WLS host Don Wade faces brain surgery after seizure

Don Wade, the morning star of WLS-AM (890) and a mainstay of Chicago radio for 30 years, will undergo surgery this week to remove a growth from his brain.

Doctors discovered the growth after Wade, 71, suffered a seizure September 13 in New York. He was there with his wife and radio partner, Roma Wade, to attend the wedding of their daughter, Heather. They participated in the wedding as planned.

Neurosurgeons will remove the growth in an operation scheduled for Thursday in Chicago, according to the Wades’ agent, Eliot Ephraim. No other details were disclosed. Both Don and Roma are expected to be off the air for at least four to six weeks.

“I think it’s all the B.S. coming from the left that really gave me the seizure,” Don quipped in a statement released by Ephraim. Added Roma: “It amazes me that Don can still be the smartest guy in the room with only half his brain.”

Until now, WLS listeners were told that the Wades were on vacation. They originally had been scheduled to return last week to their show, which airs from 5 to 9am Monday through Friday on the Cumulus Media news/talk station. Filling in as morning hosts for the time being will be Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft, the duo normally heard from 9 to 11am weekdays. Jake Hartford and Tribune columnist John Kass will sub for Wolf and Proft from 9 to 11am.

“I haven’t had the privilege of knowing Don and Roma long, but I already have such an appreciation for them as individuals and as an extraordinary couple,” said Donna Baker, who’s been vice president and market manager of Cumulus Media in Chicago since July. “We hope to hear from them soon that there’s a good, positive result and that Don is moving forward toward recovery. Just knowing that they have so much love and support from the listeners and the community, I hope that that warms them in this really tough time.”

WLS set up a page on its website Monday for listeners to post get-well wishes.

Although famous for his acerbic wit and irascible nature on the air, Don Wade in private is as gracious and amiable as anyone in or out of radio. He is a gifted performer whose talent and success are undeniable. Noting that the motto of the morning program is "the most positive, optimistic radio show in the universe," Ephraim said the Wades are handling the situation they're now facing with just such an attitude.

After logging some 15 radio jobs in nine states, New York native Don Wade arrived in Chicago in 1982 as morning personality at country music WUSN-FM (99.5). In 1985, he shifted to WLS, where Roma joined him as on-air co-host the following year. (Although the two have been married since 1979, they didn’t tell listeners they were husband and wife until 1998.) They’re now the longest running morning team in Chicago radio.

After more than 25 years on the air, Don Wade & Roma continues to be highly profitable for WLS, largely because of the commercial endorsements and advertiser loyalty the Wades command. In the latest Arbitron survey, the show had a cumulative weekly audience of more than 258,000. Among listeners between the ages of 35 and 64 — their show’s target demographic — it ranked third in the market with a 5.8 percent share.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)