Remembering Don Tait

By Julia Maish and Keegan Morris |

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Black and white photo portrait of Don Tait

Don Tait

Longtime WFMT program host Don Tait died in December 2023 at age 82.

Tait first signed on to WFMT in June 1972 after a stint at WNIB, and he retired from WFMT in October 2007. He served, variously, as morning and midday host, and hosted such popular series as Collector’s Item and Chicago Symphony Retrospective, among others.

The legacy of Tait’s long and distinguished tenure at WFMT continues to today.

“Don Tait was a seminal figure in the history of WFMT,” said Roger Wight, WFMT’s Head of Programming and Operations. “His vast knowledge of classical music, smart and insightful commentary, and famously, his enthusiasm for vintage recordings greatly enriched the WFMT experience for listeners. He is remembered fondly by everyone who worked with him.”

Lisa Flynn recalls watching him at work in the studio. “He’d usually not even have notes in front of him. He had all the information in his head, and he could put it into complete and articulate sentences.”

But despite this fluency, Dennis Moore remembers that “Don’s modesty was such that he seemed almost embarrassed if you were saying something complimentary about his work… ‘I just try hard’ was his motto.”

As a spokesperson for historic recordings, Don would go beyond his hosting duties and “would occasionally do these massive series on these conductors he admired: Willem Mengelberg, Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski,” recounts Kerry Frumkin.

Louise Frank attests that “his passion for vintage recordings was so great. I think he told me he bought a house and had to have the floors reinforced to accommodate the weight of his record collection.”

Tait will also be remembered as a kind and welcoming colleague and host.

Frumkin remembers that, when he first arrived at the station in 1976, “Don was one of the most welcoming folks around. He was on the shift right before mine, so we got to make the transition together. He always liked to make it as warm and friendly as possible. He was amazing on the air.”

Don Tait, in blue, and Peter van de Graaff, in white, pose together

Don Tait and Peter van de Graaff at Don’s retirement celebration, October 2007

Flynn agrees. “He was an incredible storyteller on the air. That always came across.”

“He had a great love for the past while being very present,” describes Frank. “He was completely serious about the music, but also effervescently joyful. He loved this artform.”

“He was an ardent fan of what WFMT has been about since the beginning,” expresses Moore. “He roundly embraced the motto ‘Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience.’ He never talked under or over the audience.”

“He programmed with a wide dynamic range,” Frank continues. “He played vocal music, orchestral music, these incredible sounds of the past. All expecting that our listeners would join him in the excitement and passion he had for the music. And he was absolutely right.”