10 Questions with ... Tom Lounges "The Lounge Lizard"
May 20, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Received my FCC Third Class Engineer License in my senior year of high school - 1977
First job: WLNR (106-FM)/Lansing, IL (Talk Radio and Religious Programming) Overnight Board Engineer / Time & Temporary Announcer from1977-78
WFLM-FM 104-FM in Crown Point, IN (air personality with "Night Rock" evening and overnight program and the program's sole celebrity interviewer 1978-80)
I then left the radio side of media to focus on voice over work, print journalism (as a daily newspaper music columnist and national feature freelance writer for several major music/entertainment publications of the 1980s and 1990s), and I hosted a two regional Cable TV weekly programs plus a PBS-TV show on WYIN-TV for one year.
WLJE (105.5 FM)/Valparaiso, IN - Country Music Weekend Mid-day personality - 2007-2010
WXRD (103.9 FM)/Valparaiso, IN - Afternoon Drive Personality - 2006-2012
"NIGHT ROCK" in Highland, IN - I independently produced a four-hour weekly celebrity-driven radio program. (Producer & Host) - 2004-2011
RADIO ONE COMMUNICATIONS - Porter County/IN - Promotional & Special Events Director for the company's four radio stations - WAKE-A (1500), WZVN (107.1 FM), WXRD (103.9 FM), and "INDIANA 105.5-FM" - 2006-2012
Producer and Host of "Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges" - A weekly celebrity profile program airing on Northwest Indiana/South Chicago's regional National Public Radio station WLPR (89.1-The Lakeshore) - December 2012 to Present
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
Growing up thirty-minutes outside of Chicago and listening to the amazing air staff of WLS-A and later, WCFL-AM. I also had an amazing high school Radio/TV/Communications teacher named Mr. Joseph Fetty who in my junior year brought me out of my shell and literally changed my life forever.
2) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
First it was Morris Wayne (a.k.a. Morris Cochran) News Director at my first station. He hired me and taught me all he could about "good radio." Next, it would be my former PD Don Clark who threw me in the deep end of the pool by giving me afternoon drive. Don warned me about "crutches." I learned much from BOTH men.
My early radio influences were the best Chicago had to offer -- Dick Biondi, Larry Lujack, Bob Stroud and Mitch Michaels.
3) What makes your market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
I have only worked in the "Chicagoland" market. However, this is my first time working at an NPR station. I find it very unique, because not everything has to fit into a box at NPR. I have freedom to explore a much broader pasture. The diversity of NPR is exciting and exhilarating.
4) What about your show really makes it cut through?
Experience: My thirty years spent interviewing celebrities of all walks of life enables me to pull the very best stories and comments out my guests. Many guests comment how much they enjoy my casual, comfortable and conversational interview style.
Diversity: The variety of guests. A veteran Blues artist, then a current chart-topping Pop sensation, followed by a Classic Pop star, a Classic Rock God, a famous songwriter, or a local talent plucked from the local night clubs. Each week's show is unique.
5) Who have you interviewed recently on your show and were there any interesting moments you care to share?
Recent guests have included veteran Louisiana Blues woman Marcia Ball, Chess records Blues icon Bobby Rush, Rocker Boz Scaggs, Hot AC Pop star Chris Wallace, trumpeter Lee Lougnane of the group Chicago, piano tickling Russian Pop star Marina V., and former soul sensations Cuba Gooding Sr., Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
Here are four interesting moments:
- Grammy winning composer/rocker Jim Peterik ("Eye of The Tiger," "Hold On Loosely," etc.) allowed me the world radio debut of a new song inspired by and benefiting the New Town, CN shooting tragedy.
- At the conclusion of our interview as the show was wrapping up, Boz Scaggs said on air... "I really liked your questions Tom. This has been enjoyable. I wish we could go on talking."
- Having 77-year-old Blues legend Bobby Rush tell the story of taking Etta James to Chess Records to meet Leonard and Marshall Chess for the first time, and also how blues pioneer Pinetop Perkins spent his final hours of life chatting up fans at Bobby Rush concert.
- Chicago singer/songwriter Michael McDermott pulling out his guitar to debut with a live on air performance a brand new song he had only written a day or two earlier for a benefit concert focused on substance abuse.
6) What is the most important issue facing radio today?
