Lovers Lane
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Media: September 2019

| August 31, 2019

Tim Virgin

Tim Virgin first hit the airwaves in Chicago over twenty years ago. “(Loop program director) Greg Solk hired me in 1996. At that time, they were thinking of turning the Loop into an XRT-ish type format, the best music on the planet, and he needed an alternative guy, and that was me. When they went a different direction, my buddy Alex Luke took over at Q101, and I went there.”

Virgin is back at that 101.1 frequency now, but he has been just about everywhere since then (including a second stint at the Loop) and has done just about every type of format. His ability to shift back and forth between different formats makes him one of the most versatile jocks in the business.

“I’ve done top 40, classic rock, alternative, and various mixtures of those things. It is unusual — totally different approaches. Top 40 needs to keep the music moving, and alternative and classic rock were more traditional stopping and talking, and I just went with the flow and did what I needed to do. It’s acting, man.”

Though he’s done them all, his heart truly lies in the alternative format. He was one of the pioneers of the format and recognized its potential immediately.

“When Nirvana came out I was working at a top-40 station, and I wanted to play MTV stuff, alternative into hip hop into whatever was happening at the point. They acted like I was taking over the station every night and doing the show from my basement, and that’s what I did–the best of the black and the best of the white, and that’s the show that really launched me.”

In his early days at Q101, Virgin found out that he wasn’t alone in his love of the format.

“Dennis Rodman was on the Bulls, and I met him at a Bulls game one night. I was sitting in these great seats, and I had a purple Mohawk at the time. One of Rodman’s guys says to me, ‘Hey man, Dennis loves the music you guys play.’ I invited him to come into the studio, but I really didn’t think he would ever come. Sure as shit, the next day, they called me and said Dennis is here and wants to come on. I said hell, yes! He was so huge at that time. He showed up with Brian Liesegang from Filter and Carmen Electra at like 8:00 one night and his guys said ‘Dennis likes Kamikazes and Miller Lite. I told one of the interns — ‘Go get Dennis some fuckin’ Miller Lite.’ He got so comfortable. He was with Carmen, but it was a well-known fact that she was dating a guy from Cypress Hill. They were kind of on each other a little, so I asked if they were dating, and Dennis said yeah. Well, the next day that got into the media, and my phone started ringing. Dennis’ assistant called [and said] ‘Dennis is pissed at you! It’s in the Enquirer.’ I replied, ‘Did he notice those microphones in front of him? He was on the radio! He didn’t talk to me for a few weeks. We did makeup, and we did have a friendship for a few years, and I got to know the real Dennis. He was just a sweet guy. He just wanted to help people out. People were really taking advantage of him. Another time he came in with Eddie Vedder on a Saturday. It was amazing.”

The alternative format is a little different these days. It’s more of a top-40 approach, with constant movement, talking over the records, and letting the music do the talking. Virgin has adjusted and manages to pack a lot of personality into a small window of opportunity.

“Way harder to do these short bits,” he admits. “It’s like talk-texting. Don’t waste a word. Pack a punch. I admit it’s hard on your ego–sometimes I think, am I really cutting that out? But it’s what the people want. It’s our audience – younger 18-49-year-olds – they don’t want extra stuff. And there’s an art and a challenge to it.”

For the first time, through various radio stops, Virgin can concentrate exclusively on his on-air approach.

“I’ve been a music director and program director just about everywhere before, but I’m not doing that now. And I kind of like that. Here is the best part of not doing it. I’m now 100% on the air when I’m on the air. Before there was always part of me, that was thinking about programming and wasn’t 100% there. I’m lovin’ doing this now. The older I get, the more committed I get.”

And like so many others in the music radio business, Virgin loves the music and has even worked as a record company executive in the past. It’s something he studies and thinks about it and lives. Right now, he’s really keeping his eyes open.

“I am clamoring for the [next] new thing–that thing [that] replaces guitars and hip hop. What is next? There’s a bit of a lull. Like the late 80s when Poison was the thing before there was a course correction and we got grunge. Something new is coming soon. I just know it. And we’ll be the ones to play it.”

Tim Virgin can be heard every afternoon on WKQX 101.1 FM

-Rick Kaempfer






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