently fold so dates don’t tear apart.

I add 15-20 stemless sliced maraschino cherries and fold into the batter with the pecans.

With a large spoon gently drop batter into the lined cans filling to 2/3rds full.

Tap cans on the counter to remove air bubbles.

Place on a cookie sheet on center rack to bake 1 hour.

(I always have enough batter left for a mini loaf of bread. It should bake in 30-40 mins.)

Let cool til cans can be handled to shake the bread out.

Continue cooling bread rolls to room temp.

Slice and eat with cream cheese.

This bread stores and freezes well and makes great gifts wrapped in plastic wrap or foil with wax paper left on.

Enjoy!  We sure did.


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Backstage With Joel Paterson!

If you’ve been with us for a while, you know the name Joel Paterson.  A frequent guest on many of our shows, Joel is a Chicago based guitarist with seemingly endless drive that is fueled by his incredible talent  Most recently, you might have heard Joel when he joined us in the WGN Showcase Studio on Thanksgiving morning.  His hard work and constant touring schedule with his own group(s) and backing others has resulted in applause and respect from many far-flung corners of the globe.

World-renowned does not overstate Joel’s status!

He recently had a CD Release party at Evanston Space for his album “Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar.”

Joel Paterson “Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar

Joel was nice enough to invite us backstage for a conversation and let us share some video of his performance with you. If you’re a Les Paul fan, you’re gonna love this!  And, if you remember the nights Joel and The Modern Sounds performed “Bacon Fat” on our show, you’ll want to watch. The video is now available on WGN Radio’s Steve & Johnnie page.

Just click this link to join in the fun.

And let us turn on the blatant plug light long enough to tell you that we think Joel’s album really does belong in your Christmas stocking.  “Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar” is distributed by Bloodshot Records and can be ordered by pointing your browser right here.

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Too Much Fun With Nick Digilio!

Anytime we get together with Nick Digilio, we always have waaay too much of a good time.  That was certainly true, Thursday morning.

Steve, Nick Digilio & Johnnie

Let’s see, there were “5 Naked Ladies” and then …. well, the podcast is now available.  So, you can just click on this link and see/hear for yourself.

THAT was fun!

Thanks, Nick.

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We’re Hangin’ With Nick Digilio Thursday Morning!

Y’know, it’s been a while since we got to hang out together in the early morning hours on the Nick Digilio Show on WGN Radio!  So, this Wed. night/Thurs. morning (Dec. 7th) at about 2:15 we’re going to rectify that and if you think more than a little wackiness just might ensue, you just might be right.

Johnnie, Nick Digilio & Steve at WGN Radio

Hope you’ll join us.

Remember, if you’re not in the Chicago area, you can still listen in.  Just click on this link to WGN Radio’s live stream.

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A Fun Thursday Night In McHenry!

Wow, did we have a terrific time, this past Thursday night, when our “A Little More Les” book tour landed at the McHenry Public Library!! We got to hang out with a full house of really nice people who made us think we should do this more often.

Just a part of the full house who joined us at the McHenry Public Library

Thank you so much to all the members of our ” WGN Radio extended family” who came out.  We really had a lot of fun sharing stories about Les Paul, WGN and reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones.

And don’t forget, even if you couldn’t join us, you can still get your copy of “A Little More Les” just by clicking on this link.

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