Tuesday, September 11, 2018

R.I.P.: Former Chicago Radio Personality Bob Barnes

Bob Barnes
Bob Barnes-Watts was an on-air personality on three Chicago radio stations in the 1980s and 1990s, including WCKG-FM and WFYR-FM.

An Englishman, Barnes-Watts stood out from the many other voices on Chicago radio because of what he described to the Tribune in 1991 as a “general English public school” accent.

”Barnes-Watts, 63, died of complications from cancer on Aug. 13 at his home in Inverness, Scotland, said a longtime friend, former WCKG-FM program director Dan Michaels.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Barnes-Watts grew up near Plymouth, England, in that nation’s southwest corner. A lifelong railroad enthusiast, Barnes-Watts was working for British Rail in 1980 when he encountered a vacationing American woman from Kansas City, Mo., in Penzance, England. The couple began a whirlwind romance, and they soon married and moved to the U.S.

Barnes-Watts first worked as a salesman but soon talked his way into an on-the-spot interview with the program director of KBEQ-FM, an album-rock station in Kansas City. Hired as a weekend jock and later promoted to weeknights, Barnes-Watts worked at that station for two years before shifting to a job on the air at adult-contemporary station WRAL-FM in Raleigh, N.C.

After a year and a half at WRAL, Barnes-Watts came to Chicago in 1984, when he took a midday hosting job at oldies station WFYR-FM.

In July 1989, Barnes-Watts, WFYR’s morning host Cory Deitz, its program director Kenny Lee and a producer were let go from WFYR as part of a retooling of the station.

Barnes-Watts returned to radio in November 1990 as a weekend and fill-in jock at WCKG-FM. While there, he began hosting the popular “Breakfast with the Beatles” show, about the Fab Four. Barnes-Watts left WCKG at the end of 1993. He then spent the summer of 1994 as the midday host at KZFX-FM in Houston.

In late 1995, he came back on Chicago’s airwaves for a third time when he joined WRCX-FM as part of its weekend air staff. He was on WRCX until late 1997, when he moved back to the U.K.

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