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Media: November 2020

| November 1, 2020

When you have already been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the National Radio Hall of Fame, and you are featured in the radio wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you might think that there isn’t really anything left to accomplish. But when John Records Landecker recently got a call from WGN Radio, he didn’t look at it that way.

“In my memoir Records Truly Is My Middle Name, I wrote that I would never go back to do a nightshift at a music station,” he says. “I admit I did think about that when they called me about this show. But this is nothing like what I was doing previously (on WLS FM). The marching orders I was given here was ‘don’t lose the license’ and ‘make it to the top of the hour ID on time.’ That’s it. Hmmm. They addressed every concern I had. I thought to myself, if I believed everything I ever told myself I could do if I didn’t do it now, then when? Even if I bomb, at least I gave it a shot. I mean, this is WGN! At night. What an opportunity!”

If there was one itch he hadn’t fully scratched in his amazing career, WGN was it.

“WGN has always been the top of the radio pyramid as far as I’m concerned. I’ve gone in and out of here several times over the years, and nothing ever came of it.  This time is different.  In a way, this is a culmination of everything I’ve ever done in radio, with another opportunity to use everything I’ve learned, go in with a great attitude, and begin with a clean slate.  It’s a matter of experience. The way we’re doing this is very low stress, and that’s such a nice change of pace from previous stops.”

One important change was he was being permitted to do his type of show. He wasn’t being shoehorned into a show that didn’t feel right for him. He calls this newest incarnation “The John Landecker Radio Oasis.”

“I knew that I did not want to be confrontational or political,” he explains. “I didn’t want to be discussing rioting with aldermen, or finances with Terry Savage, or medical developments with some doctor from Northwestern on a regular basis—if at all. I wanted to stay away from the stories that are causing people to grind their teeth—the grim reality everyone deals with every day. And I was thinking that a lot of people are driving while they listen, and when you drive down the toll road, and you run into an oasis, you know that you can stop there and relax. You can leave the pressure of driving behind. Have a cup of coffee or something, go to the bathroom, chill out and take it easy, if just for a short time. When you’re in the desert, and you see an oasis, you know you can get water, even though you’re still in the desert. This is the radio version of that. I’m trying to be fun in the middle of un-fun. I don’t think there’s really anything like this on the radio anywhere these days.”

And this time it really feels different for John.

“The first huge difference is that WGN radio is the only radio station owned by Nexstar Media. All those past radio stations I worked for were owned by radio conglomerates that owned multiple radio outlets in the same city, dividing the workforce between those outlets. You weren’t asked to work for one station. No, no, no. You had to work for five. Engineers, promotions, sales, and more were doing at a minimum, double duty. That’s the biggest difference so far here at WGN. There’s only one owner. You have a direct line to the very top of the company. There’s no bureaucracy in between. If I want to talk to Sean Compton, I can just call him up.”

And he likes the atmosphere amongst his colleagues.

“There’s a real camaraderie at WGN among the personalities. It’s a much more enterprising WGN. They aren’t tied down to pre-conceived notions of ways of doing things. They just converted the 4-7 block into an afternoon news block with Steve Bertrand. They’ve got John Williams doing jokes. Bob Sirott doing giveaways. It’s a fun station that doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as it used to unless, of course, we are doing news. Everything else is friendly, not overtly political, and full service. I love the atmosphere.”

After being a music jock for most of his career, he calls this new type of show a hybrid.

“WGN has a limited deal with the licensing companies, and so we can only play 90 seconds of any song before violating the licensing deal. I’ve been doing edited versions of songs that last less than 90 seconds. They all have a beginning, middle, and end. I’m calling this the attention-deficit-disorder playlist. Some stations play the best music. Some play the most music. We play the shortest music. It’s been fun. People are getting into it.”

One person getting into it the most is John Landecker himself.

“I don’t want sound too saccharine, but this has been a blessing. An unexpected gift out of nowhere.”

John Landecker can be heard from 7-10 pm weeknights on WGN Radio (720 AM).

– Rick Kaempfer

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Category: Columns, Featured, Features, Media, Monthly

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