Jonathon Brandmeier is life of the party in concert

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 5, 1989

There are a lot of disc jockeys that listeners automatically will tune away from. And then there’s Jonathon Brandmeier, the multitalented WLUP radio personality who has fans willing to pay to watch him perform.

Saturday night, in the first of two concerts at Poplar Creek, Brandmeier had Chicagoans eating out of his hands. The roar that encompassed the venue when Johnny B. stepped out onstage was deafening. The audience gave him a standing ovation before he even opened his mouth. The party had begun.

Brandmeier could have slacked off a little and still satisfied his audience, but he gave a performance that rivaled that of many of the artists his radio station plays.

The show had something for everyone: good music, comedy, theatrics and even a cricket imitator. But more about him later.

Brandmeier and his band, the Leisure Suits, got off to a raucous start with “Party Animals.” They continued with a variety of bizarre and amusing songs, including “We’re All Crazy in Chicago,” “You Won’t See Me on MTV” and the hilarious “Moo-Moo Song.”

But the highlight of the concert was when the stage was converted into the Lovedart Lounge and the band played the blues. Besides some guest harmonica and vocalizing from Brandmeier sidekick Buzz Kilman, the fans were treated to guitar work from the great Lonnie Brooks.

And in one of the show’s more ironic moments, former heavyweight boxing champion-turned-bartender Leon Spinks came out dressed in a tuxedo and a tiny apron to serve Brooks a drink.

Looking at Brooks and Spinks, Brandmeier deadpanned, “These men know the blues. But I know the blues, too . . . because I grew up in Wisconsin!”

Brandmeier’s show was an updated, large-scale version of the show he performed last summer at Poplar Creek. His 12-member band included two drummers and four excellent horn players. Brandmeier has grown as an artist in musical proficiency and even in his forte, comedic timing.

The concert did have a few raunchy, embarrassing moments. At one point, a woman in the front row flashed her breasts at Brandmeier and then, at his urging, at the video camera that was televising the concert on a large screen to the people sitting back on the lawn. And the videotaped introduction to “Makin’ Love in the Aidees” depicted a scantily clad young man in a state of, uh, excitement that wasn’t particularly funny or erotic.

But in general, it’s not difficult to understand why Brandmeier’s fans love him.  Unlike many of his contemporaries who are worried about projecting cool images, Brandmeier seems like he’s one of the guys.

For instance, how many celebrities would honor their promise to share the spotlight with a young listener?

Brandmeier did when he brought Grant, a 9-year-old boy from Geneva, onstage to do his cricket imitation. No, not cricket as in Buddy Holly and the Crickets, but as in the bug.

The tow-headed boy did a fine job, and so did Johnny.

Yeah, baby.

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