The “Crazy” is back after more than a decade off the airwaves
It was back in July 2007 when a stunning development took place – in what would be a symbol of what was wrong with the industry at the time, a top-rated local radio personality was fired from his morning gig, replaced by a syndicated show.
Now a dozen years later, the “Crazy” is back in Chicago radio.
As first reported by Robert Feder Friday, “Crazy” Howard McGee has been hired by V103 (WVAZ-FM) for fill-in and weekend work. He begins on April 20, where he’ll work the Saturday afternoon shift. V103 is owned by iHeartMedia, the same entity who owns urban contemporary sister station WGCI-FM, where McGee was the morning personality when he was unceremoniously dropped by the station and replaced by Steve Harvey’s syndicated show.
The move to hire McGee was made by iHeartMedia director of urban programming Derrick Brown, who is also brand coordinator for iHeartMedia’s urban adult contemporary stations.
The decision to drop McGee by Clear Channel (known as iHeartMedia since 2014) angered many listeners across the Chicago area and was documented by numerous media columnists, including this blog as many of us were trying to figure out why McGee was let go given he was the top-rated morning radio host in the adult 18-34 demo. Even more puzzling, McGee was replaced by Harvey, who wasn’t a strong fit for WGCI’s younger-skewing audience. His departure even raised the eyebrows of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and was a subject of a TV commentary by Bob Sirott (who knows a lot about the subject of being let go.)
McGee told Feder he found out he was fired by reading his column in the Sun-Times, and it took two weeks before Clear Channel finally officials confirmed the news to him. McGee continued at WGCI until July 19, 2007.
Clear Channel had a reputation of replacing local, home-grown voices with nationally syndicated programming or voice tracking talent in from other cities, creating quite a bit of backlash from listeners. McGee being replaced by Harvey was a direct example of the former.
After two years, WGCI returned to local morning programming with The Morning Riot, shifting Harvey’s show to more demo-compatible V103, replacing longtime syndicated host Tom Joyner (now at Clubsteppin’ 95.1.) Since 2015, WGCI has aired a local morning show featuring Kyle Santillian and Kendra G.
Since his release from WGCI, McGee has stayed busy, doing some fill-in work in Philadelphia among other things, and owning several restaurants on the South Side.
McGee’s arrival at the station comes as ratings for the adult-contemporary juggernaut has slid, but PPM numbers released Monday showed the station bouncing back to a tie for third place. In recent years, the station lost Herb Kent when he passed in 2016, and released Ramonski Luv for the second time.
For McGee, his return to the local airwaves is certainly a redemption for him, even though it is just part-time and fill in work. And it’s a smart, listener-friendly decision correcting a mistake previous management at WGCI never should have made.