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Talk Radio King Was A Rocker

June 19, 2012

 Long time northeast Ohio radio icon Howie Chizek passed away Saturday June 16 in Florida from an apparent heart attack. Chizek, 65, was the long time WNIR radio superstar who had the country’s longest running talk show. He worked at WNIR for 38 years and for 17 years he served as the public announcer for the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Richfield Coliseum and served in that capacity for three years for the Cleveland Force soccer team. Chizek was in Florida taking 10 underprivileged youths along with several chaperones to Walt Disney World as part of his annual charity program.
 
Opinionated, bombastic, Howie Chizek broadcast on WNIR for five hours weekdays and three hours Saturdays covering the greater Akron area & region. Chizek’s show aired from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.
 
Saturday night I was listening to Bob Earley’s show on WNIR when the news came in and Earley, perhaps to his dismay, had to break the news to the listeners. Since announcing Chizek’s passing the station has been flooded with calls from listeners who are clearly mourning Chizek’s passing. Earley, later joined by the station’s afternoon host Bob Golic, stayed on the air until nearly 2:00 AM. It was an emotional outpouring that still is commencing with all the station’s hosts and they have all handled it professionally and with dignity.


 I always listened to rock & roll on the radio, always. I had heard Chizek off and on over the years since the 70’s, but I didn’t become a regular listener until the Desert Storm War when I went searching for more information when that broke out and found Chizek’s show. Damned if it didn’t take a week or two to hook me. Been a listener ever since.
 
You can do a search on Howie Chizek and find out more biographical information and information on his long radio career (and many humanitarian efforts and causes he funded behind the scenes) or pick up any newspaper in northeast Ohio or tune into any television station.
 
But what I want to highlight is a little known fact of Chizek’s musical career. Over the years he mentioned his ability to play guitar but that’s as far as it went. But in the mid-1960’s, 1964 to be precise, Chizek, living in Cleveland Heights, started a band called The Runaways. They played the Cleveland and northeast Ohio area and in 1965 recorded a single.
 
Chizek played guitar and sang lead vocals and the band released I’m A Runaway/It Can’t Be Long (Cle Town C 101). The single was produced by Eric Stevens who got a grooving, mod-tinged, guitar oriented tune out of the band that became a hit in northeast Ohio. Chizek wrote both sides of the single.


 

I couldn’t find either side on the internet but hopefully WNIR will play it soon (Bob Earley mentioned morning host Stan Piatt may have it and play it. Hopefully someone will post it on You Tube. Or the WNIR website.
 
Over the years Chizek, a real ‘button-pusher’, would sometimes slam rock & roll, but those who were long time listeners knew Chizek was an entertainer first and foremost and was a master at getting an audience charged up. You never really knew where he stood on anything because you sometimes never knew if he was pulling your leg or not.
 
The band called it quits when Chizek enrolled in Communications College at Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio. He graduated in 1970 and after graduation Chizek spent a short time at WBBW in Youngstown, Ohio before starting at WNIR on June 3, 1974.
 
Going to miss that daily dose of Howie and his ‘regulars’, like Mr. Stow & the ‘Boosch Ma’ and so many others but in particular ‘Couch Burner’, a regular caller that I looked forward to hearing chat with Howie every day. They had some real ‘battle of the wits’ over the years and those two produced some memorable radio entertainment. Sadly, it’s over. (Be nice if WNIR would offer Couch Burner an on-air gig.)

Howard Alan ‘Howie’ Chizek was born June 9, 1947 and until June 16, 2012 was one of northeast Ohio’s most generous philanthropists and the main man in talk radio, not just in Akron, but across the country.
 
He was one hell of a man.
 
For more on Howie Chizek or to tune into WNIR visit: www.wnir.com

(c)2012 Doc Lehman/Bangagong!

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3 comments

  1. Hi Doc! was searching “howie and the runaways” and found you…hope your doing well!
    One thing was a given…if anything major was happening in the world…you tuned into howie to hear his thoughts and get some kind of grasp or clousure on the events…tornados, the oj ordeal, the rodney king riots, 911..


  2. Great tribute to Howie!! His voice and reasoning will be sorely missed.


  3. Great news – John “Couch Burner” Denning *did* get the job as Howie’s replacement.



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