Published on Friday, 12 February 2010 18:07
Valentine's Day is a holiday celebrating the love between a couple. It is a very fitting day for WGN's special couple, Steve King and Johnnie Putman, to be celebrating a radio anniversary.
It has been a year full of 25th anniversaries for these these two. Last year, Steve and Johnnie celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary together. On this past Christmas Eve, Steve King celebrated his 25th anniversary of being on the air at WGN-AM. On Sunday, Valentine's Day, it marks the 25th anniversary of Johnnie Putman's first time on WGN's airwaves. She had joined her newlywed husband on a special Valentine's Day show on February 14th, 1985. The audience reaction was supurb. The listeners felt the natural chemistry between these two, a chemistry that had started when they would do events together for WIND before either of them joined WGN, and a chemistry that would lead to a long, loving marriage. Based on that great show together, WGN then hired Johnnie to work at WGN, first as a traffic reporter for the Wally Phillips morning show and the Bob Collins afternoon show, but soon after, she was placed at her husband's side for the overnight program. The WGN program director at that time, Dan Fabian, had long wanted a male/female broadcast team for the station. What better male/female team than a husband/wife team? It worked immediately. Listeners loved being welcomed into Steve & Johnnie's lives, and in turn, welcomed them into their homes via their radios. 25 years later, that relationship with the listeners is still as strong as the relationship they share with each other.
Both Steve King and Johnnie Putman were radio veterans long before either joined WGN. Mr. King had worked at radio stations in Indiana and all over Chicago. He probably first became widely known as the nighttime DJ on MusicRadio WLS from 1973-1978, although his radio career had started seven years before joining WLS. From WLS, he jumped over to WIND to do a talk show, where he worked (except for quick jump to another radio station) for six years, before getting hired by WGN. Ms. Putman also knew her way around a radio studio. She started at a pair of radio stations in west suburban Aurora in 1977, doing a talk show on one and then a music show on another. In 1982, she joined WIND as a talk host. (Female talk show hosts were as rare then as they are again today.)
It was at WIND that Steve met Johnnie and first appeared on the air together. After the two had escorted a group of listeners to a Joan Rivers concert, which was not very well received, Steve joined Johnnie on her WIND talk show to talk about the not-so-funny comedy show they both experienced. That would just be the first of many thousands of times these two would be together on the radio. In fact, radio is so intertwined with their lives, that even their engagement happened at a live remote for WIND. The two were the honorary King & Queen at a broadcast from "King Richard's Renaissance Fair" in Bristol, Wisconsin. The "King & Queen" were riding on top of an elephant for the broadcast. When WIND cut to a commercial break, Steve turned to Johnnie and proposed. By the time the station cut back to them and before they could get off of that elephant, the two were engaged to be married. They have been "King & Queen" ever since.
The two have been royalty when it comes to dominating the overnight radio ratings, as well. Steve and Johnnie's "Life After Dark" radio show has consistently been the top rated overnight radio program for Chicago. Steve King, and soon after with Johnnie Putman, had some big shoes to fill when taking over the overnight spot. He was replacing "Chicago Ed" Eddie Schwartz, the very popular overnight host on WGN. Steve was not Eddie, though, and had to build up his own audience and convert Eddie's fans over to him. He did so, first on his own and then alongside his wife. Steve & Johnnie's fans aren't just Chicagoans, either. With its strong signal at night, WGN can be heard in over 30 states and up into Canada, not to mention it is now heard worldwide on the Internet. They get calls, emails, and postings on their Yahoo Group & Facebook accounts from people listening from all over the country and world.
25 years is a long time to be at any company, let alone for a company in the ever-fickle world of radio. These two have been on the air together on the same station, with the same ownership and in basically the same time slot (give or take a few hours) for 25 years. That deserves to be celebrated. These two Chicago radio treasures deserve to be celebrated.
It may be the silver anniversary for Steve & Johnnie, but this radio duo is pure gold.