Richard Roeper: WGN's Radio Daze

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Posted by on June 17, 2009 at 12:49:14:

Radio daze

Some of the most popular Chicago radio personalities of the last three decades were originally from someplace else.

The late Bob Collins of WGN fame was born in Tennessee, lived in Florida and worked in Milwaukee, San Diego and Los Angeles before coming to Chicago.

Steve Dahl is a native of Pasadena. He was a star in Detroit before he arrived in Chicago at the age of 24 and forever changed radio.

Jonathan Brandmeier is a cheesehead from Wisconsin who was hugely popular in Phoenix before he came to WLUP-FM in the early 1980s.

Each of these personalities -- along with other non-natives of Chicago such as Mancow, Don Wade & Roma and Doug Banks -- worked long and hard to win over the notoriously tough and territorial Chicago audiences. You can't just swoop into town, mispronouncing "Dolton" and "Goethe" while declaring you've always been a diehard Cubs fan, and win folks over.

(Of course, for every non-Chicagoan who has made it big in radio here, there are many more who hailed from the area and have Chicago in their blood -- from Bob Sirott to Roe Conn to Eric and Kathy and many, many more.)

It's easier for comedic personalities to make the adjustment than it is for more news-oriented hosts. Funny is funny. You can gradually work in the local references. But if you're new in town and your topic menu includes the parking meter follies, Patti Blagojevich, Daley's nephew, Cubs vs. Sox and the Chicago locations where they filmed "Public Enemies"--it's gonna be tough to sound like an authority.

Such is the challenge facing Greg Jarrett, the new morning host on WGN-AM (720). Until this week, probably 99 percent of Chicago area listeners had never heard of Jarrett, a former talk show host at San Francisco's KGO-AM.

Reading Jarrett's bio, you can't deny his credentials or his work ethic. He deserves a fair shot. But it's an enormous challenge. After all the years I've spent writing and broadcasting in Chicago, I couldn't imagine moving to San Francisco, turning on the mike and offering my take on what's happening in the Bay Area.

(Chicago Sun-Times)

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