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Media: August 2022 • Bob Stroud • “40 Years of The Stroud Crowd”

| July 31, 2022

 

Bob Stroud

 

DJ Bob Stroud always loved radio, but before he launched his legendary radio career that lasted five decades and ended with his semi-retirement a few weeks ago, he was honing his delivery elsewhere.

“I did three years of dinner theater in Florida,” he explains. “I started out just working tech because you had to have an equity card, and I eventually got one. I did shows with Mickey Rooney, Gavin MacLeod, Bill Dailey from the Newhart show, and Don Ameche. I ironed Don Ameche’s shirts! How many people are you going to talk to that ironed Don Ameche’s shirts for dinner theater?”

His jump from theater to radio obviously worked out. Stroud has been nominated for the Radio Hall of Fame for the past two years. He credits all of the greats he worked with influencing his career, but there were two voices from his youth that had the most significant impact on him.

“The DJ that sent me on the course to where I am is Dick Biondi,” he says. “It was so important in my life – sixth grade, living in Kalamazoo, a friend of mine said, ‘Have you heard this disc jockey named Dick Biondi on WLS in Chicago? He’s crazy.’ I went home that night and listened, and it changed my life. The other guy who I always mention because I thought he was so brilliant was Ron Britain from WCFL. When I met him the first time, it was like meeting a Beatle for me.”

Because of his childhood love of Chicago radio, Bob knew he was going to the big time when he got his gig at WMET in 1979. He called an old friend for advice.

“The guy who owned the first radio station I worked for in Sarasota said, ‘the first thing I’d do is clean yourself up and get a haircut. Buy a new set of clothes.’ So, I got a haircut and bought a whole new set of Calvin Klein clothes. Looked like something out of GQ. Stepped off the airplane here in Chicago, and here’s a bunch of greasy long-haired satin-jacket-wearing radio thugs waiting for me. My first thought was ‘Uh oh.’”

It got even more interesting when he met the management.

“I was introduced to (general manager) Harvey Pearlman the first day I got to WMET. The next morning I was walking down the hallway, and I said, “Good morning Mr. Pearlman.” He replied, “Fuck you, Stroud.” I went into the PD’s office and told him what happened, and he told me that the next time he says, ‘Fuck you, Stroud,’ reply, ‘Fuck you, Harvey.’ So, the next time it happened the same way. I replied, ‘Fuck you, Harvey.” He stopped, looked at me with a big smile on his face, and extended his hand and said, ‘Put it there, Stroud!’”

Stroud’s stint at WMET didn’t last as long as his time at the Loop or the Drive, but it did launch the program that has been his signature ever since, Rock and Roll Roots.

“I’ve been doing Roots now 42 years. They knew I loved that ’60s era and told me to pick out songs from that time we could get away with on a kick-ass rock and roll station like WMET. The first few times, I got calls from people saying stuff like, ‘Did your mother teach you how to pick music?’ That’s the way it started, and now it’s been on WMET, the Loop, AM 1000, CD 94.7, WXRT, and the Drive.”

As crazy as Bob’s time was at WMET, he walked into an even bigger circus at the Loop just a few years later.

“Everybody from all walks of the entertainment business came to that radio station,” he says. “Milton Berle. Robert Plant. Richard Lewis. Jimmy Webb. Every rock star you can think of. TV stars. Movie stars. I was on the air down the hall at the same time as Kevin Matthews (The Loop AM-1000) every day. One day a bunch of the Chicago Bears, like Steve McMichael and Kevin Butler, and a few others came into the studio and duct-taped Kevin to the chair, then duct-taped his mouth, and wheeled him into the hallway and into the elevator and walked down Michigan Avenue.”

For the last 20+ years of his career, Stroud has helmed the midday show at [97.1 FM] the Drive. The station’s relationship with its listeners is unique, and Bob has a theory about why that is.

“Props to (original Drive program director) Greg Solk,” he says. “He just sat us all down and said this is how we’re going to approach this. We are going to respect the music. In the beginning, for the first few years, we didn’t even do promotions. It was a radio station without a promotion department. It’s evolved over the years, but there’s something in the DNA that has remained the same. It might just be as simple as using the late Nick Michaels, the voice guy we’ve used since the beginning. He’s as much a part of the success of the radio station as any disc jockey or program director.”

One disc jockey, who is too humble to admit it, also had a giant impact on that station.

He may have semi-retired at the end of June, but Bob Stroud can still be heard every weekday for the special features 10 at 10, and One 45 at 1:45, and every weekend for his long-running show Rock and Roll Roots.

-Rick Kaempfer

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