Terkel, Studs

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TERKEL, STUDS (Louis ; 1912– ), U.S. writer and interviewer. Born in New York, the son of immigrant parents, he moved at age eight with his parents to Chicago, a town with which he remained closely associated. His parents opened a boarding house in an Italian district where he went to school. He attended the University of Chicago and then law school. At the time of the New Deal he got a job on a writers' employment program and began to dabble in music, theater, and acting. Gradually he turned to radio and later to television, first as a news commentator and sportscaster, and from the mid-1940s, hosting interview shows. In 1949 he had his own television show, Studs' Place, an improvised sitcom where he played himself as a restaurant owner. In 1953 he was investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. When he refused to name names, he was barred from appearing on television. The resourceful Terkel eventually found a job at the Chicago Sunday Times writing a regular jazz column. During that period he also acted in various plays, such as Of Mice and Men.

In 1958 Terkel launched his long-running daily one-hour radio program on Chicago's wfmt-fm, the Studs Terkel Show, which was broadcast throughout the U.S. until 1998. In the 1960s Terkel saw the applicability of the tape recorder to social research and utilized oral history as a tool for writing social history. He tracked down everyday men and women and recorded their story, dramatizing the experience of anonymous Americans who would otherwise have remained anonymous.

He made a great impression with Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970), following this with other oral histories including Working (1974) and Race (1992). He also published Giants of Jazz (1957); Division Street: America (1967); Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times (1977); American Dreams (1980); Chicago (1985); The Great Divide (1988); Coming of Age (1995); My American Century (1997); Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (2001); Hope Dies Last (2003); and And They All Sang (2005).

A collection of six cds, spanning the 1950s to 1997, titled Voices of Our Time: Five Decades of Studs Terkel Interviews, was released in 2005. Terkel's book The Good War (1985) won the Pulitzer Prize.

[Geoffrey Wigoder /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]