WCFL Chicago Tribute

The WCFL Radio Tribute Page


Chicago’s Voice of Labor…..

In The Beginning…

Radio Station WCFL was owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor and began broadcasting June 26, 1926. It was the first station owned by a labor organization which lasted five decades. C.F.L. secretary Edward Nockles built a labor newspaper and news service by 1925 and WCFL in 1926. With the growth of more AM Stations, the Federal Radio Commission (founded in 1927) began to regulate the existing 733 stations already on the air. In 1934 the F.R.C. became the Federal Communications Commission.


    January of 1928, WCFL applied to the Federal Radio Commission for an increase in power to 10,000 watts, with an option for 50,000 watts. With the growth of the AM Chicago band, stations like WGN, WMAQ, WLS and WBBM were relocating their own frequencies. WCFL relocated to 770 kilocycles. The current WCFL transmitter site was located at Navy Pier. Nockles and the Chicago Federation of Labor planned to erect a superpower station utilizing 50,000 watts from a 100 acre tract of land 20 miles west of Chicago in Downers Grove. That transmitter site is still in use today. WCFL leased studios and offices on the 7th floor of the Brunswick Building on South Wabash Avenue. WCFL’s programming contained mostly musical shows. Only 21 percent went to news, religion and education. The fall of 1927, Nockles introduced the quarterly publication of the WCFL Radio Magazine for it’s listeners and union workers.



October 1931..

May 1932..

On August 30, 1928, the FRC passed a law to solve interference problems. The order classified all 96 frequencies from 550 to 1500 kilocycles into four categories. The new allocation shifted WCFL to 970 kilocycles and reduced power to 1,000 watts. Nockles was displeased with the power reduction and loss of listener ship, he campaigned to change to 770 kilocycles. In May 1932, the FRC granted WCFL a power increase to 5,000 watts on 970 kilocycles. By the late 1940’s WCFL moved to it’s current dial position, 1,000 kilocycles with a power increase to 50,000 watts.




February 1934..

 Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article September 25, 1935..


WCFL Radio Ad, June 15, 1935..

May 1938..

July 1938..








January 1948..

October 1948..


   WCFL joined the 147 stations over the Mutual Broadcasting System in December 1949. The American Broadcasting System was used for selected programming by the mid 1950’s. Newly elected Mayor Richard M. Daley supported WCFL and the labor movement through his reelection terms from 1955 to 1976. The mayor proclaimed January 11, 1966 as “WCFL Day in Chicago” to celebrate 40 years of labor radio in Chicago.

Marshall Field Jr broadcasts War News on WCFL Radio with commentator Hugh Douglas from the Chicago Sun Offices November 7, 1944

Marshall Fields on WCFL Radio 1944 Marshall Fields speaks to Chicago via WCFL Radio Nov 7, 1944. The Copy on his desk says that Fields is talking on the 1944 elections and has a special announcement of his own to make.

  Marshall Fields speaks to Chicago via WCFL Radio Nov 7, 1944. The Copy on his desk says that Fields is talking on the 1944 elections and has a special announcement of his own to make.

March / April 1949..


January 1950..

June 1950..

April 1951..

Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article May 11, 1952..


September 1955..




    White Sox’ Charles Comiskey, John Rigney, Mrs. John Rigney, Marty Hogan, general manager of WCFL, and Tom Haviland, commercial manager of WCFL, August 28, 1957 during the signing of a new 3 year contract effective in 1958 for radio broadcasts.



WCFL-1961 Ralph Kiner Chicago White Sox Broadcaster


Chuck Comiskey on WCFL



Art Hellyer interviews Andy Griffith

July 12, 1957..

Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article June 30, 1959..


Engineer Ted Swanson in the control room-1959

Art Hellyer and Howie Roberts on the air-1959

Howie Roberts..


January 1960..

March 1961..

Marina City Model Construction Plans. Photo taken February 29, 1960.

Marina City construction in it’s early stage. Photo taken in 1961..

Photo taken March 3, 1962..

Marina City’s Twin Towers under construction. Photo taken September 24, 1962..



