Winston on WLS: ‘I’ve still got a lot of gas in the tank’

Is Fred Winston about to make a comeback?

It’s too soon to say for sure, but fans should look for the legendary radio personality to turn up August 26 on WLS-FM (94.7), the Cumulus Media oldies station. The company also owns news/talk WLS-AM (890), the former Top 40 powerhouse where Winston began his Chicago radio career in 1971.

“I’ve always been a super fan of Fred Winston,” said Jan Jeffries, senior vice president of programming for Cumulus Media and program director of WLS-FM. “It will be a pleasure to hear him back on WLS.”

If all goes well, the three-hour guest shot (from 9pm to midnight) could lead to regular work on the station, where Winston would be reunited with longtime friends and colleagues Dick Biondi, John Records Landecker and Greg Brown.

“The plan is to blow the carbon and dust balls out of the pipes that Sunday night and see how it feels and then go from there,” Winston, 66, said from his farm in southwest Michigan, where’s he on the mend from quadruple bypass surgery last May. “I’d love for it to be a regular gig. At the risk of creating a pun, I’ve still got a lot of gas in the tank.”

Now in his 15th week of recovery and “feeling good,” Winston said he’s raring to get back to broadcasting. “I am up for challenges because there is no bigger challenge than recovery from this [bypass]. Now I am up for the challenge to be entertaining and relevant within today’s new [Portable People Meter-based] formatic guidelines.”

Except for occasional appearances, he’s been off the air since June 2005 when CBS Radio switched WJMK-FM (104.3) from oldies to Jack FM, shifting Winston and his colleagues to HD Radio and online for a year. “I’ve never been off the air as a performer full time for over five years,” he said. “You would think that in all this time someone would say hmm, Fred Winston, what a marketable brand name.”

That’s why he welcomed the call from Jeffries, with whom he’d worked at WLS briefly in the 1980s. “He’s a smart radio guy who doesn’t let his ego get in the way of smart programming decisions,” Winston said of Jeffries. 

“I’ve still got a great passion for radio,” he said. “I love to make people laugh, to entertain. I’m bringing a brand name to the table for WLS. I get to indulge in my passion and they get to benefit from my brand name. It’s a win/win situation.”


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)