Friday, December 20, 2013

Good Night, Uncle Lar‏

The email subject line read "Lujack. Gone." Ten letters, two words, in a dispatch from I didn't need to read it, but I did anyway--looking for a loophole. The great Larry Lujack, of legend and fable at WLS in Chicago, died on December 18 at his home in New Mexico, following a battle with esophageal cancer.

He called himself Superjock, and nobody argued the point. That's how good he was. With or without his partner Tommy Edwards (a.k.a. Little Snot-Nosed Tommy to Lujack's Uncle Lar in "Animal Stories"), Larry Lujack owned morning radio in Chicago from roughly 1968 until 1985.  That's simplifying things--owing to his afternoon stint at crosstown WCFL--but in the throwaway culture of Radio, Lujack lasted a lifetime.

He didn't come roaring into Little Rock the way John Records Landecker did on the nighttime skywave. There was not a chance of hearing him in the daytime, but all of us at KAAY sure knew who he was! In later years, some of us would study his methods, looking for anything we could steal--but it didn't work. And that was because there was no persona or facade about him. Every time he opened the mic (or had it opened for him, because WLS was a union shop with board operators), he was simply being himself. What you got was The World According To Lujack. If he had to read some promotional announcement or station liner, it would be done his way. In a business built on smoke and mirrors, he was as real as you could be.

High ratings, big bucks and a truckload of awards and honors left him remarkably unimpressed. I think it was December of 1970 when I was able to pick up an afternoon broadcast on WLS. Newsman Lyle Dean was interviewing Lujack at his home about winning Billboard magazine's DJ Of The Year award and Lujack dismissed him: "It's okay, I guess, but you'll have to excuse me 'cause I'm doing something important right now." He was shoveling the snow out of his driveway!

It turns out that Larry Lujack's secret was no secret at all. Just goon the air and be yourself. Tell the people what's happening in your own words. Talk to 'em just like you'd do without a mic. It took me years to learn this--and I'm not surprised that people like Sonny Martin and Bob Robbins and Wayne Moss and Jonnie King and Clyde Clifford knew it all along!

So rock on, Uncle Lar. While you ride that great Skywave out through the Universe, we'll all be looking for some little piece of your legacy that we can adopt as our own. And we're sure we'll not see the likes of you again!

David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII
The Last PD

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