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WFMT Best of Studs Terkel

The Best of Studs Terkel

Fridays at 10:00 pm

For 45 years (1952-1997), WFMT was home to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel. Operating from a tiny room overstuffed with papers, books, and an antique typewriter, Studs’s career and everything cultural unfolded before our eyes. Over the years, the guests on his daily radio show ranged from ordinary Chicagoans to international figures: political leaders, writers, performers, social activists, and labor organizers. Covering wide-ranging topics, Studs was remarkable in his depth of knowledge, and in his ability to get others to open up and talk. Most of all, he modeled a quality that became his job title at WFMT: Free Spirit.

To explore the new, in-progress Studs Terkel Radio Archive website which will eventually feature 5,000 plus interviews and radio programs, click here.

Program Schedule

August 8, 2014


Tonight on the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL we bring you WFMT's annual rebroadcast of "Overkill and Megalove," a commemorative program concerning August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, and the bomb. Studs produced this documentary, based on Norman Corwin's book about the horror of nuclear war, back in 1963. (1:03:50)

August 15, 2014


On August 15, 1967, Chicago's Mayor, Richard J. Daley, unveiled Pablo Picasso's great gift to Chicago: a massive abstract sculpture. (It still sits at the corner of Washington and Randolph. Back then we called the building the Civic Center, but now we know it as Daley Plaza.) Studs Terkel was there with his portable tape recorder, collecting sounds of the day and comments from people in the crowd. Studs first presented this program in 1997 on the 30th anniversary of the Picasso's unveiling. It begins with Studs' description of the original 1967 broadcast and concludes with a half hour of Studs'-curated poetry, comedy and music, all musing on the broad definition of "art". (0:56:14)

August 22, 2014


One of Studs Terkel's early WFMT radio program incarnations was called This Is Our Story. Tonight's BEST OF STUDS TERKEL rebroadcast was first heard on WFMT back in 1959. It's a celebration of Americana through folk music and story telling, and this episode tells the story of Chicago. (0:40:54)

August 29, 2014

THIS TRAIN, Part 1 (8/27/1963)

This Train commemorates the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This broadcast is WFMT's annual remembrance of the train ride from Chicago to Washington in late August 1963, and that’s when this program was first broadcast. Studs Terkel joined hundreds of Chicagoans on that train bound for Washington DC and tonight on the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL we bring you Part 1 of his 2-hour radio sound-scape through which he documented that historic journey. (0:58:09)

September 5, 2014

THIS TRAIN, Part 2 (8/27/1963)


September 12, 2014

EL GRITO (9/16/1966)

On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's rallying cry ignited Mexico's war to win independence from Spain. That event took place near Guanajuato, in the small town of Dolores. Since October 1825, the anniversary of "El Grito de Dolores," or the "Shout from Dolores," has been celebrated as Mexican Independence Day. This is Studs Terkel's 1966 program commemorating El Grito.

September 19, 2014


Born in 1931, the Austrian pianist, poet and author Alfred Brendel is widely considered to be one of the greatest pianists of all time. In his 1985 conversation with Studs Terkel, he and Studs touch upon the topic of humor in music, among other things.
Joseph Haydn Piano Sonata n 59 in E flat, Hob. XVI:49
Schubert Piano Sonata No 14 D 784 A minor Alfred Brendel

September 26, 2014

LYRIC OPERA AT 25 (9/17/1979)

Tonight on The Best of Studs Terkel, we honor the Lyric Opera of Chicago's 60th anniversary season with this program from September 1979, and Studs's tribute to the Lyric at 25.