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Surprise! Don & Roma: Chicago's new morning faves

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After 25 years on Chicago radio, the husband-and-wife team of Don and Roma Wade just made history: Their morning show on Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) hit No. 1 in the ratings for the first time ever.

Don Wade & Roma

Arbitron Portable People Meter ratings released Wednesday show the Wades overtaking newcomer Greg Jarrett of Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720) for the top spot overall among listeners age 12 and older. Granted, it’s only for the month of January. But it’s never happened before.

“This just reminds us again why Don and Roma are the anchors of WLS,” said Michael Damsky, president and general manager of the station. “It’s a very eventful year in the world, and big events are what make them definitive in terms of providing context for Chicago.”

Highlighted by the run-up to the Feb. 2 primary, January was a great month for the conservative talk station. In the 12-plus “beauty contest,” WLS also finished first in middays (previously occupied by Mancow Muller and Pat Cassidy leading into Rush Limbaugh) and evenings (with Sean Hannity and Mark Levin). Afternoons, which moved up despite significant upheaval in personnel and programming strategy, remained the station’s most unlucky daypart in 13th‚ place (with Roe Conn).

Underscoring the aging audiences of both WLS and WGN, it was quite a different story among listeners between the ages of 25 and 54 -- the group most desirable to advertisers. In the so-called “money demo,” Don and Roma tied for 12th‚ during mornings with a 2.8 percent share, while Jarrett tied for 18th‚ with a 2.4 share. Tops in mornings in the 25-to-54 category again were Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart of Bonneville International hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9).

The Wades, who’ve been married since 1979, began on WLS together in 1985 and moved to mornings when the station switched to a news/talk format in 1989. They’re negotiating a revision of the multiyear contract they signed in 2008. Here are the Top 10 stations in morning drive (6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday), followed by host and average of share of listeners age 12 and older, according to Arbitron Portable People Meter data for January 2010:

  • WLS-AM (890), Don Wade & Roma, 8.7
  • WGN-AM (720), Greg Jarrett, 8.2
  • WBBM-AM (780), Felicia Middlebrooks & John Hultman, 6.5
  • WTMX-FM (101.9), Eric Ferguson & Kathy Hart, 5.4
  • WUSN-FM (99.5), Lisa Dent & Ramblin’ Ray Stevens, 4.0
  • WOJO-FM (105.1), Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, 3.7
  • WVAZ-FM (102.7), Steve Harvey, 3.6
  • WDRV-FM (97.1), Steve Downes, 3.2
  • WLS-FM (94.7), Tom O’Toole, 3.0
  • WBBM-FM (96.3), Jamar “J Niice” McNeil & Julian Nieh, 3.0
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