Steve King and Johnnie Putman (Photo by Will Crockett)
A native of Chicago’s south side, Steve’s initial career path did not include radio. Instead, he used his musical talent to establish himself as a singer/songwriter and musician winning a Downbeat magazine jazz contest and recording as a rock singer/guitarist for various labels including one of the industry giants, Mercury Records. Along the way, Steve counted among his band members now famed chamber/blues composer Corky Siegel, Peter Cetera and Marty Grebb. Peter later went on to gain fame with the group Chicago and as a solo artist, Marty became well-known for his work with the Buckinghams and artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks.
After ten years in recording studios and on the road, Steve decided it was time for a change in direction. In 1966, having taken a course at Midwestern Broadcasting School in Chicago, Steve joined WJOB-AM, in Hammond, IN. One year later he moved to WLTH-AM, in Gary IN, eventually becoming that station’s Afternoon Drive Personality and Program Director. Next, he moved downstate to Indianapolis where he joined the staff of the flagship station of the worldwide Indianapolis 500 race, WIBC-AM/WNAP-FM. After two years in “naptown,” having added the responsibilities of FM music director to his on-air duties, Steve returned home to do afternoon drive at Chicago’s WBBM-FM.
In 1973, Steve’s commanding lead with the FM afternoon drive audience brought him to the attention of WLS-AM who hired him away for a five year run as their 10pm-2am personality. In 1978, Steve got into talk radio when he joined WIND-AM. After a short stint with WDAI-FM, where he did first afternoon drive and then morning drive, Steve returned to WIND and talk radio until 1984. While at WIND one of Steve’s favorite “subjects” soon became Johnnie Putman. The duo was thrown together a lot for station promotions culminating with the ultimate “promotion”… their wedding.
Even though it sounds like a plot line that would be rejected because it sounds too implausible, it is absolutely true that on Christmas Eve, 1984, Steve made his debut on WGN and on Valentines Day of 1985, Johnnie joined Steve in the WGN studios. The couple’s pairing soon resulted in “The Steve & Johnnie Show” spending the better part of 27 years as Chicago’s #1 nightly radio habit.
Johnnie Putman is a woman whose experience in broadcasting is as impressive as it is extensive. After graduating from Chicago’s Columbia College, in 1977, Johnnie joined the staff of WMRO-AM/WAUR-FM, in Aurora, IL. For five years she displayed her versatility hosting both a talk show on the AM and a contemporary music show on the FM. After her second year her success with both formats led to Johnnie being named the station’s Operations Director.
In 1982, Johnnie headed off to the “big time” in the Windy City. As the newest member of the staff of WIND-AM, she became one of Chicago’s first female talk show hosts. For promotional events, the station paired Johnnie with another one of their talents, Steve King. The match worked perfectly, not only for WIND, but for them, as well. They were married in 1984.
During this same year, Johnnie moved across town to WCLR-FM. While working as the station’s Morning and Afternoon Drive Traffic Reporter, she also produced Steve’s Emmy nominated program on WFLD-TV, “Chicago.” On Valentine’s Day in 1985, Johnnie sat in with her husband during one of his programs on WGN Radio. The favorable response which followed led her to move to WGN. Her work as a traffic reporter on the Wally Phillips and Bob Collins Shows, led to her position as Steve’s co-host on Chicago’s number one overnight radio program.