Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Media: March 2021

| February 28, 2021


Bob Sirott

Bob Sirott has been part of the Chicago media landscape now for a half-century.

“Geez, don’t remind me,” he says. “Yeah, that’s true. 1971 was the first year on the air at WBBM-FM. First, it was just doing weekends, and fill-ins, and summer stuff, and at the end of the summer, they either rewarded or punished me by naming me the 5:30-10 am morning man.”

If that seems like a quantum leap now, it didn’t feel so much like that back in 1971. At least not to Bob.

“They could afford to take a chance on a young kid like me because nobody had FM radio in their cars yet. It worked out well for me because I got experiment doing different bits.”

He still remembers a few of the more famous ones.

“Roger Ebert used to listen to the show. I had this idea of having Roger in to review the movie Deep Throat which had just come out. I would play the sound of the sprockets in a projector as if we were viewing the film, and Roger was game for it. We wrote little descriptions of things like ‘I’m not sure what part of the body that is right there’ and had some fun with it. To his dying day, every time I ran into Roger after that, he would say Deep Throat Review 1972.’ He loved it.”

Bob was breaking new ground without even realizing it.

“Back in those days, I used to go all the Bears games with my buddies. And somehow, after one game, I found myself invited to a party at (Bears quarterback) Bobby Douglass’ house. He lived in an apartment on Schiller at the time. I struck up a conversation with him and found out that Bobby loved music, and so I said, ‘Hey, I know nobody’s really done this before, and we don’t have a budget, but I can get you some albums. What do you think about coming on my show every Monday morning after games?’ He’s like the greatest nicest guy, and he said, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’ These days this sort of segment is commonplace, but this was 1971. Nobody did that. Especially not an FM station. I ran into my old boss the other day—Bob Johnson, the guy who hired me—and he told me, ‘That really put us on the map.’ But I take no credit for the success of that station. Bob Johnson was the program director, and he was a genius. Jim Smith was the music director, and he was a genius. It was great music, and they really knew how to program it, and they knew what to do with us, which was to let us have fun. It was also the beginning of the FM boom, so the timing was perfect.”

It also led to his famous run at WLS-AM (1973-1980).

“I joked at the time that I had to go to an AM station so that I could afford to get an FM radio in my car. I called (WCFL disc jockey) Jim Stagg up, asking him his advice if I should take the job. He said that I should try to get on the biggest stage, and WLS at that time was the biggest stage. It worked out for me. At first, they hired me to do 10 pm-2 am, but within a few months, there was a big shakeup, and suddenly I was doing afternoon drive.”

That was obviously Bob’s big break, and he hasn’t stopped since. Despite having some of the greatest jobs in the media over the past fifty years, including local and national television gigs, he feels like it’s all been leading up to this moment. The best job in Chicago. Morning man at WGN Radio.

“Historically, it has a great tradition and heritage. It’s a 50,000-watt signal; it’s 720 on the dial. It has a strong history of personality in the morning. It’s a habit that has been passed down from generation to generation. That’s a built-in quality to the radio station. Fortunately for me, it’s turned out perfectly. I don’t think there’s another station in the country that has the kind of facility we have here. It’s nicer than any TV station I’ve worked at. And then you’ve got Perry Sook, who runs the company, who is a total radio fan. He’ll talk your ear off about radio because he loves it. Same with Sean Compton. They’ve allowed me to create the kind of show I’d listen to. I call it News Plus. You get all the news, weather, traffic, sports you want, but it’s so much more. It’s News plus. Plus fun. Plus personality. Plus different features. It’s just right for me. This is the most fun I’ve had since Fox Thing in the Morning (in the 1990s).”

Is it possible that Bob Sirott is actually…happy?

“I guess I’m not famous for that, eh? (Laughs). You know what, I guess I am. Other than always feeling tired and sick (because of the hours), I guess I am. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding. I heard Vin Scully describe it this way, and I really think this is the secret to doing a good show. You need the humility to prepare and the confidence to pull it off. That’s what I try to do every day.”

Bob Sirott’s show airs every weekday morning from 5:00—9:00 AM on WGN Radio (720 AM).

-Rick Kaempfer

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Category: Columns, Media, Monthly

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