“Records” truly is his middle name.
Soon, John Landecker can also boast that he truly is a Hall of Fame inductee.
The NAB will induct the longtime former “Musicradio 89 WLS” voice into its Broadcasting Hall of Fame on April 20 as part of the 2020 NAB Show.
The ceremony will take place during the “Achievement in Broadcasting Dinner” at the Encore in Las Vegas.
Landecker’s career includes a stint at another Chicago station, WJMK-FM, and stops in Cleveland, Toronto and Philadelphia. However, it is his reign in the 1970s at WLS-AM, at the time an ABC O&O offering a steady diet of Top 40 music to northern Illinois and much of America after dark, that is perhaps most notable.
This week in 1972, Billboard reported that Landecker was a new staffer at WLS, arriving from WIBG in Philadelphia. At “Wibbage,” his first big break after stints at WILS-AM 1320 in Lansing, WERX/Grand Rapids and WTRX/Flint while studying at Michigan State University, he took the air name “Scott Walker.”
After a few months, WIBG was acquired by Buckley Broadcasting and its Program Director — the famed Paul Drew — was dismissed. This led Landecker to use his real name, which indeed includes Records. It’s not a gimmick.
In a June 2019 Radio Ink profile authored by Art Vuolo, the noted chronicler of air personalities noted, “His middle name was his mother’s last name — Marjorie Records — from Indiana.”
While at WIBG, he caught the attention of WLS. His arrival at the 50kw blowtorch was a calculated one that still offers a learning lesson for radio stations seeking younger listeners after dark.
In the February 19, 1972 issue of Billboard, WLS’s situation was noted in a feature story in which recently-arrived VP/GM Paul Abrams shared a plan to make it Chicago’s top-rated station. “WLS is after the best talent available,” he said. “They are basically young, and WLS is shooting for the young audience or at least the audience young at heart … Landecker is 25.”
By 1977, he was awarded (in a tie with WABC’s Dan Ingram) the Major Market Air Personality of the Year honor by the International Radio Programming Forum. A year later, Jam Creative Productions created its first custom jingle package for WLS, “Class Action,” with Landecker used to pitch the series to stations. Its legacy lives on today at SiriusXM’s “60s on 6” and at select radio stations across the globe.
After a nine-year run as one of WLS’s most-listened-to personalities, at a time when Top 40 radio was greatly changing due to growth of FM radio listening and the death of Disco music, Landecker in May 1981 left the station — and the U.S.
He headed to then-Top 40 CFTR-AM 680 in Toronto, a formidable challenger to Canada’s equivalent of WABC, “1050 CHUM.”
Landecker lasted two years in Toronto waking up CFTR listeners before returning to Chicago, taking a position at Rocker WLUP in 1983 after winning a court battle in 1982 that allowed him to return to the Windy City, opposite WLS.
By September 1984, he jumped to Cox’s short-lived CHR/Pop WAGO-FM “G106” for mornings. He stayed following a change to Classic Rock as WCKG in 1985, and in 1986 returned to WLS-AM. He stayed until its ultimate demise as a music station, with its flip to Talk in 1989.
With the death of “Musicradio WLS,” Landecker went to Cleveland, where he was lured for a role at now-defunct WPHR-FM “Power 108.”
In September 1993, Landecker returned to Chicago, giving up the Top 40 mantle to deliver much of the music that made him a star 20 years earlier. This saw the now-46-year-old air personality take the morning shift at former Oldies WJMK-FM 104.3 — a role he’d hold for a decade.
At the time of his arrival at WJMK, one high-profile radio personality revealed himself to be a fan: Rush Limbaugh. In a January 1994 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Landecker recalled how he approached Limbaugh at a Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremony held shortly before the article’s publication.
“I came up to him and said, `Mr. Limbaugh, I’m John Landecker, and I used to work with Larry Lujack at WLS,’ ” Landecker said. “He turns to me and says, `John “Records” Landecker? I used to listen to you every night after I got off the air at KQV-AM in Pittsburgh, where I was working as Jeff Christie. I even called you at home once for advice, and you talked to me for half an hour.’ Of course, I had no recollection of that whatsoever. It’s just amazing the influence that station had.”
By 2004, Landecker was celebrating 35 years in radio. His contract was not renewed at WJMK; Oldies stations were losing their luster, in particular at CBS Radio.
This led Landecker to try Talk radio at WGN-AM with then-PD Mary June Rose, at WLS-AM with then-PD Kipper McGee, and nights on rechristened Classic Hits “94.7 WLS-FM.”
Not enjoying what radio had become, Landecker “quit” in 2015, Vuolo wrote for Radio Ink.
Today, he’s “having a great time with Mike Dempsey, once a week, on 95.9 WEFM (once Chicago call-letters) in Michigan City, Indiana.”
Landecker was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2017. His on-air talent and contributions to the radio industry are memorialized in the radio exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Now, it is the NAB’s turn to salute Landecker, who will receive an award given in 2019 to Urban One founder Cathy Hughes.
“John Records Landecker has had a profound impact on radio and has inspired generations of new talent,” said NAB EVP of Industry Affairs Steve Newberry. “His induction into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame symbolizes the personal connection between DJs and their audiences and how innovative personalities can influence radio programming.”