Pandemic, expiring contract forces end of show
[Editor’s Note: This post was updated on November 21 as Muller’s replacement was named on Friday.]
The last time Mancow Muller found himself out of a job was two and a half years ago when the station he worked for was sold and flipped to a Contemporary Christian music format.
This time, it’s voluntary – Muller announced earlier this week he was exiting his WLS-AM morning gig after just two years as his contract expires at the end of next month, his second tour of duty with the station.
Beginning December 14, former KTAR/Phoenix host Bruce St. James will take his place. St. James spent ten years as host of the Bonneville-owned station.
In an interview with Robert Feder who broke the story, Muller felt he was burned out – and the pandemic has only hastened his feelings.
“Much of the enjoyment I had left doing radio has been sucked out of it,” Muller told Feder on Monday. “Alone in an office building with no guests and endless rules is not my idea of a creative process. . . . For me, no interaction has been the radio kiss of death. Talking during this political season and hearing endless tales of woe from my listeners has been radio without joy.”
Since the pandemic started in March, many radio personalities had to work at home or in empty studios in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The pandemic has also wrecked advertising revenues in all media, with radio especially hard hit with numerous radio chains laying off tons of personnel, Cumulus included. Rival chain iHeartMedia has announced a running list of layoffs than began two weeks ago.
The move leaves a hole in WLS’ lineup, a situation which could accelerate as syndicated radio personality Rush Limbaugh has terminal lung cancer as his show’s end is right around the corner. No replacement has been named as Muller exits November 25, though names such as Steve Cochran and Roe Conn have been floated about. In the interim, guest hosts will sit in.
The move to re-hire Muller – by his old nemesis Marv Nyren was odd. While he was on WLUP-FM in 2017, Muller slapped Nyren with a lawsuit claiming “emotional distress” (the frivolous suit was dropped mere weeks later.) Nyren was Muller’s boss at WKQX when he was fired from the station in 2006, where Muller sued him for libel. Nevertheless, Nyren re-hired Muller anyway to become WLS-AM’s new morning man.
Adding to this was the controversy surrounding him and pastor James McDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, who sued Cumulus and WLS for libel after Muller aired outtakes of McDonald on his show, as he was accused of embezzling money from the church, among other things. Muller blamed McDonald for tainting his relationship between him and Cumulus, and is threatening to countersue. Muller claims WLS management barred him from talking about the case on the show.
The Kansas City, Mo. native has worked in radio for over a quarter of a century in a variety of formats in his hometown, Salinas, Calif., and San Francisco, where he earned notoriety for stopping rush hour traffic in order to get a haircut, mimicking then-President Bill Clinton’s haircut at a airport, delaying flights. Muller arrived in Chicago in 1994 to helm WRCX-FM’s morning show and jumped to WKQX four years later in a well-publicized move. Many have criticized Muller for being more or less, a low-budget Howard Stern clone.
After Muller left WKQX, he moved to WLS-AM with an ill-fated show with Pat Cassidy from 2008 to 2010. His syndicated radio show was carried by WCKG-AM starting in 2011 and added as a daily simulcast by Fox-owned My Network TV affiliate WPWR-TV in 2012, whose ratings were often hash marks – meaning basically a zero rating or the audience was too small to measure by Nielsen. Both were simultaneously canceled in 2014.with WCKG bailing out months earlier.
Muller was then hired by the aforementioned WLUP in a rigged morning show “contest” from 2015 to 2018. Since he left WKQX, Mancow was unable to reclaim the popularity he had at the station or at WRCX. His recent stint as a conservative talk show host at WLS didn’t resonate much in the ratings, finishing outside of the top ten.
So what’s next? While Muller says there’s no joy in radio anymore (that’s for sure), don’t count him out. Once things return to normal – if that’s possible, he might stage yet another radio comeback, despite what he says (because we’ve heard him say this stuff before.) If not, he could consider a run as a Republican (of course) candidate for Illinois governor or Mayor of Chicago, as Muller was seen at numerous “Reopen Illinois” and “Back The Blue” rallies around town in recent months and has regularly blasted local Democrats on his show. Either way, this won’t be the last you’ll hear from Mancow Muller, so don’t pop those champagne bottles just yet.
I’m keeping mine in the fridge.