It marks a reunion for the duo after a decade apart. Stevens co-hosted mornings with Howell at US 99.5 from 2002 to 2006. He most recently was teamed with Lisa Dent.
“Big John and Ray are deeply rooted in Chicago and are well known to the community,” Peter Bowen, vice president and Chicago market manager of Cumulus Media, said in a statement. “We are excited for our listeners, as Big John and Ray are a winning combination.”
Howell has been hosting mornings solo at WLS since January 2015 when he signed on after eight years at Salem Media news/talk WIND AM 560. Bringing on Stevens is intended to jumpstart ratings for the show, which have underperformed the rest of the station.
The challenge for Stevens is whether he can make the transition to a political and general interest talk format after a career as a country music radio personality.
Stevens, whose real name is Ray Stejskal, grew up in West Chicago and worked at the former WAUR in west suburban Aurora before joining US 99.5 as weekend host in 1990. Except for a brief stint in afternoons and a short hiatus, he’s been a mainstay of the morning show since 1994. He stayed on when Dent moved up from middays to succeed Howell in 2006.
Stevens also has hosted two nationally syndicated radio shows, “Country’s Cutting Edge” and “Serving Your Country.”
“I’m thrilled to be re-joining my former partner and good friend Big John Howell for mornings on Chicago’s news/talk leader, WLS AM 890,” Stevens said in a statement. “I want to thank Peter Bowen, [program director] Peter Bolger and [senior vice president/content and programming] Mike McVay for this tremendous opportunity to speak with Chicagoans each weekday about the news and topics important to us all.”
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey released Monday, WLS tied for 24th in mornings with a 1.6 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 170,900. US 99.5 was 11th in mornings with a 3.1 share and 389,000 weekly cume.