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November 17, 2020 9:56 pm  #1

Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

John Records Landecker became a legend at WLS, but briefly left to follow Jim Brady as the morning man at CFTR. As far as I know, he hasn’t talked much about those days – until now.
Though he’s now a regular on WGN Chicago, early Tuesday morning he went on that incredible 720 signal as a guest on someone else’s show – Rollye James - and proceeded to talk about his long career on the air.
James was something of a show-off in demonstrating her knowledge about radio, mentioning both CHUM and CKLW at one point, but there’s no doubt she knows her stuff and admits to being a radio geek. That led her to steer the veteran DJ into the subject of his sudden sojourn to Canada.
How and why did he wind up on 680? It turns out ’TR had been talking to him about the morning gig for at least half a year, just as he was becoming very unhappy at the Big 89.
“I was working afternoons on WLS-AM and of course they had an FM station. And the hottest radio personality in town was Steve Dahl and Garry Meier and the folks that ran WLS hired them to work afternoons on WLS-FM. And that played out in the newspaper that they were hired to do afternoons at WLS.
"Well, I did afternoons at WLS and I felt that all the things that I had been told that WLS stood for were bogus. And I had been talking to a radio station in Toronto for about six months and had already been up there a couple of times, and that was it. I decided, well if that’s the way they’re going to go, I’m leaving. And I’ve got a place to go. So I went!”

His time here was not a huge ratings success, and yet he seems to be very fond of his days north of the border. Even though he does reflect on an old complaint about Can Con that was more common in the 80s.
“Well, the main differences in working in Canada was that you had to have a certain percentage of your music that qualified as Canadian Content. And Canadian Content could be anything from the artist to the songwriter to whatever. And so you’ve got a lot of the Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Anne Murray…some bands that I had never heard of that I thought were great like Martha and The Muffins.
“And the other great thing about Canada was that you couldn’t buy an audience. You weren’t allowed to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on some kind of promotion. So everybody had to operate under those rules. So it … came down to your creativity, and promotional ability to take advantage of whatever you thought would be applicable to the market.”

He relates how he cashed in on the then hot Canadian-originated Trivial Pursuit, creating “Trivial Pursuit – The Radio Game” which he says become “a huge thing” in the city. (Odd how I have no memory of this at all. Does anyone recall it?)
He concludes:
“You had to deal with what you were given. And the success of that relied on your ability to do something with it. And that was the way it was with every radio station there. And I thought that was a pretty cool thing. Cause it made it more of an even playing field.”
Also coming up during the discussion: the competition between CHUM and CFTR, the prohibition of playing hits on FM and the surprising person who got that rule changed at the CRTC, why he was forced to use the name “Scott Walker” at WIBG in Philadelphia, the reasons he thinks modern Top 40 radio is no longer great, and his reaction to disco that got him into a lot of trouble with management.
The entire segment runs just over 38 minutes, but the part about 'TR and Canada goes from around the 19 minute mark to approx. 26 minutes in. You can hear it all here.


November 18, 2020 9:45 am  #2

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

I remember when Landecker first came to town, there was a huge publicity blitz by the station. It included billboards, promos and even swag - including the coffee cup below. Where I got this from, I have no idea.

     Thread Starter

November 18, 2020 9:50 am  #3

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

Interesting interview. Rollye James indicated that she was a fairly regular DXer. I have never known any woman to have any interest in what is a male dominated, peculiar to some, hobby.


November 18, 2020 10:26 am  #4

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

Yes, it was a great interview, and I rarely find the time to sit through 38 minutes of anything over the web, but this was a must hear to me. You could tell Landecker was impressed by how much she knew off the top of her head. 

Rollye James is a very unusual talk show host. I've been listening to her off and on for years, back when he was doing overnights for WPHT 1210 in Philadelphia. She did a weekly trivia show that puts the one on CFRB to shame, filled with lots of production, sound bites and perhaps my favourite feature, "Adver-teasing," in which she quotes a tag line from a famous commercial and asks the caller what the product was. A great memory flogger. 

