Published on Saturday, 02 June 2012 12:05
WDRV-FM/WWDV-FM, aka The Drive, has had to make a change in its weekend lineup, at least temporarily. Carla Leonardo is taking a personal leave of absence from the station to deal with a health issue. In her place, The Drive has picked up former WLUP-FM mainstay Byrd.
Carla Leonardo has been with WDRV-FM since 2001, working mainly as a weekend and fill-in personality. This week, she entered the hospital to begin treatment for Acute Leukemia. She is hopeful to beat this issue and be back on the air as soon as possible. This will be a tough battle for her. Please keep Carla Leonardo in your thoughts.
Leonardo's slightly raspy, but always cheerful voice has been warming the hearts and ears of classic rock fans on The Drive for well over a decade. That great radio voice has been heard on Chicago's airwaves even longer. The Chicago native also had stints on WLUP-FM (late 70s to mid 80s) and WKQX-FM (mid-80s to mid-90s). In fact, it was Carla Leonardo who kicked off WKQX-FM's famed Alternative era, by being the first DJ on the air and playing the track "Friday I'm in Love" by the Cure.
In addition to her many years on the radio in her hometown, Carla Leonardo has also worked in radio all over the country... and world. She has been a DJ in Texas, Oregon, Washington, and Massachusetts, as well as in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Filling the shoes of Carla Leonardo is no easy task, but Greg Solk, Senior Vice President of Programming for Hubbard Broadcasting, and Patty Martin, Program Director for WDRV-FM, found the perfect person to fill-in for her: Byrd.
He had been the #1 "free agent" rock DJ on the market, since he was fired from WLUP-FM in a cost-cutting move by new station owner Merlin Media on April 27th. (News of Byrd's forced exit was exclusively mentioned HERE
first.) It was Greg Solk who was instrumental in first bringing Byrd to WLUP-FM in 2003, while Solk was a head programmer for Bonneville International, who owned the radio station at that time. He now was instrumental in bringing Byrd to The Drive, at least for the time being.
John "Byrd" Kempf has been a fan of Chicago radio since he was a child. (The "Byrd" nickname was given to him as young boy, before he even started in radio.) Growing up in Fort Frances, Ontario, he would be able to pick up the Chicago radio waves, especially at night. At 15, he started working at an AM radio station in Fort Frances, just over the border from International Falls, MN. That propelled him on to a career in radio that has gone on for almost 35 years since then. Byrd has worked at radio stations in Canada in Winnipeg and Toronto, as well as across the United States in Las Vegas, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. A huge fan & aficionado of rock and roll, Byrd has been fortunate enough to have worked at rock stations for all but two of his many years in radio.
In his nine years at The Loop, Byrd had worked every shift there, starting as its late night DJ. He had been the morning show host twice, worked middays, and most recently, worked afternoon drive, as the station's #1 rated personality. In the last few months, the station's new management & ownership decided to no longer have daypart shifts and has had the DJs pre-record parts to be inserted between songs throughout the entire day and night. A sports fan, Byrd had also been pre-recording sports news updates, which were played in the later half of the day on WLUP-FM sister-station WIQI-FM/FM News 101.1.
Hired earlier this week, Byrd began his fill-in duties last night on The Drive. In a memo sent out to staffers at The Drive on Wednesday, Solk & Martin wrote: "Byrd is a pro and will represent The Drive to Chicago elegantly."