The Greatest U.S. Radio Talk Show Hosts of All Time

Take a Look Back Then Compared to Now

Rush Limbaugh on radio show
 Getty images/​Mark Peterson

Talkers magazine is the leading trade publication serving the talk media industry in America. Each year the magazine compiles a list of the top radio talk show hosts. In 2002, the magazine named its greatest radio hosts of all time.

Let's take a look back at who was considered the greatest of all time in 2002. Let's compare lists to see who is topping the radio waves right now.

One thing seems to remain consistent; the personality who ranked as the greatest top talk show host of all time in 2002 is exactly the same person who continues to rank the highest now: Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh 's show has been the number one commercial talk show since at least 1987 when record keeping began. Limbaugh has a cumulative weekly audience of around 13.25 million unique listeners, who listen for at least five minutes, making The Rush Limbaugh Show the most listened-to talk-radio program in the U.S,

Top Radio Talk Show Hosts 


Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Sean Hannity

Howard Stern

Dave Ramsey

Don Imus

Mark Levin

Larry King

Glenn BeckSally Jessy Raphael
Howard SternBruce Williams
Michael Savage

Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Joe MadisonBarry Gray
Thom HartmanBarry Farber
Mike GallagherDr. Joy Brown
Bill Handel

Michael Jackson

Todd Schnitt

Art Bell

John & KenRonn Owens
Howie CarrJerry Williams
George NooryNeil Rogers
Michael BerryBob Grant
Jim BohannonLong John Nebel
Lars LarsonDavid Brudnoy
Doug StephanArthur Godfrey
Laura IngrahamBill Ballance
Alan Colmes

Neal Boortz

Michael SmerconishJ.P. McCarthy
Joe PagliaruloJean Shepherd
Dana LoeschGene Burns
Dr. Joy Brown

G. Gordon Liddy

Criteria for Selecting the Greatest All-Time Radio Hosts

According to Talkers magazine, the editorial staff did a subjective-but-educated determination of talent, longevity, success, creativity, originality, and impact on both the broadcasting industry and society in general. These individuals were considered to have made a serious difference in the industry as well as the country and culture.

As with all polls and "greatest" lists, opinions differ. The NewsMax news site compiled its own list of the top radio talk show hosts. Many of their picks were the same as above, including Limbaugh as the "king of talk radio," and others they added: Don Imus, Al Franken, Erich "Mancow" Muller, Bill Bennett, Ed Shultz, Opie & Anthony, Randi Rhodes, Larry Elder and Tom Leykis.

More About Talkers Magazine

Talkers magazine was dubbed “The Bible of Talk Radio” by Business Week Magazine.  As technology and media trends have evolved over the years, the publication expanded to serve the forms of talk media beyond just talk radio, it includes talk distributed digitally, satellite radio and talk programming on television.

History of Talk Radio

Talk shows date back to the beginning of radio and started cropping up in the 1920s. The first documented radio shows were conversations between farmers about the state of agriculture. Aimee Semple McPherson, also known as Sister Aimee, was a pioneer of the medium who used radio as a Christian evangelist.

Most talk show formats now are regularly hosted by a single individual, and often feature interviews with a number of different guests. Talk radio typically includes an element of listener participation, usually by broadcasting live conversations between the host and listeners who "call in," usually via telephone, to the show.