Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic
December 16, 2005 03:00 PM

Howard Stern played “Taps” in the background as he marked his final day on free radio Friday.

“Good morning, and welcome to the last show on terrestrial radio,” the shock jock said to launch his grand finale, which opened with a Stern-centric remake of “What A Wonderful World,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered outside his radio studio in a steady drizzle in midtown Manhattan, many of them signs that praised Stern and attacked the Federal Communications Commission, which Stern regularly criticized on his show. (In 1995, Infinity Broadcasting paid $1.7 million to settle complaints by the FCC against the outspoken radio personality.)

“I’m a dedicated listener. I wanted to see this happen,” Chris Casavant, who drove from Farmington, N.J., at 4:30 a.m., told the Associated Press.

Stern, who’s been a New York radio fixture for 20 years and boasted some 12 million daily listeners, will make his move to satellite radio – where his once-free speech will cost listeners $12.95 a month – on Jan. 9.

His move to Sirius Satellite Radio comes with a huge financial reward: Stern signed a five-year, $500 million contract to create two new channels for Sirius. The salaries, overhead and other programming costs come out of his windfall.

Among the Stern regulars on his show Friday were “Jeff the Drunk” and “Beetlejuice,” who led a sing-along.

David Lee Roth, the original frontman for Van Halen, is among the many replacements who will be filling Howard Stern’s shoes. Roth will be heard in many East Coast markets including New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Stern listeners in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas will hear comedian Adam Carolla.

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