Some familiar voices echoed outside the studios of Tribune’s WGN Radio Chicago 6/27, as the station honored 10 of its air personalities with sidewalk plaques in a new Walk of Fame outside the showcase studio along Michigan Avenue. Roy Leonard, Spike O’Dell and Orion Samuelson were among the honorees on a makeshift stage as a crowd of friends, family and fans gathered for the 90-minute ceremony near Tribune Tower.
“Without the listener, this doesn’t happen,” O’Dell told the audience. “It’s overwhelming.”
The event was broadcast live on the heritage news-talker, which is celebrating its 90th year on the air.
Other inaugural inductees include Jack Brickhouse, Bob Collins, Judy Markey, Kathy O’Malley, Wally Phillips, Milt Rosenberg and Quin Ryan, said the Chicago Tribune story.
Chicago Tribune publisher Col. Robert McCormick put WGN on the air in March 1924, with the call letters taken from the newspaper’s audacious claim as the World’s Greatest Newspaper. Over the years, the groundbreaking station aired everything from the first Indianapolis 500 broadcast to the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Ryan, who was represented onstage by his cousin, Justin O’Brien, was with the station at the beginning and served as correspondent during the Scopes trial in 1925.
Collins, who joined WGN in 1974, became morning drive host in 1986 and one of the station’s most enduring air personalities. He died in 2000 in a midair plane collision and was represented by his wife, Christine Collins, at the ceremony.
“I’m just grateful for you to memorialize Bob like this,” she told the audience. “I didn’t want anyone to ever forget him, and now you won’t.”
At a reception after the ceremony, Leonard, surrounded by family, reflected on the honor and his prolific career at WGN, which spanned 1967 to 1998.
“It wasn’t a job,” said Leonard, 83, who lives in a retirement home in Evanston. “I’d get up, and I’d go to work in the morning, looking forward to the day.”
Leonard said he is still recognized by his voice and continues to be surprised by the impact his career had on so many listeners.
“How much they depend upon us. … It amazes me,” Leonard said.
Kathy & Judy, the popular “Girlfriends” midday duo ousted in 2009 after 20 years, were brought back last year by WGN GM Jimmy de Castro to host a weekly Saturday show from 10 a.m. to noon. Both were on hand for the event.
“The honor is overwhelming,” Markey said after the ceremony. “Being called legendary makes me realize I must be old, so that’s a little harsh. But I also have to say, with all the people that have come back, it’s better than a high school reunion.”