It’s the biggest radio comeback of the year: Crazy Howard McGee, who was one of Chicago’s most popular morning stars before he lost his job to Steve Harvey, is about to join Chicago’s top-rated music station after a 12-year absence from the airwaves.
McGee has been hired as weekend and fill-in host at WVAZ 102.7-FM, the iHeartMedia urban adult-contemporary station known as V103. It’s the same company that owns urban contemporary WGCI 107.5-FM, where the irrepressible and charismatic personality spent 14 years, rising from part-time jock to middays, afternoons and then mornings.
Starting April 20, McGee will host from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays on V103. At the same time, Jeanne Sparrow will move to mornings (6 a.m. to noon); Joe Soto’s “Back in the Day” will run from 5 to 10 p.m.; and “Saturday Night Stepper’s Set” with Glenn Cosby with air from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
McGee’s comeback was the masterstroke of Derrick Brown, director of urban programming for iHeartMedia Chicago, and urban adult-contemporary brand coordinator for iHeartMedia nationwide.
The two had been in touch for the last year when Brown invited McGee to appear on Ericka “Sundance” Ingram’s weekend show. “I thought: ‘This guy is great!’” Brown said. “So I called him and said, ‘Howard, I’m telling you, the next slot I have is yours.’ And I kept my word. I’m very happy about it.
“I’m more than elated to have Howard back in the fold at iHeartMedia Chicago. He’s a fan favorite with deep ties to the community. This is going to be a fun ride.”
McGee, who grew up on the South Side and attended Southern Illinois University, was among the top three highest-rated morning hosts in Chicago — and No. 1 in his target demographic — when he picked up the Sun-Times one morning in 2007 to read on the front page that WGCI was dropping him for Harvey’s nationally syndicated morning show.
“I found out I was being replaced on the Chicago Sun-Times,” he later recalled. It took two weeks before the bosses of Clear Channel Radio (iHeartMedia's predecessor) told him the story was true and that he was out. “I thought I was dreaming. I thought it was a nightmare.”
Two years later Harvey's morning show moved to V103, where it's still airing today.
A man without a microphone, McGee went on to fulfill his entrepreneurial ambitions, operating several South Side chicken restaurants and launching an entertainment and special events company. But he longed to get back on the radio.
“I would take a part-time job on the radio right now,” he told Sparrow and Melissa Forman in 2016. “I miss that companionship — that intimacy, if you will — with the listeners.”
Although he’s signing on as a weekend and fill-in host for now, don’t be surprised if McGee moves up quickly at V103.
“I have plans for Howard,” Brown said. “I really want to get him involved in a lot of things. He’s going to be a fill-in jock for the station, and when it comes to appearances, endorsements and community things, I want to get him in front of people.”
Years ago I asked McGee how he came to be called “Crazy.” An ex-wife gave him the name long before he got into radio, he told me. “It was because of the things that I talk about, the way I think. I’m always dissecting things and trying to find out the true meaning.
“People used to say: ‘But you’re not crazy. You’re a nice guy.’ And I would tell them it’s ‘crazy’ in a good way. But I was always loud and in your face.”
Welcome back, Crazy.