Tony reflects on his working relationship with the reknowned American storyteller Studs Terkel. Studs was best known for his oral history books, in which he interviewed ordinary people about their lives and experiences. Tony worked closely with Studs and provides great insight on how important their work was. Everybody has a story to tell- Tony and Studs were instrumental in documenting these stories for decades.
Thinking about and talking about stories, just makes me remember so well the great storyteller Studs Turkle who was born in 1912. Who spoke with hundreds of people, all over the country, about their lives, these conversations he was always uncomfortable with the notion of an interview, he liked to think of it as a conversation.
Studs had a radio program on WFMT in Chicago for 40 years, but before that there was a program heard on public radio stations around the country, when public radio was just finding his legs. I heard him in Boston, and I thought I’d like to know this man; I worked in the radio business, and I was able to persuade somebody in Chicago to talk to me about working at WFMT so that is how I got to meet Studs. I was in a large part moved and interested in Chicago because of hearing him and his remarkable way of talking with people of all kinds. He was very very clever; Studs were very clever. He had people to realize that this was a friendly event, and they needn't be shy or intimidated by it, he was genuinely interested in what they had to say and that’s why in the end he had such successful conversations because people knew he was honestly interested in who they were and how they lived their lives. And he had funny little techniques pretending that he couldn’t get the tape recorder to work and getting them involved in helping get the tape started which meant that they were more equals than someone getting interviewed by an interviewer they were participants.
I was lucky because I helped Studs and worked with him over a couple of decades and would often be invited to go along as he would see people around the country. Like a lot of men in his generation who grew up in cities, he never learned to drive a car, so if I had no other importance at least I could drive. I was lucky to be able to participate in this and so it’s a pleasure for me to be able to talk about Studs. Those experiences also made for stories because I then had stories to tell about the experience of being at the side of a master recorder of American and as you say Worldwide voices. The books that result from Studs interviews, his conversations are extraordinary and probably not being read as much as they once were, and that’s a shame.