Joe Bohannon and Eddie Volkman, two of Chicago radio's ex-million-dollar-mouths, are returning to the airwaves on Citadel Broadcasting's conservative news/talk WLS-AM (890). Starting this Saturday, Bohannon and Volkman will be on air from 7 to 9 p.m. once a week. Not exactly prime time in the radio world, but WLS management believes the two radio talents who spent 20 years at WBBM-FM (96.3) deserve to be heard again. "They are true voices of Chicago, and we think there is an interest in hearing them," said WLS general manager Michael Damsky.
For two on-air radio talents who were used to talking to a youngish Top 40 audience at WBBM-FM for decades, the new gig at WLS will involve a big learning curve, at least according to Bohannon, who says he's not sure what kind of audience he and Volkman will have now that they are on a primarily conservative talk station. "We're going to spend the whole of our first show taking phone calls, just so we can find out who is listening," explained Bohannon. Neither he nor Volkman have ever done talk radio, so it will take some time for them to figure out exactly how they will fill the two hours allotted them each week. Bohannon said he expects they will talk more about pop culture than politics in the early going. "I always believe you should go with your gut, and I think pop culture has always been our strong suit," said Bohannon.
It's also safe to say Bohannon and Volkman will no longer be working as million-dollar mouths at WLS. Both on-air talents were making well in excess of a million dollars a year in their last seven-year contract at WBBM. But both were abruptly dropped from the station in November, 2008, with several months still left on their contracts. At the time of their exit from WBBM, Bohannon and Volkman were caught up in a sharp cost-cutting binge that swept through the entire radio industry as ad revenue began to plummet.
In an interview with this newspaper late last year, Bohannon said he would love to work again in Chicago radio, and that money wasn't a key issue for him. It certainly isn't what made him and Volkman commit to the new show at WLS. "We're working for minimum wage," said Bohannon, only half jokingly. But if they find their new legs -- and an audience -- at WLS, it could lead to bigger things at the station. Damsky declined to say what other jobs might be in the offing for the two hosts at the station, except to note that Bohannon and Volkman could become regular fill-ins on the "Roe Conn Show with Richard Roeper" in afternoon drive.
But for now, Bohannon is focused on getting the new Saturday night show done right and trying to give the WLS sales department some ratings that will make their job easier. "If we are able to make some noise, I believe good things will happen," said Bohannon.