Is Radio Dead? WXRT Says No

In an earlier post I wrote about my bliss over having discovered Pandora, an online radio station service. A big attraction is not having to listen to annoying commercials and even more annoying DJ’s. The goal of today’s digital music formats is to eliminate the business of music and get right to the music itself. Hard to argue with.

But when done right, radio can be a great experience, and dare I say it, even an art form. I have been listening to WXRT Chicago’s Finest Rock since I moved to Chicago in 1985. They are by far the best radio station I’ve ever heard. They give you an engaging, enriching experience. What makes it stand out are the personalities. Some have come and gone, but the staples at XRT are, Lin Brehmer, Terri Hemmert, Marty Lennartz, Frank E. Lee, Tom Marker and Johnny Mars.

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They know music. Not just the songs, the music. The lyrics, the riffs, the roots, the meaning. They lived it, having grown up during the time when rock music exploded onto the American scene. Most importantly they are friends and neighbors. Here are two real life, first hand examples to illustrate my point.

One of my favorites is Lin Brehmer who anchors the morning show. So smart and funny. Such a great way to start the day. Lin sprinkles in movie and TV dialog clips into his show to punctuate a news story, or heap yet more misery on another Chicago Cubs losing year. He also has a bit of a twisted sense of humor. When Oliver Stone’s film, Natural Born Killers was released on Laser Disk, it included some scenes that didn’t make the final cut. Yes I had a Laser Disk player. It still works and I have over 300 films on the LD format. One of the deleted scenes was of Denis Leary ranting to the camera about who is to blame for anything and everything. Classic. Oliver Stone said that he left it out because it slowed down the film (oh really). I recorded the clip and sent it in to Lin along with this letter.

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Although I never got a direct response from Lin, he occasionally plays this same audio clip on air when it fits. I think I’ve heard it 4 or 5 times. I attribute that to me, even if it’s not true. Want to know more about Lin, and who doesn’t? Here’s a slice of a day in the life of Lin Brehmer.

Here’s another. XRT has a twice weekly segment called Going to the show with A Regular Guy. I won’t reveal the radio personality who plays A Regular Guy. But the character is all Chicago, right down the the accent. “Bak it up and leev the kez in da carrr.” He also has a good working knowledge of film that can deliver a hilarious and at times insightful movie review. I was really obsessed with archiving the segments, so I set-up an audio cassette player and recorded them for years. One time I was out of town, traveling for work just as he was going to review JFK, oddly enough another Oliver Stone film. I missed it and was distraught. Upon my return home I left him a voice mail and asked if he would be so kind as to send me an audio copy of that review. This was before Internet streaming, or podcasting, etc. Essentially the stone age. A few days later a package arrived and in it was an audio cassette with his review, along with a nice note.

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At the time I was in the video distribution business, so I would send him screeners of films before they were out. One day my assistant let me know that The Regular Guy was on the phone. He thanked me and we had a great conversation about film and music. You can hear A Regular Guy’s reviews via the web here.

So don’t give up on radio. The good ones have embraced the web and are taking advantage of the ongoing technology convergence. As a result many have expanded their audience. Used to be if you moved away from a city you had to leave your radio station behind. No longer. Give XRT a try by clicking here.

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One comment

  1. I’m also a huge fan of WXRT. Been listening on and off since the early 1970s. I grew up in Chicago, moved to San Francisco for 15 years, and now live in Washington DC. If I couldn’t stream XRT from here, I would simply need to move back to Chicago.
    My only complaint — still no TShirts! They’ve apparently been sold out for a long, long time…
    Signed,
    XRT Listener in DC’s Capitol Hill

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