There are very few people in the world who know more about rock and roll music than Bob Stroud. He has been part of the Chicago radio scene for nearly four decades now (including the last twelve years at The Drive, 97.1FM), and he’s seen and done it all. We caught up with him recently to talk about the music and musicians he knows so well.
IE: As a rock jock, you’ve obviously seen just about every artist live in concert. What were the best shows you’ve seen?
BS: Paul McCartney’s show at Wrigley a few years ago was one of the best. His show at the United Center in 2002 or so was also great. Roy Orbison was incredible too. I saw him at the Riviera about a year before he died. It was so cool to see the audience react and swell to his operatic vocals, and when he was done with the songs, as the audience cheered, he put his hand to his hip and looked out at us with an expression on his face that said “Yeah, that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”
IE: What are some underappreciated bands from the era of music you play at the Drive?
BS: One of my all-time favorite artists, Todd Rundgren. I don’t think he got the kind of mass acceptance that he could have and should have gotten. He could have been the next Elton John, but that was not who he was or where he was. He took a more eccentric path, and a lot of it just wasn’t radio friendly. The guy is so extremely talented, and it’s too bad that not enough people appreciate that.
IE: Who are your favorite female rock and rollers?
BS: The first name that comes to mind is Joni Mitchell. I just think she’s in a league of her own. I’m also a huge Laura Nyro fan.
IE: What about one hit wonders?
BS: I love Crabby Appleton and their song “Go Back”. The leader of that band is named Michael Fennelly, and he’s a really talented musician who never got the breaks he should have gotten.
IE: Have you had any memorable brushes with rock and roll greatness?
BS: I met Brian Wilson several times. I was at his house in the suburbs. That was cool, although Brian isn’t always there, if you know what I mean. I’ve met McCartney several times and he was everything that I hoped Paul McCartney would be. I can tell you the worst one…Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes. He was a complete dick on the air. I can’t remember exactly how it spiraled out of control. I was being my nice charming self as always, and he had an attitude. All of a sudden he just turned on me. He said “Hey the next time you’re listening to this disc jockey and you think he knows what he’s talking about – he’s wearing a tie!”
IE: What are the best and worst years for your feature “10 at 10” (10 songs from one year), in your opinion?
BS: We focus on the years 1967 through 1989. Because I’m a child of the 60s and 70s, obviously those are my personal favorites. I’m always touting 1971. That was just an incredible year. The choices of songs from that year are just ENDLESS. 1972 and 1973 for that matter, were nearly as great. When you get into the 80s it can be a bit sketchy, but sometimes the years surprise me as being better than I remembered. For instance, I did 1988 the other day, and I thought ‘Wow, I love all ten of these songs!’
IE: Your other memorable feature is “One 45 at 1:45”. You really sound like you’re having fun when you do that.
BS: I am. I get to experiment a bit with songs we don’t play too much. But part of the appeal for me is also that I’m actually playing a 45 RPM record. If you go to my Facebook page, I post a photo of the 45 every day after I get done playing it. It’s become appointment listening for a lot of listeners.
IE: Are those your own personal 45s?
BS: Yes they are. They’re all in a cabinet, alphabetized.
IE: Are there any prized 45s?
BS: I have a few picture sleeve 45s that I got signed by the artists. I got Jimmy Webb to sign the picture sleeve of “Macarthur Park” by Richard Harris. I got John Phillips to sign a Mamas and Papas picture sleeve. Donovan signed one. I also still have the first four 45s I ever bought.
IE: Do you remember what they are?
BS: Of course! “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka, “Sherry” by the Four Seasons, “Alley Cat” by Bent Fabric, and “Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett. They cost 69 cents each.
IE: What does Bob Stroud listen to when he’s not at work?
BS: A lot of different things. Last night I was listening to the Flaming Lips. I’ve tried to keep up with the new stuff too. Love Fountains of Wayne. I listen to them all the time. I saw them at the Metro. Most of what I listen to at home is not stuff I play on the radio. I get to listen to those songs every day at work.