Friday, June 05, 2009

Chicago Radio, What's Going On?

For two decades Chicago has been soothed by the jazz on WNUA 95.5 fm. Ramsey Lewis in the morning, Dave Koz, Rick O'Dell spinning the best jazz and smooth hits. Well, I turned to this station and there is Spanish music playing. It was a good song so I left it on. But, it was followed by another and another . So, now I find out that WNUA 95.5 is no more. Everybody canned and sent packing and escorted unceremoniously and disrespectfully out the door.

How can we drive around Chicagoland (and I do a LOT of driving) without the smooth sounds of Vanessa Williams, Luther Van Dross, Kenny G, George Benson, Ella, Duke, Count, Prez, Sara Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Al Jarreau, Patti Austin, Najee, Diana Krall, Ray Charles, Wayman Tisdale, Earth, Wind and Fire, Boney James, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Mangione, Anita Baker, David Benoit, Grover Washington jr., Peobo Bryson, Sade, Isaac Hayes, Daryl Hall, and Natalie Cole, just to name a very few.

I shouldn't be a bit surprised that this happened or how it happened so suddenly. Since the FCC changed it's rules to allow for giant conglomerates who gobble up radio stations, erasing not only local stations which we must realize are our independent voices, this kind of thing will happen more. My very first blog post was about this horrible change in the FCC limits for media ownership in a particular market area. This scared the heck out of me. Quieting local voices and having one thought transmitted across the nation scared me. Having broadcasting decisions made by people looking at only profits scare me. It's like having insurance clerks making medical decisions based on cost.

I know trends change, stations change, they should. But moves like killing WNUA had nothing to do with us the listeners. It has only to do with yep, $$$$$. The bottom line. The folks who make these decisions could care less about the connections a station makes with the public or the music or the thoughts expressed. They don't listen to the stations they kill. They only see what they think is an opportunity to increase profit. It's just business. But it's not. Radio used to have and should have a local connection to it's listeners. This is fast becoming a thing of the past. America is the worse for it.

And, as if WNUA wasn't enough, some guy was talking on WGN at 9am. OK now where the fuck are Kathy and Judy? The Girlfriends. The best fact free radio on the air! This ain't funny! I called the station and no answer. Cowards. I'd heard the rumors but now cut and dry they are GONE! They don't give the public a chance to even get ready or mourn the loss of people who are in our lives daily. Twenty years, and then one day Gone. Kathy and Judy were special. Their appeal crossed ethnic, age, and gender lines. Yep Kathy and Judy's "girlfriends" ranged from truck drivers to housewives to sales clerks to attorneys to doctors to policemen to kids.

They took on the important topics of the day in an informative serious way. But, with their special combo of girlfriend sense and humor they never let it get too heavy or took themselves too seriously. They took on the most unimportant topics too and could turn a simple remark from a listener into a side splitting segment that reminds us how alike we all are. Kathy and Judy were as irreverent as they were sensitive and they got pissed off and told off. They had no problem pushing the envelope or discussing husbands or ex-husbands, the trauma of kids going off to college or why your 25 year old is still living with you. I'll miss the anonymous listener confessions protected by simply being a "Rhonda" or "Vincent", the Speak your Piece segment on Wednesdays, and the sharing of listeners' actual funny and often gross Merry Christmas Medical Letters.

Kathy and Judy both had successful careers with Chicago newspaper's. Both are accomplished writers. They became radio personalities 20 years ago when although they are very different, one Jewish, Judy Markey and one Catholic, Kathy O'Malley, discovered together they were a funny and engaging radio pair. I first met Kathy and Judy at the movies. I remember it was after a discussion on the show about the talk back to the screen thing. The flick was Waiting to Exhale. Perfect. We met again when my intro was picked for Evelyn Holmes' "Chic Sports" daily segment. That was amazing.
So, 20 years later they'd built a great following and continued to do the show because they enjoyed providing this fun show from a woman's point of view. Thanks Kathy and Judy for everything. You won't be beat and are not replaceable.

Big-girl panties?
Now here's the thing, Kathy and Judy are pragmatists who figure things change.
"We know that for some of you it's going to take a little time to digest," O'Malley said. "We're all going to be OK, and we're all going to put on our big-girl panties and deal with it."

Sure they say they will be OK. Me too. I'll just put on my big-girl panties and have to get used to not hearing my girlfriends anymore. But I don't like it one bit. WNUA, Tom Joyner the Fly-Jock and now Kathy and Judy. All the humanity is being sucked out of Chicago radio.

Judy listens to Kathy as their last show signs off.

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