A star-studded turnout of music industry rank and file was not enough to keep radio station brass and jocks for Saturday’s 10th annual WGCI Music Seminar in Chicago at the North Loop’s Hyatt Regency Hotel from walking on needles and pins and at times coals of fire throughout the event.
Weeks before the event, WGCI-FM and Hammond, IN-based nemesis Power 92 had been engaged in a vigorous marketing and promotion tit for tat, through which the spanking new Hoosier station appeared to edge slightly past its more established Chicago competitor from conventional billboards to commuter railroad viaducts (and in which WGCI’s slogan flipped from “We Play The Hits” and “No. 1 for R&B & hip-hop” to “No. 1 for hip-hop & R&B” after images of Power 92 morning host Doug Banks surfing amidst Chicago’s skyline to the
slogan “What you asked for, Doug Banks in the morning, less talk, more music”). At 50,000 watts, Power 92 reaches an audience from Milwaukee to portions of Michigan around Niles, compared with one from Kenosha, Wis. to Northwest Indiana for WGCI at 30,000 watts.
During a keynote address on achieving music industry success in the form of an interview by WGCI midday personality Jeanne Sparrow with LL Cool J during the conference’s luncheon inside the Hyatt’s Grand Ballroom, street promoters fearlessly blanketed palms of hands, restrooms, and the lobby outside with response cards emblazoned with Power 92’s Doug Banks add and promising a free gift for the 500 persons who mailed it back in. WGCI operations manager/program director Elroy R.C. Smith—who avoided answering undergroundweekly.com’s question on a response to Power 92’s declaration of war on his station—acknowledged that his corporate world in the South Loop had been rocked by a mass exodus of WGCI’s best on- and off-air talent to the Hoosier station.
“It got to a point where whenever I’d see someone come to my office with a piece of paper with that serious look, I’d say, ‘If that’s a letter of
resignation, stand in line,’” Smith quipped.
At the hip-hop workshop, where scheduled panelist Twista failed to appear, the audience relentlessly kept Mike Luv and The Diz of WGCI’s evening Bad Boys jock team mostly silent and more national music industry brass like BET video music video director and former WGCI evening personality Kelly G tenuously defensive against upbraidings from an audience of hip-hopheads from Lincoln, Neb. to Cincinnati for tokenly supporting the Midwestern urban scene. The admonitions on that issue became so poignant that panelist Master P acknowledged that Chicagoland was producing “a lot of good music that’s not getting out there” to major record labels before leaving to jet out toward another engagement.
Although introduced to sing the National Anthem as in “Star Spangled Banner,” south suburban Harvey, Ill.-based and Jive Records-signed soul chanteuse Syleena Johnson, daughter of blues legend Syl Johnson, instead belted out the Black National Anthem as in “Lift Every Voice.” The comedy set by Crazy Howard McGee’s WGCI “Morning Show” sidekick Tony Sculfield fell far flat of his days half a decade ago on the local comedy club scene, BET “Comic View” and “Def Comedy Jam.” Public Announcement delivered a smoothly sensual and polished medley of its cuts from their current Don’t Hold Back LP (RCA), and Grammy-winning gospel singer got much of the crowd amen cornering to its feet with her set.
WGCI’s most successful Home Jam award went to R. Kelly, who has received a total of 15,000 spins on the station, more than any other Chicagoland act. In his absence from the conference, Kelly’s award was accepted by the Jive A&R representative who signed him Wayne Williams and the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who asked everyone to “keep hope alive for R. Kelly.”
Despite making three days of appearances in Chicago since Thursday, Common was absent for his lifetime achievement award in hip-hop that was accepted by MCA executive Maurice White. WGCI lifetime achievement awards also went to Adams, R&B soul crooner Luther Vandross, and Chicago gospel legend Albertina Walker.
Home Jam showcase winner Danny Devine—who took home $10,000 courtesy of LL and Vandross’s new Clive Davis-headed home label J Records—performed a seductively smoky R&B tune prefaced with a sort of spoken word-like vocalizing that approached scatting. The conference’s practical instruction occurred in the networking that drifted from the Grand Ballroom lobby to the Hyatt’s main lobby, where the Chicagoland underground hardcore rap group Soldiers At War and their promoters had the most striking presence with their canary yellow t-shirts and bandanas, promotional picket signs, and promotional handouts.
MARK FITZGERALD ARMSTRONG
11706 SOUTH THROOP STREET
CHICAGO, IL 60643