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Kevin Matthews Released As Cumulus Cost-Cutting Continues

Kevin Matthews, the former long-time Chicago radio star and still part-time Chicago resident, has been fired from his positions with Cumulus Media in Grand Rapids, MI. After his radio show ended today, Matthews was informed that he would no longer be the morning show host on Classic Rocker WLAV-FM and his position of Director of Program Development for the southwestern MI cluster of stations was eliminated.

The release of Kevin Matthews appears to be entirely related to severe cost-cutting by the station's new owner, Cumulus Media, and not performance-based. WLAV-FM has been consistently in the Top 10 in ratings for the Grand Rapids market. In fact, for all of 2011, the station has been sitting at #5. The station far exceeds the ratings of the other four classic rock/classic hits stations that can be heard in Grand Rapids. WLAV-FM, like Chicago's WLS-FM & WLS-AM, were previously owned by Citadel Broadcasting, but were taken over by Cumulus Media in September of this year. Over the last month, the company has been slowly going from market to market, making shocking cuts, including at stations that are doing well in ratings and revenue. The Chicago stations were hit with the budget ax just three weeks ago.

Late last night, it appeared as if Kevin Matthews knew what was coming today. He posted what seemed like a touched farewell note on his personal Facebook page which read: "I love you Kevheads so very much, thanks for the love back. What a wonderful group of human beings you are. We sure have had some laughs." The past tense of that last sentence seemed very telling.

Matthews did his regular morning show this morning, but has not made any comments publicly since the end of that show. His Facebook pages, Twitter account, and website, KevHead.com, still only mention this morning's radio show and nothing about his exit. (CRM reached out to Kevin Matthews last night. This article will be updated if he is willing to make a comment here.)

A few years ago, Kevin Matthews had returned to the Grand Rapids market where he started his career in radio back in 1978, while still a student at Grand Valley State University. After ten years in Grand Rapids, Kevin Matthews took a job at a St. Louis radio station. That St. Louis job only lasted a few months, but it brought Kev to the attention of Chicago radio programmers. In March 1987, Kevin Matthews was hired by WLUP-FM as the overnight host. His popularity skyrocketed and he quickly moved to middays on WLUP-AM. Matthews was part of the WLUP family, working back & forth between the FM & AM stations, for close to 12 years. From 1998-2001, Mathews worked mornings at WXCD-FM (which became WZZN-FM before he left and is now WLS-FM). Matthews worked at WCKG-FM (now WCFS-FM) from 2002-2005, leaving when he could not come to terms on a contract renewal with management. He tried his hand at podcasting for a short while before returning to Grand Rapid's WLAV-FM in September 2005.

During his time in Chicago, he also had a cable television show for three years called "The Jim Shorts Cavalcade of Sports (For You)," featuring his alter-ego, sports anchor Jim Shorts. Matthews performed stand-up comedy to sold out Chicago audiences for years and had a band called "Ed Zepplin," which featured some of Chicago's top rock musicians and another of Matthews' alter-egos "Eddie," a parody of Chicago radio host Ed Schwartz.

Kevin Matthew's vast fanbase refer to themselves as "Kev Heads." It is now a question if any Chicago or Grand Rapids programmers are willing (or able) to try and bring that fanbase over to their station by hiring Kevin Matthews. Otherwise, he will be another highly-talented Chicago radio star on the too-long list of names who are inexplicably off the airwaves.

Matthews, 55, and his wife split their time between Chicago and Grand Rapids, while their two adult children still live & work in the Chicago area.

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