I CONTINUE TO SAMPLE EXCERPTS FROM MY BOOK “RAISED ON THE RADIO” WHICH I WILL BE RELEASING THIS YEAR.
Larry Lujack’s most infamous guest during my tenure was Peter Frampton. He was coming in to promote a ‘comeback’ album titled “Premonition.” We had the new single ready to play and opened the visit with his classic hit “Show Me the Way”. Larry never got too deep into serious music talk with artists. He’d keep it light with the stars, “Hey I like this song and what got you to write that?” was what you we’re going to get, along with stuff like “What have you done while in town? How’re the kids?” So Larry is just a couple of minutes into the interview and Peter in a sickeningly sarcastic tone says, “Anyway, it’s been nice talking to you and I must be going, you’ve been wonderful, bye bye.”
And with that, the guy left. Just bolted from the studio with his record people! We were trying to figure out what happened while Frampton and his entourage were bee-lining out of the station and into the lobby elevators. Larry was dumbstruck, which didn’t happen often and was about to cue his engineer to play the new single. I was standing next to the engineer and pulled the cartridge tape out of its player, held it up while shaking my head “No.” Larry agreed and on the air he said, “Yeah, we’re not promoting this guy’s stuff!” With that we went to another song and laughed off the whole fiasco.
The funny part of the “Frampton Comes Unwound” episode was this was the first time I ever recorded our guest’s promo for the show BEFORE they went on the air for the interview. We learned then and there, ‘GET THE PROMOS FIRST JUST IN CASE THE STAR GETS OFFENDED AND BLOWS OUT ON US.’ The Peter Frampton visit became great fodder from then on too. Any time Larry could, he’d mock Frampton and we’d talk about what a has-been he was. Later on, the record company folks told us their star bolted because he didn’t think Larry was taking the interview seriously enough and he had high expectations to talk music. Wrong place, wrong guy, Peter.
The very nicest rock or pop star I ever met was Huey Lewis. I had a couple of encounters with him, the first being when I took listeners backstage for a meet and greet at the Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) in 1987. Huey sold out several shows there and was twenty minutes away from playing in front of 16,000 fans. He came out to see us fresh from a backstage game of basketball in his gym shorts, T-shirt and Nikes. Huey spotted my WLS AM 890 baseball cap and beat a direct path for me. He thanked me profusely for all the airplay we’d given him over the past five years. I had a pretty good bullshit detector and this wasn’t some bum rush, shuck and jive, the guy was sincere. Huey did the photos and autographs for the group I brought back which included Dawn, the daughter of a friend of my mentor Lee Swanson. Huey signed her autograph “Dawn, go away, I’m no good for you” and sang a little of that Four Seasons song to her.
Years later I brought some more listeners backstage to meet Huey at a show where he only sold about 8,000 tickets at the New World Music Theatre in south suburban Tinley Park. That venue had a capacity for three times that. This low ticket sale was weird because he was still playing sold out shows while on tour. Despite the low turn-out, Huey Lewis was in great spirits and treated our guests very well. There was no pissy attitude or moaning about the slow ticket sales at the gate.
My buddy Dave Ross went on to do music promotion for Chrysalis, Huey’s record label in the late 80’s. One night they were playing a 10,000 seat arena in a smallish town in the south and Dave asked Huey why they were bothering to do a show for a lower tier market. Not missing a beat he said, “Because thousands of fans are willing to pay to see us and one day we might not draw those kinds of crowds.” Dave also shared a story of how Huey talked of his early singing days when he was traveling through parts of Europe with barely a thousand dollars to his name. Huey told Dave, he was as happy back then as he was now with all his success. Huey Lewis was and I’m guessing still is, a pretty well grounded good guy.
(Always a good sport with me, Huey Lewis)