As I drove up to the station I was feeling a kind of nervous excitement. You know the feeling, don’t you? It’s that weird internal battle where half of you can’t wait for something to happen but, at the same time, the other half wants to put it off as long as possible.
The parking lot was mostly empty due to the lateness of the hour and the fact that everyone who worked the day shift was long gone. I parked right next to the boss’s reserved space and sat in the car for a while just listening to the radio and thinking of the five hours that lay ahead.
I had been listening to the station while I drove in trying to get a fix on what I would do. Somehow the darkness seemed to help. It allowed me to get a different perspective on what was coming through the speaker and helped me to imagine other people listening to the radio, what they were doing and how they would react to what they heard. The voice on the radio was an example of professionalism and assurance — two things I felt I was sorely lacking at the moment. When I felt I just couldn’t put it off any longer, I got out of the car, grabbed up my briefcase and went into the station.
A radio station at night is a different world. The skeleton crew that inhabits the halls and studios have a lot of responsibility. And, the nighttime audience is a demanding one. It’s as if you’re talking to them on a much more personal, one-to-one, level than the rest of the day requires.
I was feeling the weight of that responsibility and those demands as I went over the news stories that night. Coupled with a sense of excitement, I had a real case of nerves. Oh sure, I had been in front of a microphone many times before. I’d done it for years. But, this was different. This was like the first time. There was no crutch this time. No guitar. No songs. This time I wasn’t singing. This time I was just talking into a microphone as I started a new career — in radio.
That night in May of 1966 when I made my broadcasting debut on WJOB-AM, in Hammond, Indiana is one I won’t forget.
Who knew 50 years would go by so fast and include time spent with individuals from all walks of life, some whose names are well known all over the world, many of whom have become close friends?
Most importantly, who knew that my transition from full-time singer/musician to broadcaster would provide me the introduction to the love of my life?
Who knew that 50 years later I would be still enjoying the heck out of this journey and have the luxury of being able to say to those of you who have been nice enough to tune in from far-flung points across the globe and continue to track our current adventures through our social media sites ….
Thanks for listening!
Thanks for providing all the overnight fun for so many years. Still miss you and Johnnie on the radio every night but I do listen in every time I hear you are going to make an appearance. Best wishes to you both.
Wish you were still on. Miss both of you at night. Enjoy the time to do your own thing!
Keep on sharing, Steve.
Miss you two so so much! Don’t care for late nite format. MIss you two!
such a nice article, Steve. I’m also “retired” now, but for all the years that you and Johnnie were on WGN, you were my “co-workers”. You gave me so much joy and helped me through my shift by introducing me to so many wonderful people. Every time I have a problem with my computer, I remember all the help I was able to get from you and the amazing Patrick Crispin and Mike deMichael. I spent many New Year’s Eves with you, met Fran Tate with you out at Super Dawg. and so many other people. I hope and pray that both you and Johnnie are enjoying a wonderful life and are happy and healthy.
Congratulations! You are truly a professional, one loved by so many. With 50 years under your belt, you’re still at the top of your game. I miss you and Johnny so much. You two were and always will be special to me. Enjoy your free time and pleaseeeee, visit us all from time to time on WGN.
Steve & Johnnie, You are missed so much by so many. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to me you both personally because of you connection with my son ( Magoo ).Our best wishes to you both in the future. Hope you will have some more holiday stints with WGN.
When were you on WLTH in Gary?
After I left WJOB, from 1967-1969 WLTH was my radio home. That was a fun station to be a part of with a lot of great people. I first met Ronnie Rice while at WLTH when I MC’d a concert the New Colony Six were appearing at.
I miss you guys so much
Sent from my iPhone
I feel like I have been listening the whole time…. As some people say…. “What a run”……
I am so glad you shared so many nights and adventures with me. I felt I had friends with me through the night. I am also so happy that you and Johnnie crossed paths and merged into a wonderful family and life. I feel you are like twin oaks who have grown into one and where one has strength the other has weakness and vice versa. You stand together as a beautiful example of people who love, cherish, and complement each other. Thank you Steve and Johnnie
Wonderful account, Steve. Apprehension is always there when switching homes. It may be as simply as a fleeting thought or intense as butterflies. Amazing how it magically disappears the instant that on-air light goes on. Fifty-years is remarkable in an industry known for unpredictability. It takes a strong person to roll with the flow. I tuned in to you and Johnnie whenever I could. Best wishes in a great retirement.
Thanks for the kind words, Jaxson. I really appreciate them. However, I have to confess that I’ve never been a big fan of the word “retirement.” As we said when we ended our 5 night a week commitment with WGN “Are we retiring? NO! Are we leaving WGN? Yes.” We always planned on launching into some projects that we’d been thinking about for some time. Our first book, “A Little More Les,” was the first of those projects to be realized. Johnnie has a couple of Gluten-Free cookbooks in the works and we’re in the beginning stages of another book about our careers in radio and some of the people and events that we’ve been privileged to get to know and be a part of. Additionally, I’m about half way through creating some songs and arrangements for an album and, as you are aware, WGN has gone through some management changes and, along with having been given the honor of inducted into the WGN Radio Walk Of Fame, these days we enjoy doing an occasional “drive-by” show or guest appearance. Bottom line: We enjoy the luxury of being able to decide what we want to do and when we want to do it. Some may call that “retirement” we prefer to call it “someday.” You know how you say “someday we’re going to …” Well, “someday” is hear and we’re doing those “someday” things … and having a lot of fun doing them. Thanks for listening … and stay tuned …
Dear Steve, you are a storyteller. Verbal and written. We need you and we want you. We are very relieved and grateful for the decades of service that you gave the many of us that listened over the airwaves. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! But, after all the good you have done on the air, the best thing you did was to airwave with Johnnie in a way that made both of you better.