Solid gold: Landecker lands night shift on WLS-FM

The legendary John Records Landecker is stepping up to full-time status at oldies WLS-FM (94.7), where he'll return to the shift that made him a radio superstar four decades ago at Top 40 sister station WLS-AM (890).

Starting next week, Landecker, 64, will be heard from 6 to 11pm Monday through Friday on WLS-FM. The move will slide another Chicago broadcasting icon, Radio Hall of Famer Dick Biondi, 79, to later hours — from 11pm to 2am — on the Cumulus Media station.

“It’s like having Mantle and DiMaggio playing centerfield in the same outfield,” said Michael Damsky, president and general manager of WLS. “With John Landecker joining Dick Biondi in our evening talent lineup, we’re thrilled to feature two of WLS’s all-time biggest stars, representing two distinct eras of the radio station. It’s great to be able to expand the presence and power of our brand.”

To accommodate the new lineup, Greg Brown’s afternoon show will begin a half-hour earlier, airing from 2:30 to 6pm weekdays. Starting next month, Biondi also is expected to host a new, weekly one-hour show on weekends, highlighting the history and heritage of WLS.

At WLS-FM, Landecker has been reunited with Jan Jeffries, Chicago-based senior vice president of programming for Cumulus Media. The two first worked together in the mid-‘80s when Landecker hosted mornings on the former WAGO and Jeffries was program director.

Since last month, Landecker has been working part-time and weekends at WLS-FM, while continuing to host a weekday afternoon show on WIMS-AM (1420) near his home in Michigan City, Indiana. Foreshadowing the latest move, he stepped down last week from the The John Landecker Music Explosion, telling Chicago Radio Spotlight blogger Rick Kaempfer: “I loved being on WIMS. I really did . . . But the opportunity to come back to WLS, working for someone like Jan Jeffries was too good to pass up.”

Enshrined in the radio wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Landecker achieved legendary status at WLS during his first run from 1972 to 1981 with such trademark bits as “Boogie Check” and “Americana Panorama.”  His blazing wit, brilliant parodies and rapid-fire phone calls lit up 38 states and inspired a generation of radio personalities.

“Ever since I left nights at WLS in the ’70s, everything has been a challenge,” Landecker told Kaempfer, his former producer. “I did different shifts. Afternoons. Mornings. Talk radio. I sought out those challenges, but in all of those situations I never would describe it as being in a comfort zone. I’m glad I did ’em, but this is a party. This is the best thing I’ve done since coming to WLS since 1972, and I think Chicago is going to eat this station up. I consider this a new beginning.”

Biondi, of course, was no less influential to WLS in the 1960s, when his nighttime show put the 50,000-watt AM powerhouse on the map. He was voted the most popular Top 40 disc jockey in the country in 1961 and 1962, and he’s been enshrined in both the radio wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Radio Hall of Fame.

After a 21-year run at CBS Radio’s former oldies WJMK-FM (104.3), Biondi joined WLS-FM in 2006. In 2010, when he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first broadcast on WLS, the city of Chicago honored him by designating an area near the station’s old studios — just off Lower Wacker Drive near East Lake Street and Garland Court — Dick Biondi Way.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)