Chicago radio legend Garry Meier has a brand new bag. The award-winning interviewer, host, comedic writer/producer and Radio Hall of Fame inductee launched a new podcast in March, “The Garry Meier Show.” The hour-long talk show airs five times per week, with news and celebrity interviews, including Howard Stern, Richard Lewis and Chicago Blackhawks CEO John McDonough.
This is the latest chapter in a storied broadcasting career for Meier, who spent 15 years as half of the top-rated “Steve and Garry Show” on WLUP Chicago, followed by a legendary run at WLS. That fostered countless industry awards, including “Best Local Afternoon Talk Show Host in America” and one of the “100 Most Influential Talk Show Hosts in America,” along with kudos as a “Top Most Influential Personality of the Last 20 Years.” His segments have appeared on local and national TV, including “World News Tonight,” while Meier also won an Emmy for the production of his “Greetings from Graceland.”
Meier talks here about his new gig, why he still loves what he does for a living and how technology is shaping the industry.
On-demand audio has been touted as the next big thing for radio, and the numbers are certainly beginning to support that. How does it feel from the microphone?
I’ve spent 99.99% of my career on AM/FM and during my last radio job on WGN Chicago, many of us were moved to their digital platform. For six months, I got a taste of that world—and was completely intoxicated. After I left the station, I thought, I’ve got to pursue this. We started the podcast a couple months ago and I tell you, I feel reborn on so many levels.
In traditional radio we’re used to stop sets and watching the second hand. You must find it liberating to talk to your audience like a person instead of a personality.
That first day of my podcast I talked for an hour and 45 minutes straight. Everyone on radio knows you talk maybe 6 or 7 minutes and stop for news, weather, commercials or whatever….This is so different. This is like the rhythm of a real conversation; you talk until you’re done.
I think it’s more refreshing for the listener, too. I do an hour every Monday through Friday. It used to take 2 hours to get a solid 60 minutes of talk, so this is quite the shot in the arm.
Tell us about “The Garry Meier Show.”
The platform I had in all of my years on traditional radio remains the template, where I share stories my listeners would expect to hear. I have the same newswoman from my old show [Leslie Keiling], who’s on twice an hour, and then we riff on that. I’ll continue to have at least one interview a week, with the luxury of a solid hour of going at it. That’s something my listeners didn’t have before.
Any pushback from your audience over the technology?
Here’s a funny thing. On the digital platform at WGN I got an email from a woman in Wisconsin who’s not my typical demographic—she’s 83 years old! She said, ‘You’re selling the audience short if you think we can’t find you online.’ Everybody is adapting to this new world; it’s just not that difficult. Now…GarryMeier.com, boom, and it’s off to the races.
I would imagine you also got some inspiration from your friend Howard Stern.
My wife and I were sitting in New York having dinner with Howard and his wife recently. Here I am with the most successful broadcaster ever on radio—and he likes me. I feel like I’ve been validated somehow and I said this to him during our interview [during my podcast]. “I’m blown away sitting across from you.” It’s one of those moments where you think, how did I get here? Howard agreed that there are times in this business when you just pinch yourself.
There are a lot of potential advances on the radio horizon. As you sit in the driver’s seat of evolution, what’s your take on radio’s future?
The connected car could see the game really change. When you open those floodgates, imagine the possibilities….I feel like radio has fallen behind on marketing itself. We started to lose our fizz 20 years ago during consolidation. We still need those big promotions for radio. That is essential. Radio has got to promote and market itself. The industry’s attitude has to perk up.
It certainly sounds like your love affair with radio continues, albeit with a platform shift.
You’re right about that. It’s amazing to think about how things have changed—we used to do a station remote where we’d drive in a big trailer with the equipment. Now it’s like you can fit the whole station in your wallet. That alone is amusing.
Yes, I am excited about this. I tell you what, as soon as I got a taste of podcasting, I realized it’s the way for me to go again…and keep doing what I have loved all my life.
— Edited transcript