Larry Lujack, who from 1964 to 1966 was one of the top disc jockeys at KJR-AM, then one of the reigning Top-40 stations in the country, died Wednesday at age 73.
But it would be on Chicago radio – at WLS and WCFL — for two decades beginning in the late 60s, that Lujack would gain national fame. Listeners knew him as “Superjock” and “Uncle Lar.”
The Chicago Tribune reports his wife, Judith “Jude” Lujack, said her husband died of esophageal cancer in Santa Fe, N. M., where he had retired.
In the book, “Turn It Up! American Radio Tales 1946-1996,” by Bob Shannon, the story is told how Lujack did his morning shift:
“Lujack would arrive at work between three and four in the morning.
“He’d smoke one hundred cigarettes, down a gallon of coffee, do his four hours, take a walk and then come back and listen to an air-check of the show.”
But it was Seattle that launched Lujack’s career and which he fondly remembered.
It’s hard to imagine in today’s fractured media market, but in the 1960s, if you were a kid in Seattle, there was really was one station you paid attention to: KJR.
Lujack once wrote about the-then line up at KJR, “With me, Jerry Kaye, Pat O’Day, Dick Curtis, Lan Roberts and `World Famous’ Tom Murphy, KJR was, in my opinion, the best rock-‘n’-roll radio station that has ever existed.”
Although those listening now to his air checks might wonder because they seem tame by today’s standards, Lujack is credited for paving the way for such shock jocks as Howard Stern.
It’s all incremental, the stretching of media boundaries, and back then, Lujack was at the forefront.
Says Burl Barer, a former Seattle radio personality, about Lujack, “He was all attitude — and you can hear echoes of Lujack in every sarcastic, sardonic air personality whose career was influenced by his persona, including Rush Limbaugh.”
Wrote Chicago media writer Robert Feder in his blog, “A genuine original, Lujack perfected a world-weary, sarcastic style that was in stark contrast to the cheery and effervescent DJs of the era. If he was in a foul mood — which seemed to be the case most of the time — he didn’t try to hide it. Audiences found his dark, edgy humor real, relatable and unlike anything they’d ever heard on the radio before.”
No wonder that a young David Letterman living in the Midwest was also said to be one of Lujack’s avid listeners.
Says Seattle radio legend Pat O’Day, who back then ran KJR, “Larry did the 6 to 9 p.m. show, and to me, he was sensational because he was without fear. He would stretch the envelope and only say to me, ‘Am I OK?’”
In keeping with his persona, Lujack’s wife said he didn’t want a memorial service.