Catching up with Kevin McCarthy of 96.7 The Eagle
By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
Rockford Rocked Interview: Most people know you as the afternoon DJ at the radio station 96.7 The Eagle. You’re also a Chicago native. Tell us about how you got to Rockford.
Kevin McCarthy: I worked in Chicago and the suburbs holding various positions in the radio business from announcing, producing, production and chief bottle washer at numerous stations. I also programmed adult contemporary music and yes, easy listening – or better known in circles as “elevator music” – for a major syndication company in which was then distributed to stations throughout the country. Back in 1990 and ’91 I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time but had the radio bug, as it’s called – meaning you live and breathed the radio and music industries.
Fast forward to 1998, due to my full-time job which was NOT in radio at that time, I was able work from my home handling advertising for a business trade publication as my company didn’t mind where I lived. So knowing the affordability of Rockford (not going to escape the taxes) I moved out to the Forest City. Oh yea, I then got back in the biz working Saturday afternoons at Oldies 95.3 which was owned by Radio Works.
RRI: You have a vast knowledge of classic rock bands and a lot of worthless information that dates back to the stone age. Does that just come from years of listing and reading album liner notes, or were you just always a music nerd (like myself)?
KM: That’s a big part of it. I loved reading album covers and inserts that accompanied them. I tend to feel that you have to have that passion for whatever you do in life that brings you enjoyment or helps you in your career to learn all you can no matter how minuscule it may be. The more you know, the better person you are while sharing your knowledge with others.
RRI: What’s the best thing about being a DJ at a classic rock station?
KM: One of the main factors is the music. Saying that, it’s the Eagle staff that consists of da’ Bossman Captain Jack who also handles afternoons, The First Lady of The Eagle, Lori in the midday along with the weekend/fill-in crew: Johnny Walker, Jackson and Robo. They’re great peeps as we all bring our own unique personality to the station. This in addition to all the other cool cats at our sister stations 97ZOK, Q98.5 and 1440 WROK. We’re all a fun crowd that enjoys meeting our listeners.
RRI: Alright, if Mr. Bossman came in one day and said, “Kevin, today we are going to let you play any artist you choose during your on air shift as long as it’s one of these: Celtic Woman, Limp Bizkit, Yoko Ono or Metallica’s St. Anger album… over and over and over again.” Which do you choose and why?
KM: Celtic Woman. I’m a fan of Irish music on a whole. I’ve seen them perform a few times and they always put on a sensational show. The talent these lovely ladies bring to the stage is truly amazing. The group’s lineup has changed throughout the years but they continue to maintain their traditional form. Sliante’.
RRI: What? No Yoko? (laughs) Hmm…Okay then. I understand you just recently unloaded a huge record collection that you have been hanging onto for years. Thoughts?
KM: In life it seems that nothing really stays the same except change, it was simply time to downsize quite a bit. These records brought me so much enjoyment as many had stories of how I acquired them. Some of those records, mainly the jazz ones, unfortunately came to my possession at a lost of a loved one who was like a second father to me. Boy did he love jazz and big band which I’m also a fan of. I still have lots of 45s but I’ll be parting with those soon. I’ll hang on to a few records, mainly the ones that have sentimental value. I still crank up my Victrolas from time to time playing a 78 by Harry James or from an unknown artist dating back to the 1930s.
RRI: Tell me about Rockford’s Midway Village and how you got involved with the whole World War II reenactments.
KM: My father served three years during World War II as a Seaman 1st Class in the Navy covering both the Pacific and European theaters of operation. He asked my grandma to lie saying he was 17; he was only 15. Instead of riding a bike my dear ole dad was learning how to work a turret on Liberty Ships. He passed away in 2000. Like most returning from the war, they simply wanted to get their lives back in order and didn’t talk much about what their duties were, some of the places they’ve been and the sadness they saw.
One day on my way out from grocery shopping at Walmart, I noticed these cans at the end of all of the conveyor belts. On the cans it said something such as “donate to the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.” I honestly thought we had a Memorial for our WWII Veterans but we didn’t. Needless to say, I said to myself and others that I simply needed to educate those who don’t know about these ladies and gents and how can I get involved. So I signed up for the war effort by becoming a Charter Member for the National WWII Memorial (wwiimemorial.com) raising funds and was honored to attend the dedication on the National Mall. What an event it was. This year at Midway Village and Museum WWII Day’s will be the weekend of September 24 and 25.
RRI: Who was your favorite DJ to listen to on 89 WLS while growing up?
KM: Without a doubt, John Records Landecker. Others that made an impression on me at WLS were Jeff Davis and Yvonne Daniels.
RRI: Who would win in an arm wrestling contest, former Cub’s outfielder Andre Dawson or former Sox first basemen Frank Thomas?
KM: Andre Dawson!
RRI: Favorite place to go to watch a band play in Rockford?
KM: We’re all so fortunate to have a solid selection to choose from in and around Rockford to see live music, grab a great burger or simply to kick back. However, I would have to say Mary’s Place. Not only are the drinks cheap, the talent is the finest but the history and the people you meet from all walks of life who show up there really makes it for me. The stories I hear from those who visited it 60 years ago to today I relish as I love history.
RRI: Favorite cooking show to watch on a Saturday afternoon while drinking a cold Old Style beer?
KM: I enjoy watching Giada De Laurentiis; Cooks Country; Lidia Bastianich; and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
RRI: Harry Caray or Steve Stone?
KM: Harry Caray. I met him several times as a kid when he was the key announcer for the White Sox. The games aired on WSNS-TV Channel 44 in Chicago. Oh how, I miss “original” Comiskey Park.
RRI: Okay Kevin, last question. What’s the one thing you would change about Rockford if you could?
KM: In explaining to those that live here that basically our city is not a bad place to live. Yes, we have problems but there are good and bad sections in municipalities large or small who have same or similar problems. I tend to compare Rockford to Chicago in a sense of we have everything they do but on a smaller scale.