The Chicago radio legend, a.k.a. “Superjock” and “Uncle Lar,” died 12/18 in New Mexico. His wife, Judith “Jude” Lujack told the Chicago Tribune her husband had been in hospice care for three days and died of esophageal cancer. He worked for rock ‘n’ roll stations in Chicago from the 1960s until 1987 including WLS-AM and WCFL-AM.
Lujack was known for his gravelly voice, sometimes surly disposition and larger-than-life personality. His radio celebrity paved the way for such shock jocks as Howard Stern, Bruce DuMont, founder and president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, told The Tribune.
Jude Lujack recalled how much her husband enjoyed his retirement in New Mexico, where he’d lived the last 15 years, teaching his grandchildren how to golf and enjoying the mountainous views.
“He was passionate … about everything that he did, whether it was helping neighbors or taking care of charities,” she told the paper. “We’re really hurting right now,” she said Wednesday night from their New Mexico home.
Lujack said he requested that his body be donated to the New Mexico Medical Center for research, which she called a demonstration of his compassion.
In 1987, WLS-AM management bought out his contract amid sliding ratings. The purveyor of the “Animal Stories” and “Cheap, Trashy Showbiz Reports” features were retired as well.
Lujack was recognized for his decades of achievement with his induction in 2002 into the Illinois Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. The honor came at the IBA’s annual convention in Peoria, just as Lujack was turning 62.
Tommy Edwards, Lujack’s longtime radio partner at WLS, and later at WRLL-AM 1690, told The Trib he has lost a best friend, one whose ability to make him laugh extended well beyond their radio careers: “The chemistry, the whole relationship that we had between each other — we’d just usually wind up laughing whenever we talked,” Edwards said. “We genuinely liked each other, and he just broke me up all the time.”
The duo started doing their signature bit, “Animal Stories,” at WLS in the late ’70s. “Uncle Lar” would read offbeat news about animals to his sidekick, “little snot-nosed Tommy,” who would be hearing them for the first time.
Lujack leaves behind a daughter, a son, a stepson and two grandchildren. Another son preceded him in death.
Jan Jeffries, senior vice president corporate/programming for WLS Radio issued the following statement on Lujack’s death: “The passing of Larry is a loss not only to countless friends across Chicagoland, but to hundreds of thousands of loyal listeners who affectionately referred to him as Uncle Lar’. Larry defined WLS. Bigger than life and legendary. He will be missed as a broadcaster, however, even more as a humanitarian with a heart of gold. Larry would want us to celebrate his life and that is the way will honor his passing. God’s speed Larry!”
Meanwhile, Chicago radio was doing Lujack stories on air 12/19 with former associates. From WLS-TV:
WLS’ Bruce Wolf hosted a special edition of the Bruce Woif and Dan Proft Show, playing memorable highlights from Larry Lujack on WLS as well as many who worked so close with him, including Dick Biondi, John Landecker, Jim Johnson and more. Listen to the show!
Jim Johnson, recently retired newsman for WLS and close friend of Larry Lujack, calls into the show to talk about some of the memories he had of working with Lujack. LISTEN
Dick Biondi, WLS superstar, joins the show to give some of his best memories of Larry Lujack. LISTEN
Art Vuolo, “radio’s best friend”, joins the show to talk about Larry Lujack and his encounters with Larry on the job. LISTEN
John Gehron, former boss of Larry Lujack, comes on the show to talk to Bruce about some of the stories he remembers about Lujack. LISTEN
John Landecker, creator of “Boogie Check” and close friend of Larry Lujack, joins Bruce to give his input on working with Lujack. LISTEN
Mick Kahler, former producer for Larry Lujack, joins the show to discuss some of the moments they shared together. LISTEN