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.

Lanford Wilson (05/01/1980)

February 5, 2021

American playwright Lanford Wilson (1937-2011) wove flickers of hope into the challenges and dysfunctionalities of his characters’ lives. The author of seminal works such as Fifth of July, Hot L Baltimore, Balm in Gilead, and Burn This was Studs Terkel’s guest in 1980 during the production of his play, Talley’s Folly.

Mattiwilda Dobbs (03/14/1975)

February 26, 2021

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

Dr. Timothy Leary (12/1/1966)

March 5, 2021

In 1966, Dr. Timothy Leary (1920-1996) told Studs Terkel about his work with psychedelic drugs, and explained his signature phrase, “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

Keith Jarrett (04/22/1995)

March 12, 2021

Studs Terkel described Keith Jarrett as a unique artist who spans two worlds as a highly respected musician in the world of jazz and that of classical music.  This program from 1995 took place shortly before the 50th birthday of the prolific and innovative American composer and pianist.

Hello, Spring! (3/20/1980)

March 19, 2021

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 Studs’ nostalgic program about Spring.

William Warfield (7/11/1963)

March 26, 2021

Composer Virgil Thompson hailed the distinguished American baritone William Warfield (1920-2002) as “one of the most satisfying vocal artists of our time.” In 1963, while in Chicago to participate in a performance of ‘El Pessebre,’ an oratorio by Pablo Casals, Mr. Warfield was Studs Terkel’s guest on WFMT.

Good Friday (4/8/1966)

April 8, 2021

On this Good Friday, the Best of Studs Terkel on WFMT presents his musical tribute from 1966.

This Is Our Story: The Civil War (4/14/1959)

April 9, 2021

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861.  In tonight’s program, first heard on WFMT in 1959, Studs Terkel conveys the story of the Blue and the Grey through poetry, folk songs, and storytelling.

Allen Ginsberg (03/22/1989)

April 16, 2021

In 1985, Allen Ginsberg, “one of the most respected Beat writers and acclaimed American poets of his generation,” was Studs Terkel’s guest on WFMT.

Kurt Elling (08/11/1997)

April 23, 2021

The magnificent American jazz singer Kurt Elling was Studs Terkel’s guest in 1997. With his rich baritone voice and four-octave range, Elling had just released The Messenger, the album which cemented his reputation as a producer, arranger, poetic lyricist, composer, and captivating vocalist.

Ursula Oppens (01/09/1994)

April 30, 2021

This hour of music and conversation from past Studs Terkel programs features American pianist Ursula Oppens.  First heard on WFMT in 1994, the show includes Ms. Oppens performing compositions by Tobias Pickler, Beethoven, and Ravel.

Tony Bennett (05/10/1989)

May 7, 2021

Since 1945, Tony Bennett has reigned among the most popular of vocal entertainers. Mr. Bennett was Studs Terkel’s guest in May 1989, and they spoke, among other things, of Irving Berlin, the prolific Russian-born, American composer who was born on May 11, 1888.

Merce Cunningham & John Cage (01/14/1971)

May 14, 2021

Merce Cunningham remains one of the most visionary and influential choreographers the world has known. In 1974, he and his life partner and creative collaborator, the avant-garde composer John Cage, spent an hour with Studs Terkel.