Among the many delights Chicago delivered during my graduate school years at Northwestern was a quirky, folksy, wickedly satirical radio show on Saturday nights called The Midnight Special. It aired on WFMT, a station better known for playing Bach and Beethoven, and no radio program made me laugh harder. During the spring of 1973, as Watergate broke, The Midnight Special played a hilarious ditty called “Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and Dean,” by a group named the Creep.
The fact that the three-hour show is still on the air—though now it starts at 9 p.m.—has made it one of Chicago broadcasting’s most enduring gems. Longtime host Rich Warren makes you feel at home—literally, like you’re sitting around his house while he pulls out folk records and Broadway soundtracks. He’ll play songs from Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, obscure stuff from Celtic music star Loreena McKennitt, vintage comedy bits from Woody Allen and Bob Newhart, tunes from Carousel and South Pacific, plus political satire from those masters of the Washington dark arts, the Capitol Steps.
Even in tough times, The Midnight Special shines. After 9/11, the show opened with “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Bob Dylan’s timeless wake-up call. It was the right note to strike.
Many are the Saturday nights when I wish the revelries of The Midnight Special could continue into the following morning.