5 Questions with...US99's Ramblin' Ray Stevens

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5 Questions with...US99's Ramblin' Ray Stevens

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

December 2, 2009

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekone of the biggest personalities in country music radio history who has made his home on Chicagos WUSN 99.5 FM (US99) for close to two decadeshe co-hosts the Lisa Dent & Ramblin Ray morning show weekdays from 5:30-10:00 AMhere are 5 Questions withRAMBLIN RAY STEVENS!

BIO (from the words of Ramblin Ray himself): I love Radio! I come from a family of construction workers. I knew as a young man working on the big buildings of Chicago on the hottest of the hot and the coldest of the cold days, that when I graduated college there had to be a better way!

I found it in radio! I found it on CBS Radios US99.5 in Chicago. WUSN has been my radio home since 1990. Thats an eternity in this business. (OK, there was a brief respite in 2001 when I was given an extended vacation.)

Currently, I'm co-hosting mornings with Lisa Dent from 5:30 to 10:00 every morning.

I also host the nationally syndicated Country's Cutting Edge on the Westwood One Radio Network. Its a show that profiles new songs by country music's new stars. I have been the host since 1998.

Working in Chicago, for what I think is the crown jewel of CBS country stations, I have formed great relationships with the listeners, and the stars that make our format the best. One minute on our show in the morning you can hear regular hard working people of Chicago, the next it could be the Governor or it could be Keith Urban!

Outside of radio, I enjoy my family (Gina is the boss and I have 3 smaller versions of my wife and me).

I'm really into working out and riding my bike. Last year at 42 I did my first Triathlon! I also ran in a 200 mile marathon from Madison, Wisconsin through Milwaukee and back to Chicago. I think to survive a schedule that has you getting up at 3 am you need to take care of yourself.

My other hobbies include water skiing, anything outdoors, and snowmobiles. I restore and collect vintage sleds and this year I return to racing!

On various Chicagoland weekends you can find me and my media buddies helping out various charities. We do runs, bike rides and kayak races. We mostly work on the behalf of children's charities.

For more information and to read my blog, you can log on @ Ramblinray.com.

1) CSNChicago.com: Ramblin Ray, the sport of NASCAR on an overall national level is extremely popular with sports enthusiasts across the country, especially in the south as we know. As a huge NASCAR enthusiast and supporter living a huge metropolis like Chicago, are you disappointed that NASCAR isnt a bigger sport in major cities such as ours, New York, LA, etc. and what do you think needs to happen for auto racing to gain acceptance in larger urban markets in general?

Stevens: I think NASCAR is one of the coolest things in sports. There will always be those that say its not a sport. Go to a race and witness what the guys in the pits do and you will quickly change your mind! In the south, NASCAR, or NECKCAR as its called, is almost a birth rite. When youre born in North Carolina, your legal name has to have either Dale, Jr., or Sr. as part of your name or your parents will be arrested for treason. Honestly, NASCAR should be bigger in Chicago.

We have a great local race scene and some of the best drivers around. Names like Hoffman and Sontag should be on the national level. We do have Eric Darnell who's from Chicago and is making a name for himself at NASCARs premiere series.

Bottom Line: Chicago is a great ball and stick town. We grow up here worshiping the Bears and our baseball teams, the Hawks and the Bulls. They are all sports that we play as kids. NASCAR has its work cut out in this town. Its hard in a recession to watch drivers who couldn't drive the Stevenson during rush hour make 800,000 a race just to finish 24th (thats the deal they have with the owners, not sponsorship or race winnings). NASCAR will be just fine, but it will never be the 85 Bears.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youve been our link to the country music scene for close to 20 years now. You were also at the recent CMAs in Nashville and witnessed Entertainer of the Year and teen sensation Taylor Swifts opening number of her hit Forever & Always, which was panned by critics nationwide. Was she really that bad and, a follow-up question, do the think the hype of Swift and her pop music crossover success is good for the county music industry?
Stevens: I was at the show with my 15 year old daughtersaying anything bad about Taylor would be like telling a Bears fan that Walter Payton was a mediocre running back. It would be blasphemy. Actually, a lot gets lost on the show. In the audience, she sounded good. I guess over TV it was a little rough. Taylor's talent goes far beyond what we here on the radio or see on TV. She is to country what Ditka was to the Bears.

