Radio legend Terri Hemmert leaving midday shift at WXRT

Terri Hemmert (Photo: Mary Rafferty)

Terri Hemmert, the Radio Hall of Famer who’s been the heart and soul of WXRT 93.1-FM for 45 years, says she is cutting back her workload at the Entercom adult album alternative station but will “continue to be proud of being part of the XRT family.”

Hemmert, 71, told colleagues in an email today that she plans to step down from her Monday-through-Friday midday shift in a few weeks and switch to “a schedule with much more flexibility.”

“After 45 years at WXRT, I’m going to figure out how to turn the record over and see what plays on the other side,” she wrote. “My doctor will be thrilled I’ll be getting eight hours of sleep a night. After all these years.”

Hemmert said she will continue to host her long-running “Breakfast with The Beatles” program on Sunday mornings and will fill in throughout the year for other on-air personalities when they’re on vacation.

Greg Solk, operations manager and program director of WXRT, said the company faces “the awesome challenge of finding a successor to Terri for the midday shift in the coming weeks.” It won’t be easy.

From the time she signed on at the fledgling progressive rock station in November 1973, Hemmert has been a role model, a mentor and a Chicago radio treasure. She made history in 1981 when she became the first woman to host a morning drive show in Chicago. She’s been hosting middays since 1992.

Her legion of fans and admirers rallied to her side as Hemmert faced multiple health challenges over the years, including cancer surgery and arthroscopic back surgery in 2016, and knee replacement surgery in 2014.

At her 2010 induction to the Radio Hall of Fame, Hemmert was introduced by Billy Corgan as “a unique, charismatic and occasionally messianic disc jockey,” adding: “Terri is simply one of the best in the world at what she does because she remains a believer in art and the ability of rock ’n’ roll to change the world.”

Hemmert’s midday show airs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. “Breakfast with The Beatles” airs from 8 to 10 a.m. Sundays.

In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WXRT is tied for fifth place in middays among all listeners.

Here is the text of Hemmert’s email to colleagues:

Doesn’t seem that long ago I was a 15-year-old kid in Piqua, Ohio, trying to figure out how I could get to be a Disc Jockey and meet the Beatles. The impossible dream for a girl in the 1960’s.  But I’ve met two out of four Beatles, a gazillion Beatles fans, and I am a D.J. I am what I play.

After 45 years at WXRT, I’m going to figure out how to turn the record over and see what plays on the other side. In a few weeks, I will move from being on air five days a week year-round to a schedule with much more flexibility while still remaining part of the station and work I love so much.  My doctor will be thrilled I’ll be getting eight hours of sleep a night. After all these years.
 
I will continue to be part of the fabric of XRT. I will continue hosting Breakfast with The Beatles because that teenager still lives inside me. I will continue coming into the radio station at least a couple of days a week to use the XRT Public Affairs Department that I started 45 years ago with a pair of scissors, a typewriter and reels of audio tape, to find ways to share information with our audience and inform them how to make living in Chicago better by being aware of free events and volunteer opportunities.

I will continue to be the one that gives voice to people who are making it possible for kids to get music education, and hear from people that live in Englewood, and high school students whose lives were saved by being in the poetry club.

I will also fill in for my fellow DJ’s when they get that much-needed vacation, and I will thoroughly enjoy immersing myself in the amazing XRT library, and re-connecting with the most loyal audience imaginable.  Those weeks I’ll be here five days in a row.  How can you miss me when I won’t go away?  Best of all, I will actually have time to have lunch with you. I’ll put a sign-up sheet in the DJ lounge.
 
I will continue to be proud of being part of the XRT family.  And the past few years the family has extended to every station in this group. Let’s do lunch, and please find me to see what socks I’m wearing. They don’t matter if no one sees them.  
 
I love music. I love radio. I love our listeners. And I love my radio family. Some things change, but that never will.