Fridays at 11:00 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.

See a schedule of recent and upcoming broadcasts below, and for more information visit the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

December 30, 2016
HANUKKAH (Recorded December 5, 1988)
It was in December 1988 that Studs Terkel presented this musical tribute to Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. The hour begins with songs of Martha Schlamme and Theo Bikel, and some klezmer music, too. Later in the hour, Studs reads Grace Paley’s short story, “Good-bye and Good Luck”.

January 6, 2016

BORN TO LIVE (Recorded July 6, 1962)

The New Year brings a WFMT broadcast tradition and the presentation of “Born to Live,” a program of interviews, spoken word, and musical responses to the nuclear age that Studs Terksl produced in 1961 with colleague Jim Unrath. “Born to Live” won the Prix Italia, an award Studs described as “the equivalent of the Nobel Prize, you might say, for radio and TV documentaries and features.” He and Jim were proud of that, as we remain of them.

January 13, 2016


Tonight on the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL, “It’s Like A Dream to Me,” Studs Terkel’s 1970 birthday tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Please be advised that in addition to the hope, optimism, and struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, this historical program includes an interview containing strong language of an offensive nature which conveys the harsh reality of the time and place.

January 20, 2016

COMMEMORATING MOZART (Recorded January 25, 1974)

Mozart’s birthday is on January 27, and in honor of the 261st anniversary of that event we bring you a program from January 1974, and the time that Studs Terkel first conjured this portrait of the composer through music and remembrances.

January 27, 2016


American composer Philip Glass celebrates his 80th birthday on January 31, 2017.  In his honor we return to April 1990 and the time Studs Terkel spoke with Philip Glass about his operatic music theater piece, “Hydrogen Jukebox.”  Also in on that conversation was the opera’s librettist, Philip Glass’s friend and collaborator, beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

February 3, 2017


During the summer of 1966, the great American contralto, Marian Anderson, performed with the Grant Park Orchestra under the direction of her nephew, conductor James DePreist.  When Studs Terkel visited them shortly before the concert, he recorded this program on his portable tape recorder.

February 10, 2017


Steve Goodman and Fred Holstein, Chicago sons and folk troubadours, played songs and told stories when they visited with Studs Terkel in 1972.

February 17, 2017

WILLIAM RUSSO ((Recorded February 13, 1997)

Chicagoan William Russo was a Jazz composer, arranger, educator and band leader whose remarkable career spanned the second half of the 20th century. He wrote for Stan Kenton and the New York Philharmonic, collaborated with Duke Ellington and Yehudi Menuhin, developed the music department at Columbia College, and originated the long-running Chicago Jazz Ensemble in residence there. In 1997, shortly before a grand concert honoring his 50 years in music, Studs Terkel welcomed him to WFMT’s studios. The hour begins with the CJE’s performance of Russo’s Chicago Suite No. 1, and the movement called simply, “Studs.”

February 24, 2017

BROWNIE MC GHEE & SONNY TERRY (Recorded January 28, 1970)

This evening’s BEST OF STUDS TERKEL is a rebroadcast of a 1970 conversation with bluesmen Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. Sonny with a harmonica, whom Studs called “a nonpareil”, and Brownie McGee at the guitar; they were a team for a long time. Studs opens this program with an excerpt of another Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee concert which he had introduced some 11 years earlier.

March 3, 2017

JOHN ELIOT GARDINER (Recorded February 20, 1989)

British conductor John Eliot Gardiner is a rather unique figure in the world of music. His interest is primarily Baroque music, and he founded the Montiverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists. A 1989 tour with these ensembles brought him to Chicago, and this conversation with Studs Terkel.

March 10, 2017

DEL CLOSE (Recorded May, 15, 1970)

Back in 1970, Studs Terkel spoke with the actor, comedian, teacher and innovator, Del Close, about his life, and his influence on improvisational humor and performance in Chicago and around the world.  The hour begins with a recording from 1960 in which Del Close and John Brent hold forth on How to Speak Hip.

March 24, 2017

Hello, Spring! (Recorded March 20, 1980)

With spring at last at our doorstep, we recall how Studs Terkel once observed that there are more songs about this season of the year than any of the other three. And so tonight on the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL we return to 1980, and Stud’s program about Spring.

March 31, 2017

Renée Fleming (Recorded February 2, 1996)

In 1996, Studs Terkel, ever interested in music and the people who create it, spoke with Renée Fleming who was in Chicago to portray Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust at Lyric Opera. In April, the long-celebrated soprano, and Lyric Opera creative consultant, will return to a signature role as the Marschallin in The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavalier.

April 7, 2017

MARK STRAND (Recorded March 3, 1982)

April is Poetry Month and so this evening the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL returns to April 3, 1982, and the time that Studs spoke with the esteemed Canadian-American poet, Mark Strand.

April 14, 2017

PASSOVER & EASTER (Recorded March 13, 1979)

On an April morning in 1979, Studs Terkel presented this musical program commemorating Passover and Easter.

April 21, 2017

SEAMUS HEANEY (Recorded  c. March 1981)

Seamus Heaney is widely recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century.  When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past,” Studs Terkel rebroadcast their conversation from 1981.

April 28, 2017

YEATS IN WORDS AND MUSIC (Recorded June 3, 1993)

In June 1993, when Kathy Cowen, Tom Orf, and David Sobol were Studs Terkel’s guests on WFMT, they performed a musical program of songs set to poems by William Butler Yeats.  We conclude the hour with an excerpt of Cultural FM, Second City’s 1961 tip of the hat to WFMT, and a troubadour setting of William Blake’s The Tiger.

May 5, 2017

LAURIE ANDERSON (Recorded  December 4, 1984)

Dateline: 1984. Multi-instrumentalist and Glen Ellyn native, Laurie Anderson, explained to Studs Terkel how her music expresses aspects of the human experience. She said it’s about “people who live with technology, people who have a lot of phones and computers and television sets and how do you stay human with all those machines.”  We bring you that conversation, tonight on the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL.

May 12, 2017


From Alan Hall of Falling Tree Productions comes this two-part audio mosaic built from many of Studs Terkel’s interviews.   Crafted from Alan’s own conversations with Studs and excerpts from many of Studs’s WFMT programs, this beautiful free-form program explores the themes of liberty and creativity.  We bring it to you in  honor of WFMT’s resident Free Spirit; Studs was born on May 16, 1912.

May 19, 2017

MAHALIA JACKSON AT THE HOTEL MORRISON (Recorded September 20, /1957)

Tonight on the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL we bring you an archive favorite, and one of the programs that Studs loved best. This broadcast took place in 1957 at the old Hotel Morrison on the Near west side of Chicago where WFMT’s studios were first located.  We’re in the ballroom, which is filled to capacity. Studs is in his element, hosting this live concert with his friend, gospel great Mahalia Jackson.

May 26, 2017

MICHAEL BABATUNDE OLATUNJI (Recorded November 2, 1960)

One November morning in 1960, Studs Terkel’s guest was Michael Babatunde Olatunji of Nigeria.  He brought along some of his drums, as well as some recordings.  This lively hour from WFMT’s archives  features the rhythms, music and lore of west Africa and the continent itself.