Keeping listeners tuned in and turned on to traditional radio in the wake of all the new options they have for getting their music and news. Technology continues to give people alternatives to radio - I-pods, Satellite, Pandora, etc. Radio needs to be more savvy and creative than ever to keep them on the dial and coming back.
7) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
Lots of coffee! I research on my weekly guest thoroughly so I can direct them into exploring fresh topics and new ground. My style is to turn on the mic and see where conversations naturally go, rather than stick to a planned out Q&A.
My 30 years experience doing celebrity interviews helps when working in this kind of "off-the-cuff" fashion. Working live "without a net" keeps energy levels high and everyone on their toes. In short, it makes for an interesting show.
8) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
I interact with them via social media and by making MANY public appearances at community and charity events. I encourage my audience to come by, say hello and talk music or whatever with me. I straight up ASK THEM what they like and don't like about my show, my guests, the music, my way of doing things, etc. By listening to THEM - your audience. You inspire them to listen to YOU.
9) What is the most rewarding promotion or activity you have ever been involved with to benefit the community or a charity?
With a former station, I produced and hosted an annual fundraiser with proceeds split evenly between various local animal shelters. I had top area bands donate performances and I got the use of a banquet hall donated. I called every celebrity, artist and manager I knew for autographed silent auction items. This was one of my hardest projects ever, but also the most rewarding. So much that I now volunteer on a local Humane Society's board of directors.
10) What is the one truth that has held constant in your career?
Never let idiots stand in your way. ALWAYS follow your gut and that little voice in your head. Be true to your ambitions and always try to bring your own unique twist to everything you do. Get your fingerprints on everything!
Who is the most amazing talent you've worked with?
This is nearly impossible to answer. I've worked with some of the most gifted and amazing people on earth over the last thirty-five years.
Certainly in the top-five would be composer/performer/producer Jim Peterik (Survivor/Ides of March, etc.) who has been a dear personal friend for nearly thirty of those years. His talent for writing songs always impresses.
When it comes to radio production and editing, it would be Chicago radio personality Brian Middleton. I worked in a side project alongside Brian many years ago during his early days in radio when he produced the weekly "Saturday Night Dance Party" mixes for WBBM (B-96)/Chicago. I watched him progress from working with razor blades and splicing tape, to digital editing. I was always amazed how quickly Brian worked and how keen his ear was for matching beats. His edits always seemed flawless.
What celebrity most impressed you after meeting them?
It's a tie between Charlie Daniels (the most gracious and well mannered), Bad Company's Paul Rodgers (the most generous and kindest) and Alice Cooper (a wonderful story teller and just an overall nice guy - despite his song to the contrary).
What was your coolest celebrity encounter?
Walking into an unmarked dressing room at Park West in Chicago circa 1979 and coming face to face with Deborah Harry on couch pulling up her nylons. Seeing my embarrassment and complete loss for words, Deborah smiled and said - "If you're going to walk into a lady's dressing room, at least introduce yourself." Deborah then invited my friend and I to sit at her mother Katherine's table for the concert and she even picked up the tab for our drinks. Deborah and her mother were both just wonderful and very classy ladies. It's one of my favorite memories ever of being in the biz.
Runner-Up Encounter: Drinking cherry wine backstage with Muddy Waters at a club called The Pointe East on Chicago's South Side about six months before he passed away.
Tell us what music we would find on your MP3 player right now and what is it you enjoy about that particular selection?
My personal jukebox recharges my personal musical roots and takes me back to highlights of my Chicagoland music career. It would be labeled "Chicago's Best Music" and include: Ides of March "Vehicle," Oscar & The Majestics "Soulfinger," Buckinghams "Don't You Care," Survivor "Somewhere In America," Koko Taylor's "Wang Dang Doodle," Heartsfield's "The Only Time I'm Sober," Tantrum's "Rather Be Rockin'," and The Boyzz From Illinois "Too Wild To Tame."
Who is your best friend in the business?
That would be Newscaster Amanda Gass who I followed to my current station (WLPR) from my (our) last station together (WXRD). She's talented and a good buddy. We work well together.
What's the closest you ever came to getting arrested for an on-air stunt? Or did you actually get arrested?
I didn't get arrested, but I got fired from my first radio job in 1978 for daring to play "Jingle Bell Rock" by country crooner Eddy Arnold on a Sunday morning. I was told, "We don't play ROCK music on this station" and given my walking papers. Wow! I still scratch my head over that one. Eddy Arnold?