Friday, January 1, 2010

The NEW Chicagoland Radio and Media site

That's all for this blog site. The new CRM blog site is incorporated into the new Chicagoland Radio Media website, which is now active. This blog site will stay up for archive purposes only. Come visit over at the new site now!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A New Era Begins...

It's been six months (almost to the day) since the last blog entry on here. I'm sorry for neglecting this site for so long, but it is all for a good reason.

Since time is a precious commodity, the spare time I used to give to the CRM Blog site had to placed elsewhere. Some of that time went into making the main CRM Message Board even better and more information-filled than ever before. Some of that time was put into some outside projects. However, most of that spare time was put into creating the brand new Chicagoland Radio and Media website.

The brand new website will be launching in a matter of days now, most likely on January 1st, 2010. While it will still have the now-famous message board, it will also contain a great deal more. The CRM website will have a Media News page, live newsfeeds for many local & national media blogs, an "Interviews" page, a "Columns" page feature regular reoccurring columns from guest contributors, special guest bloggers, ratings pages for the Chicago radio & TV market, the most extensive Chicago media links page -- EVER, photos pages featuring Chicago radio music surveys from the 60's-80's, photo pages with Chicago radio and TV personalities, photo pages with promotional buttons/pins/stickers from Chicago media outlets, a "Where Are They Now" page, an "In Memoriam" page, classic video clips, a Marketplace, a FAQ page, live traffic updates, live weather updates, and so much more!

Since the new site will have a blogsite within it, this particular CRM blogsite will no longer be used. The CRM Blog is indeed returning in 2010, but it is moving to it's new home on the new site. This site will remain open for archival purposes, but no new updates will be done. Please visit the new site for new blogs by myself and others.

This Google blogsite started in early December of 2007. It comes to an end of sorts in late December 2009. The site is not dead, though -- just moving up & evolving.

I'll post up on here one last time when the new site launches, letting all know it is live and how to find it.

Until then, let me thank all of the readers of this blogsite. It's been my honor to type for you! It will continue to be my honor to do so at the new website in the very, very near future.

Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Passing of John Callaway

Chicago lost another legendary media personality last night. John Callaway passed away at age 72 from a heart that failed him. Ironically, he was known in the industry as having one of the biggest, kindest hearts around.

Many people know Mr. Callaway as that "interview man" from WTTW/Channel 11. He was so much more than that and for much longer than many people realize. He was a very important component to Chicago's media landscape. Chicago's radio & TV stations might be of a much lesser quality if not for this person.

John Callaway truly had news in his blood. His Father was a newspaper editor and he grew up in West Virginia with a strong interest in both media & current events. He started in Chicago as a radio reporter for WBBM, as well being a TV reporter. From here in Chicago in the mid-60's, he hosted the nationally broadcasted Nightline radio show, a precursor to the show now seen on ABC-TV at night. He became News Director at WBBM in 1968 and transformed the station to the all-news format it still is today. That success pleased CBS so much that he was then put in charge of making other CBS stations across the country into all-news formats. His talent & success had him moving up the company ladder at CBS and was sent to New York in the early 70's. He had come to love Chicago, though, and returned just a few years later to be a reporter for CBS2. In 1974, John Callaway was wooed over to WTTW to be the station's News Director. Because of his work, Channel 11 began airing award-winning local news programs he started like The Public Newscenter, Chicago Feedback, John Callaway Interviews and most famously, Chicago Tonight.

So many media people are honored to win one award in their career. John Callaway has won more than 100 awards, including a Peabody Award and a whopping 16 Emmy Awards. His 46 years of excellence in radio & TV journalism makes him one of the most important media figures in Chicago history.

Besides his impressive work in front of and behind the scenes in radio & television, he was also the founder of a broadcast journalism program at the University of Chicago. He has authored a book of essays, he has written and performed in two one-man live plays, and even sung with both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was a frequent lecturer and event emcee, a moderator, a teacher and a consultant. He has led an impressive, full professional life.

As impressive as his resume is, it is the sheer quality of his work that really stood out. He was widely regarded as one of the finest newsmen and interviewers around, not just in Chicago, but in America. He didn't often lob softball questions to his subjects, unless it was done so to set the stage for the more important questions to come. He didn't let his subjects get away from skirting away from a question. He verbally probed their minds liked a finely skilled surgeon. He didn't attack his subjects, he methodically conversed with them and he did so with a style & class that very few could match. When columnist Robert Feder retired from the Chicago Sun-Times, he shunned every request to talk about his exit from his long-time employer -- except one. Even Robert Feder trusted & respected the skills of John Callaway and agreed to be on Chicago Tonight's Friday Night with him for a half hour interview. Some of the biggest names in news & media, including other famous interviewers, who rarely would agree to do be interviewed, agreed to be on with John Callaway. That level of respect can not be measured.

