How ’XRT put down its Marker

Tom Marker

Tom Marker

Chicago radio veteran Tom Marker, whose full-time position was eliminated after 33 years at WXRT FM 93.1, returns to the CBS Radio adult album alternative station Monday under decidedly different circumstances.

Gone will be his six-figure salary, his contract, his benefits and all the perks of employment he earned over three decades as evening personality and host/producer of his signature weekly “Blues Breakers” hour.

Instead, when Marker hits the air at 9 p.m. to host his annual “Blues Breakers Blues Of The Year In Review” show, it will be on a part-time basis for a meager hourly wage.

“All of what has occurred is exactly what CBS wanted,” an informed source said. “They took a full-time, highly paid employee and converted him to a lowly paid, part-time freelancer. Forget that he’s highly valued. Forget that he’s loyal. He has no regular shift, he has no benefits, he has no standing, he has nothing.”

A firestorm of protest erupted when news broke here Dec. 30 that Marker’s position was being eliminated in a year-end budget cut. (Though he never mentioned it, his last appearance of 2013 that night had an air of finality to it.) Hundreds of fans vented their anger and disbelief on this blog, on Facebook and on WXRT’s website. More than 3,375 signed an online petition demanding his reinstatement.

Despite the horrendous publicity, CBS Radio management remained silent while it dictated terms of Marker’s severance — including a prohibition against speaking out about his status.  “Join me this Monday on 93XRT for the best blues of 2013 on Blues Breakers,” was all Marker posted on his Facebook page Saturday.

Marker, a graduate of Columbia College, spent five years as program director and music director of WJKL in Elgin before joining WXRT in 1980. He’s been host and producer of “Blues Breakers” since 1984.