It’s interesting to hear personalities and programmers react to airchecks of legendary personalities. Some are transported on a nostalgic trip through the past. Others roll their eyes because they have no concept of a personality whose glory days were years or decades ago. And some struggle to find a connection to their show today. Studying the techniques of legendary personalities is one of the best ways to discover fresh applications that often lead to a breakthrough. Meet Larry Lujack.
Lujack was one of the greatest personalities of all time. He was best known as the morning host on WLS-AM/Chicago in the 70s and 80s. The station was a blowtorch that reached millions of people across the United States, earning fans who referred to him as Uncle Lar and King Of the Corn Belt.
Most listeners familiar with Lujack first talk about his signature feature Animal Stories. And that brings us to Lesson #1.
Animal Stories was a great feature that created a specific reason to hear, remember, and talk about Lujack. It started because the station received free farm magazines that dated back to the previous format. The station changed to CHR in 1960, but companies continued to send the publications. Lujack thought they were funny and started to read and comment on them.
The stories took on a life of their own, eventually featuring longtime producer and cohost Little “Snot Nosed” Tommy Edwards. Animal Stories was a great feature that showcased his storytelling skills. Several albums of airchecks of these segments were released on vinyl. You can still purchase them from collectors if you have a couple of hundred dollars. That’s legendary.
But you don’t have to spend the money. Listen to the examples on this page and be sure to check out the track of Little Tommy talking with John Landecker about Animal Stories.
The Perfect Show Host
A perfectionist about his work, Lujack reviewed every word he spoke every single day. Yes, he air-checked himself because he understood that improvement came only by hearing his performance the way listeners heard him. It’s like football teams reviewing the game film to sharpen their performance each week.
That dedication to his craft helped Lujack become the ultimate show host. He integrated Tommy into the fabric of the show, helping Lujack sound better and bigger without getting in the way. It was the same with his news team. The cohosts revolved around Lujack and he showcased them exceptionally well. Listen to the airchecks. Larry is firmly in charge of the show while using each asset to enhance his personality.
Master Of The Basics
The thing about Uncle Lar that stands out most is how he mastered the basics with personality and presence. He played a lot of music, showcased songs and artists, and even teased the news! This foundation provided consistency and flow. He wasn’t a DJ in the morning playing music. Lujack was a show that used every element to help him entertain:
These airchecks are from 1971 or 1972. Yes, they sound dated. I mean, they’re 60 years old. But listen to these highlights:
- Lujack builds momentum as he talks up song intros with personality and excitement. He played a lot of music and never let the format clock prevent him from entertaining. This is a great example of adding color to every break.
- Larry teases an upcoming newscast, a great example of treating everything on the air as an important element. If It was on the air, it was promoted as part of his personality brand. If it wasn’t worth promoting, it should not have been on.
- He has a unique delivery He speaks slowly, certainly not a hot-rockin’ flame-throwin’ DJ that is often associated with that era. But he still creates energy by moving stories forward and choosing words that create powerful language. He doesn’t need a music bed to maintain momentum.
WLS was a great radio station, but Lujack was the star, consistently scoring higher ratings than other time slots. He dominated Chicago ratings from 1967-1972, then was hired by cross-town rival WCFL from 1972-1976. The audience followed, prompting WLS to lure him back. He stayed on WLS until 1987.
Lujack passed away in 2013 at the age of 76.
Larry was legendary on WLS/Chicago, for many reasons, but what stood out to me was his ability to perform in a personal, one-to-one style. He proved that a large cast of characters is not required to generate great engagement. Personalities like Uncle Lar, Broadway Bill Lee, Jo Jo Kincaid, and Casey Kasem should inspire solo personalities.
His book Superjock is a great read. It’s the story of his Chicago career and was a big influence when I was a baby DJ in Nebraska, trying to figure out this whole radio thing. The book is now a collector’s item if you can find a copy. Here’s one on Amazon.