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.

Muhammad Ali (11/26/1975)

January 21, 2022

In November 1975, Studs Terkel used his portable tape recorder to capture an interview with one of the best-known and most indelible figures of the 20th century: boxing great and activist Muhammad Ali. Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942 and succumbed to Parkinson’s in 2016.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1/24/1986)

January 28, 2022

In 1986, University of Chicago Press published Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s classic of cultural criticism,Race,” Writing, and Difference.  The educator, scholar, writer, and editor was Studs Terkel’s guest for a very interesting conversation. Don’t miss Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in the latest season of Finding Your Roots, airing now on PBS.

Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry (01/28/1970)

February 4, 2022

This evening’s Best of Studs Terkel rebroadcast features bluesmen Sonny Terry with his harmonica and Brownie McGhee at the guitar. The duo were a team for a long time, and Studs opens this program from 1970 with an excerpt of an earlier Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee concert which Studs had introduced 11 years before.

Honoring Frederick Douglass (02/15/1971)

February 11, 2022

In February 1971, Studs Terkel presented this birthday program honoring abolitionist Frederick  Douglass, who rose from slavery to become the leading African-American voice of the nineteenth century. The program, woven of words and music, includes conversation with author and social historian Lerone Bennett Jr, and readings from the Douglass memoir, My Bondage and My Freedom.

Mattiwilda Dobbs (03/14/1975)

February 18, 2022

Tonight, WFMT presents one of the great American voices of the past: coloratura soprano Mattiwilda Dobbs (1925-2015). She was born in Atlanta, and during her career broke color barriers on opera stages around the world, including La Scala, Covent Garden, and the Met. She was Studs Terkel’s guest in 1975.

An Assortment of Studs Terkel’s Recorded Favorites (05/06/1993)

February 25, 2022

Studs Terkel frequently presented free-association programs featuring his favorite recordings. This Best of Studs Terkel hour from 1993 brims with some of the jazz, classical and folk music Studs loved best.

Lena Horne (12/31/1983)

March 4, 2022

In 1983, the iconic American entertainer Lena Horne toured the United States with her autobiographical show, The Lady and Her Music. Backstage in Chicago, she spoke with Studs Terkel about her life and career.

Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (11/11/1961)

March 11, 2022

With their closely infused vocal harmonies and easily flowing story songs, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem charmed their way into the heart of the 20th Century folk music revival. Members of the Irish  ensemble visited Studs on WFMT in November 1961.

Celebrating Bach (03/21/80)

March 18, 2022

Studs Terkel was an ardent fan of J.S. Bach. The German composer and virtuoso of the Baroque period  was born on March 21, 1685. In 1980, Studs crafted this tribute featuring Andrés Segovia, Dame Myra Hess, Pete Seeger, Bidu Sayão, Pablo Casals, Jean-Pierre Rampal, and others.

Susan B. Anthony (03/15/1965)

March 25, 2022

Born in February 1820, Susan B. Anthony was an American writer, lecturer, abolitionist, and pioneering figure in the women’s voting rights movement. In this program from 1965, Studs Terkel pays tribute to her through the words of three important 20th Century champions of the great contributions women could make: Jessie Binford, a longtime associate of Jane Adams, founder of Chicago’s ...