Johnny B. on the loose
In the closing moments of Jonathon Brandmeier’s now-famous music video screed, “Johnny B.: The Unemployed Radio Mo Fo,” there’s a shot of him in front of Tribune Tower holding a sign that says: “WILL WORK … for a million dollars” (followed by a 12-letter epithet). Could that turn out to be a prophecy come true?
Adding high-octane fuel to speculation that Johnny B. might indeed be headed for WGN-AM (720), the veteran Chicago radio personality was spotted being given a grand tour of the Tribune Co.-owned news/talk station Saturday by program director Kevin “Pig Virus” Metheny.
While no formal offer has been made, sources said, Brandmeier’s personal inspection of the studios and facilities — in full view of numerous staffers — was the surest sign yet of WGN’s interest in hiring him. Adding Brandmeier is seen as a way to re-energize the station’s lineup — particularly in mornings, where newcomer Greg Jarrett has been struggling to fit in since June. Middays and afternoons also are possibilities, although frequent preemptions for Cubs baseball broadcasts make those options appear less likely for Brandmeier.
It’s not the first time WGN executives have expressed interest in the funnyman from Fond du Lac, but talks appear to have progressed farther this time than ever before. Tom Langmyer, vice president and general manager of WGN, is known to be a fan and admirer.
Brandmeier, 53, has been weighing his options since Nov. 30, when he was abruptly dropped after four years as morning personality at classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9). He still had three months left on his million-dollar contract when cash-strapped Emmis Communications chose not to renew the deal. His high-energy comedy/talk “showgram” was replaced by a music-intensive morning show hosted by John “Byrd” Kempf.
A fixture on the Chicago radio scene for nearly three decades, Brandmeier’s star shined brightest during his initial run on the Loop from 1983 to 1997. At WGN, he’d find some familiar faces from that era, including his former producer and right hand, Jimmy “Bud” Wiser, and midday host Garry Meier.