There were so many memorable moments from my days at WNUA. I guess the first would be the day in 1993 when then Program Director Lee Hansen said, “You’re hired!” It only got better from there!
Of course, I love the music and live appearances. I really enjoyed being able to include my son, Garrett, in a lot of the station events. It got to the point that we’d be out and about, and sometimes folks would recognize my son before me. LOL!
And, I can’t say enough about my wonderful co-workers who shared my passion for the thing we called Smooth Jazz.
News Anchor, American Urban Radio Networks
(Afternoons, WNUA 95.5/Chicago, 1994-2001)
“Twilight World” by Swing Out Sister and anything from Basia’s “Time and Tide” album instantly take me back to the early days of WNUA, when it was a new radio station introducing us to the developing concept of “New Age music.” From its inception to the end, WNUA was frequently on in my car as I commuted, while I painted my apartment, cooked dinner, typed correspondence at work, or played Legos with my young son, and I well remember specific moments as I discovered new songs on the station. When I hear David Arkenstone’s “Valley in the Clouds,” I’m walking in the autumn sun, absorbed in my Walkman. If it’s “Rainbeat” by Soto Koto Band, I’m running errands in the car and calling Rick O’Dell the second I get to a phone asking him “Who was that?” Joe Sample’s “Nightflight” evokes a bleak winter’s day warmed by that cool piece of piano work. And Chris Botti’s “Indian Summer” drew me out of sleep early on a work morning as the clock radio went on.
I’ll never forget Forest’s deep, sandy voice in the wee hours playing sometimes relaxing, sometimes bizarre ambient selections on “Musical Starstreams.” And meeting Rick in person at the Easter Brunch with my young son. And my favorite time of all -- when WNUA promoted Basia’s “Sweetest Illusion” album for a heavenly-long period of time. I missed numerous call-in opportunities for free tickets to her concert, darnit. Being chosen for the Lunchtime Listener Set was a thrill, although I sure could have used one of those Free Trips For Two Anywhere in the World American Airlines flies! Before WNUA left the airwaves, I took my no-longer-young son to a Dave Koz Christmas concert and once again met the true ambassador of Smooth Jazz -- Rick O’Dell -- along with his sweet and lovely wife. What a memorable show that was!
I have a WNUA playlist on my iPod -- it’s lively, relaxing and comforting all at once. It lets me relive some wonderful years of my life, when WNUA was a consistent musical backdrop. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for the day when Chicago comes to its senses and brings the station back again.
~Meg Evans Smith
I'll never forget two occasions. Both have to do with Rick O'Dell. I wanted so much to do a lunchtime trio of songs, and I guess what I put together needed some help. Well, Rick to the rescue! He taught me how the songs I was choosing should flow smoothly and, with his help, I was a lunchtime hit. My 15 minutes of fame. Thanks, Rick!
The second time I had an encounter with Rick I was desperately looking for a song I heard on a local radio station in Boston and had no clue who it was. When I got back to Chicago, I called Rick, who always seemed to take his listeners calls. He made me sing a few bars of what I could remember and was also kind enough to tell me I did not have a bad voice. (Thanks Rick, I know better!) Anyway, he figured it out. It was “Suavecito” by Malo. He earned his money that day!
Anyway, I miss you guys and I look forward to once again hearing you back on the radio soon. Please, make it happen.
Great memories of WNUA? Where do I begin?
On my first date with this guy (8/15/87) I really liked, he had WNUA turned on his car radio. I had just started listening myself days earlier and was impressed by his selection. We listened to the likes of Michael Franks, Sting, David Sanborn, etc., on subsequent dates and lazy Sunday mornings. We broke up years later, but to this day, when I hear certain songs, I am reminded of those times.
I attended some wonderful concerts over the years. One of my favorites was Guitars and Saxes at the Park West, as well as a number of concerts at the Skyline Stage and Chicago Theatre. I can't remember the name of the venue where I first saw Warren Hill perform; as I recall, it was on Ashland Avenue and had just opened. In fact, my best friend and I had gotten there early and one of the managers had just returned from the store down the street carrying rolls of toilet paper as they had run out! Somehow, we lucked out and got to sit right below the stage. I was mesmerized by Warren and his performance and saw him many times over the years after that; he knocked my socks off that night.
Got to see the "7 o'clock man", Mr. Gato Barbieri, perform “Europa" at the Cubby Bear.
Won a TV for my Lunchtime Listener's Choice entry. Thanks, Rick. I still have that TV in my bedroom!
So many parties and get-togethers with friends with much of the music on my playlist from artists I was introduced to on WNUA. Just like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, many of their songs will remain timeless.
Thanks for so many wonderful times and memories!
I think the WNUA jingle will be permanently etched in my brain. Even after three years, those notes are still identifiable to anyone who listened to 95.5 back in the day. For Mona and me, we will always have fond memories of the great Sunday brunch spreads at the Normandie Lounge in the Chicago Hilton. Who ever heard of a "Mashed Potato station?" They had one! Only wish we could have attended a brunch at the Hotel Nikko. As fate would have it, I wound up working with a chef at Harrah's East Chicago who worked those Brunches. He always talked about them.
~”Super Dave” Skarupa
It would take a pretty thick book to house all the favorite memories of my almost twenty years at WNUA, the greatest twenty year span a radio personality could ever enjoy, in my book. They exceeded by far anything I could have hoped for when I was in my teens, dreaming about a career in radio.
I could go on and on about my favorite memories, so I’m keeping my list short:
Sunday Brunch at Hotel Nikko. The most successful project I’ve ever been part of. It was a thousand piece puzzle where everything (hotel, radio station, music, food, listeners and on and on) fit together perfectly.
The Program Directors and General Managers I had the pleasure of working for. Solid pros, brilliant minds, all. I tried to learn a little something from each of them.
The chance to see Bill Cochran in action every day in his production studio. Knowing Bill as I do now, I can tell you: he will never realize just what a true creative genius he is.
Being the focal point of the Trip-A-Day Giveaway. Program Director Paul Goldstein’s brainchild will go down in history as one of the most successful radio promotions ever. Being able to give away a trip every single day for almost ten years meant something fun and exciting to look forward to during every airshift.
The annual summer concert series at Navy Pier. Smooth Jazz and the Skyline Stage were a match made in heaven.
The request line: 800-322-WNUA. Bear in mind that most of the years I spent at WNUA were before the advent of email. Just about every friendship I have with a listener began with a phone call from them during my midday show.
All the talented artists who make the music known as Smooth Jazz. No other genre boasts artists who are as genuine and accessible. They needed us; we needed them. It was the ultimate mutually beneficial relationship, and it was fun every step of the way during the WNUA years.
All the listeners whose support has kept the music going all these years. I’ve worked in a half dozen radio formats. Smooth Jazz listeners are truly a cut above.
What a charmed life I lived for almost twenty years at WNUA! Thanks for the memories.
Our Smooth Video of the Day: One of the great ol’ tunes you could get only on 95.5, with a little bonus for WNUA fans right at the start.