Ten years ago this fall the legendary Don Wade stepped down as morning star at WLS 890-AM as he battled the brain cancer that eventually would take his life. With him and his wife/on-air partner, Roma Wade, went the last successful morning show at the heritage news/talk station.
Now, with the station’s ratings at a historic low, Cumulus Media is turning to longtime Chicago radio personality Steve Cochran to bring back listeners.
Cochran, 61, former morning host at Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM, signed Tuesday to host mornings at WLS. Starting June 15, he’ll be heard from 5:30 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday.
“I’m delighted to welcome Steve to our team, where I know he will bring his wisdom, wit and political prowess to morning drive,” Stephanie Tichenor, program director of WLS, said in an email to staff.
“Our listeners need a place to feel safe to express their opinions while having a destination for entertainment, news, and conservative conversation. Steve will provide that for our Chicagoland audience.”
The morning slot has been open since early April when the station dropped Bruce St. James. Besides Cochran, others who filled in during the interim included Ramblin’ Ray Stevens, Pete McMurray and Matt Bubala.
“When I filled in, I realized how much I missed it so I’m thrilled to be back,” Cochran told me.
Why now? “To be fair, WLS has never had the opportunity to fire me,” he said. “Those great call letters deserve a great Chicago show, which I’m going to try to do every morning.”
Except for a one-year stint in Detroit in the late ’90s, Cochran has been a Chicago radio fixture since 1993. His longest runs were two stints at WGN, including six years as morning host ending in 2019 when his contract was not renewed.
“I’ve been talking to myself for two and a half years, so I can’t wait to start talking on WLS,” he said.
Cochran said he will continue to host the twice-weekly podcast “Live From My Office” on Mondays and Wednesdays, and “The Deep 6 with Patty Steele” on Fridays.
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WLS tied for 28th in mornings with a 0.8 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 88,800. Overall the station ranks 27th with a 1.1 share and 200,500 weekly cume.
Here is the text of Tichenor’s email to staff:
I am pleased to announce that Steve Cochran will be the new AM drive host on 890 WLS-AM.
Steve is a proven winner in Chicago radio that will bring his talent and deep Chicago roots to “The Steve Cochran Show,” that will air weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. beginning Wednesday, June 15, 2022.
I’m delighted to welcome Steve to our team, where I know he will bring his wisdom, wit, and political prowess to morning drive. Our listeners need a place to feel safe to express their opinions while having a destination for entertainment, news, and conservative conversation. Steve will provide that for our Chicagoland audience. I’m looking forward to growing 890 with Steve Cochran in morning drive.
Please join me in welcoming Steve Cochran to the Big 89.