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Media: March 2023 • Sky Daniels Remembers The Loop FM98

| February 28, 2023



Sky Daniels was one of the biggest stars at the Loop in their first heyday (1979-1981), and although he has gone on to an incredibly successful career in the record and radio business and is now retired and living in California, he still has very fond memories of his time in Chicago.

But to say it started out a little bumpy might be an understatement.

“The very first night I was on the air in Chicago, I was so nervous. Mitch Michaels had done the afternoon show, and he had left, and I was just starting to get grooving. It was around 6:30 or seven at night. And suddenly, a guy walks in and goes, ‘I’m Charlie Berry. You’re the reason my girlfriend left me.’ And he brings out a revolver. I saw his Travis Bickel eyes. I went into survival mode, looking into the barrel of that revolver. I said, ‘Wait a minute, you’re the guy that Mitch was talking about! He shouldn’t have made fun of you, Charlie. You gotta do me a favor. Watch my record. I’m going to call the boss right now and get Mitch fired. Watch this record.’ I remember it was Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs, and I walked down that hallway thinking if I heard another sound, I was dead. I turned the corner and then ran down two or three flights of stairs because I didn’t want to be waiting out in front of the elevator. I went flying down to the lobby, and remember, I had hair down to my waist, and I was screaming, ‘there’s a guy with a gun,’ and the security guy pulls his gun out and aims it at me. I thought, ‘What the fuck is going on in this city!’ Eventually, I convinced the cops, and they nearly had a shootout with the guy up there, but they did eventually bring him out in cuffs. I said, ‘Can I go back to the studio now?’ It had been like a half hour. The record was over, and the phone lines were ringing off the hook, wondering what was going on. I called (General manager) Les (Elias) and said, ‘Get me the fuck out of here. I’m going back to Detroit.’ But he calmed me down eventually. Did I mention this was my first fucking night on the air here? It was a sign, man. You are going to go on a ride like you ain’t never gone on before. And guess what? I did.”

Sky Daniels

There were too many great stories to include in this column, from his take on Disco Demolition to the mayhem that was ChicagoFest – but remember, to Sky, it was all about the music. And that’s where his fondest memories lie.

“We had big ideas. We bought every ticket for a Tom Petty concert and gave it away for free. And we played a ton of great local bands that were getting signed nationally. We decided to do a two-day festival of just local bands. I was talking to Cheap Trick’s and Off Broadway’s manager, and I told him my plan and said we were going to have it at the International Amphitheater. My buddy told me that after I left, the manager told him I was losing it. Well, guess what? Those two shows were total sellouts. We sold 27,000 tickets the first night and 30,000 nights the second night—not all at once, it was festival, people came and went—but it was a huge success. One of the biggest concerts ever in Chicago at that time. And all local bands. We were becoming part of the fabric of the rock and roll community here.”

Did he remember why it went away?

“Oh yeah,” he said. “I was in a meeting, and the owner was telling us that they had just fired Steve and Garry (in 1981). Nobody was saying a word in response. It was unfathomable. How could they get rid of these guys who had become a lightning rod of attention on a national basis? In my typical brazen style, I said, ‘I can’t believe what I’m hearing here. You think this is a good idea?’ And this guy was from Texas, and he said in his Texas drawl, ‘You know what? This wolf has got a taste of sheep’s blood, and those two guys might not be the only victims I find today. Just keep it up.’” With that move, everything started to splinter. They brought in a guy who decided to take this radio station with huge personalities and give them liner cards that said, ‘Less talk, more rock.’ On an intellectual level, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was contrary to everything we were. I cared deeply about what he had built. We had credibility with the audience, and they were just throwing it away.”

Sky left Chicago in 1985. In some ways, he has changed tremendously since then (no longer getting jaked and blowing lunch), but in other ways, he’s still the guy who connected deeply with a generation of Chicago rockers.

“I always thought of myself as someone who wasn’t sure where he fit in, and that’s who I was talking to when I was on the air, directly to that kid. That kid was not alone. He was part of something bigger. Together, we trusted rock and roll to show us the way. That’s how I approached it, with an almost religious fervor. I really believed what I was saying. I meant it. And I never lost that, despite getting my ass kicked several times along the way in the record and radio business. I was fortunate enough to make some good dough and have some big jobs, but they never beat it out of me. I still retain that passion.”

We could use a little bit of that around here now, couldn’t we?

-Rick Kaempfer

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