Midday star Greg Brown bowing out after five decades in radio

Greg Brown

Fifty-one years after he first hit the air at WSTK in northwest suburban Woodstock, Greg Brown is calling it a career. Chicago radio won’t be the same without him.

Friday will mark Brown’s last day as midday personality at WLS 94.7-FM, the Cumulus Media classic hits station where’s he been a mainstay since 2007. 

"I, and all of us, can’t thank Greg enough for all his years in the business and what he’s meant to WLS-FM," Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Media Chicago, told staffers in a memo. "His success will be remembered for years and I wish him well."

Brown said he approached his bosses in mid-April about retiring and they honored his request for a final week on the air to say goodbye. Now he’s looking forward to life after radio and creating “some new memories together” with his wife, Lorraine.

In a message to listeners, Brown wrote: “It’s time to hang up the headphones and go hang up the hammock! I just wanted to mark this occasion by thanking each one of you for the absolute honor and privilege of being invited into your homes, work, cars, and life on a daily basis. Over the years as you’ve listened, we’ve shared tender moments, historic moments, thrilling moments and everything in between. My memories of those things will always include thoughts of you.

Greg Brown's first day at WSTK (1970)

“So let me thank each one of you for all the kindness, warmth, and courtesy you’ve shown me over the years.  You’ve given me the chance to have a job that has brought me complete joy and much satisfaction. It’s as if I’ve never worked a day in my life. For that, I will always be grateful to you.”

A fan of Chicago radio since his youth, Brown grew up in northwest suburban Crystal Lake and talked his way into a job at WSTK (now WZSR 105.5-FM) in 1970. His big break came two years later when he was hired to host overnights at WGLD (now WVAZ 102.7-FM) and quickly was promoted to mornings.

Among seven other Chicago stations he graced, Brown enjoyed his greatest success and longest runs in middays at WKQX 101.1-FM, the former WJMK (now WBMX 104.3-FM) and WLS-FM.

“A true talent and one heck of a gentleman . . . a Chicago Hall of Famer for sure,” was veteran programmer Greg Solk’s spot-on description, echoed by scores of colleagues thanking and congratulating a consummate pro on a great career.

Coinciding with Brown’s retirement, Cumulus Media announced a realignment of talent on WLS-FM and alternative rock WKQX.

Tim Virgin

Effective Monday, WLS-FM afternoon host Erin Carman will move to middays, succeeding Brown. Replacing Carman in afternoons will be Tim Virgin, the current afternoon host on WKQX.

At WKQX, current midday host Lauren O’Neil will replace Virgin in afternoons, and evening host Jon Manley will replace O’Neil in middays. Evenings will be occupied by Greg Beharrell, a Los Angeles-based syndicated host.

In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WLS-FM tied for 13th with a 2.7 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 993,400. WKQX ranked 16th with a 2.5 share and 843,000 weekly cume.

Tuesday’s comment of the day: Mark Mardell: I'm interested in how Sean Compton is going to deal with this. NewsNation has been a flop in the ratings, and with the resignation of top staff, the public perception is that this is not your go-to news source. So does he let Michael Corn, a man that I know little about except that he has quite a resume, have a free reign and try to build credibility and an audience, or is that right wing ideological slant non-negotiable?