It's the best radio news of the year: Dick Biondi, Chicago's greatest rock 'n' roll disc jockey of all time, is
coming back. The broadcast legend and Radio Hall of Famer signed a multiyear agreement Wednesday to join ABC-owned
"True Oldies" WZZN-FM (94.7) as evening personality.
Starting next week, he'll be on from 9 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday.
"I am so happy to get back on the air and really excited I get to stay in Chicago," Biondi said of his
new deal, negotiated by agent David Martin.
Biondi, 73, has been in radio limbo since June 2005 when CBS Radio pulled the plug on oldies and ended Biondi's
21-year run at WJMK-FM (104.3) to make way for the lifeless adult-hits format of "Jack FM."
For about a year, Biondi was relegated to Internet and HD Radio outlets, where he could be heard by only a small
fraction of his hundreds of thousands of former listeners.
In a final indignity last July, Biondi was fired in a corporate cost-cutting binge dubbed "Black Wednesday"
by the trade press.
Of all the blunders CBS Radio bosses have made in recent years (and there isn't enough room on this page to list
them all), their treatment of Biondi was by far the most shameful.
But better late than never, ABC seized the opportunity to hire Biondi and enhance the "True Oldies" outlet
launched last fall by Scott Shannon, the veteran New York programmer. Shannon, who'll be inducted this weekend
in the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago, has been providing recorded voice tracks for the station outside of morning
and afternoon drive.
Biondi's hiring closely follows that of another Chicago radio icon, John Records Landecker, who signed on as afternoon
personality Oct. 16. Mornings are hosted by Scott Mackay.
"How exciting it is to build a genuine oldies station here in Chicago," said John Gallagher, president
and general manager of WZZN and news/talk sister station WLS-AM (890).
"The response we received when other oldies formats went away asking us to bring back some of these radio
legends was overwhelming," Gallagher said.
"And by far the No. 1 personality they requested was Dick Biondi. He and Landecker really give the station
credibility. They make us authentic."
In addition to playing the rock 'n' roll tunes he helped make famous, Biondi will draw on his amazing memory and
vast archive of interviews and other audio clips to personalize the artists and groups featured by the station.
"John Gallagher has agreed to let me try and do some things that I don't think have ever been done before
on Chicago radio," Biondi said.
The native of Endicott, N.Y., remains as energetic and enthusiastic as he was in 1960 when he first came to Chicago
and put WLS on the map as a 50,000-watt nighttime powerhouse. He'd already been influential in advancing the careers
of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others.
Voted the nation's most popular Top 40 disc jockey in 1961 and 1962, Biondi was the first in America to play a
Beatles record on the air when "Please Please Me" was released in February 1963. He introduced the Fab
Four in concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium.
His firing that year from WLS over an off-air altercation with a sales manager became the stuff of urban legend.
Although his radio odyssey saw him crisscross the country many times, Chicagoans always were among his most ardent
fans. "The Wild I-Tralian" came back to the market in the late '60s at the former WCFL and again in the
early '80s at WBBM-FM (96.3) before settling in at WJMK.
"Chicago listeners are the most loyal fans in the world, and I ought to know," he said. "I've worked
By his count, Biondi has been fired from 24 radio stations during the course of his 56-year radio career. "I'm
not looking forward to getting fired for the 25th time," he joked.