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Article updated: 12/19/2013 12:11 PM

'Animal Stories' radio legend Larry 'Uncle Lar' Lujack dies

By

Radio legend Larry Lujack died Wednesday of esophageal cancer, ABC 7 Chicago reported. He was 73.

Lujack, who previously lived in Palatine, died in New Mexico.

Long before WLS 890-AM became a conservative talk show station, Lujack ruled the airwaves at the Big 89, the Rock of Chicago.

Lujack's personality -- smart, acerbic, pugnacious and unpredictable -- quickly earned him legions of faithful fans.

"The passing of Larry is a loss not only to countless friends across Chicagoland, but to hundreds of thousands of loyal listeners who affectionately referred to him as 'Uncle Lar'," wrote Jan Jeffries, a senior vice president at WLS Radio. "Larry defined WLS. Bigger than life and legendary. He will be missed as a broadcaster, however, even more as a humanitarian with a heart of gold. Larry would want us to celebrate his life and that is the way will honor his passing."

Lujack's resonant voice and dark, morbid sense of humor catapulted him to instant and surprisingly lengthy stardom. One magazine proclaimed him to be "the Grim Reaper of Laughs." But he had already earned another nickname that suited him better: Superjock.

As a solo act, Lujack reigned supreme in the world of rock DJs. But it took a program director-turned-midday-host named Tommy Edwards to help him create one of Chicago radio's greatest and most enduring classics: Animal Stories.

But on Aug. 28, 1987, Lujack, then only 47, retired from radio. WLS paid off the remainder of his unprecedented 12-year contract and flipped to political talk.

Lujack donned his trademark blue jeans, cowboy boots and 10-gallon hat. Then he whisked his wife, Judie, on to his mechanical horse and departed his Palatine homestead for the sunsets of Santa Fe.

In 2000, though, Lujack returned to the Chicago airwaves, working through a remote link from New Mexico for WUBT, according to his bio on the National Radio Hall of Fame website. In 2003, he teamed up again with Edwards for a morning show on WRLL 1690-AM, again working remotely, until 2006.

Lujack was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2004.

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