When Dick Biondi turned 85 last September 13, WLS 94.7-FM honored the legendary radio personality with a daylong celebration that included an outpouring of on-air salutes and social media messages along with a “Happy Birthday, Dick Biondi” web page.
No one knew it at the time, but those tributes turned out to be Biondi’s farewell from the Cumulus Media classic hits station.
Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Chicago, confirmed Wednesday that Biondi’s employment ended months ago. He’s no longer on the WLS website, and he’s not expected to return as weekend morning host.
Biondi did not respond to requests for comment.
Fans have been awaiting his comeback since April 2017 when Biondi was hospitalized for what was described as a leg ailment. Several weeks later, he released a statement that said: “My doctor has assured me they doing all they can to get me back into fighting shape and I look forward to getting back on the air as soon as they say I’m ready! I want nothing more than to get back to entertaining the greatest radio audience in the greatest city in the world!”
It’s not clear exactly when Biondi’s status as an “inactive employee” changed to “former employee,” but it may have occurred between the time Peter Bowen resigned as Chicago market manager in late September and Nyren replaced him in early November. In the interim, WLS was overseen by Dave Milner, executive vice president of operations for Cumulus.
In any case, the move signals the end of an era in Chicago radio — and an association between Biondi and WLS that dates back six decades. At night on Top 40 powerhouse WLS 890-AM from 1960 to 1963, “The Wild I-Tralian” commanded a 60 percent share of all listeners, attracting millions of adoring teens in 38 states and Canada. After numerous stops along the way, he was reunited with the iconic call letters at WLS 94.7-FM in 2006.
Regarded by some as the greatest disc jockey of all time, Biondi is enshrined in the National Radio Hall of Fame, the radio exhibit of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Illinois Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. In 2010 the city of Chicago celebrated the 50th anniversary of his start on the air here by naming the alley south of the old WLS studios “Dick Biondi Way.”
Nyren said WLS plans to help Chicago filmmaker Pamela Pulice promote a documentary she has been working on about Biondi’s career. “The Dick Biondi Film” is in post-production.
Tuesday’s comment of the day: Doug M. Cummings: Scene: The mailroom at the FCC. The FCC sign has been stuffed into the trash. A banner reading, “Ministry for Public Enlightenment” hangs from the wall. A black-suited man with monocle and black armband stands on a raised platform shouting, “Remember! Only the positive comments go into the file!”