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Lovers Lane

Not-So-Sacred Cow

| August 29, 2006 | 6 Comments

We were never fans of Erich “Mancow” Muller, the libertarian shock jock who started drawing young male listeners to him like flies when he came to Chicago in 1994. But we were not pleased when Emmis Communications-owned WKQX-FM (101.1) dumped his top-rated “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” in July.

In a statement on WKQX’s Web site, Vice President Of Programming Mike Stern explained, as only a corporate suit can, “In April 2005 we started playing ‘Everything Alternative’ and we put it all ‘On Shuffle.’ Since then, Q101’s audience has grown and become more diverse – and we thank you for that. Now it is time we produce a new morning show with a broader appeal that better fits the tone of the rest of the station’s programming.”

In addition, Mancow’s earlier shock jock antics (such as faking his own death in 1996 and running afoul of the FCC six times in 2000 and 2001) had him topping many advertisers’ don’t buy lists. The FCC has since increased its indecency fines tenfold, and that didn’t help his case with Emmis – which last year paid $300,000 to the FCC and signed a consent decree limiting indecent content. To top it off, “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” is syndicated to 20 other (smaller) markets that weren’t interested in hearing about Chicago minutiae.

“From what I can tell, Emmis wanted Mancow to be more Chicago-focused,” speculates Inside Radio Editor-In-Chief Tom Taylor. In the meantime Stern promises to unveil an “unconventional new show” in the fall. For the time being, James VanOsdol hosts “A Summer Of Shuffle” in the mornings. (His book on the 1990s Chicago music scene will be released next spring by Chicago-based Lake Claremont Press).

A streamlined “Morning Madhouse” continues to air in nearly two dozen smaller markets, including Champaign, Peoria, and Marion-Carbondale. To stream the show live go to www.mancow.com or visit www.935953therock.com. You can also catch Mancow on Fox News’ “Fox And Friends” and doing the occasional editorial on WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight.”

BAD DOG: July was also when CBS Radio-owned WCKG-FM (105.9) dumped Shane “Rover” French‘s low-rated morning show. The overdue move left the carpetbagger free to hightail it back to Cleveland, where he’ll continue to broadcast and syndicate “Rover’s Morning Glory.” “It’s just a function of the ratings,” Taylor explains. “He’s working in other markets [such as Cleveland and St. Louis]. Chicago just did not open up to him.” CBS bosses also cited a lack of local focus on the show.

Not that replacement jocks Opie and Anthony have anything to do with the Windy City. The New York-based syndicated team are known best for getting kicked off the air for airing a “Sex In St. Patrick’s Cathedral” stunt in August 2002. They’ve been successfully replacing unsuccessful Howard Stern replacement and former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth in other markets and air locally from 6 to 9 a.m. – following an hour of highlights from the previous day’s Steve Dahl show (which, from what we can tell, still has a local focus).

DETENTION: Is something in the air? Last month longtime rock personality Bobby Skafish was dumped by CBS Radio-owned WXRT-FM (93.1) – despite 19 years at the station and three decades in the market. A handful of local oldies icons from the old “Magic” 104 (WJMK-FM) were also let go in July. Dick Biondi, Fred Winston, Greg Brown, and Connie Szerszen join Garry Meier and Kevin Matthews on the long list of local talent no longer on the air here. They were canned by CBS Radio as part of a company-wide purge. Not that anyone noticed: The trio had been languishing on Internet and HD radio ever since the station flipped to a jock-free “Jack FM” format last year. Larry Lujack and Tommy Edwards of WRLL-AM (1690) will also be unemployed come the 18th when their station becomes the new home of African American talker WVON-AM.

Is it a coincidence all of these local icons are off the air? Or is it fallout from consolidation, which has suits in other cities calling the shots, kowtowing to shareholders and adopting soundalike formats with names like Jack, Bob, Mike, and Simon? “There’s always a local manager who has to be accountable,” says Taylor (full disclosure: The corporate parent of his Inside Radio publication is radio giant Clear Channel Communications). “If the ratings don’t work you have to make a change and try something else . . . you try to bring what research you can to it. But overall it’s an art.”

FRESH AIR: One local stalwart who continues to succeed on his own terms is Scott Davidson, whose heavy metal “Rebel Radio” recently marked its 12th anniversary on time-brokered radio. Davidson celebrated by going commercial free for a week and giving away scores of records and tickets to shows ranging from small local affairs to Ozzfest. “We’re just trying to give something back to the listeners who’ve supported us over the years,” he says. “Rebel Radio” airs Sundays from 4 to 8 p.m. on north suburban WKTA-AM (1330) and Monday through Saturday from midnight to 2 a.m. on WSBC-AM (1240) and WCFJ-AM (1470). There are also plans to stream the show live; check www.rebelradio.com for updates.

Fans of old-time radio won’t want to miss the AFTRA/SAG Senior Radio Players performance of “A Drink Of Water” (a drama) and “A Piece Of Pie” (a comedy) on September 27th. The free show features live sound effects and takes place at 7 p.m at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater (78 E. Washington). For more call (312) 573-8081 or visit www.seniorradioplayers.com.

– Cara Jepsen

Category: Media, Monthly

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  1. Tommy Edwards and Larry Lujack were yanked off the air Aug 15. On Aug 16, regular listeners tuned in to find the music but no Tommy and Larry. Clear Channel claims RealOldies was only marginally successful, although the company did nothing to either promote the station for the nearly three years it was on the air or to improve the signal. There is no alternative as no other station had the deep music library that RealOldies had. The bottom line is that Clear Channel found it more financially expedient to ink a lucrative deal with WVON than to provide entertainment to an audience it claims was demographically worthless. Frankly, the whole thing smells of management failure. But there is nothing RealOldies fan can do now but to boycott all Clear Channel products. They won’t miss us because they didn’t want is in the first place.

  2. Deb Vandervort says:

    Thanks for nothing. Where did you put Larry and Tommy?

  3. TIM says:

    Just another reason to go to satelite radio….more of the same to follow

  4. CK says:

    Mancow RULES!

  5. rich says:

    Yup, it is just another reason to go to satellite radio. Many people may not like shows like Mancow or Howard Stern, but it would still be nice to have that thing called choice for the folks that do want to listen to that. Chicago radio is totally brutal, I heard better radio in Mexico when I was on vacation. To the corporate morons: give us choice, variety and less of crappy radio (top 40, Eric and Kathy, etc. etc.) Oh well, I’ll stop bitchin’ and try out Sirius.

  6. Karl T. says:

    Being in my upper forties, I am now finding myself enjoying the memories of my youth now more than ever. I had a transistor radio wth me wherever I went…taped to my banana seat… tucked in my shirt pocket… or in the dug-out as we played sand ball. Larry Lujack was King, Tommy Edwards Prince, Joel Sebastion awesome. Dr. Brock (DOCTORY!!!) my favorite nightime man. And all the rest, to many to name, but were equally instrumental in adding to the good memories that I have now. Thanks to them all!!!! Those magical voices are now gone or scattered so far across the radio waves that it is impossible to follow those wonderful talents. I now listen to WDRV 97.1 (Chicago) because if I can’t have the familiar voices coming thru my radio I can still have the music. Corporate radio has to make money to succeed, we all do. At our age I believe we have the highest demographic and, most of the money now. Think about that. Thanks

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