(Above: The December 12, 1991 Southtown Economist, framed and in my office. Students sometimes ask about “all the 8-tracks.”)
25 years ago today, my hometown newspaper did a feature on me. I had left 97X in Davenport, Iowa a few months earlier, and was toiling away doing mornings at WLLI in Joliet. In one move I went from #1 in my timeslot in the ratings to “we don’t make the ratings here.” On the one hand, it was wonderful to be back home, in my old neighborhood, pulling down about 35% more money than I was in Iowa. On the other hand, I was getting up every morning at 4 to broadcast to an audience that probably numbered in the dozens.
Michelle Mohr, the reporter who wrote the piece, came to talk to me at both the radio station and at my parents’ home. WLLI broadcast out of an old house on Walnut Street, and my folks lived in a brand new house in a gated community in Orland Park. It was a case of extremes. It was in the comfort of my parents’ home that I told the story about pretending to be my classmates’ fathers in high school, calling the attendance office to get them excused for the day. I didn’t realize that that would become the key quote of the piece…
(Above: What’s the statute of limitations on impersonating a parent?)
The article was a nice piece, about how a 22-year-old kid ended up with his own morning show, and contained a lot of complimentary quotes from the late Tony Ray, who was my program director. Tony hosted the morning show opposite me on WJOL. We both had a penchant for cheeseburgers at 10am; I can’t tell you how many times Tony said “I buy, you fly,” and I was off looking for lunch at the early hour.
It delved into a little bit of my journey, from job to job to job (I think WLLI was my sixth station in four years). It talked about my penchant for finding – and embracing – lost hits and working them into the show. One of the reasons I left the station for WCFL in Morris a year later was an insistence by new management that I follow a playlist generated out of state by the company that delivered the satellite programming after hours. That didn’t appeal to me.
There’s also a quote in the article that I appreciate: “And while O’Kelly has gotten older, his humor hasn’t matured too much. But that’s OK with his listeners.” Getting older? I’m still doing that, thank goodness. Humor? Maybe it’s matured a little, but not much. Audiences? I’ve traded Arbitron books for student evaluations, and I usually do pretty well in those. Maybe the quote still applies.
So, why the Lemon Pipers? When we shot the article for the story, they wanted two things in the photo with me: a coffee cup, and me holding a 45 RPM record.
(Above: Under glass, we don’t age so much. I don’t look a day over 22.)
I don’t drink coffee, so the cup is a prop, and the record I’m holding was that day’s “awful record.” You can hear it – if you need to – by clicking here.
Want to hear something even worse? I found my demo tape from this morning show, done about 25 years ago. We’ll ride on the “Elevator from Hell,” and I’ll do a bad bit where I pretend to juggle bowling balls in the studio that actually sounds real.