Best of Studs Terkel

Fridays at 11:00 pm
Studs Terkel

Enjoy these rebroadcasts of the late great oral historian Studs Terkel’s longstanding interview program on WFMT.

For 45 years (1952-1997), WFMT was home to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel, who operated 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.

In his 45 years on WFMT radio, Studs Terkel talked to the 20th century’s most interesting people. Browse our growing archive of more than 1,200 programs in the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

Jan Peerce (05/15/1961)

May 27, 2022

The beloved and versatile American tenor, Jan Peerce, child of Jewish immigrants, was born in New York City in 1904. His career spanned six decades, including nearly thirty years as a Metropolitan Opera favorite. In 1961, Jan Peerce spoke with Studs Terkel about Verdi, cantorial repertoire, and more.

Quentin Crisp (10/21/1992)

June 3, 2022

This is one of Studs Terkel’s “portable tape recorder” programs. While visiting London in 1970, Studs spent some time with Quentin Crisp, author of many works about gays in Britain and the United States, and notably, about life as a homosexual in England in the 1930s. Their frank conversation reveals just how far we have come.

Opera Factory of Chicago (c. 1980’s)

June 10, 2022

Studs Terkel’s visitors from the Opera Factory of Chicago demonstrate the Spanish light opera art form of Zarzuela in this musical hour from the 1980’s. The guests include the ensemble’s founder and artistic, Blanche Lewis; singers Donna Sadlicka, William Diana, Ana Maria Alvarez, and Ernesto Valenzuela; conductor Alfredo Munar, and pianist Celeste Rue.

Scottish Music (07/23/1985)

June 17, 2022

In 1985, WFMT received a shipment of recordings from Glasgow, Scotland. This windfall of musical riches provided the material for a memorable Studs Terkel program filled with poetry and folk music. The hour begins with a song by Jeannie Robertson, the mother of the Scottish ballad. The Scottish Festival & Highland Games return to the Chicago suburb of Itasca on June 17 ...

A Summer Salad (06/22/1988)

June 24, 2022

Studs Terkel celebrated the 1988 summer solstice with an hour of words and music he dubbed “a summer salad.” He began by recalling Joe Louis’ triumphant 1936 boxing win over Max Schmeling. Then he went on to include songs performed by Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, Pearl Baily, Ethel Waters, Dinah Washington, and Bessie Smith, as well as Paul Robson’s 1941 ...

Musical Americana (07/02/1981)

July 1, 2022

From July 1981, Studs Terkel conjures a “pre-July 4” pot pourri of musical Americana. The hour includes the mighty Wurlitzer organ heard in so many movie palaces of the past, Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, a tribute to Lucky Lindbergh – Eagle of the USA, Jazz by Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, and so much more.

Moms Mabley (06/13/1961)

July 8, 2022

Comedy pioneer Moms Mabley was Studs Terkel’s guest in 1961. Loretta Mary Aiken was born in 1894 and became a trailblazing performer known for her warm yet edgy stand-up routines and popular albums.

Bastille Day (07/13/1971)

July 15, 2022

On July 13, 1971, Studs Terkel presented this program of “music and reflections and a bit of history” about the French national holiday, Bastille Day.

Dale Clevenger (10/18/1989)

July 22, 2022

Tonight, the Best of Studs Terkel remembers the fearless horn master Dale Clevenger who died earlier this year at the age of 81. Dale Clevenger served as principal horn of the Chicago Symphony from 1966 until 2013. He was Studs Terkel’s guest in 1989.

Ella Jenkins (07/17/1993)

July 29, 2022

Born August 6, 1924, Ella Jenkins is known as the First Lady of Children’s Music. During her six-decade career, she shared songs and instruments with young people of all ages, in preschools, festivals, and concert venues all over the world. Studs Terkel welcomed his friend for a program of music and conversation in July 1993. Happy Birthday, Ella.

Hiroshima? Overkill and Megalove (08/20/1963)

August 8, 2022

Tonight, an annual WFMT tradition dating back to 1963. The program dramatizes Norman Corwin’s prose poem, Overkill and Megalove, a response to the bombing of Hiroshima that deals with the madness of war that leads to the obliteration of the human species. This one of the many award-winning radio plays Studs Terkel created in partnership with longtime station announcer and engineer ...