You can ask, probe, Google, and look around for years, but you will not be able to find anybody who has a bad word to say about the man on a personal or professional level. It is not surprise that he was respectful to his interview subjects, since he was equally respectful to everybody he met.

I had the opportunity to have a private dinner with John Callaway at a relative's house, many years ago. In addition to being a kind, soft-spoken gentleman, there was a special air about him. He brought an energy to room that lit it up.

Of course his many talents will be missed with his sad passing. For those who had the opportunity to meet with him, work with him, be interviewed by him or simply spend some time with him, it is the man himself that will be missed much more. His body of work will live on for years to come. His way of touching so many others with his brain and with his heart will last with them for the rest of their lives. John Callaway may have left us physically, but he has also left behind an incredible legacy of professional & personal greatness. We are all the better for it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

James VanOsdol's New Book Project

One of Chicago's finest rock jocks, who sadly is not on the air right now, was James VanOsdol. One of the factors that made him so good was that he knew the music he played inside & out. He was also quite the aficionado of local Chicago artists, from those who where performing their craft in smokey bars at nights to those who made it the national stages. For the last few years, JVO has been writing a book about the Chicago music scene of the 1990's. This town was the epicenter of a great amount of fantastic music during the early 90's. Many artists, such as Smashing Pumpkins, Ministry, Urge Overkill, Material Issue, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt made a national splash, while a lot of artists like the Bad Examples, Red Red Meat, Hello Dave and Cathy Richardson never quite broke the barrier. Regardless, the 90's was the most vibrant time in Chicago rock history since the 60's. JVO's book, which has the working title of "CHICAGO ROCKED! 1990-1999" is almost finished, but does not have a publishing deal. He is hoping to independently publish the book and is currently seeking donations to make that hope a reality. To find out more about the book, and/or make a donation to help this book be published soon, go to this link HERE. The website has only been up for a few days now, but has already gained 13 donations by people wanting to back the book. Best of luck to James on this project of his!

Friday, June 12, 2009's Meltdown

This evening, Crain's Ed Sherman reported that ChicagoSportsWebio's CEO had been bouncing checks this week. That CEO then fired Mike North, North's wife BeBe and Jeff Schwartz from the company. This is a HUGE story for a Friday night (or any night for that matter). As Mike North would say: "Whoooooah!

Right away, I have to say, big-time kudos to Ed Sherman. He has been doing a tremendous job that has been largely unnoticed by the general population, since he is blogging on the Crain's website, which doesn't get a lot of traffic. He has been breaking stories and uncovering information about sports & sports media the past few weeks that has not been covered anywhere else. He was the first to announce the bizarre situation melting down at ChicagoSportsWebio, too. He deserves a lot of credit for his work this spring & summer.

Now for the big story: Many negative naysayers said it wouldn't work -- largely because of their dislike of Mike North, a very polarizing media figure. CSW (It takes too long to type that name out. It's getting abbreviated for the rest of this rant.) should work and could work. It is the future of radio and the ideas, goals & efforts put into it were all pointing it in the right directions. This week, all of CSW's upward momentum crashed to the ground like a Wiley Coyote-built flying machine.

As much as the negative naysayers are probably high-fiving themselves over a beer tonight, cheering a Mike North firing, it was not Mike North that messed up CSW. It is now publicly clear that the fault lies with David Hernandez. It was not Mike North who mismanaged funds, bounced checks and caused an uproar at CSW. It was Hernandez's end of the bargain at CSW that was dropped. As CEO, the blame falls squarely on his shoulders. Today, the funds were not the only thing he mismanaged. He mismanaged the most important people in the company in Mike North & Jeff Schwartz. North was the gasoline in the engine that kept it chuggin' along at a great pace. He was the main figurehead & voice. Most of all, he was the station's biggest & best pitchman. Say what you want about Mike North's sports personality persona, but you cannot take away the man's selling skills. North could sell water to a drowning man. The other secret superhero behind CSW is/was Jeff Schwartz. David Hernandez did not assemble that team of personalities, reporters, producers & staff. "Spaceball" had his hand in all of that, along with the selling of the concept to numerous advertisers. The messed-up ego of David Hernandez may not see it this way, but CSW WAS Mike North & Jeff Schwartz. Firing those two is like firing Mick Jagger & Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones.

