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Radio Days


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To the editors:

Congratulations on publishing Bryan Miller's "Will This Man Ruin WFMT?" First-rate. And the job had to be done. It was like assigning Red Smith or Paul Gallico to write the obituary on today's New York Yankees: WFMT--from World's Champions to cellar bums.

Since the early 1950s WFMT has been a Chicago treasure. And in Norman Pellegrini we had a program director of integrity, impeccable taste, and genius, who loved great music and musicians with his whole heart and soul for all those 40 years.

The profile of the new program director Peter Dominowski is, on the other hand, peculiar. And it would be comic if it weren't so damn sad. Mr. Dominowski emerges as an executive in an Ex-Lax firm dedicated to providing soothing, comfortable, folksy "fun" music to wards of geriatric denizens. And his new head announcer is perfectly typecast: Jay Andres, the Liberace of FM voices. Finally, and most peculiar: Peter Dominowski, soon to program the most famous and distinguished FM station in the world, never once talked about his feelings for music or composers; instead, he gargled about "soothing" listeners, money, and his contempt for PhDs. Is he for real?

Unfortunately, it seems so. Listening to the "new" WFMT, particularly as heralded by the commercials and the new head announcer, it seems brutally obvious that the barbarians are not only inside the city gates, they are enthusiastically wrecking everything in sight, and their bulls are busy doing what bulls do after a big meal. As for the hysterical, vulgar commercials: Why must they all sound like middle-class kids who are about to crash into Dad and Mom's bedroom and catch them doing it?

Listeners who are mourning WFMT must be legion. This great station has been a rich part of my life since Mike Nichols first told me about it in the early 1950s. We were students at the University of Chicago and one night over beers in Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap Mike said he'd just been lucky to get a job as an announcer at this "classy" new FM station. Soon after, I tuned in; Mike was right. Ten years later, it became my turn to get lucky: Bernie Jacobs, the founding station manager, hired me to be an editor on the new WFMT Perspective Magazine. This was at the beginning of the 1960s and the station was entering its glory years; I often walked to work down Wacker Drive whistling, it felt so good to be there. And working with Bernie and Rita Jacobs, Norman Pellegrini, Ray Nordstrand, Marty Robinson, Omar Shapli and Jim Unrath, the incomparable Studs Terkel, Bob Lefley, Jamie Gilson, Harold Bush, Wally Boyd, Ron Stakowiack, Mel Zellman, Lois Baum, Al Camasto, George Schneider, Gail Kappe, Marilyn Unrath, Susan Dear, Ricardo Ricardo, and Claire Roose--it was heaven: a chance to be around quality, integrity, intelligence (even if there were no PhDs) and, as Mike said, class. And we had a lot of fun. This isn't nostalgia. This is gratitude, from the gut.

Paul Carroll

Professor of English

University of Illinois at Chicago

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