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Labor Day Voices

Quality of life for working men and women was so important to Studs.  Many people are familiar with his book Working that brought their lives and struggles into the light, but Studs also interviewed dozens (hundreds?) of people about their jobs for his regular radio show.  It is fitting that a Chicago icon such as Studs carries on the fight that started in Chicago with the May Day and Haymarket demonstrations.

“Portraits of the Haymarket Martyrs,” Liberty London 1894.

To celebrate Labor Day, we’re featuring three clips that detail the struggles of work.  They remind us how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

Memories of Child Labor

First is Cesar Chavez remembering what it was like to grow up in a migrant family.  When he started working, Chavez tells Studs, he was making twelve cents an hour.  In addition to chronic poverty, he and his family faced racism and of course unfair and unsafe labor practices.  As Chavez describes his experience, he says, “The humiliation that you go through is so cutting, so damaging that you’ll never forget it.”

Happier Nurses Means Happier Patients

Next, we hear Mary Runyon and Kathy Ann Keller talk about the Ashtabula nurses strike.  Runyon (president of the Ashtabula General Nurses Association) and Keller had both been employees of Ashtabula General Hospital, working as part-time nurses while raising their families in Ashtabula.  Here they explain what changed their minds about strikes and unions in general, and how the nurses ended up on a 570 day strike.  Regarding her experience leading up to the strike, Mary Runyon tells Studs, “Just because you’re a public servant doesn’t mean that you have to get stepped on.”

The Importance of Unions – Then and Now

Finally, the voice of Ed Sadlwoski, former Director of United Steelworkers of America, District 31.  In this conversation, Sadlwoski laments about the new generation that does not understand the need to help and support one another, but only sees competition: “They don’t rely on their fellow man; they have no concept as far as their need or their fellow man’s need for them… They have no sense of history, no sense of yesterday, no sense of understanding.”  Studs and Sadlowski lament the fact that this younger generation doesn’t appreciate what unions have done in the past and continue to do, and Studs tells a story of reminding a young couple that it is because of unions that they work a forty-hour week.

Looking for More?

For Women’s History Month, we shared clips of Studs’ 1975 interview with Dolores Huerta.  Check it out here.

In 1975, Rolling Stone profiled Ed Sadlwoski shortly after he’d become Director of his district.  It’s an in-depth look at the culture in the steel mills, including the men’s thoughts on politics and race.  Read it here.

Photo Credits: Flickr/Kheel Center.  “Women pressers on strike for  higher wages”. CC BY 2.0  Liberty London, November 1894.  “Portraits of the Haymarket Martyrs”.  Public Domain

Countdown to Jazz Fest: Dizzy Gillespie

This year, the Chicago Jazz Festival will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dizzy Gillespie’s birth, and the 70th anniversary of his big band.  Studs and Dizzy spoke on the radio a few times, and Dizzy was one of the artists profiled in Studs’ Giants of Jazz.  Dizzy Gillespie was one of the founders of bebop, and is also known for bringing Latin jazz to a wider audience with songs such as “A Night in Tunisia” and “Tin Tin Deo.”

In 1961, he and Studs had a long chat.  Studs starts out by asking, “What about you, Diz?  At the time this was highly controversial music… so called named figures and commentators and critics were giving you a rough time yet you stuck to your guns.”  They continue and talk about the difference between being a “surgeon” when listening, and just feeling the music.  Dizzy says, “Don’t try to understand it, just try to feel the music.  If you get a feeling about it, it’s not too necessary to understand that music I don’t think.”

Studs asks about Dizzy’s influences, including Latin and Cuban music.  Dizzy talks about working with Chano Pozo and then tells him, “Something about me, my makeup, musically is sort of on the Latin side because most of the tunes that I write are Latin influenced… The melody that I have in my mind always lends itself to a Latin beat.”

Hear the conversation here:

And then check out “Tin Tin Deo” performed by the Dizzy Gillespie quartet (co-written by Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller)

Studs tells Dizzy he’s heard that Quincy Jones has described Dizzy as someone who “plays the horn like a drummer.” Dizzy replies: “the way I play, I have rhythm in my mind first.  And then naturally you have the chord changes that goes with it, but you make up the notes to fit the rhythm… It’s the same thing as a drummer only he doesn’t have notes.”

The conversation continues as Studs asks Dizzy about his time playing at the Birdhouse, which did not serve alcohol.  Dizzy prefers to play to an audience that has not been drinking, and doesn’t like to play under the influence either.  Then Studs asks him about his trip to South America, and his composition “Lorraine,” named for Dizzy’s wife.

Here the conversation here:

And then check out “Lorraine.”


Towards the end of their conversation, Dizzy tells Studs he’d like to start a school in West Africa: “they have contributed so much to us and they have gotten so little in return… I figure that they could use me… This is a matter of service.”  Dizzy goes on to tell Studs, “I have such a strong feeling for the whole of Africa that any part of it would be like being in my living room or something.” 

Studs asks about the song “My Man,” and Dizzy tells the story of when he first played it as a dedication to French singer and entertainer Minstinguett, who sang the song as”Mon Homme.”

Finally, Dizzy gives Studs a great farewell, saying, “Such a pleasure to sit down and chat with someone who has such a strong feeling about jazz, and not only the strong feeling, but back it up with knowledge about the situation.”

Hear the conversation here:


Photo by William Gottlieb, courtesy of the Library of Congress:


Countdown to Jazz Fest

Chicago loves Jazz Fest, and so do we at STRA.  To get ready for the big weekend, we’ve selected clips of artists remembering their personal and musical influences.

Studs loved talking to musicians, and he was so excited by jazz musicians that he wrote a book about them!  He loved jazz for it’s improvisation, and for its deep roots (along with blues and gospel) in the African-American slave communities. He was fascinated by how jazz musicians worked, often commenting or asking about quirks such as humming while playing.  I have a suspicion that he also liked talking to jazz musicians because he got to stay after hours at the jazz clubs, as he does in the interview with Milt Jackson and Ray Brown.

In 1962, Studs talked with pianist and composer Erroll Garner.  He tells Studs that because he couldn’t read piano music growing up, he was never particularly interested in seeing piano players perform.  It was the big bands that really caught his eye (and ear), and shaped his playing.  As Studs says to him, “In your mind then, you imagine that you are not just playing a piano but that you are a big band!”

Tenor player Lawrence “Bud” Freeman talked with Studs in 1974.  When Studs asks about his influences, Bud Freeman remembers that as a high schooler, he and his friends would visit the jazz clubs in the South Side of Chicago.  He called it “the best education I could have had in music.” He goes on to talk about Jack Pettis and Coleman Hawkins, and how they changed the landscape for the tenor saxophone in jazz.

In 1981, Studs caught up with Milt Jackson and Ray Brown after a performance.  Milt Jackson talks about how his years as a vocalist affect how he plays the vibes.  Ray Brown talks about how important Jimmy Blanton was to his playing, and for bass players in general: “He sounded as interesting playing time as he did playing solos.”

In this clip from a conversation in 1984, singer Lena Horne reflects on her own life experience and seeing the world change as she grew up.  Studs remembers that he and Ms. Horne were both at Paul Robeson’s fiftieth birthday celebration.  She goes on to talk about learning from Paul Robeson: “Paul gave me a sense of my own history.”

A sense of history is perhaps what Studs loved best about jazz – the line of the music, passed from mentor to student, was like a story being retold and reworked for each new generation.


Lena Horne photo By Metro Goldwyn Mayer (ebay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
MJQ photo by Philips Records – Billboard, page 21, 7 November 1964, Public Domain,
Erroll Garner photo [Portrait of Erroll Garner, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948] by William P. Gottlieb, courtesy of the Library of Congress –
Bud Freeman photo [Portrait of Bud Freeman, Eddie Condon’s, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948] by William P. Gottlieb, courtesy of the Library of Congress –

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Disability Pride 2017

This Saturday is Chicago’s Disability Pride parade, to celebrate Disability Awareness Month.

“Disability” used to have a very limited application and although not everyone is aware of it, the definition has widened to include people with chronic physical illnesses or conditions, learning disabilities, cognitive disorders or delays, mental illnesses, and autism spectrum disorders.

We’ve hunted through the archive to find three recordings that demonstrate the broad mindset of the disability community, and that remind listeners, then and now, that being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Continue reading →

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Remembering Japanese-American internment

Japanese-Americans in front of poster of internment orders.

In 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, nearly 120,000 Japanese-Americans were taken to internment camps scattered throughout the western United States.

John Tateishi was three years old when he was brought to Manzanar with his parents.  In 1984, his book And Justice For All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps was published, and he joined Studs to talk about it. Continue reading →


Planned Parenthood, 1965

Most Americans probably believe that Planned Parenthood is a quintessentially American organization, especially since we have been seeing it in the news so frequently lately.

Third International Conference of Family Planning Association, India, 1952. Lady Rama Rau is seated second from left.

But in fact, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a part of an umbrella organization, International Planned Parenthood FederationLady Dhavanthi Rama Rau served as president and then president emeritus of IPPF, and spoke with Studs in 1965, two years into her presidency.

In 1965, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher were yet to be elected Prime Minister of their respective countries; Roe v. Wade had not been heard in the U.S. Supreme Court; and it was still legal in the U.S. to fire a woman because she was pregnant.  Lady Rama Rau’s work was groundbreaking both for women and in terms of considering the future of our planet and our population. Continue reading →


Happy Birthday Gwendolyn!

We in Chicago are very proud of our hometown star, Gwendolyn Brooks.  She was poet laureate in Illinois and the first African-American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize.  Often her works, such as In The Mecca and A Street in Bronzeville, brought readers from around the world into the living rooms and front stoops of Chicago.  The Poetry Foundation describes her work as “express[ing] the poet’s commitment to her people’s awareness of themselves as a political and cultural entity.”

Ms. Brooks joined Studs in the studio in 1961, 1967, and 1975.  He introduces her to the listening audience by saying “through the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, we learn more of the dreams, the hopes, the visions of the Black people of Chicago better than through any other form, I feel.”

Continue reading →


Volunteers Needed!

Do you love Studs?

Do you love history, science, literature, or music?

Do you love learning new things?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’d make a great transcription volunteer!

This is a great opportunity for students, teachers, retired adults, and anyone who is curious about Studs or his guests.  Requirements and application information is below, or can be viewed and printed by clicking this link: Studs Terkel Radio Archive Transcription Volunteer

Studs Terkel Radio Archive Transcription Volunteer

Transcription is a vital element in how we share Studs Terkel’s radio legacy. The transcription volunteer will use cutting edge browser-based text-to-speech technology to correct automatic transcripts via Trint. Completed transcripts are an important part of rounding out the archival record.  This requires critical listening skills and attention to detail. Volunteers are expected to actively transcribe and conduct related research for four hours each week.

The transcription volunteer will be exposed to a primary source collection that documents the second half of the twentieth century in the United States like no other and will improve critical listening and research skills.

General Information

  • Studs Terkel was a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and spent nearly fifty years broadcasting a daily radio show out of WFMT in Chicago. He interviewed well-known guests, such as Muhammad Ali, Oliver Sacks, Nora Ephron, and Mahalia Jackson; as well as people his audience may never have heard of, including teachers, activists, union leaders, taxi drivers, and doctors.  Studs was very interested in social justice movements, such as Civil Rights, migrant workers’ rights, and LGBT+ community rights, and he used his show as a platform to document and share those movements.
  • Candidates must be able to commit to listening and transcribing at least four hours per week.
  • Volunteers should stay for the length of a summer or a semester.
  • Eligible candidates must hold an undergraduate degree, or have equivalent knowledge in a relevant topic: humanities, social science, natural science.
  • Fluency in additional languages is welcome.


The ideal candidate must be comfortable working in a digital/online environment, and must have strong research skills.  Must critically listen and pay close attention to detail.  Must be able to manage time and tasks; this is a self-directed position.  The volunteer(s) will work with the Archivist and Digital Content Librarian to establish priorities.


  • Listening critically and transcribing programs using the STRA style guide.
  • Researching topics, names, titles, places, etc. that appear in the program to ensure accurate spelling.

Application Process

Interested persons should email their resume and cover letter expressing their qualifications and interest to Allison Schein at Please reference “STRA TRANSCRIPTION internship” in the subject line of all correspondence to ensure proper routing.

Questions may also be sent to Allison Schein at

Photo by Takashi Hososhima from Tokyo, Japan – A typewriter, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Memorial Day 2017

In memory of those we’ve lost, we’ve put together this special collection of voices.  The first two are stories from those who fought alongside soldiers who were killed; the last is the recollection of a man who saw the aftermath of Kristallnacht as a child.  All of us at STRA are grateful for the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces and their families.

David Schoenbrun was a foreign correspondent for CBS, and according to Studs’ introduction, “took part in the liberation of certain French cities after World War II.”  He joined Studs in 1980 to talk about his book Soldiers of the Night: The Story of the French Resistance.  Here he tells Studs about Marie-Madeleine Foucarde, the leader of a resistant intelligence network.

Ron Kovic is best-known for his book Born on the Fourth of July.  He talked with Studs in 1977 about the emotional difficulties he encountered while writing the book and what inspired him to finish it.

Werner Burkhardt was a German jazz critic and the author of The Story of Jazz: From New Orleans Jazz to Rock Jazz.  He and Studs got together in 1967 to talk about jazz but also about Werner’s growing up in Germany as a teenager during World War II.  Here he tells Studs about his experience the morning after Kristallnacht.


Photo by Tony Hisgett, CC BY 2.0,

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