Their given names are James, Christine, Brian and Todd--but many Chicagoans remember them best for their colorful DJ names--JVO, Electra, Sludge and Fook.
They were some of personalities manning the mics of Q101, the rock radio station that ruled the airwaves as "Chicago's Alternative" for almost two decades. In its prime, the station exposed young Chicagoans to new music both through its broadcasts and massive annual festivals and helped launch local bands including Rise Against and Fall Out Boy into the national consciousness.
"Q101 was a tastemaker--it wasn't just a popular station, it was an important station," said former Q101 host Alex Quigley. "Anyone in the rock world, or even the entertainment world that tried to appeal to anyone under 35 made sure they stopped by Q101 at some point."
But the music was silenced in 2011 after the station, officially known as WKQX-FM, was sold to Merlin Media and transformed into a news talk station in 2011. Even though he'd left the station in 2009, Ryan Manno said he was sad to see it go.
"Sometimes, it's like you don't realize what it means until its gone. There were format changes and talent coming and going, but at the end of day, it was always there---it was like a friend that was always there," Manno said.
It was that kind of nostalgia that enabled James VanOsdol ("JVO") to raise $15,000 on crowd-funding website Kickstarter so he could write a behind-the-scenes book about Q101. With that book ("We Appreciate the Enthusiasm: An Oral History of Q101") released Nov. 26, RedEye caught up with some of Q101's former disc jockeys to see what they're up to now and share some of their favorite memories.
THEN: Hosted middays from 2005 to 2011.
NOW: Enrolled at Loyola studying to be a paralegal. Also does occasional voiceover work.
NOTABLE MEMORY: "I did a Last Letter Marathon for 29 straight hours, and I'm stubborn so I didn't even take a cat nap in the late-night hours when no one is listening. But it was awesome because we raised money for literacy in Chicago. It felt really good to be able to give back. Also, the time Jack White called to yell at me to play a (White Stripes) record when it leaked. It was surreal to hear Jack White on the phone, and he was angry.
FAVORITE SONG/BAND: I have a lot of favorites, but I championed Muse from the time I got there in 2005 and it was really rewarding to have listeners text me to tell me they heard Muse in other places. It's cool, when you love music and get to share it with other people, and they respond. That was my favorite part of the job.
A.K.A.: Played a character called "Ryan the Gay Mexican" on the Mancow show.
THEN: Hosted several shows from 2001 to 2009. Worked on the Mancow show starting in 2003. Moved to afternoons for "The Manno Program" with brother Kevin (2006 to 2009).
NOW: Co-host of "The Abe Kanan Show" at Sirius Radio for Howard Stern. He also hosted "JBTV," a music television show on NBC.
NOTABLE MEMORY: "I remember when the show '24' was popular, Kiefer Sutherland came in and kind of took over. That night he was drinking whiskey and went to Angels and Kings and sang with the band Jackyl. It was crazy. Q101 was such a circus sometimes. I can't believe it was a functioning office sometimes, you had midget wrestlers stapling each other and strippers and alligators in another room."
FUN FACT: Manno admits he was fired in 2009 for dissing his show's biggest advertiser, Miller Light, during an on-air blind taste test for beer. "I had said something like that (Miller Light) smelled like urine and feces."
THEN: Hosted several shows from 2003 to 2011, including "The Manno Program" with Ryan.
NOW: After a year working on a MTV show called "The Seven," he's back in Chicago wrapping up the first season as the host of a dance competition show on Lifetime called "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition." Manno's also a regular correspondent on "AXSLive" on AXS TV and LXTV's "First Look" on NBC and part-time DJ at The Mix (WTMX).
NOTABLE MEMORY: Hosting "Crash Test Radio" with Ryan. "He and I had dreamed of working at Q101 since we were kids, and not only did we achieve that dream, we were given complete control of the radio station for an entire hour every night. That felt good."
FAVORITE SONG/BAND: Rise Against. "My brother and I became friends with those guys when we were hosting a punk rock radio show in college, and I feel like we all kind of came up together."
A.K.A.: Alex Quigley "I was about the only guy who used his real name. I never really liked using fake names."
THEN: Host during two different stints--Jan. 2001 to May 2002 and Dec. 2004 to July 2009.
NOW: Assistant program director and an on-air host at 720 WGN.