WCFL …The Contemporary Sound to Top 40


vumeter WCFL Retrospective with Jack Miller (28:53)

      WCFL and labor radio profits succeeded into the 1960’s. In the fall of 1964, WCFL moved the studios and offices out of it’s former 30 year home at the Furniture Mart and moved into the newly built Marina City Complex at 300 North State Street. With the introduction to rock and roll top 40 music, WCFL radio’s  General Manager Ken Draper altered the format in 1966. He captured the 18-35 year old audience. In 1967 ‘Big 10 WCFL’ was Chicago’s number one contemporary radio station.

The WCFL 1966 DJ Lineup..

The WCFL 1967 DJ Lineup..

The WCFL 1968 DJ Lineup..


Ron Britain on the air 1966..

Master Control 1966..

Production Room 1966..

Engineering Department 1966..


Clark Weber 1967

Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article October 22, 1967..


August 1967..

What’s on FM Radio in 1968..



vumeter WCFL AM 1000 Chicago, Jim Stagg, March 18, 1966 (8:27)

vumeter WCFL AM 1000 Chicago Air Composite 1966-1971 (40:26)

Barney Pip on the air in Control Room A. Photo courtesy of Gary Hunt, his December 1966 visit..


June 1, 1968..

June 25, 1968..






State Street Marina City in the distance..around 1965



July 1969




Music surveys were not distributed around 1969

News Announcer with Bob Dearborn, Late 1960’s ..Photo donated by Lou Visconti



vumeter WCFL Air Composite 1971-1976

   The WCFl-WLS ratings war intensified in the early 1970’s and lasted until 1975. Both stations had the highest ratings of any station. Lew Witz was Sales Manager in the late 1960’s, replaced Ken Draper as Program Director in 1972. He ‘pirated’ Super Jock Larry Lujack away from WLS. In 1972, WCFL aired it’s public service programs between 1 AM and 5 AM so they didn’t lose their listeners to WLS. In the month of October 1973, a different approach to news was introduced. WCFL targeted a younger audience. Listeners called to voice their views from Vietnam to personal interests. They called it “Young Chicago” and “The Comment Line”. These clips can be heard on the WCFL Air Composite Part 2. On August 8, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon became the first president to resign. Super CFL chose not to broadcast the event live and continued playing top 40.

WCFL hosting the Chicago Rock Festival July 18, 1970

August 1970..

September 1970..

January 1971..

May 1971..

November 1971..

November 1971..

vumeter WCFL AM 1000 Chicago, Gary Gears, November 1971 (18:04)

Dick Biondi 1971..

Dick with The Osmonds 1972..


Larry O’Brien last gig at 1310 WGH Newport News.. 1968

vumeter WCFL 1972 TM Propellants Jingle Package


The WCFL 1972-1976 Air Talent…


wcfl-pic-dearborn wcfl-pic-driscoll

wcfl-pic-dahlgren-sainte wcfl-pic-shannon

wcfl-pic-obrien wcfl-pic-taylor

Dick & Doug

Larry Lujack and Tom Murphy  /  Ron O’Brien and Larry Lujack

Bob Dearborn’s 1972 explanation of Don McLean’s “American Pie”

vumeter WCFL Bob Dearborn’s American Pie Special 1972 (23:28)

Newsman Mike Rollins..

Newsman Bob Christopher..

Newsman Howie Roberts (taken in the late 1950’s)

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Jerry Kaye, May 5, 1972 (18:58)

Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article October 15, 1972..



Larry’s article continues.. read more

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Larry Lujack, LIVE Phone Remote, United Airlines Flight 553 crash near Midway Airport, December 8, 1972 (9:38)



May 19, 1973..

May 5, 1973..

Jim Runyon photo upper right..

WCFL engineers installing microwave links from Marina City to the transmitter site in Downers Grove. Replacing the old phone lines..

Dearborn & Winston 1973..

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Ron O’Brien, September 1973 (4:16)

October 1973..

December 14, 1973..

Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article December 17, 1973..


December 21, 1973. WCFL Larry Lujack has higher afternoon ratings over WLS.

March 1974..

Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article July 19, 1974..


WCFL-LujacK 74Calendar

vumeter WCFL Larry Lujack, April 3, 1974 Tornado Warning (10:06)

Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article January 7, 1974..


March 1974..

Chicago Arbitron Ratings April 1974..

