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Media: October 2017

| September 30, 2017

Joe Cicero


Star 105.5 (McHenry-based) morning show host Joe Cicero grew up in the Chicago area during one of local radio’s strongest eras–the early to mid-90s. “I grew up in Addison,” he explains, “and I dropped out of high school when I was 17 and drove a delivery van. That gave me a lot of time with the radio. I started to listen to North and Jiggetts, and they were tremendous. Great team, great balance. I also listened to Howard Stern on WCKG. And of course Johnny B, Kevin Matthews, and Steve Dahl.”

For the latter few, Cicero even got a front row seat. “I got to intern at WCKG, and it was so great. I can’t even tell you what a thrill that was. Dahl had a big influence on me. I still get people saying to me that my voice and the things I talk about, especially my boys, reminds them of Steve Dahl. I consider that the greatest compliment.”

He got to know a few of the personalities at WCKG, and they helped mentor his fledgling career. “Pete McMurray was the one who taught me how to do a show, how to do prep, and how to execute it. He’s the nicest guy in the world, and I can’t give him enough credit. I was doing overnights at WCKG after Opie and Anthony blew up. It was like the Wild West and nobody ever air-checked (critiqued) me. They let me do whatever I wanted. Kevin Matthews was also great to me. He literally got me a job. He actually called a station in Colorado and got me my first morning show when I really needed it. My mom had just passed away and I needed help. I will never forget him for that.”

After a few years in Colorado, Cicero landed in the northwest suburbs, and he has been there ever since. He is now the morning show host, program director, and music director, and enjoys wearing all three hats. “I love doing mornings,” he says. “I still get revved up to do it every day, to be there as people are getting their kids ready for school, and the music part of it is still fun because it’s newer to me. I’ve been doing mornings since 2002/2003, and I’ve only been doing music for a few years so it’s still fresh and fun.”

As for the program director job? “If there are ever any technical issues or problems on the air, I’m pretty calm. My co-host Tina will say to me ‘Why aren’t you mad right now?’ but who am I going to get mad at? I’m the program director. It has mellowed me out on the talent side of things because I have a much better understanding of the other side now. I learned a lot from Jack Paddeo (a predecessor in the role).”

Cicero is one of the growing number of radio folks who started in Chicago before moving out to the suburbs. The pipeline used to flow the other direction. “Eddie Volkman (Fox Morning Man) is like ten feet away from me every morning (Matrix Broadcasting owns both Star and the Fox). I’ve gotten to see him re-energized every morning. To see people who have been in Chicago come out here and see what we do is awesome. You can really see Eddie and Capone (formerly of the Loop, now at the Fox) react to the greater freedom and lack of pressure. These guys are happier than ever.”

One thing working in suburban radio has taught Cicero is how to concentrate on the local audience. That’s in Joe’s mind every single day as he plans out his show. “We start local first. Always. Northwest burbs first, then we stretch out to Chicago, then to national stories, and then to international, but we always super-serve the local community. We essentially became a rallying point for the area during the recent floods–we were out there helping people save their homes. I think some Chicago radio stations lose sight of the fact that they are a local station. That’s something we simply can’t do. We break format if we have to – people still go to the radio when big things are happening. I want to make sure we are relaying that information via our air and our social media. It’s so important. Nothing is more important.”

And Cicero has seemingly mastered the use of social media to help spread the word. His simultaneous on-air and on-line bits are doing an incredible job of converting listeners into on-line users, and vice versa. When I asked him about it, he had that day’s (Sept. 7) stats at his fingertips, as well as the similar formats on the Chicago radio dial. “Our engagement this week on Facebook is 6500 people. The Mix (101.9) is 6200. The Mix has 72,000 likes on their Facebook page, we have 29,000. Their morning show has over 100,000 likes, and their engagement this week is 1800. We are converting at a much higher rate. B-96’s engagement this week is 3300. Kiss-FM’s engagement is 1800. We have more engagement with a fifth or a sixth of their social media listening audience.”

Did I mention Joe is also a program director? Joe Cicero and his co-host Tina Bree can be heard every weekday from 5-10am on Star 105.5 in Crystal Lake.

-Rick Kaempfer


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