Dan McNeil had a chance to return to his old turf.
WSCR 670 AM called a couple of weeks ago when former Bear Patrick Mannelly decided to walk away from his role as McNeil’s replacement on the midday show.
McNeil listened, but he said his mind already was made up. It was time to head in another direction.
Or as he says, “I knew I was ready for a change in the backdrop.”
Tuesday, it was announced officially McNeil will team with Pete McMurray for a new morning show on “The Drive,” WDRV-FM 97.1. Initially reported by Robert Feder, the pair will replace Steve Downes, who is retiring.
McNeil said the new show, which will begin in early March, will feature “a guy-talk format” on the classic rock station.
“I get excited talking about music and movies,” McNeil said. “You know, the type of stuff guys talk about with their buddies on the golf course. That’s what the show will sound like.”
Of course, there will be sports talk. McNeil figures Bears discussion will be prevalent on Mondays after a game. However, unlike his previous jobs, he won’t be involved in 24/7 chatter about who will fill the Bears’ holes at linebacker.
“We’re not going to ignore what a huge percentage of men want to talk about (the Bears),” McNeil said. “But let’s put it this way: I can kick around Jay Cutler for five minutes and say, ‘Here’s ACDC,'”
McNeil made his name during nearly 30 years in sports talk radio. His shows have delivered strong ratings at WSCR and WMVP-AM 1000. However, when he parted ways with WSCR in August, he said it had more to do than not coming to terms on a new contract. He walked away from a reported $350,000-400,000 per year offer.
McNeil describes himself as a “risk-taker” who gets “uncomfortable sometimes with routine.”
“The station was great to me, and (program director) Mitch Rosen has been as loyal to me as anyone in radio,” McNeil said. “There was nothing contentious in our parting of the ways. A lot of this was about me wanting to do (something different).”
In October, McNeil said he heard from Greg Solk, the senior vice president of programming for Hubbard Radio, about the possibility of coming to “The Drive.” Eventually, their discussions led to a new job that McNeil said “fulfills a dream I’ve had for close to a decade.”
“Anyone who knows me or has heard me won’t be surprised by this,” McNeil said. “My passion for music often exceeds that for ballgames. One of the biggest appeals to me was how fond I was of the station. It is a crown jewel of Chicago radio. It seemed like the perfect fit.”
It’s not all perfect. Pre-dawn wake-up calls will require a considerable lifestyle change for McNeil. That’s hardly a small detail considering his openly-acknowledged battles with depression and addiction problems.
McNeil said he already is adjusting his body clock by getting up early in anticipation of his new job.
“If I continue my mental health regime, I’m good,” McNeil said.
When told during a 8 a.m. interview on Tuesday that his day would be half-finished in his new role, McNeil laughed and tried to look at the bright side.
“Yeah, sometimes it’s going to suck waking up at 4,” McNeil said. “But being on the tee box at 11 doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”
Credit to the Chicago Tribune who originally published this article