WGN Radio cancels Rick Pearson’s ‘Sunday Spin’ for music show

Rick Pearson

With a presidential election less than five months away, WGN 720-AM is about to drop its weekly political talk show to add another nostalgic music program to its lineup.

"The Sunday Spin: Politics with Rick Pearson," hosted since 2013 by the chief political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, airs from 5 to 7 p.m. Sundays on the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station. Its final broadcast will be this weekend.

The show originally aired from 7 to 9 a.m. Sundays, but was moved in December to accommodate the addition of “The Sinatra Hours with Dave Plier,” a showcase for the music of Frank Sinatra, from 6:30 to 9 a.m. Sundays.

Pearson declined to comment on the cancellation Tuesday, but later tweeted: "It's been great to be a part of a legacy radio station and trying to help inform about the politics and policies behind the headlines."

John Williams

Starting June 21, WGN's revamped Sunday lineup will include legal expert Karen Conti from 5 to 7 p.m., "After Hours with Rick Kogan" from 7 to 9 p.m., and the new "Sunday Standards with John Williams" from 9 to 11 p.m.

Williams, who continues to host middays and "The Wintrust Business Lunch" during the week, will host and produce the new show, billed as featuring "classic standards from the Great American Songbook."

“Some of the hits we play go back 85 years, others go back 15 years,” Williams said. “The music is really nice to listen to, and that’s the idea. I think there’s something really big about WGN Radio, a 50,000-watt AM station, energizing this music all over again – and getting people something they need right now.”

Mary Sandberg Boyle, general manager of WGN, said "Sunday Standards" was inspired by the popularity of “The Sinatra Hours," which catapulted the station from 25th place to second on Sunday mornings. Both music shows were the brainchild of Sean Compton, the executive vice president of Nexstar Media Group overseeing WGN.

“The success of ‘The Sinatra Hours’ has proven there is an appetite for nostalgia,” Boyle said. “This music is hard to find, and certainly not on free over-the-air radio. John Williams has a passion for this kind of music, so it’s a natural fit.”

Artists on "Sunday Standards" will range from Sammy Davis, Jr., Nat King Cole and Burt Bacharach to Linda Ronstadt, Barry Manilow and Amy Winehouse, according to the station.

In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WGN tied for third place overall with a 5.2 percent share and a cumulative weekly audience of 352,500.

Dick Johnson

Tuesday’s comment of the day: Raza Siddiqui: We lost a good friend. Dick Johnson was a giant in Chicago television, but that wasn’t who he was to us. He was our friend. I first met Dick when I was a news stringer on a story in Braidwood. He gave me some advice: Always grab an ice cream when in a small town. It’s delicious! Years later I asked him about that. His reply: "I’ve given you so much advice and that’s what you remember?!" He did always give me great advice. As a stepdad, I frequently had questions about kids, and as a man who always put family and friends first, he always gave me solid advice. I will always appreciate that. He was a funny, approachable, silver-lining kind of guy, which again was good because we sometimes covered terrible stories, but working with a genuinely caring person always made it easier. He touched everyone he got to know. My kids always asked to see him when they visited the station. Grateful to have had him as a friend. We will miss him. Thinking of his family tonight.