‘There Was No Difference Between The Person And The Persona’

CHICAGO — About 15 years ago, Jason Narducy went to see Bob Mold’s solo show at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

However, Narducy recalled one man four rows ahead of him throwing his fist in the air in celebration throughout the performance.

When the show ended and the lights came on, he realized it was Lynn Bremmer.

“So many people have stories of him jamming out,” said Nardushy, a longtime musician who plays with Mold. “He even posted a video of himself in the studio. He was playing songs and just dancing around the studio. It was contagious. Music has a power of its own. But, Seeing someone who’s been doing it for 38 years doing something like that is just inspiring.”

Longtime WXRT radio host and disc jockey Brehmer died Sunday at the age of 68 from prostate cancer.

Tributes poured in throughout the day as Chicago’s music community and those beyond its memory mourned and celebrated the man who, for the better part of three decades, was one of its clearest voices and most important champions. bottom.

credit: WXRT
Lynn Bremmer

In an interview with Block Club, the Chicago musician and critic said of the radio host that he was a talented on-air disc jockey and storyteller, who wrote rock ‘n’ roll songs with personal humor, heart, and sarcasm. Described as being able to mix well and serve as an indomitable defender of the city. A bulwark against the privatization of FM broadcasting.

But they’re also fathers, friends, neighbors, and just as enthusiastic off-air, sharing the same passion and joie de vivre for Cubs fandom, Dylan Thomas poetry, and of course, live music. It lit up every room he was in… be it a solo radio studio or a crowded music hall.

“There was no difference between a person and a persona,” said musician and friend John Langford. “He often had to get up at four in the morning and didn’t hesitate to stay out late. He had a lust for life. And he was always funny as hell.” ”

Bremer grew up in New York and attended Colgate University before moving to Chicago in the 1980s. He became music director of his WXRT in 1984 and began on-air in 1991, hosting his show Morning on the popular radio station.

Former Tribune music critic Greg Kot said that Braemer, along with disc jockey Terry Hemmert and program director Norm Winner, made XRT unique in an era when FM radio was king of musical tastemaking. He said it helped define it as a station for

“Especially when he was program director, when radio really mattered… XRT did a better job than anyone in Chicago, of all the commercial radio stations,” said Cotto. . “His energy and curiosity about music knew no bounds, and it was felt by the artists he championed and knew over the years.”

credit: Lynn Bremmer
Lynn Bremer outside Wrigley Field.

According to Cott, Bremmer loved the Rolling Stones and was especially fond of the timeless music of the ’60s and ’70s. But he’s always conformed to the tastes of the host, and although there were often frustrating rules about what he had to play on XRT (think Coldplay), he always kept his own voice and I found a way to inject flavor into the broadcast. city ​​music scene.

“He was listening,” Cotto said. “And he continued to grow over the years as to the type of music he listened to and championed. It played a big part in the 1980s, and now everyone knows it, but at the time, there was no other commercial station with a band like this.”

Braemer’s subtle acts of defiance on commercial radio include talking to musicians about new releases, even if he can’t play them, and the famous “Lin’s Bin” segment. A poetic, short audio essay format that functions like an oral memoir.

“He wasn’t just playing music. There were people behind it, which was beautiful,” Cotto said. He was a man who stood up for artists because he really loved them, and that was the way he had to humans.”

Over the years, Braemer became a star and prominent member of the Chicago music scene, holding primetime host slots for 30 years on major market stations. But the local celebrity didn’t change him, his friend said.

“He seemed like a first-rate comedy writer,” said Langford. “He was naturally resourceful…he could do it from the cuff. Sometimes I spent the whole thing.”

The impact on XRT was severe. Braemer’s morning show with Mary Dixon never scored the highest rankings, but their relaxed but witty chemistry on-air proved to be a hit in an era when hosts rarely changed year after year. A favorite for 30 years, it has helped to become an integral part of the fabric of the city. , musicians and critics said.

“They felt part of the community. They were in the community. And they shook things up,” said Langford. “They weren’t a corporate sale. They were people who were in the system, but they were all about promoting good music. And making things interesting.”

Bremmer’s influence on bands and artists across the country was also evident Sunday, as Wilco, Jason Isbell, The Head & The Heart and others paid tribute to him on social media.

For Chicago musicians, he was a constant champion, a joyful and constant presence both on air and in live shows.

“He was talking about us between songs, which is very unusual,” Narducy said. “Some people play the part, others walk. or try to play the game, just completely rocking out in the audience.”

According to friends, Bremmer was a big Cubs fan and enjoyed the game at Wrigley Field. For 20 years, he hosted a remote broadcast of his Cubs’ opening day in Chicago each year, and officiated countless fundraiser, gala, and events for the team and its charities. The Cubs honored Bremer on Sunday by displaying his name in a world-famous marquee.

credit: chicago cubs
Wrigley Field Marquee on Sunday 22nd January 2023.

He has also been an advocate for ALS and has hosted events for the Le Turner ALS Foundation for nearly 30 years.

Friends say Bremmer lives on the Northwest Side with his wife, Sarah, and an adult son, Wilson.

Cott, who was a youth basketball coach, said his experience as a coach of the organizers’ Little League helped him bond with Braemer. Kot said he often complained to Brehmer about XRT’s selection, but that Brehmer always took the criticism gracefully.

How could he not? This was the man who signed off on listeners as “the best friend in the whole world.”

“He was just an affable guy. Incredibly positive,” said Cotto. “Talking to Lynn will make your day better. He was clearly living every moment as if it were his last. bottom.”

His radio station, 93.1 XRT, is doing a tribute to Braemer on Mondays at 10am.

Block Club Chicago is a newsroom run by independent 501(c)(3) journalists. Make a dime fund to report from your neighborhood in Chicago.

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Block Club Chicago is an independent 501(c)(3) journalist-run newsroom.Every dime making money reporting from Chicago neighborhoods. Click here to support the Block Club and make a tax-deductible donation.

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