CHICAGO — Radio and television veteran Doug Banks touched many people during his lifetime. On Tuesday, the day after his death at age 57, friends, co-workers and fans explained how.
“What I liked about Doug, he was an open book and that’s why people loved him,” said Rick Party, who worked with Banks on WGCI. “He opened his life to you, from sharing the fact that his mother died to when he was diagnosed with diabetes.”
Those who knew him well said his death was, in fact, related to his diabetes. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters. One of his last public appearances was last weekend during the Black Women's Expo.
Even though he was born in Philadelphia and raised in Detroit, Chicago came to love him.
He first introduced himself to the Chicago market through WBMX Chicago, which is now V103. He hosted the morning show. Later, he moved to WGCI 107.5, where he worked from 1987 to 1994.
Banks’ resume included hosting his own syndicated show, "The Doug Banks Morning Show," which he relaunched on WVAZ, V103 in Chicago in 2008. His co-host was DeDe McGuire.
But it was during his time at WGCI, that Chicago listeners really came to appreciate Banks’ welcoming personality and sense of humor, said former co-worker Rick Party, who joined the station in 1992. Party was on air with both Banks and Tom Joyner.
“I was a part of that dream team, that power house,” he said. “Losing Doug Banks is a huge loss. Radio wouldn’t be where it is today without these guys.”
Party said he grew up listening to Banks and aspired to one day become a radio personality, which he eventually did. Currently, he’s working in Miami on Hot105 FM.
As a child, not too many people believed he would make it, he said.
“You’re talking about an Englewood kid who lived in a neighborhood where dreams don’t come true, back in the 1980s,” he said. “Here I am telling my friends, I’m going to work for WGCI. ‘One day you’re going to hear me every day’ and they’re like ‘Man, please.’ ”
He held on to hope though, and continued to work hard, he said. Banks inspired him.
Party recalls the first time he saw Banks in person.
“I was probably 15 or 16 years old,” he said. “I saw Doug on Chicago and State. He was going into a restaurant with some of his co-workers. When you meet the guy you listen to, if that’s not fate, I don’t know what fate is.”
Over the years, Party kept in touch with Banks. If they weren’t grabbing lunch together, they would text or talk on the phone. Right before his death, the two lived five minutes apart in Florida, Party said. The last time Party saw Banks, he was leaving a local CVS store last November.
“He didn’t look too good,” he said. “We didn’t talk about what was going on with him. We just talked about getting together and other stuff. Doug was a very proud person. He didn’t want to talk about what he was going through. The diabetes just got the best of him.”
Bonnie DeShong remembers the good times with Banks. She first met him in 1985 when he was at WBMX. A year later he joined WGCI where she was the traffic reporter. When his co-host Shirley Clark Strawberry moved to Los Angeles, she stepped up and took the position.
"We became very close and he became my brother," DeShong said.
A funny memory she has is a time when the station's sports reporter JJ Jackson told Banks he was getting married, and, at a reception for friends and family, asked him to be his best man.
"As Doug was giving the toast, we all yelled 'surprise!' " she said. "It was actually Doug's surprise birthday party."
He'll be missed, DeShong said.
"Doug was a giving and loving person," DeShong said. "He was funny and so talented. He was a true radio man. He loved and respected his listeners and enjoyed being with them.”
Now that he's gone, it's his legacy that will live on, she said.
"He touched so many lives. He was always open about his life and illness so that others would know they were not alone in their battles. He loved his kids with all his heart. Doug would always tell us that our listeners were our real bosses. Be honest with them and they will love you. Doug's Legacy in a nutshell is his love."
DeShong said she's still in shock about his death and feels emotionally drained. She last saw Banks on Friday at the Black Women's Expo.
"I never say I lost someone," she said. "I know exactly where Doug is. He lives in my memories and my heart and his spirit will always be with me.”
Another life Banks touched was David Leonard’s. The film/television location scout had the opportunity to do a voiceover for Banks’ syndicated show.
“That was like a huge deal for me and my boy to hear our voice on a national syndicated radio show and they would play it during the breaks,” Leonard said. “It was a really dope feeling. We were honored to be a part of it.”
He grew up listening to Banks and would see him at WGCI whenever he would stop by to drop off music he and his former rap group produced. The official introduction happened when he won a Sony video camera after answering a question correctly on Banks’ show.
Over the years, Leonard would bump into Banks at different events and they would always talk.
“He was the most genuine, down to earth cat, who always had a positive word,” he said. “What you got on the air was the same person you got in person. It wasn’t a show.”
Banks leaves behind a legacy of making people feel appreciated and special, he said.
“Radio will never be the same. There will never be another Doug Banks. He connected so closely with his listeners that people felt a kinship with him. This was their friend, their brother, cousin, neighbor and that’s something you don’t get very often in today’s entertainment or radio industry. He just was a genuine, real person. He was an open book so people felt close to him because of that.”
Banks' former intern, Dawn Edwards, known as Randi Knight on air, first met the radio host in 1996 when she interned with "The Doug Banks Morning Show."
"He was a great boss and the whole team was great to learn from," she said. "He was passionate about radio and loved what he did which was making people smile through laughter, talking about current events, life and music."
Edwards fills in and does guest shows when called upon. Banks played a role in her pursuing radio, she said, adding that she would listen to him. Edwards learned a lot from him, especially how important it is to prep before a show. She said Banks made everything look and sound natural.
Edwards said she's handling the news as best she can.
"My heart is heavy because his show was the beginning of an awesome radio career; a blessing," she said. "If I had not started there, then I don't know ..."
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