So is CSW dead? Not yet, but it suddenly has gone from perfect health to critical condition. In addition to losing it's best parts, it now has to deal with a great amount of fallout from today's explosions. Many of the people there -- I could probably say MOST of the people there -- are loyal & friendly to Mike North & Jeff Schwartz. They are not loyal to David Hernandez, especially if their paychecks with his signature on them just bounced. Will they stay with the station now? Will they walk out? Will advertisers stay now? Are the plans for AM radio simulcasting now dead?

And there are the inevitable lawsuits... Yes, plural. The Norths will sue. Schwartz will sue. Staffers may sue. Advertisers may sue. Creditors & investors may sue. Mark my words, this will get a whole lot uglier before it gets better.

The end result will be one of these three outcomes:
- North & Schwartz will end up with controlling interest in CSW in the next month or so,
- Hernandez will come to his senses, kiss & make up with everybody at CSW,
- CSW will disappear from the virtual landscape, as North & Schwartz start up their own, better version of it.

One more thing about Mike North... what ever he is involved with is NEVER boring. The events of tonight prove that once again.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just Twitterin' Along

It's true. I am officially a "Twit" now. I did something I rarely do and gave into peer pressure. I went and joined Twitter. I'll try not to post too much about my wife Demi Moore or my BFF Gayle King, though. I'll also not do the typical Twitter garbage and post up my every action of the day. It will just be the nonsensical ramblings of a nonsensical mind. At least until I get bored of doing so, which according to studies is about 60 days. Then again, I may just solve & unveil the secret of life itself -- in 140 characters or less, naturally. You can find my tweets -- a word that sounds much too comical -- on Twitter at this link HERE. (I am still having trouble justifying how a grown man can say words like "Twitter" & "Tweet" without feeling like a Looney Tunes character come to life.) Please follow me there!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SXSW 2009 -- Personal Recap

The 2009 South By Southwest Music fest is over. I have one day to decompress from the event before rejoining the real world tomorrow. It is an experience like no other. A seemingly non-stop rock & roll party of band after band after band, giving their all and trying to make a name for themselves. As one would expect, there are plenty of great bands, as well as 10 times that many who are not quite ready for the bigtime. For every band that I saw & enjoyed, there dozens I did not enjoy enough, prompting me to move on to the next bar, with the hopes of seeing something special.

The one band that made me the happiest was the one band I mainly wanted to see this trip, the composite group Tinted Windows, made up of members of Hanson, Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins and Fountains of Wayne. It is a quickie side project for these members, most of whom will be returning to their main projects by summer, but for this spring, they are having fun and so are their new fans - myself included. The band is pure bubblegum fun! Their single, "Kind Of A Girl" was just released to radio, the CD of theirs comes out in just under a month and they hit Chicago at the end of April. Check them out!

A band that came out of nowhere to surprise me this year was The She Creatures. Their act is that they are three women from Venus (along with one male Earthling drummer), who have crashed they spaceship on Earth, to look for men and to rock us. They dress in bright blue wigs, bright blue mascara & lipstick, plastic-like outfits and use cheap props like a toy laser gun. Despite the 60's B-Movie campiness to the act, the ladies deliver classic garage rock that is highly enjoyable. Their few shows in Austin these past few days were their first, and so far only, US gigs. Hopefully, their spaceship will bring them back soon. (They actually hail from England and tour Europe regularly.)

Another Brit, Ed Harcourt, surprised me with a fairly good set. A little mellow at times, but the addition of a trumpet player and violinist added a lot to his sound. It didn't make me want to run out and buy any of his CDs, but it didn't make want to leave the room, either. Speaking of violinists, having on in your band seems to be the "in" thing lately, as quite a few bands are adding that extra element. One such band is LA's The Airborne Toxic Event, one of the "next big thing" bands this year. They played a couple of showcases at this years SXSW. I watched one and while, I find them talented and enjoyable, I didn't find them all that exiting. I'm not on the "next big thing" bandwagon for them. Another "next big thing" band, Forever The Sickest Kids have incredible energy and catchy hooks. That's the good news. The bad news is they aren't doing anything even remotely original to separate them from the many other emo bands already turning out similar & even better music. They also are not as funny to the audience as they seem to be to themselves. Another supposed "must see band" was synth-driven Late Of The Pier. I give them the E for effort, in that they were doing something unique and un-commercial by today's standards. However, the annoying lame lyrics and stupid rock formats, coupled with cliche stage antics, had me hoping they would take the leap off of that pier and forced me to the exit doors. One artist I sadly only caught the tail end of was Little Boots. At least it made want to check out more of their (her?) dance rock/pop act at some future time. They (she?) struck me as a more pop version of Goldfrapp. Catching the tail end of sets was a reoccurring theme this year, but with so much to see & do, there is no way to keep a schedule.

