Jim Grady, a fixture on Santa Rosa's airwaves for more than 40 years, is leaving radio station KSRO next week.

Grady, 68, said he was "forced out," but KSRO officials said he surprised them by turning down their offer of an hourlong midday talk show.

"It's a joke," Grady said, asserting that an hour is insufficient to do a talk show with news and advertisements.

"You can't do anything in an hour," he said. "I was definitely forced out."

His last show will be March 26, the station said.

Grady, a Santa Rosa resident, has been the lighthearted, mellow-voiced "morning man" on KSRO since he went on the air April 1, 1960.

KSRO, in a news release, said Grady's 44-year career with the station included more than 10,000 daily shows.

For more than 30 years, Grady teamed with Merle Rossman, known on the air as Merle Ross, providing the banter to Ross' news reporting. The pair also broadcast high school and junior college basketball and football games for two decades.

"He was a consummate pro," said Rossman, who left KSRO in 1996. Grady, he said, was "kind of like a kid brother."

In a written statement, Rick Eytcheson, senior vice president of Maverick Media, said Grady had an "enduring impact" on KSRO, one of 17 stations the company owns in California, Hawaii, Wisconsin and Ohio.

"It is impossible to overstate his contribution to this station, this community and this industry," Eytcheson said.

Maverick Media, which has owned KSRO for three years, plans a "more news-intensive" focus for the station, said Brian Hudson, program and news director. Hudson said he talked to Grady about moving him from a four-hour morning show to a midday slot.

"We wanted to make that transition with him as part of the team," Hudson said, denying that Grady was ousted.

Hudson said he did not expect Grady to turn down the offer, but acknowledged that the change in time slots would be "a challenge."

Maverick Media, based in Westport, Conn., owns three other Sonoma County radio stations: KVRV, the River; KXFX, the Fox; and KFGY, Froggy.

"Radio once was a lot of fun," said Rossman, who said he had urged Grady to follow him into retirement. "It's cutthroat like everything else these days."

Grady noted that Maverick was the station's third owner since it was sold in 1989 by Ernest L. Finley, the former Press Democrat owner who established KSRO in 1937 as the North Bay's first radio station.

"Gimme the old days," said Grady, who was an ad salesman for the station and a community fund-raiser as well as a radio personality.

Grady declined to say what he will do next, but hinted he was not going to retire. "I'm not going anywhere," he said.