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.

Learn more about the Studs Terkel Radio Archive by visiting its website.

This is Our Story: Love Songs (5/5/1959)

February 16, 2018

“This Is Our Story” is a series Studs Terkel presented on WFMT during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. In each episode, Studs explored various topics and themes through a free-association assemblage of music and prose. This one, from 1959, is all about love.

Sir Geraint Evans (10/2/1974)

February 23, 2018

In October 1974, Studs Terkel welcomed the eminent  Welsh baritone, Sir Geraint Evans, for a program of music of conversation.

Pierre Bensusan (6/11/1979)

March 2, 2018

For over 40 years, the French-Algerian acoustic guitarist, singer, and composer Pierre Bensusan has toured the world performing his personal fusion of world, jazz, classical, and celtic music. In 1979 he was Studs Terkel’s guest on WFMT.

Carlos Montoya (c. 1961)

March 9, 2018

Carlos Montoya was one of the first Spanish guitarists to introduce flamenco music to a wider audience. Sr. Montoya and his wife Sally were Studs Terkel’s guests in 1961.

David Farber (5/16/1988)

March 16, 2018

Five decades have passed since the historic 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. On the twentieth anniversary, in 1988, Studs Terkel interviewed author, professor, and historian David Farber about his recently published book, Chicago ’68.

Ella Jenkins (7/17/1993)

March 23, 2018

Ella Jenkins has been called the First Lady of Children’s Music. In a career spanning more than a half-century she has shared songs and instruments 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.

Easter (3/24/1988)

March 30, 2018

With a mix of materials, both sacred and secular, Studs Terkel presented this Easter program on March, 24, 1988.

An Hour of Music (9/4/1980)

April 6, 2018

“Without music, everybody’d be downhearted.” So said a plumber Studs Terkel was fond of quoting. Tonight’s Best of Studs Terkel dates from 1980 and is one of those times Studs brought out his favorite vinyl LPs for an hour of recorded music.

Come In At The Door (2/20/1960)

April 13, 2018

Few mid-twentieth century authors portrayed the gritty spirit of American urban life as accurately or lovingly as Nelson Algren.  In 1958, Studs Terkel and Jim Unrath put together a dramatization of Algren’s writings, with a special nod to Chicago. Enacted by Herman Kogan, Studs Terkel, Helen Malone, Jamie Gilson and others, the program is called Come In At The Door.   ...

Gwendolyn Brooks & Carl Sandburg (c. 1964)

April 20, 2018

The Best of Studs Terkel returns to 1964 and to two different conversations, each with a great 20th Century American poet. The Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) program opens as she recites her 1945 poem, Negro Hero. Studs gathered his discussion with Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) on his portable tape recorder, and their free form dialogue touched on Sandburg’s massive collection of folk ...

John Prine (C. 1970)

April 27, 2018

Today John Prine is known around the world for the human stories he portrays in song.  The country folk singer-songwriter visited with Studs Terkel in 1970, shortly before the release of his first album. They spoke of Prine’s time as a mailman in his home town of Maywood, coal mining, and music.  Prine also played his Martin guitar while performing ...

Sir Peter Hall

September 15, 2017

Tonight the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL remembers Sir Peter Hall, whose career as a respected and ground-breaking director of theatre and opera spanned more than 50 years.  This program was recorded at WFMT in 2003 when directed Mozart’s the Marriage of Figaro for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Early in the hour, Studs shares an excerpt from their first interview ...

Presenting The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Recorded c. June 1965)

June 30, 2017

Fifty years ago, in June 1967, the Beatles released their seminal album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not long after, Studs wove together a program in his free-associative style. We’ll hear excerpts from the recording, Studs reciting some of the songs’ lyrics, and interviews with young people in Chicago. These may not all be directly related to the Beatles, but as Studs ...

A Summer Salad (Recorded June 22, 1988)

June 23, 2017

On June 22, 1988, Studs Terkel broadcast an hour of words and music he dubbed “a summer salad.” He began by recalling Joe Louis’ triumphant boxing win over Max Schmeling, and went on to include songs performed by Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, Pearl Baily, Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith, as well as Paul Robson’s 1941 recording of “King Joe” by ...