One of the reasons I always listened to her was that she was obsessed with radio and used to talk about other stations on her show all the time. It's clear she knows what she's talking about and she's also an expert on 50s, 60s and 70s music - the more obscure the better. (In fact, she runs her own station in her home base of Arizona, and it plays only relatively unknown R&B.)

There's one other tradition she has that I always thought was fun - every U.S. Thanksgiving, she plays the best (or most awful) musical turkeys, as part of a countdown of the World's Worst Hit Records. I believe she's doing it again this year, so if that interests you, you may be able to hear it on either WGN or at her website, which is: 

A very different talk show host than you usually get, and I strongly suspect for many SOWNY-ites, she's one of us.  

     Thread Starter

November 18, 2020 10:39 am  #5

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

By the way, there are a host of archived shows on her site dedicated to radio and media. 

Among them:

Jackson Armstrong (Starts around the 45 minute mark.)

Jerry Blavat, ("The Geater With The Heater") a Philly radio legend

Clay Cole, a well known early TV dance show host

Even Shawn Compton of Antenna TV. (Who else would think of interviewing someone from Antenna TV?)

There are more archived shows, including with Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals and Barbara Lewis, You can see the whole list here.

     Thread Starter

November 18, 2020 10:52 am  #6

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

Interesting interview with John.  Surprised Rollye James knows so much about Toronto and Canadian radio.  Did she ever work or live here? She nailed the competition factor back then between CHUM and CFTR which was as intense as you would find anywhere.  

I don't think Landecker was reflecting on the "cancon complaint" at all.  John was just answering the listeners question comparing the differences between US and Canadian radio.    Actually sounded like he enjoyed the music when he was exposed to groups he never heard of before like Martha and the Muffins.
Landecker was at the Juno Awards in 1982 and the next day  he raved on about seeing Rough Trade perform at the show live, and then he rolled into their hit All Touch.  Also hits were never "prohibited" from FM radio.  Half of the songs played were hits and half were not. 

I do remember the radio version of Trivial Pursuit and John talking and promoting it, but can't say I recall how it worked.  As much as I liked Landecker at CFTR, I would still bounce between him and CHUM back in the early 80's.  CHUM was into more new wave music than TR back then and I preferred CHUM's overall sound. 



November 18, 2020 10:58 am  #7

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

I'm currently listening to the interview she did with the late, great Jackson Armstrong, who worked at both WKBW and CHUM, among way too many others. He's long gone but this recounting of his remarkable radio career - and especially the tale of his near disastrous hosting of the Beatles concert in Cleveland - is simply sensational. It starts at the 45 minute mark, just after the Barbara Lewis interview. 

If you liked this guy or are a fan of radio history, I can't recommend it enough.

     Thread Starter

November 18, 2020 1:02 pm  #8

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

Great interview with Jack Armstrong. Interesting that he admitted to earning only $18,500 at KB.  Wonder what he was getting at CHUM and WMEX before that. CHUM had a large promotional campaign on their chart promoting "Supermouth"


November 18, 2020 7:19 pm  #9

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

John discussed his time in Toronto in his book "Records Really Is My Middle Name".published by Eckhartz Press  John was fabulous to work with.  I co-produced two of his parody songs at Eastern Sound on Yorkville Avenue (John was the other co-producer).  One was a re-written version of The Beatles "Revolution" called "Constitution".  It aired ONCE as The Beatles publishers ATV sent a cease and desist within hours of its first airing stating 'The Beatles do not allow parodies of their songs.'  It never aired again.  The other one was John's take on 'E.T." The Extra Terrestrial" called "Hey E.T. - Phone Me"..

Last edited by Doug Thompson (November 18, 2020 7:19 pm)


November 18, 2020 9:36 pm  #10

Re: Radio Legend John Landecker Reveals How He Wound Up At CFTR

I followed John on CFTR and quite liked him. He was actually quite shy, or at least I thought so. I always had the impression that he really liked the city and the station but that he would eventually head back to Chicago. He was a great jock and I think might have done better doing Drive, not because he wasn't creative but because he sounded better in the afternoon. The thing was, radio people revered him but the average guy on the street had no idea who he was. Still, getting him was quite a coup for CFTR .