May 1974..



vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Larry Lujack & Spacey Dave, Klunk Letter of the Day, June 6, 1974 (5:29)


Spacey Dave in Studio B Production..

November 1974..

April 1975..

July 26, 1975..

June 1975 VW Bug Giveaway Contest..

WCFL Patti helping with a Lujack promotion at the corner of State and Wacker Drive. Patti worked traffic and continuity scheduling and helped run the switchboard.

July 1975..

August 1975..

October 1975..

Chicago Arbitron Ratings October 1975..


vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Ron O’Brien, November 1975 (16:29)


1974 CTA Bus & Train Ad



1975 CTA Bus & Train Ad

1975 CTA Bus & Train Ad


February 21, 1976..

March 3, 1976..



Bob Dearborn..

     The following photos were taken by Rob Lewis during his March 1976 WCFL visit. Rob told me Larry Lujack (pictured through the glass in the Control Room) and his board operator Spacey Dave both wore beards to protest the format change to beautiful music on March 15, 1976. Thank you Rob for donating your photos to RadioTimeline.com!


Studio A Control Room – back of Al Urbanski in front of engineering console looking into Studio A with Bob Dearborn on the air..



Studio B Control room  with Studio A lights off..


WCFL December 1975 master control looking into Studio A..



WCFL Music Department December 1975..


       WCFL’s ratings dropped from 1974 through 1975. Lew Witz announced in February 1976 WCFL would change format from Top 40 to MUZAK, an automated beautiful music format. Most of the classic newscasts were cut. News Director Mike Rollins heard of the format change and quit. Many announcers were fired. Larry Lujack, under contract, stayed to play elevator music. In a Chicago Tribune interview, Lujack was paid a six income figure to play the “The World’s Most Beautiful Music”. When his contract ended, Larry moved back to 89 WLS to do the morning show on September 16,1976. WLS emerged as the only sole AM Top 40 station in the Chicago area.

March 15, 1976 WCFL changed from top 40 to beautiful music.  John Driscoll quotes..”From high atop the unemployment building”

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Tim Kelly’s Last Show 3/15/76 (12:41)

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, John Driscoll’s Last Show 3/15/76 (10:51)

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Bob Dearborn’s Last Show 3/15/76 (17:19)

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Larry Lujack’s Last Show/Format Change 3/15/76 (30:33)

vumeter AM 1000 WCFL Chicago, Jack Miller, The WCFL Story (28:54)



WCFL’s Last Music Survey, February 21, 1976..

WCFL’s last Billboard Playlist, March 13, 1976..

March 15, 1976..

March 19, 1976..

April 3, 1976. two weeks after the format change..


April 4, 1976..

Arbitron April/May 1976..

June 1977..

April 1978..

1980’s – Present

Fred Winston on the air – 1981

March 1982..

April 1982..

June 1982..

June 1982..

December 1982..

January 1983..

April 1983..


William Lee sold WCFL to the Mutual Broadcasting System on April 3, 1978. Late 1978 into 1979, MBS shifted WCFL to an all talk/news format. In the fall of 1980, WCFL changed to an adult contemporary format. Former air talent Fred Winston and Gary Gears filled the WCFL airwaves once again as they did back in 1971. In 1983, MBS sold WCFL to Statewide Broadcasting and became a religious station. On April 27, 1987, WLUP-FM, new owners of WCFL changed the calls to WLUP-AM which simulcast “The Loop” FM 97.9 which aired Steve Dahl and Garry Meier’s Morning Show.

WCFL Transmitter Site in Downers Grove, Illinois..


Three tower array..


Removal of the original 3 tower array 2005..

WCFL Promotion

WCFL Music Surveys 1966-1976

     WCFL issued nearly 500 weekly music surveys from 1966 to 1976.

Click to see more surveys…

WCFL Sound 10 Surveys 1966-1967..


WCFL Sound 10 Surveys 1970..


WCFL Sound 10 Surveys 1971..


WCFL Sound 10 Surveys 1972..


WCFL Sound 10 Surveys 1973-1976..


WCFL QSL Verification Cards & Coverage Map








Chicago’s AM 1000 is ESPN Radio

The WCFL call letters are assigned to a religious station in the south Chicago suburbs