CLAIM TO FAME: References to nerd culture. "I talked about Nintendo, 'Star Trek' and would make jokes and references and wouldn't care if you got it. If you got it, you were in."
NOTABLE MEMORY: Weezerama, a promotion for a secret Weezer concert in 2002. "Over the course of a week, Sludge gave geographic clues about where we were going to hand out the 500 wristbands for the show, and it was this little dog park in NIU-Hoffman Estates. Somebody got their wristbands, a car of four kids. And then the flood just hit--hundreds of cars. As I handed out the last ones, we blasted out of there--we pull out onto Route 72 and it kind of looked like the highway scene from 'The Walking Dead'--cars parked in the middle of Higgins Road, kids running across 72 and running into the woods. It was fun and totally crazy."
FAVORITE SONG/BAND: "I was all about Smashing Pumpkins. 'Mayonaise' and 'Muzzle' got played 33 times more often when I was on-air, I think."
THEN: Host for three different periods--1993 to 2000; 2006 to 2007; 2009 to 2011.
CLAIM TO FAME: Hosted Local 101, evening shows and the morning drive."
NOW: Digital marketing for restaurants; author of "We Appreciate the Enthusiasm: An Oral History of Q101."
NOTABLE MEMORY: The 1999 Jamboree music festival. "It gave my book the inspiration for its title. The Offspring had been on stage, and they encouraged the crowd to throw their trash on the stage, and it kept coming and coming. Finally, we had to announce to the crowd ‘We appreciate your enthusiasm but please stop throwing trash on stage.'"
FAVORITE SONG/BAND: "It was fun to go off script and take a chance on a local band---something like Apocalypse Hoboken, P.J. Harvey or Sebadoh. Playing the less obvious stuff was the best."
THEN: Midday and afternoon host from 1999 to 2005.
NOW: Creative director and an on-air host at CBS Radio's Sportsradio WIP in Philadelphia.
FAVORITE SONG/BAND: "Born Slippy" by Underworld. "I'd never heard the song anywhere else, and with its frantic beat, it became the official ‘Sludge Nation workout song.'" Other notables include "Super Bon Bon" by Soul Coughing, "Jump Around" by House Of Pain, "The Perfect Drug" by NIN, "Insane In The Membrane" by Cypress Hill.
NOTABLE MEMORIES: "The time Coach Ditka was walking by our window in the Mart, we ran after him, and he said he'd come on the air as long as we promoted his new golf shirt line, Da Coach. Or the time I sent a naked woman through the Kennedy Expressway toll plaza to pay for 101 people to go through. Or the Sludge Nation show 'Takeovers' by Radiohead, who never came into radio stations, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or when I called the mayor's office and almost got to Mayor Daley to discuss the cock-blocking problem in the city."
THEN: Hosted afternoon and evening shifts from 2001 to 2007.
NOW: Works for a morning show for KFMA, a rock radio station in Tucson, Ariz.
CLAIM TO FAME: Being arrested for protesting the city's canceling of a Radiohead show in Millennium Park because of a scheduling conflict. "I thought that was bogus, so I organized a protest. Myself and about 50 hard-core fans were going to mass-moon the Bean one cold, rainy evening in November, I think. That is, until half of the CPD showed up to arrest us on the mayor's orders. I think Mayor Daley did a fine job overall, as well as keeping the Bean's reflection backside-free."
FAVORITE SONG/BAND: Local H. "Their cover shows at the Double Door on Halloween are legend. Everything Scott Lucas does musically from rock to electronic blows me away."
NOTABLE MEMORY: "Having drinks and snacks with (Billy) Corgan and the rest of Zwan before the release of their album. Also, our Xmas Party at the W in '06 was off the chain. Many skeletons were put in closets that night. I think I'm still hungover."
THEN: Host of "The Morning Fix" from 2006-2008.
CLAIM TO FAME: "Being the host of the ill-fated and short-lived follow up to the Mancow show. A footnote in the history of Q101."
NOW: Hosting a morning show at WDTW radio in Detroit and an afternoon talk show at WMMS in Cleveland.
NOTABLE MEMORY: "Meeting my girlfriend. After our traffic person left the show, I had listeners come in and do it, and she was one of them. She thought she was auditioning for a job, but she got me instead."
Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.
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