Matt Siegel, host of the longtime “Matty in the Morning” show on KISS 108 FM, told listeners Tuesday that he’s retiring, ending a four-decade run during which he amassed an enormous following but also, of late, stirred controversy with impolitic remarks on gender issues.
“As of now, I am retired,” Siegel said in a prerecorded message to listeners that aired shortly after 8 a.m. “I’m leaving KISS 108 and starting my new life as a mediocre golfer. OK, that’s being kind, let me rephrase — I’m starting my new retired life as a lousy golfer. But we decided it was time.”
The abrupt farewell followed two weeks of speculation about Siegel’s future, fueled by his unexplained absence from the morning show he’d hosted since 1981. In his statement, Siegel, who’s 72, cited recent health challenges and a diminished enthusiasm for the job and all that it entails.
“This past year has been a little rough for me,” Siegel said. “I had brain surgery. I had a broken foot. I started getting a little grumpy on the radio, which I hate because all I want to do is make people laugh. That’s my job, just to make people laugh. And I got off target, I guess you would say.”
He said his wife and four children helped steer him toward retirement.
Siegel thanked his colleagues, past and present, as well as his legions of loyal listeners. “Matty in the Morning” has enjoyed consistently high ratings, establishing Siegel as a bona fide legend of Boston radio. A two-time winner of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Marconi Award for Personality of the Year, he was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
Whether on their way to work or dropping the kids off at school, listeners tuned in faithfully not for the Top 40 format, but to hear Siegel’s amusing banter, a mix of sly humor, snark, and occasional sweetness. “Matty in the Morning” routinely ranked No. 1 among women in the 18-to-49 demographic.
“Not in a million years would I have ever thought I would have the following that I have with my silly jokes and my silly interviews,” he said in his message to listeners. “I love you guys.”
In an interview with The Boston Globe after Tuesday’s announcement, Siegel reiterated that he’s retiring because the job “got to be not that fun anymore.” He said the last few years, in particular, have been difficult, personally and professionally.
“COVID hit and it just changed everything,” Siegel said, reached by phone in Florida. “My wife and I ended up staying (in Florida), and there was a little disconnect between me and my team because I was here and they were there.”
It’s an unceremonious end for a radio personality whose influence, despite solid ratings, had started to wane in the streaming era, with younger listeners increasingly preferring the freewheeling podcast format to the less imaginative programming of commercial radio. Calling his career “legendary,” Siegel’s bosses at iHeartMedia wished the longtime host well on his way out the door — “Matty, we hope you enjoy more time on the golf course. Hit ‘em straight!” they said in a statement — and Siegel’s many fans and admirers praised him on social media.
“The best in the business will be missed,” tweeted 7NEWS reporter Steve Cooper.
“What a legendary career,” tweeted WBZNewsRadio anchor and reporter Jim MacKay.
Regular listeners also chimed in.
“My mom used to listen to him in high school and so did I,” one recent UNH grad tweeted. “One of the best morning radio talk shows.”
Matt Siegel from matty in the morning has retired this morning after 41 years!! My mom used to listen to him in high school and so did I. One of the best morning radio talk shows— Amanda Cassidy (@shadowgirlac) May 3, 2022
“Heard the announcement from @MattyShow retiring,” tweeted a Fitchburg resident. “Well deserved and one of the nicest people in radio I met. I remember meeting him backstage at Kiss concert. Definitely going to miss hearing Matty when I turn my radio on in the morning. Grateful I was able to meet Matty.”
Heard the announcementfrom @MattyShow retiring. Well deserved and one of the nicest people in radio I met. I remember meeting him backstage at Kiss concert. Definitely going to miss hearing Matty when I turn my radio on in the morning. Grateful I was able to meet Matty. @Kiss108 pic.twitter.com/fcYzc2TIl8— Alycia Madigan (@SharksFan_39) May 3, 2022
A year ago, Siegel sparked controversy with comments he made following pop star Demi Lovato’s announcement that they are nonbinary. At the time, Siegel told listeners he was being ordered to “stop talking about what I’ve been talking about” and then he signed off, saying, “I just want to say, I love my listeners . . . and it’s been a hell of a run, but I think it’s coming to an end.” It wasn’t. He was back on the air the next day.
Speaking to the Globe Tuesday, Siegel acknowledged that his comments about Lovato were thoughtless.
“I’d never experienced negative heat like that before because it didn’t really exist before the social media thing,” he said. “I’ve said a lot of stupid things. The stuff that happened a year ago is my fault. I acted like a jerk and I got heat for it. But I don’t want that to be my legacy.”
Siegel said so-called cancel culture is real — “it’s true that you can’t say things you used to be able to say” — but he didn’t let himself off the hook for making statements that some viewed as hurtful or insulting.
“I don’t want to sit here and say I was the golden boy and never did anything wrong,” Siegel told the Globe Tuesday. “There were days when I was just in a grumpy mood and wasn’t funny. So, yes, if I could do over that thing a year ago, I wouldn’t have even come in.”
Still, Siegel said the decision to leave now is entirely his. He had been off the air since April 20, and one day earlier he told listeners he visited the doctor the previous day to get his prostate checked. Lisa Donovan, one of Siegel’s longtime cohosts on “Matty,” has also been off the air since April 20. Co-host Billy Costa has continued to host the show in their absence.
“There’s a time to say goodbye, and I don’t really want to be one of those guys who misses the limelight so bad I keep doing it. I’m 72, for god’s sake,” Siegel said. “And adults 25-54, which is (the demographic) everybody looks at, we’re No. 1. So I officially left on top.”
The New York native, whose first job in Boston was working alongside Charles Laquidara on WBCN, said it was a thrill to be embraced by the city.
“Boston adopted me and it was a spectacular experience,” Siegel said. “And, you know, when the pressure was on, and it wasn’t laugh time, like 9-11 and the (Boston) Marathon bombing, I was there for the city. I love this town.”
In announcing his retirement, Siegel said he’s done with radio “as of now,” which may lead some to wonder if he’s already contemplating a return to the airwaves elsewhere.
“I can’t. I’m under contract,” Siegel said. “Now, maybe when I’m 80 years old and get a call from MAGIC (106.7). . . ”
Material from prior Globe stories and from Boston.com was used in this report.