My college era encounter with Larry Lujack was everything I could have hoped for.
Short. Caustic. Mocking.
It came in the visitor’s lobby of the studios of Chicago radio station WCFL.
Two of us from Northwestern’s radio station were there to present Uncle Lar’ a tie in to the WNUR Music Lover’s Guide (a road map to appreciating music in Chicago at live venues and on the air).
Publication editor Rich Nelson arranged a meeting time.
I joined him as the associate editor/writer who had penned the thumbnail sketch about WCFL. In truth, that had really been my opportunity to compliment Larry Lujack.
At WNUR we knew Larry Lujack had already seen the publication because he had referenced the write-up on the air. Someone had caught his comments on tape and gave us a copy.
Determined to take advantage of the opportunity to meet my favorite on-air personality, I was there as scheduled with Rich.
We caught Lujack outside his afternoon air shift time.
Rich and I presented a blow up of the four line review, suitable for framing.
Larry Lujack accepted it with an eye-rolling smile that signaled its certain fate in one of the station’s recycling bins as soon as we left. The sound of paper landing in the trash can was a familiar one to any long time Lujack listener.
Yet that part did not matter to me.
In the days before people talked about bucket lists, I had just checked off one item on mine.
Not just shaking Larry Lujack’s hand on his home turf.
But sharing with him, if only for a moment, my sincere appreciation of his work.
That complimentary squib about a Top 40 radio station in WNUR’s Music Lover’s Guide had also been an exercise in my creative writing. After all, this was the 1970s and WNUR was selling its hip, alternative, high class image. Jazz. Blues. Folk. Classical. Progressive rock.
To even acknowledge a Top 40 station in positive terms was unheard of. But I had been determined to sneak in my admiration for Larry Lujack so took inspiration from his sarcastic style.
As a result, my write up for WCFL was solely about Lujack, who I described as “the only Top 40 rock jock with an ounce of original personality.” Maintaining the semi-obligatory air of studied hipness I added, “If you want to bother with AM Top 40, check Super CFL afternoons. Otherwise, forget it.”
I was delighted that when Larry Lujack read that write up live on the air, he instantly picked up on what I was doing, noting the air of hip superiority wrapped around the compliment.
And Super Jock got the last word in with his signature off-handed style, reading the title “WNUR Music Lover’s Guide” and pausing to say “WNUR? I never heard of that station.”
A putdown? An insult? For a long time listener, there could be no better Larry Lujack moment.
Until an Animal Stories tie-in years later. But that’s another tale.
Text and photo © 2013 by Walter J. Podrazik