OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Big changes and return of familiar voices at WGN Radio

2013-08-22T00:00:00Z 2013-08-23T14:46:04Z OFFBEAT: Big changes and return of familiar voices at WGN RadioBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

For all the readers who have called or emailed asking about the "changing of the guard" of on-air names, here's the scoop about what's happening at Chicago's WGN Radio.

One of the last times I wrote about this subject was in December 2011, when readers asked about "the disappearance" of morning drive host Greg Jarrett.

Texas native Jarrett, 62, who came to Chicago in 2009 from San Francisco, was released from his WGN morning radio show duties after signing-off from his Dec. 2, 2011 show.

Jarrett, who succeeded previous WGN-AM morning radio favorites Spike O'Dell, Bob Collins and Wally Phillips was replaced with Jonathon Brandmeier, 57, who was said to have signed "a multi-year contract."

On Wednesday, Tribune Media Company sources leaked a complete "re-do" to the WGN Radio schedule and now Brandmeier is out as the morning drive radio personality and will be replaced by Steve Cochran, 52, who used to have the WGN Radio 3 p.m. weekdays broadcast slot, until he was ousted in 2010 by then program director Kevin Metheny's massive changes.

As for Brandmeier, it seems WGN is looking to branch out it's broadcasting with an FM station. Until that happens, Brandmeier will move to what the station management describes as "an online presence." It appears the same is in store for mid-mornings weekdays personality Mike McConnell, 58, who came to WGN in 2010, also hired by Metheny, and previously hosted a radio show in 25 years in Cincinnati, where his ex-wife Mary Kuzan is also a noted radio personality. Starting this month, McConnell's 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. show moved to a digital only format and is now only heard online at WGN2. Brandmeier's final on-air broadcast is on Friday. Guest hosts will fill in next week until Cochran takes over Sept. 2.

For the past two weeks, Chicago Radio and TV personality Bob Sirott, 64, whose contract at Chicago FOX-WFLD Channel 32 TV was not renewed this month, has been filling in, along with his wife, Marianne Murciano, 55, for the absent O'Connell. I'm told husband and wife duo Sirott and Murciano are being made permanent WGN weekday radio show host from noon to 3 p.m. and Bill Leff moves to weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon.

The biggest shock to the airwaves is the WGN Radio return of Kathy O'Malley and Judy Markey's popular show, a 20-year broadcast tradition which was abruptly axed in May 2009. I'm told the duo has agreed to do a weekly Saturday show from 10 a.m. to noon.

Garry Meier, 64, the WGN afternoon radio personality and his weekdays 3 to 7 p.m. show remain firmly in place, with WGN management hinting about more "crossover" uses of WGN dual radio and TV talents like meteorologist Tom Skilling and entertainment reporter Dean Richards.

Last month, WGN Radio cancelled "The Noon Show" with host Carol Roth. And at the start of 2013, John Williams, 53, a mainstay on WGN Radio, completed his run in Chicago to concentrate on doing a radio show in Minneapolis. Last December, WGN announced it was also ending the nearly four-decade weeknight radio show of Milt Rosenberg, 87, a University of Chicago psychology professor.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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