Twenty Years’ Worth of Radio Stories Told in
We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm: The Oral History of Q101
Crowdfunded “oral history” project pulls together insiders’ recollections to go behind the music of “Chicago’s Alternative” station
(Chicago, Illinois) November 27, 2012 — We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm: The Oral History of Q101, James VanOsdol’s highly-anticipated biography of Chicago radio station Q101, hits digital bookshelves (Kindle, Nook, iBookstore) and Amazon.com this month.
How We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm came to be published is a story that could only happen in the age of social media. When Q101, Chicago’s long-running “modern rock” station, was sold to new owners in June, 2011, the sale all but guaranteed a format change. Sensing that, former Q101 air personality James VanOsdol committed himself to capturing the memories of the station in an “oral history”-formatted book. Within less than 24 hours of the sale announcement, VanOsdol took to Kickstarter.com to “crowdfund” the capital he’d need to properly write, edit, and publish the story of Q101 through his literary imprint, Haaf-Onion.
Shortly after the Kickstarter site went live, Q101 staffers and fans alike took to social media sites Twitter and Facebook to encourage their friends to pledge to the Kickstarter project.
As incentive to potential Kickstarter backers, VanOsdol offered up Q101-related souvenirs from his personal archives, including a Radiohead O.K. Computer gold record and autographed memorabilia from artists like Cake, Mudvayne, and the Butthole Sufers. He also let the community be part of the project by creating pledge tiers that offered the opportunity to contribute essays to the back of the book. We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm quickly became a project for a community of fans, built by that very same community of fans.
In early July, the formal announcement came down that Q101’s “alternative” format was indeed going to be changed. On the station’s final day on the air–within hours of the final sign-off, We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm hit its funding goals, and the book was guaranteed to be published.
Recalls VanOsdol, “I was out of town when Q101 was having its last day on the air. It was surreal — the D.J.s were talking about my project as they were talking about their own anticipated unemployment. It was bittersweet, crazy, and one of the most memorable days of my career.”
Over the next sixteen months, VanOsdol, spent hundreds of hours conducting interviews with old friends and colleagues from the station, and spending hundreds more hours transcribing them all for print.
The end result is a remarkably cohesive narrative, starting with Q101’s flip to “alternative” music in 1992, continuing through memorable events like Kurt Cobain’s death, the hiring of notorious morning host Mancow Muller, 9/11, and the dreaded, Janet Jackson-fueled, “Nipplegate.”
The thoughts, stories, and recollections of more than 75 employees are included in We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm, including personalities like Mancow Muller, former MTV stars Mark Goodman and Kevin Manno, and Chicago radio A-Listers like Bobby Skafish, Robert Murphy, and Bill Leff. Also included are gone-but-not-forgotten talents like Lance and Stoley, Zoltar, Robert Chase, Sherman and Tingle, Brooke Hunter, Samantha James, Fook, and Sludge.
The focus of the story is on the business of radio: the highs, lows, and the utterly ridiculous. With all that insiders’ perspective, VanOsdol wanted to provide an outsider’s observations for the introductory Foreword. For that, he turned to Tim McIlrath, celebrated frontman of Chicago-based punk band (and Q101 staple) Rise Against. McIlrath used the opportunity to address the inner conflicts created by having his music appropriated by the very machine he spent much of his youth raging against.
“Q101 was never a perfect station,” VanOsdol notes, “but regardless of what it was doing at any given time, the station managed to create a sense of ‘if I don’t listen, I’ll miss something’ with its audience. The idea of Q101 was always bigger than the station itself.”
James VanOsdol is a Chicago-based author who coincidentally retired from radio just weeks before the announcement was made about Q101’s sale.
Before leaving the industry, VanOsdol worked at Q101 for a combined total of ten years in a variety of capacities: disc jockey, morning host, Local 101 host, webmaster, Assistant Music Director, and News Director. He also worked as a music programmer and disc jockey at WZZN and WXRT, both in Chicago.
VanOsdol’s first book, Off the Record Collection: Riffs, Rants, and Writings About Rock, was released in May, 2011.