Raymond rambles on
by Mike Kroll
Longtime Galesburg radio personality Jon Raymond will call it quits to Galesburg radio after his last stint on WAIK this Friday morning. For the last seven years Raymond has spent most of his early mornings as cohost of the “Breakfast Club” from 6-9am. For a Chicago guy who has been in local radio pretty steady since college riding the Galesburg airwaves has been a 28-year career. Jon started radio when music was played on turntables, commercials recorded on tape cartridges and the voice behind the microphone was live. Most of the time today none of that is true.
When Jon started with WAIK the station had just been sold to WPW Broadcasting. He was brought in to do the morning show with Robb Strack that became the “Breakfast Club.” An interesting partnership from the beginning, Strack read the news and did sports reports, Raymond handled interviews but what made the show work was the frequently edgy banter between the two. “Robb and I both entered into this new WAIK morning program with trepidation,” said Raymond. “We had had a falling out when both of us worked at WGIL and we weren't at all sure how this would work out.” And to be honest it did take a little while for the combination to click with an audience. But once it did the “Breakfast Club” offered a legitimate alternative to the competition at WGIL.
“I can pretty much get along with anyone and Robb's predictably conservative and strident positions were easy to play off of as I tried to make this show a slice of life in Galesburg.” I was a part of the show from pretty early on and Raymond played Robb and I against each other every time I was on. “My style of broadcasting is to surround myself with opinionated and talented people that I could stir up,” explains Raymond. “At it's best we were nothing like the Galesburg radio people were used to hearing and I really think many listeners appreciated the difference.”
By the time Raymond started out with the “Breakfast Club” he should have had a good idea of what Galesburg radio audiences would expect.
A south-suburban Chicago kid who grew up a White Sox fan, Jon was attending Prairie State Junior College in 1974 when he first sat behind a radio microphone. A year later he was attending Western Illinois University in Macomb and writing for the then-independent student newspaper the Courier. Sports were his primary love back then and he jumped at the opportunity to do statistics for radio broadcasts of WIU basketball and football games. Soon enough he was doing Leatherneck color and eventually play-by-play. By the time Raymond left WIU in the spring of 1978 he was a radio guy.
Hired by Galesburg Broadcasting he came to Galesburg to work evenings on WGIL. Soon he was doing high school sports for the smaller schools surrounding Galesburg on sister station WAAG. WAAG was then, as it is today, a country station that covered lots of small school sports while GHS broadcasts were on WGIL and featured a guy named Robb Strack. In less than a year Raymond was doing afternoons on WGIL but his big success came when he was moved to morning man on WAAG in 1980. In the mid-80s Jon was paired with Ray Smith for Raymond and Raymond, a pairing that lasted five years and is still remembered fondly by many.
By the late 80's Raymond had moved into the management role of program director and the Custer family trust that owner Galesburg Broadcasting was beginning serious consideration of selling the company. In October 1991 Raymond was named station manager. Raymond brought Rush Limbaugh to Galesburg not because of his political views but because Rush is entertaining. And he steered WGIL to numerous radio awards while at the helm but that wasn't enough to prevent his losing his job in 1996 during a family squabble between descendants of the Custer family. For a brief period following his firing Raymond sold insurance before getting hired by the fledgling WPW operation.
While he has done the “Breakfast Club”Raymond has simultaneously held a number of second jobs as well to help make ends meet. These have included adult night clubs in both Peoria and Bloomington and even a stint at the Peoria Airport. In the process Jon met and became friends with Peoria attorney Leo Ghantos who eventually made him a job offer that was too good to pass up. That is why Raymond is reluctantly leaving Galesburg radio. He will now assist Ghantos in managing and marketing some of his various business operations surrounding Peoria and avoid the commute between his home in Peoria Heights and Galesburg.
This isn't the first “cast change” for the “Breakfast Club” and the show will continue in some variation or another. Strack retired from daily broadcasting a couple of years ago and today does only sports and occasional regular shifts. He was replaced by Greg Ford who will continue the show without Jon beginning next Monday. WAIK hasn't yet announced any changes to the show format or if a new regular partner will be found to work with Ford.