Sam Alex is living proof that radio dreams still come true.
Sixteen years after he started as an intern for a Chicago radio station, the northwest suburban native is the star of a nationally syndicated country music program. This week "The Sam Alex Show" began airing nightly from Nashville on stations across the country.
Alex, 34, born in Park Ridge and raised in Hoffman Estates, has been pursuing his broadcasting ambitions since he graduated from Hoffman Estates High School in 2003. I still remember meeting him when he served as a volunteer usher at that year's Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
His first break came when he landed an internship with Eric Richeke, assistant program director and music director at iHeartMedia adult contemporary WLIT 93.9-FM. Later, while attending Illinois State University, he interned for Brian Haddad (the radio personality known as Sludge) at the former WZZN. Haddad now hosts mornings on Cumulus Media alternative rock WKQX 101.1-FM.
Alex's radio odyssey took him to Nashville, where he spent the last five years as host of "Taste of Country Nights" a five-hour nightly radio show distributed by Townsquare Media to more than 100 stations nationwide.
Then he decided to strike out on his own by producing and syndicating an eponymous show billed as "the ultimate on-air backstage pass to Nashville’s biggest stars." A profile in Forbes this week singles out Alex for his radio entrepreneurship.
"I’ve had the entrepreneurial spirit my entire life," he says. "I like setting goals and working to achieve them efficiently. Over the years, radio station owners, advertisers and some of my artist friends would take me aside and say 'Hey, have you ever thought about being your own boss?' It’s definitely riskier but the reward is invaluable and the timing just feels right."
Alex hasn't signed a Chicago affiliate for his new show yet, he told me, "but that would be amazing."
Hometown audiences can still see him regularly as Nashville correspondent for "Celebrity Page TV." The syndicated entertainment newsmagazine airs here at 7:30 a.m. weekdays on Weigel Broadcasting WCUU-Channel 26.2, the digital subchannel branded as "The U Too."
Wednesday's comment of the day: Mick Kahler: After many years as a top 10 rated Chicago radio station, US99 is doing what sports teams call a "rebuild." The night time voice tracking is a cost-cutting measure that will fail. Local and live is what works in Chicago, not faked up auto pilot broadcasting, especially in the country music format.