Terri Hemmert is the Queen of Chicago Rock and Roll radio and a proud member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This year, she celebrates 50 years since she first walked into the doors at WXRT radio in Chicago.
In that time she’s become Chicago’s most beloved DJ, a professor at Columbia College Chicago and the country’s foremost Beatle-ologist - still hosting the Sunday morning “Breakfast with the Beatles” radio broadcast.
Hemmert spoke with WTTW News about her landmark career and what still excites her about the medium.
On becoming the first woman drive-time host for a rock music station in Chicago
It was an accident, actually. They needed somebody to fill in for four weeks. And that four weeks turned into eight months. And I went in, I said, “Have you found anybody yet?” and they said, “Oh keep doing what you’re doing.”
Her relationship to the Beatles
[Paul McCartney] is very sweet. He and Ringo both. Unfortunately, never met John and George, but they have been very generous in their kindness and connectedness. It’s not like I’m doing an interview anymore. It’s like we’re chatting.
One time [McCartney] called me on the air. And the Sun-Times that day had done a feature on his daughter, Stella, who was just starting her big designing career. So I said, well, we were getting a call from London, from Stella McCartney’s father Paul. So I read him some of the things over the air and how much she said her success is because of her parents, Paul and Linda, that they were remarkable parents, had a great family life. And I’m reading this to Paul, and he’s melting … So we just go from there and just talk about the values he had. He wasn’t just your typical rock star. His family was No. 1.
What still excites her about radio
I love radio because I remember being on the other end of it, and how intimate it is and how engaged I felt with it. I’ve met listeners over the years and that called on me during the roughest times and sometimes welcomed me into their lives. And luckily, I sort of had some training for that because I really did want to be a priest or nun or something. Not really a nun but the priests that were fun … but that never happened. That was even worse than radio. I mean try going over the Vatican, but just getting to know them in good times and bad times and some of the people I’ve met over the years, that has been most satisfying.