Eureka! Sirott unearths ’83 treasure

Bob Sirott (1983)

Bob Sirott (1983)

If you thought the “Radio Wars” video posted here last month was something, wait till you see this.

The appearance of that WBBM-Channel 2 feature on the up-and-coming radio stars of 1983 sent Bob Sirott on a quest to find the entire three-part sweeps series it came from. He wrote, produced and reported “Radio Wars in Chicago: Jockeying for Your Morning” just three years after he left his own successful radio career to join the CBS-owned station.

After weeks of searching, Sirott finally found it by accident. "I was moving a pile of empty boxes from my garage when a tape box literally fell on my head,” he recalled. “It hit me in the head. I picked it up and that was it: All three parts were on this clearly marked tape.”

On the ¾-inch videotape was a dub of the original series, featuring interviews with Wally Phillips, Larry Lujack, Jonathon Brandmeier, Robert Murphy and Bob Wall, among others, and preserving a pivotal time in radio history. Sirott took the tape to Northbrook-based Pixcel Studios, where it was restored, digitally converted and uploaded to YouTube.

Seeing the series for the first time in more than 30 years, Sirott said he was struck by how long each segment was. (By today’s standards, 3½ minutes is an eternity.) He also was impressed by how many strong personalities were on Chicago radio at that time — all in morning drive. (The third installment also references Steve Dahl, then in afternoon drive.)

For Sirott, it was especially bittersweet to watch his interview with Lujack so soon after his passing Dec. 18. “Even though Lujack was the ‘older guy’ and sounded like the older guy and all that, he was so much a part of our youth. He’s not supposed to be dead.”

Noting how dated everyone in the piece looks, Sirott gave his highest marks to the news set. “I thought I looked pretty comfortable,” he said of his performance. “You get the bad hair and the bad suit and all that, but the Channel 2 newsroom really looked stylish. I’d say it looks as good or better than anything you see on TV today. With all that depth, that is a room designed for today’s high definition.”

Here, seen publicly for the first time since May 1983, are all three parts of Bob Sirott’s “Radio Wars in Chicago: Jockeying for Your Morning”: