Friday, April 27, 2018

WXRT's Terri Hemmert at 70: 'There's a pay-off, a balance, if you do it right'

Terri Hemmert (photo by Mary Lafferty) 

    A city like Chicago is always changing. Out with the old: goodbye Marshall Field's, Sear's Tower and a competitive Bulls team. In with the new: hello Macy's, Willis Tower and Fred Hoiberg.
     A few good things don't change, however. Terri Hemmert, the friendly midday voice on WXRT 93.1 FM, both DJ and station bedrock in a shifting city. Hemmert is heard daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as her "Breakfast with the Beatles" Sunday mornings. She has been spinning records—then CDs, then Wave files, which don't actually spin—since I was in the 7th grade.
     Hemmert turns 70 Saturday. I caught up with her a few hours before she flew to New Orleans for, she estimates, the 30th time, to revel in this weekend's Jazz and Heritage Festival.
     "I've been way too busy, overwhelmingly busy. I'm worn out," she said, not sounding worn out at all. "Everybody keeps saying: you can relax when you get to New Orleans. And I tell them: 'you've never been there, have you?'"
As a child in Piqua, Ohio, practicing her future career. 
     Here Hemmert laughed, something she does often and well.
     Did she mind my spotlighting her turning 70?
     "Oh no, that's okay," she said. "People know, if they do the math. I'm coming up on my 45th anniversary. It beats being dead. As [fellow 'XRT dj] Lin Brehmer says, 'It's great to be alive.' I was so unhealthy as a child; I had rheumatic fever. They didn't think I would make it to my 40s."
     Ever think about retiring?
     "Why walk away as long as they want me here?" she asked. "I'm happy here. I have a million things to do that are still compelling to me, still fun. I still get to do something for someone, and if you're not doing something for other people, you're not living right. This gives me a lot of opportunities to do that. Teaching."
     She has taught college for more than 30 years....

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8 comments:

  1. Wonderful to see someone living a happy fulfilling life doing what she loves to do. My sister and I happened to be talking yesterday about Tom Skilling, who apparently at age 5 or so told his mother he was going to be a weatherman. I told my mother and anyone else who would listen that I was going to be a priest. Probably better that that fell through during puberty.

    john

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    1. Hah, I was going to be a priest too! Took me a few more years to figure things out...

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    2. A close boyhood friend attended Quigley and Loyola in Niles. I joined him and some other seminarians in a regular poker game during those years. One by one they dropped out, and almost to a man they agreed that the best were the ones to leave. I agreed with that assessment, so you guys are in good company. BTW, I lapsed in the seventh grade.

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  2. I started listening to XRT in 1989, and it's wonderful how many airstaff are still with the station, and still engaged with Chicago, and still seem to genuinely enjoy one another -- from the photos of them dining together and enjoying shows together, to XRT folks promoting/holding events/raising money for charity in honor of Terri's mother on her passing and Leslie Witt on her passing. Good local radio creates a sense of community, and the various owners have had the good sense to let the fine folks at XRT do that for decades. Cheers to Terri!

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  3. Wow, thanks for the fun flashback! I first heard Terri and XRT in a college dorm room.
    In a room painted flat black, with day-glo art.
    Yes, it was the 70's.

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  4. Thank you, Terri Hemmert and all your colleagues who made WXRT the best radio station in Chicago, if not the nation. I returned from San Diego in 1972 where KPRI-FM was a revelation to a kid raised on Top 40 formats. Primarily a Rock station but sampling almost any genre that influence or related to Rock while playing new and obscure artists, it entertained, enlightened, and expanded musical tastes. Fortunately my lifestyle involved late nights and I discovered a suitable replacement between midnight and 5 AM in Chicago. No other station ever challenged the superior product of WXRT or the tastes of the jockeys and programmers. They equaled the excellence of KPRI and maintained it, outliving it while the market watered down other stations. With apologies to the ethnic programming it replaced, discerning listeners were rewarded by a slow takeover of the 93.1 band. It took a little time but was well worth the wait. We were so blessed to have the likes of Terri Hemmert, another reason to believe that Chicago is the greatest city in the world.

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  5. My first wife used to listen to WXRT while exercising in the morning, and then at her job as a graphic artist. She was in her early thirties then (early and mid-80s) and said it was like taking a class about rock and roll. We divorced in the early Nineties and I left Chicago. Can't believe that Terri is still doing what she loves and that WXRT is still around. Chicago never stops changing, but it's nice to know that some things are still the same.

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  6. I’ve enjoyed listening to XRT since it’s inception in ‘72. We’re not in the area anymore so I’ve lost touch with what’s going on. It’s great to hear that Terri is still on the air at 70 and doing well. I wish her the best. The station just fits my tastes almost perfectly. I haven’t been able anything similar in the Denver area.

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