John Records Landecker, one of Chicago radio’s most celebrated disc jockeys, is calling it quits. His last show as evening host on Cumulus Media classic hits WLS FM 94.7 will be Friday.
Landecker, 68, who’s been working without a contract since he started in January 2012, said the decision to leave was entirely his own.
“People use the word ‘retire.’ I don’t — at least not yet. ‘Retire’ says it’s over,” he told listeners in a prepared announcement Monday. “I say things like: ‘My biological grandfather clock is ticking.' . . . It’s time to go and see if any of those things that I’ve claimed to want to try for years are really things I want to try.”
In an interview earlier Monday, Landecker said this was the first time in his career he was leaving a radio station voluntarily without having another job lined up. “I’m not leaving 94.7 WLS with the intention of going on another radio station at all,” he said. “If I do somewhere, fine. If I don’t, fine. But if I do, it’s definitely going to be on my terms 100 percent.”
One thing he knows he won’t miss is the music he’s been playing night after night: “I graduated from high school in 1965. All I really want to hear is the ’60s. I’ve had it with the ’70s, the ’80s, now and all that. I don’t want to hear any of that stuff anymore. In about 10 years, maybe I’ll want to hear it again.”
Landecker said his immediate plans are to visit his daughters and granddaughter in Los Angeles. (One daughter, actress Amy Landecker, stars in the Amazon comedy series “Transparent,” now in production on its second season.) After that, he hopes to pursue other projects — “things I have thought about for years” — including writing a screenplay and podcasting. “The world of possibilities opens up,” he said.
No word yet on a replacement for Landecker from 8 to 11 p.m. weekdays. WLS FM has been without a program director since July 15 when Jan Jeffries transferred to WRQX in Washington, D.C. Although he and Jeffries were close, Landecker said he made his decision to leave before he learned of Jeffries’ departure.
As fans well know, Landecker’s destiny was foreshadowed at birth in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents chose his mother’s maiden name — Records — as his middle name. “They had no way of knowing that their son would become a radio disc jockey, or that this name they had chosen would become my unlikely calling card,” he wrote in Records Truly Is My Middle Name, his critically acclaimed 2013 memoir published by Eckhartz Press.
Landecker took Chicago by storm in 1972 when he landed the nighttime shift at 50,000-watt powerhouse WLS AM 890. While still in his 20s, he elevated Top 40 radio to performance art each night with his quick wit, high energy and rapid-fire style, honing such trademark bits as "Boogie Check" and "Americana Panorama." “I haven’t worked at a radio station before or since that had the kind of camaraderie we had at WLS in the 1970s,” Landecker recalled in his book. “It was like one big non-stop party.”
Except for brief detours in Toronto and Cleveland, he spent most of his career on the air in Chicago, including stints at WLUP, WAGO, WCKG, WJMK, WZZN, WGN, back at WLS AM, and, since 2012, at WLS FM. He officially achieved legendary status when he was enshrined in the radio wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WLS FM tied for 21st in evenings with a 1.8 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 265,100.