Going at the very same time as SXSW and at the very same location in downtown Austin, was the Red Gorilla Music fest. This music fest pretty much filled in every other bar on 6th Street that was not used by SXSW. It is the same concept: a new artist on stage almost hourly. Of the many bands I heard at these showcases, three jumped out at me: Chicago's Dot Dot Dot, who played on the itty-bitty stage of The Thirsty Nickel bar, but still managed to put on a large show. The half-hour showcase of songs was just not enough time for this group. Over at the somewhat larger stage of Darwin's bar, two bands on two different nights really grabbed my eyes & ears: Orlando's Afterglow Radio and Fort Worth's Green River Ordinance. Both were very promising acts.

The Austin Convention Center was the official home base of the SXSW festival. There, inside an exhibition hall, they set up two "bars" for some larger acts to perform in: the Bat Bar & the Lone Star Lounge. These were actually a pair of side by side TV soundstages made to look like amazing bars. They were indeed amazing, but it was more DirecTV magic than a great bar. Don't come to Austin in the summer and expect to find these fiction saloons. The Convention Center may be the official heart of the music fest, but 6th Street is the true heart of this event. Walking down the closed-off street is almost as much fun as watching any band. Thursday night, the street and bars were surprisingly not as crowded as years past. By Saturday night, though, it was wall-to-wall craziness. On Thursday, sitting on a curb enjoying some late night pizza (sounds odd, but everybody does it there), I watched one musician after another strolling down the middle of the street, including Jane's Addiction's Perry Ferrell, hanging all over a blond woman and having the time of his life. I watched Gordon Gano (formerly of the Violent Femmes) film a music video with his new partners the Ryan Brothers on a street corner down the block from where he was set to take the stage, while drunken partiers did all they could to ruin the shot by acting like morons right behind him. (Unfazed & enjoying the atmosphere, Gano never stopped smiling about the situation.) In addition to the dozens of bars and the non-stop parade of SXSW revelers, there was so much more going on here: all types of fast food being sold out of carts & trailers, street musicians playing for a buck, a guy dressed up as Captain Morgan & posing for photos, PETA protesters finding a unreceptive audience, DirecTV interviewing musicians on a crane, musicians handing out CD-Rs of their band, and some of the local Austin freaks that come out when there is a crowd. 6th Street is a world unto itself during this fest.

Looking past the influential nature this annual event has on the music & radio industry, "South By" is a party like none other. Crazy, exciting, loud and wild. There is an electricity in the air, as much as there are constant drum beats & guitars off in the distance in every direction. Everybody is smiling, everyone is friendly, everybody is excited about something they might see later, everyone has a story to tell about the day before, everybody is of one mind set. There is always a twinge of disappointment, as well. Since there are so many acts playing at the very same time, it is impossible to see it all, and there is always the feeling that you are missing out on something wonderful happening down the street. The fact is, you probably are missing a bunch and there's nothing you can do about it. All you can do is enjoy the ride -- and what a ride SXSW is. See ya' next year!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ed Schwartz -- A Story Of Caring

Chicago radio legend, Eddie Schwartz passed away last night. He was 3 months shy of his 63rd birthday.

Perhaps best known as the long-time overnight voice of WGN-AM, "Chicago Ed" entertained thousands of 3rd shifters, night owls & insomniacs, gaining possibly the largest following of any overnight host in this town's history. Prior to his WGN years, he also worked nights at WIND-AM. For a few years after WGN, he worked at WLUP-AM & FM. It was his years as the overnight king on WGN that he will best be remembered for, and rightfully so.

It is often joked about with radio personalities that they have “faces for radio,” meaning that they may not have the prettiest of looks, but they have the vocal talent needed. Eddie may have had the proverbial "face for radio," but he also didn't exactly have the stereotypical voice for radio. He was higher pitched than most radio pitchmen. He breathed heavy. He had a unique laugh. He was not typical in any way. That wasn't a detriment for Mr. Schwartz, though. It became part of his charm. This was not an authoritative voice coming from the radio speakers. This was not a deep, unattainable voice. This was the voice of an everyman. This was the voice of a friend. This was the voice of caring.