As far as her crossing over? Anything that brings country music to a larger audience is good for our format. Country music is cool. It provides us with great stories and the best players anywhere. Brad Paisley and Keith Urban play a guitar good enough to make Eddie Van Halen blush.

As far as our station goes, we need to be careful to not play her songs every 15 minutes. Not too many of the guys I hang with listen to Taylor, but to witness what she means to young ladies, such as my 15 year old, is awesome. She's a good role model.

3) CSNChicago.com: With the winter season fast approaching, tell us about your passion of snowmobiling and how you got started, plus any suggestions you can tell CSNChicago.com readers on where to go snowmobiling in our area this upcoming season?
Stevens: I'm a Snowmobile freak! It never ends for me. All year long I restore old snowmobiles. I currently have over 26 sleds, mostly rare sleds I have found and restored. I also have a pretty good race history. I was what they call a cross-country racer in my 20's and 30's. This year, I return to the ice to race a vintage Moto Ski on the Pro Vintage race circuit. I hope to do well as Danica Patrick s dad TJ, who is helping me in the pits. I'm also rolling with Goodwin performance out of Zion, home to Gregg Goodwin, the 91 world champ. I hope to not embarrass myself either. Any winnings go to the kids at St Jude Hospital in Memphis TN.

As far as just going out for a ride, go rent a sled in Wisconsin and be careful! Please pay attention and don't drink and ride. Sleds are fun, but you have to understand that its an extreme sport. If you have kids or if youre a newcomer, a snowmobile safety course from the Illinois DNR is a good plan!

4) CSNChicago.com: Oprah recently announced she is ending production of her show in Chicago. We lost our bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics Games. Major conventions are leaving our city as well. Whats going on around here lately?

Stevens: Chicago is a great city. Remember who we had before the Op? Wally Phillips, Steve Dahl, Brant Miller, oh and this guy named Phil Donahue. I highly doubt we will ever see anything like Oprah again, she is awesome. What she has done for people is amazing, but if Oprah and Mike Ditka were in a room, I would rather sit down with Da Coach and talk football, that's just the way I roll, I'm sure to my wife it would be Oprah, but different strokes

This is a city that has witnessed a Super Bowl recently, a World Series winner and enough NBA rings to make Elizabeth Taylor jealous. I guess what Im saying is this: with or without the Olympic games, this city will be fine. To an outsider, this town is riddled with corruption and greed. To someone that lives here, its kind of normal. But think about how we come across in the International community? Our county board president inherits a job from his father? Friend and family contracts? Thats not exactly the Olympic sprit, but to give it to Rio? Wow, good luck with that. If you attend the games, I have a vest you can wear!

Chicago is a great town. Not one person leaving will have any long term effect, although I'm still not over Phil Jackson, Jordan, Pippen....on second thought, don't go Oprah!

5) CSNChicago.com: Any hints on what you plan on giving your morning show co-host Lisa Dent and producer Lisa Kosty for Christmas this year? We promise we wont tell.
Stevens: What can you possibly give two women who have it all? This year, all I'm giving them is my love.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to promote Ray? Please share it with us

Stevens: Well, every December we have our Country Cares for St. Jude Kids Radiothon. All money raised goes to the kids at St. Jude Hospital who fight a courageous battle with cancer everyday. The good news at St. Jude is the research they do there is shared all over the world and helps kids right here at Chicago hospitals as well.

I'm also involved in planning next years bike ride for Breast cancer research (www.pinkribbonriders.org). Every year I ride from Chicago to Eagle River, Wisconsin to raise awareness. Next year, we ride from Sister Bay back down to Chicago. The ride breaks down to just over 400 miles in four days. Chicago Bear Greg Olsen has also agreed to participate at some level. The following year (2011) there is some talk of a ride across the country to raise money. Its just a matter of CBSUS99 giving me 40 days to do it!

This year, I also return to snowmobile racing. You can follow details at RamblinRay.com. Any sponsorship money or winnings will go to the Comprehensive Cancers research center at Rush University Hospital.

Have a great Holiday season. For me, its Merry Christmas, whatever it is for you, I hope its all you ever wanted!

Ramblin Ray LINKS:

Ramblin Ray Stevens official website

US99Lisa Dent & Ramblin Ray page

Ramblin Rays official blog

Ramblin Ray on Facebook

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial.