John Landecker: 'Records' Truly is My Middle Name
John Records Landecker is on the air every night in Chicago on WLS-FM (94.7FM). He has written a memoir about his tremendous radio career with the help of his former producer, Shore contributor Rick Kaempfer. The book “Records Truly is My Middle Name” comes out via Eckhartz Press (www.eckhartzpress.com) on March 28, and features not only Landecker’s memories, but those of more than thirty fellow radio and media professionals who knew and worked with John. The following is an excerpt from the book, about John’s most famous radio bit from the 1970s, The Boogie Check.
A lot of the bits that we did on WLS came out of something spontaneous, just making lemonade out of lemons. Boogie Check started because I was bored. I was playing the same songs over and over again and I wanted to shake things up a bit.
A lot of people ask me where I came up with the name. Well, I called it “Boogie Check” because of something JJ Jeffrey did before he went out on dates. He used to conduct a sixty second “booger check” to make sure he didn’t have any boogers in his mustache. I figured, if you could have a sixty second booger check, why not a sixty second “Boogie” check? My competition at WCFL (our arch rival station) was a guy named Dr. Brock, and his calling card was the word “Boogie”. I figured I would tweak him, and have some fun, so I just started answering the phones live on the air by saying “Boogie Check. You talkin’ to me?” (The last line taken from Robert DeNiro’s character in “Taxi Driver”). If the person on the other end of the line didn’t respond quickly, I hung up on them, and went to the next line.
That’s it. That’s all Boogie Check was.
What made it work was the combination of teenagers on the phone, and my spontaneous ad-libbed reaction to whatever they said. Nothing like this had ever been done on rock radio before—the only time any jock took calls was strictly for song requests. This was just a free for all; spontaneous, interactive, stream of consciousness. When a caller said the word “F**k” on the air, though, it also became clear that there was no delay system at WLS. News of this spread like wildfire throughout the Chicagoland teen community. Eventually WLS engineers Carl Nelson and Ed Glab did design a delay system, but by then, Boogie Check was off and running.
ALAN ROSEN REMEMBERS
Former WLS Engineer Alan Rosen was there for many Boogie Checks, running the board...“One night when I arrived at work, the engineer before me told me that the delay system wasn’t working. I told John that we'd have to scrap Boogie Check for the night. But when the regular time for Boogie Check rolled around, John told me to play the opening theme music anyway. John opened his mic and said on the air, ‘My engineer Alley has told me that the delay system is broken and that we'd better not do the Boogie Check tonight. Now THAT'S the kind of thing that your PARENTS would say because they don't trust you. I know that I can treat you all like adults and that you'll be responsible and we can do this just like we always do.’
John punched up the first caller and said: “Boogie Check”
The caller responded: “F*** you!”
Most of it got on the air before I could turn it down. John just stood there with this expression on his face that I had never seen before. He said nothing for several very long seconds. When John opened his mouth, he was mad.
‘I TRUSTED you people!’ he yelled on the air. ‘I thought I could treat you like adults! I guess I was wrong. I have a wife and two girls and I'm not going to lose my job because of YOU.’
He was yelling at the listeners! It was a surreal moment, but a totally John Landecker moment.
BOOGIE CHECK CHARACTERS
All sorts of eclectic characters emerged on the Boogie Check. A kid that hung out around the station was dubbed “The C-Kid” (because he always wore a Cubs hat). He would call in, sound a horn, say “Good Evening John”, and then offer his observations about the world. Other kids called up and flushed toilets, burped, asked weird questions, or told corny jokes.
One Boogie Check contributor turned into one of the biggest rock stars on the planet; the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan. I met him a few years ago and he told me that when he was a kid he used to call into Boogie Check and claim to be Maurice White, the drummer from Earth, Wind & Fire.
JONATHON BRANDMEIER REMEMBERS
WGN-Chicago Morning Man Jonathon Brandmeier was also a Boogie Check devotee...”When I had my first radio job, I was 16 at WFON in Fon du Lac, and my boss at the time said ‘Do whatever you want.’ I loved Boogie Check so much I wanted to do my version of it. So I called it “The Loon Line,” and just took random calls. But the problem was that I didn’t get any calls. So I called my brothers and asked them to call, and I called my buddies and asked them to call. And they did until people started to get it. But when they did, they could also tell there was no delay. Then they started calling up to say stuff like, ‘I just saw your mother at the A&W sucking a c**k!’”
THE BOOGIE NETWORK
I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years from people that called into Boogie Check. Apparently, there were so many calls coming in at once, it would tie up the phone lines, and if a kid called and got a busy signal, but stayed on the line anyway, he or she could talk to the other kids calling in between the beeps.
Can I take credit for the first social network?
In the end, Boogie Check was remarkably simple. The kids had to be kids and I had to be funny. It worked. I loved it. It came easily for me. It required no preparation. I just answered the first line, and away we went.
I’d like to thank JJ Jeffrey and Martin Scorsese for their contributions.