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WYGY-FM 'The Wolf' Eliminates DJs

Courtesy Ernie Brown
Ernie Brown in the radio studio.

Ernie Brown, Pete Miller and Jimmy Salzurulo didn't get to say goodbye or thanks to their listeners on WYGY-FM "97.3 The Wolf" country station Tuesday.

That's what often happens in radio.

Credit Courtesy Ernie Brown
Ernie Brown with Jim LaBarbara, a long-time radio host before becoming a Sycamore Township trustee.

So Brown, a 43-year radio veteran once known as WEBN-FM's "Fat Man," wanted me to make this clear to his long-time listeners:

"Make sure people know I said thanks. They've been very kind to me over the years," says Brown, who was let go by the station after his morning shift Tuesday, followed by Miller and Salzurulo.

The 1973 Simon Kenton High School graduate started his career "playing polka music every morning" in 1975 on WFRO-AM in Fremont, Ohio, before joining WEBN-FM in 1982. He has been heard on WGRR-FM; the original Fox classic rock FM station (94.9); and for the last 17 years on The Wolf country format.

"I've met so many people who followed me to different stations – even when I switched formats from rock 'n' roll to country," he said Thursday.

From listening to "Great Country Hits 93.7 The Wolf" today, it sounds like the station will be automated without any local DJs. (Station managers didn't respond to my emails.)  The Wolf has always been the little sister station to Hubbard's WUBE-FM (105.1), the area's most popular country music station.  WUBE-FM, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next spring, was named the County Music Association's "Station of the Year" in November for the fifth time in 20 years. 

In recent years, The Wolf faced increased competition from Cumulus' WNNF-FM (NASH 94.1); and Grant County Broadcasters' classic country stations WNKR-FM in Dry Ridge covering northern Kentucky, and sister station WNKN-FM in Middletown that was part of Northern Kentucky University's WNKU network until October 2017. The Middletown FM station – a blowtorch reaching from Florence to nearly Columbus – was known as WPFB-FM, the country music "Rebel," until 2011.

The Wolf cutbacks came less than a week after the Enquirer reported that Hubbard plans to build new offices and studios for WUBE-FM, WKRQ-FM, WREW-FM and WYGY-FM near Madison Road and Kennedy Avenue in Oakley. The 30,000-square-foot building would replace the current studios at 2060 Reading Road, near Dorchester Avenue.

Miller was known as "Pistol Pete" for years on B105, before doing afternoons at The Wolf. Jimmy "The Weasel" Salzurulo has worked at a number of stations, and most recently did middays and production at The Wolf.

Brown, after returning from Fremont, studied radio/TV/film at Northern Kentucky University and interned for WEBN-FM morning DJ Robin Wood. When he was offered a job at Chillicothe's Tecumseh outdoor drama, Wood helped him get a paid position at WEBN-FM doing weekends and vacation fill-ins.  

One day when he realized that most of the 'EBN staffers were "tall and rail thin," Brown told his listeners: "My name is Ernie Brown. I'm the Fat Man at WEBN." The program director immediately popped into the studio and said, "Don't use Ernie Brown again. Call yourself the Fat Man."

That was fine with him.

"I've always been big all my life. I was 14 pounds at birth," says Brown, who worked at WEBN-FM 1982-92.

Brown, who lives in Villa Hills, said Hubbard "was kind enough to give me a severance package. I have nothing but high praise for them."

He's heard from many old radio friends and former coworkers since word spread that he was let go. He's looking for full-time work (and health insurance), "even if it's not radio," says Brown, who turns 64 in June.

"We'll assess the situation to see where's a good place to land. We'll be okay," he says.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.