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Media: February 2020

| February 1, 2020

Scott Miller was a regular on the radio in Chicago for several decades (WJMK, WCKG, WGN, WDRV, News 101.1 FM, Oprah Radio). Still, a few years ago, after his stint at the Drive (97.1 FM) with Pete McMurray and Dan McNeil, Miller found himself out of work. Despite knowing just about everyone in town, he couldn’t find a gig.

“A friend of mine named Katherine Kelly, who is now Katherine Murphy,” he explains, “was also looking for a gig, and she found the news director job at WJBC in Bloomington-Normal (AM 1230). She came down here mid-2018, and her first week down here, the afternoon man quit. The PD sent out a note asking if anyone knew someone looking for a gig, and Katherine recommended me.”

That led Scott on a career trajectory that nobody saw coming, including himself.

“They hired me for afternoons in September of 2018, and I came in like a tornado. Most of the on-air staff at the station were 60-plus, and I came in there as a 40-year-old full of vim and vigor, and I made a name for myself quickly, getting involved in the community. I called Bingo, I went to every bar and restaurant in town, every garage sale in town, and pretty soon people knew who I was. Unfortunately, the morning man Scott Laughlin was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and he decided to retire to take care of his health, so they moved me to mornings. Now I’m doing mornings with Katherine Murphy, and this is our third radio station together. We launched Oprah radio together in 2006, and then we launched FM News 101.1 together with Randy Michaels, and now this.”

Miller had hosted shows before (in Carbondale, and briefly in Chicago), but this was the sort of gig he has always wanted. Most of his time in Chicago radio, he had worked as a producer. Although, he notes there should be an asterisk next to that designation.

“My whole life I’ve wanted to host a radio show,” he explains. “On-air jobs are hard to come by in Chicago, so anytime I got a producer job that allowed me to be on the air, I did it. Pete McMurray told me that I was going to have the title of producer, but I was going to be on the air with him, and I was at WCKG, WGN, and the Drive. He always treated me as a co-host. I was a producer for Oprah radio too, and I produced Maya Angelou, Gayle King, and more. Gayle had a live two-hour show every morning on Oprah radio. Well, when Oprah launched the TV network, Gayle’s radio show was live on TV every day. I was the only guy on the show, so Gayle would have me on the air to talk about the guy’s perspective. So, I was still a producer, but I was getting on the air, and getting that experience, recognition, and publicity.”

His on-air style emerged after a lifetime of living and breathing Chicago radio.

“I have taken something from everybody. Steal from all of them, and make it your own, right? I got my start in this business at 12 years old with Dick Biondi. I met him when I was standing in line to get his autograph. He found out my name was Scott Miller, and he put me on the air to do the weather on Oldies 104.3 live from the Auto Show in February of 1991, at the Jeep-Eagle dealership. We became friends. After that, my parents drove me to his live remotes at car dealerships, and I did the weather on his show from 12 years to 18 years old. The personal connection with the audience, the meeting, and greeting of the fans — that’s what I learned from Dick Biondi. The entertainment aspect, yes, I stole from Steve Dahl, Jonathon Brandmeier, and Kevin Matthews. I was influenced by all of them, and I’ve luckily got to meet and work with almost all of them.”

And what is the result? What kind of show does he do now?

“It’s news/talk. I cover anything happening in the world. I’m sticking to lighter topics, but I do a monthly call with Dick Durbin, and we have our local state reps and senators on, and we talk about things happening in and around the community. The Mayor comes in. Councilmembers. But other than that, I’m doing a normal morning show, with my own spin on it. Keeping it fun and light and exciting.”

And Bloomington-Normal is an excellent fit for him.

“This feels so much like home, being here. This community has really accepted me quicker than I ever could have imagined. There are hosts down here that have been on these stations twenty or thirty years. They all told me, ‘You have to take a slow approach. It’s going to take 6-8 months before anyone even knows who you are, so don’t get discouraged.’ Within three months of being here, I can’t go shopping without someone stopping me to say hello. So, it really has blown up, and I couldn’t be happier. There are no rules for me. Just do well, don’t upset the advertisers, do your thing, and we’ll let you be. And they have. You can’t ask for more than that!”

-Rick Kaempfer



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Category: Columns, Media, Monthly

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