Big John Howell heads to WLS; Roe Conn to WGN-AM
(Editor’s Note: This post was updated to add new information from WGN and to replace an incorrect Feder link in the article, as yours truly used the wrong one. T Dog Media apologizes for the errors. -T.H.)
In order to attract more listeners, Cumulus’ WLS-AM and WGN-AM made moves this week, with WLS getting a new morning show while WGN added a new afternoon show.
“Big” John Howell, a WUSN-FM alum, has jumped ship from WIND-AM to WLS, ending a eight-year stint as morning personality at the Salem-owned talker. Howell will take over WLS in the same daypart on January 19.
Howell replaces Dan Proft and Bruce Wolf’s morning show. While Wolf is expected to remain with WLS in some capacity, the station’s ties to Proft have been cut.
After a stint co-hosting a morning show for the then-classic rock-formatted WCKG from 1988-89, Howell joined WUSN as an afternoon personality later in 1989, and was later promoted to morning personality. After leaving WCKG, he landed at WIND in 2006, where he was first paired with Cisco Cotto and then later with former T.V. news reporter Amy Jacobson.
No word on who’ll take the place of Howell in the morning shift, Jacobson is expected to stay and is likely getting a new co-host.
Across town meanwhile, WGN Radio had news of its own – it was hiring former WLS afternoon co-host Roe Conn for the same shift. Conn was at WLS for more than a decade, paired with another former WLS personality, Garry Meier.
Conn’s contract expired last month, and he lost his afternoon drive shift to Steve Dahl last November.
The hire was the subject of speculation over the last year or so given Conn’s supposed ties to current WGN-AM general manager Jimmy DeCastro. Snaring him was a move many observers saw coming a mile away.
Conn’s arrival at WGN is likely to make fans of Garry Meier – who lost the afternoon drive shift last spring and was sent to WGN’s Internet feed until last November when he was let go for good – even angrier, as criticism of the move hasn’t subsided, if you measure response from message boards and comment sections on the matter.
To make room to Conn, WGN is moving Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder’s show to 9 a.m. In turn, they replace John Williams’ 10 a.m.-noon show, as he has been exiled to weekends (Williams still has his WCCO-AM daily show.)
But the real question is, will all these moves make a difference? Ratings for WIND and WLS in morning drive and for WGN and WLS in afternoon drive have not been impressive, ranking below twentieth place in the 25-54 demo. Conn was stalled at the ratings gate over the last few years at WLS, so its puzzling why WGN would want him. So far, the constant recycling of talent on AM radio in Chicago hasn’t given many listeners the will to stick around.
This article was originally posted on January 13, 2015 and updated on January 16, 2015.