Former WLS Host Jay Marvin Dies


Jay Marvin, a progressive talk show host who dazzled listeners in Chicago and several other markets, passed away on Tuesday. The cause of death was not known.

Marvin’s death was first reported by Chicago media columnist Robert Feder, who posted a screenshot of a Facebook post announcing the radio host’s passing.

Marvin started his career in the early 1970s as a disc jockey at country music station KWMC in Del Rio, Texas. He worked his way up to a lucrative spot as a talk radio show host at WTMJ (620 AM) in Milwaukee before moving to WLS (890 AM) in the 1990s. He worked at WLS for three years before leaving for a similar talk show host spot in Denver, only to return to WLS in 1999. He went back to Denver in 2005, where he worked for KKZN (760 AM) until his retirement.

Tom Tradup, the vice president of news and talk programming at Salem Radio Network in Dallas, told Radio Ink he helped bring Marvin to WLS and the Chicago area in the mid-1990s, where he became an instant hit with cab drivers, teachers unions and other listeners.

“[He was] so unlike our other conservative hosts at the time,” Tradup said. “Fans even turned out by the thousands for his annual JayStock festivals in Wisconsin. Jay was one in a million.”

Tradup said Marvin billed himself as “Chicago’s lovable manic-depressive,” and he drew a sizable audience to the fringe overnight time slot of 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Marvin retired in 2010, writing on his blog that his decision to exit radio was due to his health and a number of other factors.

“This wasn’t the way I wanted to go out,” he wrote, noting that an infection in his spine caused him to undergo serious surgery, one that involved more than three months of recovery in a hospital. He credited his wife, Mary, with taking care of him while he was recovering from the infection.

“She was with me at Rose Hospital arguing for better care for me — fighting with doctors, going to New Jersey for 6 weeks for the operation, and then home again. Taking care of me hand bathing me when I couldn’t move, and helping me with the pain,” he wrote.

Marvin said he was grateful to be part of the progressive radio industry, and appreciative of the opportunities that came his way.

“I’ve been many places, met more interesting people than one man should’ve, and met a lot of listeners who were great,” he wrote. “They knew a lot of what I said was a joke, because they were smart enough to read between the lines. I am now, and always will be very left-wing, and I was lucky enough to be a part of talk radio when there was local talent on the air doing schtick, and having fun.”

Memorial service information wasn’t immediately available as of Tuesday.


  1. Added since I can’t edit my comment, and to clear up an incomplete sentence:
    When we, his listeners, learned of Jay’s health issues and, later, of his retirement, both of which Jay explained on the air, it was very sad news for all of us, and it was covered all across Denver media.


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