Marilyn Horne and Henry Lewis (Recorded in 1966)

June 16, 2017

The great American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne and her husband, conductor Henry Lewis, visited with Studs Terkel in June 1966.

Gwendolyn Brooks (Recorded July 21, 1964) and Janos Starker (Recorded c. 1965)

June 9, 2017

Gwendolyn Brooks: Born on June 7th a century ago and raised in Chicago, Gwendolyn Brooks was one of the most highly regarded, influential, and widely-read of American poets. In 1950, she became the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1985, the first black woman named as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.  She also served ...

Rachel Barton Pine (Recorded March 18, 1997)

June 2, 2017

Rachel Barton Pine began playing the violin at the age of 3 ½ and debuted with the Chicago Symphony at age 10. She continues to perform and record prolifically, as an international orchestral soloist and chamber musician, and in a heavy metal rock band. Rachel has just released her latest album, Bel Canto Paganini 24 Caprices and other Works for Solo Violin.  ...

Michael Babatunde Olatunji (Recorded November 2, 1960)

May 26, 2017

One November morning in 1960, Studs Terkel’s guest was Michael Babatunde Olatunji of Nigeria. Olatunji 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.

Mihalia Jackson at the Hotel Morrison (Recorded September 20,1957)

May 19, 2017

Tonight on 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 ...

The World According to Studs

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 ...

Laurie Anderson (Recorded December 4, 1984)

May 5, 2017

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 ...

FOURTH OF JULY (7/3/1972)

July 1, 2016

Studs Terkel offered WFMT’s listeneners this Fourth of July program in 1972.

QUENTIN CRISP (10/21/1992)

June 24, 2016

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.


June 17, 2016

Throughout 1959, Studs Terkel presented a series on WFMT he called “This is Our Story.” In tonight’s rebroadcast, Studs invites us to “consider the birds, the high-flyers and the domestic foul and their part in American folklore and music.” And so we shall. Through performances by John Jacob Niles, Win Stracke, Leadbelly and others, Studs uses his singular interweaving of ...

BIG BILL BROONZY (7/22/1953)

June 10, 2016

The Chicago Blues Festival begins this weekend, and so this evening the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL features the legendary American bluesman, William Lee Conley Broonzy – better known as Big Bill. First heard on WFMT on July 22, 1953, this musical conversation between Studs and Big Bill Broonzy is one of the very earliest Studs Terkel Program broadcasts in our ...

LICIA ALBANESE (2/27/1960)

June 3, 2016

Tonight on the BEST OF STUDS TERKEL we return to February 1960, and to Studs Terkel’s conversation with soprano Licia Albanese.

PETER, PAUL & MARY (4/12/1961)

May 27, 2016

Although it’s hard to believe now, there was a time when Peter, Paul & Mary, the ubiquitous American folk trio, was not a part of our national musical DNA. Peter Yarrow, Mary Travers and Paul Stookey met in late 1960 as the vibrant folk music revival scene blossomed in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Then on April 12, 1961, three ...

MAURICE SENDAK (5/23/1905)

May 20, 2016

It was in 1970 that illustrator and children’s author Maurice Sendak visited with Studs Terkel in WFMT’s studios. The creator of Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, The Nutshell Library, and so many literary treasures of childhood, told Studs about his creative process and more.

MOMS MABLEY (6/13/1961)

May 13, 2016

African American comedy pioneer Moms Mabley was Studs Terkel’s guest on June 13, 1961. Loretta Mary Aiken was born in 1894 and became a trailblazing performer known for her warm yet raunchy stand-up routines and popular albums.

MOTHERS DAY (5/8/1981)

May 6, 2016

Thirty-five years ago this Mother’s Day, Studs Terkel presented this WFMT favorite: his music-based tribute to mothers, and fathers, too. 


April 29, 2016

Russian-born composer and pianist Alexander Tcherepnin visited with Studs Terkel in April 1965. A musical citizen of the world who was born to a cultured family, he is the son of composer Nikolai Tcherepnin.