When speaking of Ed Schwartz, caring is a key word that will always come up. He cared... a lot. He cared about radio. He cared about his listeners. He cared about people. He cared about total strangers. This was a caring man. If a caller had a problem, he cared. If a news story mentioned somebody in distress, he cared. If a charity needed some help, he cared.

Upon finding out that Chicago's shelters and food pantries were low on food & funds, once again, he cared. He cared so much that he got together with the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation and started up the Good Neighbor Food Drive. This annual event would have Eddie staying outdoors on cold December days & nights, raising money, canned food & awareness for Chicago's hungry. It was run by Eddie and teams of volunteers each winter. Special guests from local politicians to national celebrities would stop by or call him in the dead of night to offer their support and gratitude for his efforts. Each year, he raised between $100,000 and $200,000 and mountains of food for those in need. This special radiothon was done years before radiothons became more common in radio. Nowadays, almost every radio station does some sort of charity-driven marathon, and while the end results are positive ones, the reasons behind them have more to do with tax write-offs & public relations. When Eddie did his Food Drives, there were no ulterior motives. There was only caring.

Not only did he raise money for charities, he would always allow charities to talk about their needs on his shows. If that wasn't enough, he consistently gave his own money to needy charities. If he heard on his show about a foundation in need, he would quietly write them a check, right then & there. If he read a sad story about somebody down on their luck, he would send them an anonymous check. There are stories of him paying rent for total strangers in need or buying clothes for the children of a single mother having difficulties making ends meet. He didn't do this because he wished for notoriety. He did this because he cared.

As was commonplace for a period of time in the later 80's & early 90's, younger radio personalities would make fun of the older personalities. The younger listeners loved the "us vs. them" mentality of it. Eddie was often made fun of and was an easy target by the radio young guns. His unique style made for mocking imitations. However, this was not just anybody they were making fun of... this was somebody special; somebody unique; somebody willing both confront the mocker and laugh along with the person. Steve Dahl, who early in his career here, built upon his popularity by making fun of the "old-timers" like Wally Phillips & Eddie Schwartz, would get called by Eddie and confronted right on the air. Those calls not only made for great radio, it eventually made for great admiration. Steve Dahl went from mocking Eddie, to genuinely caring about the man. A few years ago, Dahl released a CD of many of those Eddie radio moments and donated all of the proceeds to help pay for Eddie's medical needs at that time. It just went show how rare of a human being this Ed Schwartz was. Even those who tried to dislike him, could not help but care for this caring man.

In the mid-90s, Eddie left radio... or rather... radio left him. He has been missed ever since. He kept busy, writing for the Lerner newspapers and his own blog, but it wasn't the same for him, as Eddie missed the interaction with fans. A return to radio in some capacity became a near impossibility when his health deteriorated in the 90's and then went from bad-to-worse in the 00's. For the last few years, his many physical problems -- kidney failure, a collapsed lung, diabetes, heart ailments, blood ailments, bouts of pneumonia, and so on -- kept the man away from his downtown apartment overlooking the lake and had him in hospitals & rehabilitation centers in the northern suburbs. His body may have failed him, but his mind stayed sharp. He still very much cared for local media and kept a close eye (and/or ear) on it.

His failing health left him a thin man, but he will always be remembered & pictured in the minds of those thinking of him, in his large body. Eddie's large body was not due to eating habits, genetics, illness or obesity. It was there to house the gentleman's large, caring heart.

If there is a heaven, "The Wiffenpoof Song" was loudly playing there late last night, entertaining all.

Rest in peace, Kiddo. Your caring ways will be missed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ryan Seacrest: What's Wrong With Radio Now

Bill McMahon, a radio person from the Pacific Northwest wrote a blog the other day about Clear Channel and its pushing of the Ryan Seacrest syndicated show. It is a very good read and worthy of checking out. You can see it at the link below:

The Problem With Ryan Seacrest

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Hope

A new hope
A new hope for our country
A new hope for our world
A new hope for our future
A new hope for a more peaceful existence
A new hope for prosperity
A new hope for repairing the damage done
A new hope for advancing America
A new hope for advancing humankind
A new hope for feeling proud of ourselves again

A new hope has filled the air

After 8 years of hopelessness...
A new hope.