Winston takes the fall for ratings drop at WLS-FM

Another Chicago radio veteran’s comeback has been cut short.

Fred Winston, who’s been hosting afternoons on Cumulus Media classic hits WLS-FM (94.7) since last October, was cut Wednesday from the station’s lineup. He learned it was his last show at the end of his shift.

As of Thursday, weekend personality Danny Lake will be filling in from 2:30 to 6pm Monday through Friday.

“We’re going in a different direction,” said Donna Baker, Cumulus Media Chicago market manager, who confirmed the change in afternoons. “There are some really good things going on with WLS and we’re very excited about them.”

Baker declined to comment further, but it’s clear the move was in response to ratings, which have plummeted at WLS-FM since the station switched from oldies to classic hits and revamped its talent lineup last fall.

Winston was one of a cadre of legendary Chicago radio personalities assembled by Jan Jeffries, senior vice president of programming for Cumulus Media and program director of WLS-FM. “Fred personifies WLS,” Jeffries said at the time he announced the new lineup. “He is back where he belongs in the driver's seat every afternoon.”

In the latest Arbitron survey, afternoons on WLS-FM tied for 18th among listeners between 25 and 54 with a 2.3 percent audience share.

Winston, 67, first joined sister station WLS-AM (890) in 1971 when it was a Top 40 powerhouse. He worked for a variety of Chicago stations after that, including two stints at former CBS Radio oldies WJMK-FM (104.3). Before returning to WLS-FM last year, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and declared himself eager to get back behind a microphone, saying: “I’ve still got a lot of gas in the tank.”

Winston now joins Robert Murphy, Ed Volkman and Joe Bohannon among local radio legends whose much-heralded comebacks were cut short by disappointing ratings or perceived incompatibility with their formats.



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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)