Longtime WXRT-FM mainstay Lin Brehmer announced Tuesday he is taking a leave of absence from his midday show at the rock station beginning next week, as he wages a fight against prostate cancer.
Brehmer, 67, an affable on-air personality whose connection to listeners is exemplified by his catchphrase, “your best friend in the whole world,” delivered the news of his impending medical sabbatical through his Facebook page and the station’s website.
“I have been fighting prostate cancer for several years,” Brehmer said in his online statement. “I have worked through various radiation treatments, biopsies, CT Scans, MRI’s and drug therapies. The cancer was caught early, treated early, but it has spread places one would rather it did not spread.”
Starting Monday, he will begin “a long period of chemotherapy” that requires stepping away from the microphone he has manned for nearly four decades at WXRT, Brehmer said.
Brehmer, who lives on the Northwest Side with his wife, is receiving treatment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“This portion of the treatment, I think, will make doing a cheerful radio show improbable,” Brehmer told the Tribune Tuesday evening.
A Queens native and Colgate University graduate, Brehmer started his career at a radio station in Albany, New York, before joining WXRT as music director in 1984. He left the station in 1990 for a one-year stint as music director at KTCZ-FM in Minneapolis before returning to host mornings at WXRT — a position he held for nearly 30 years.
In 2020, Brehmer shifted to the midday slot, where he can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Over the years, Brehmer has dispensed wit and wisdom through a number of regular features, including “Lin’s Bin,” which airs every Monday. The very personal vignettes have covered everything from his eternal love of baseball and a tribute to Ernie Banks, to the challenges of growing up with brothers.
Brehmer said the station is planning to continue airing “Lin’s Bin” during his absence, drawing from a 20-year library where many episodes have only been heard once.
WXRT is tied for sixth in Chicago with a 3.9 share in June, according to the most recent Nielsen ratings.
The station, which is owned by Philadelphia-based radio chain Audacy, did not offer any information Tuesday about Brehmer’s on-air replacement beginning next week.
Brehmer has been an integral part of the station throughout much of its history. WXRT-FM 93.1 began as a pioneering Chicago rock station in the early 1970s, launching under local ownership with an underground melange of free-form album cuts, but only at night, after its ethnic-based programming like Korean gospel and Spanish talk radio had concluded for the day. The rock format went full time in 1976.
The station became part of CBS Radio in the late 1990s. In 2017, Entercom acquired WXRT and half a dozen other Chicago radio stations through a megamerger with CBS. The company, which rebranded as Audacy in March 2021, is the second-largest radio chain in the U.S. behind iHeartMedia, and operates more than 235 stations nationwide.
Other Chicago Audacy stations include all-sports WSCR-AM 670 and news station WBBM-AM 780.
In his social media post, Brehmer said he had the full support of family, friends and WXRT to see him through the medical leave.
As for listeners, he asked for only one thing.
“Afford me the kindness you have always shown me,” Brehmer said.
Brehmer, who will remain on-air through Friday, has a special feature planned for his final broadcast. An avid music lover and encyclopedic rock aficianado whose favorite childhood memories include seeing The Who play Forest Hills Stadium near his home in Queens in 1971, Brehmer is prone to declaring a long list of songs as the greatest ever written — much to the annoyance of some attentive listeners.
On Friday, Brehmer is going to play all of his favorites on air.
“I’m going to play about a dozen of the greatest songs ever written,” Brehmer said. “And my last selection Friday will be a song that no one will see coming. That’s a guarantee.”