It was impossible not to like Doug Banks. That’s what endeared him to legions of fans and admirers over more than three decades as a top-rated and nationally syndicated radio personality and popular television host in Chicago.
Banks died Monday at his home in Florida from complications related to diabetes and kidney failure, according to Marv Dyson, a longtime friend and former president and general manager of WGCI FM 107.5 and WVAZ FM 102.7. Banks was 57.
“He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known,” Dyson said. “The money and the fame never changed him one iota. And he had that special gift of making every listener feel like he was only taking to them. On the air and off the air, he was always just a normal guy.”
Banks made his last public appearance in Chicago on Friday at the Black Womens Expo at McCormick Place. There he was photographed with former co-host Bonnie DeShong, who wrote on Facebook Monday: “Love you Doug. I am so grateful I got to spend a few, now precious moments with you on Friday. I haven’t lost you. Your spirit will forever surround me and you will be in my heart forever.”
Since 2008 Banks’ nationally syndicated radio show aired from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday on V103, the iHeartMedia urban adult-contemporary station. In the latest Nielsen Audio ratings released Monday, his show tied for first place in the market with a 5.5 percent share.
Calling Banks “one of the true legends of our medium,” Matt Scarano, market president for iHeartMedia Chicago, said in a statement: “Doug’s impact on our industry and Chicago was monumental. He will be missed by our city, his fans and his family members here at V103. I am deeply saddened by his passing and I know you are too. Doug Banks was, and always will be, one of the best radio broadcasters in history. I consider it a privilege to have worked with Doug and will do my best to honor his memory.”
Derrick Brown, director of urban programming for iHeartMedia Chicago, said: “I am absolutely devastated by the news of Doug’s passing. He gave all he had within him to entertain Chicago. Doug’s laughter and quick wit will be sorely missed. It was a privilege to be called his friend.”
For more than a decade Banks also was a contributing reporter to “190 North,” the former weekly magazine show on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, and other programming on ABC 7.
“His vibrant personality, megawatt smile and wicked humor made him irresistible,” Janet Davies, host and producer of “190 North,” said in an on-air tribute to Banks Monday. “I knew about his health challenges, but his work ethic was relentless.”
Health problems recently sidelined Banks for two months. When he finally returned to his radio show in early February, he told Facebook fans: “Thanks for all the prayers, all the good thoughts, all the well wishes. I think it did some good because I am back.”
A Philadelphia native who began his radio career in Detroit, Banks became a legend in Chicago — starting in 1982 at the former WBMX and later at WGCI, where he first hit No. 1 in the ratings. In 1995 he signed a multimillion-dollar deal with ABC to host a syndicated show from Dallas.
“We tried everything we could to keep Doug in Chicago, but he had his heart set on syndication.” Dyson recalled. “He saw syndication as his future and he was right.”
In a 2000 interview, Banks told me: “I’m very blessed to have made enough of an impact that people remember. I was lucky enough to catch a ride on ‘BMX when that train came rolling through. And when I made the move to ‘GCI, that was a hell of lineup.”
Banks is survived by his wife, Wendy, three daughters and one son. Funeral arrangements are pending.