WLS Chicago Tribute
The WLS Chicago Radio Tribute Page
In The Beginning….
WLS radio began transmitting on April 12, 1924 with the call letters WBBX. The first test program was from the studios of WMAQ from the Tower Studio on April 9,1924 using the call letters WES (World Economy Store). Sears, Roebuck and Company located in Downtown Chicago, owned WES but on April 12th they changed the call letters to WLS (Worlds Largest Store).
|The WLS studios in the Sears and Roebuck Building on Homan Avenue|
Known as the Prairie Farmer Station, WLS captured an audience of midwest farmers. Shows focused on agricultural information. The WLS Barn Dance was created by George Hayes in 1924. He was a Memphis announcer who worked at WLS.
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article June 14, 1925..
In the 1930’s to early 1940’s, two of many programs heard on WLS were “Fame and Fortune” with Tommy Dorsey and “Pot o Gold” with Horace Height.
|People pack the Rio Theatre in Chicago to see the WLS radio stars.|
|The 1934 WLS National Barn Dance star performers were also doing shows on the road .Gene Autry (left) with cowboy hat on.|
|Hundreds of fans stand in line to get into the Peru Theatre in Chicago to see WLS radio stars Al and Pete and Bill Childs- Jan. 19,1932|
On MAY 6, 1937, the German airship Hindenburg burst into flames 200 feet over its intended landing spot at New Jersey’s Lakehurst Naval Air Station. Thirty-five people on board the flight were killed (13 passengers and 22 crewmen), along with one crewman on the ground. WLS announcer Herb Morrison and engineer Charles Nehlsen were making a disc recording and thus were able to capture the event “live” as it happened. This recording was so unique and dramatic that NBC decided to break its own rule banning records on the radio and allowed this recording to be broadcast on the network.
WLS Announcer Herb Morrison at The Hindenburg Airship Disaster
National Barn Dance Cast-October 1944
Magazines to see their favorite stars…
WLS National Barn Dance – 1942 Rebroadcast For Our WWII Service Men
For about 15 years WLS shared it’s frequency with WENR as part of the NBC Blue Network. In 1941 WLS changed frequency from 870 to 890 kilocycles with 50 kw of power. The transmitter site was in Chicago’s south suburb of Crete, Illinois from 1924 to 1938. In 1938, they moved to it’s current location in Tinley Park.
The 1948 WLS Transmitter Site..
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article November 19, 1959..
Interesting article. ABC may have had plans to change the WLS format..
The Top 40 era…..
On May 2, 1960, WLS Radio changed from it’s 36 year farm and country format. With the growth of Pop music since 1955, WLS targeted a new and younger audience. Program Director Sam Holman and station owners made the decision to change to a contemporary top 40 station. Announcers Dick Biondi, Art Roberts, Mort Crowley, Clark Weber, Bob Hale, Ron Riley, Bernie Allen and Gene Taylor brought a fresh, bright new sound to the Chicago airwaves.
The 1960 Announcer Lineup..
In the fall of 1960, WLS moved from 1230 W. Washington Street to The Fifth Floor Stone Container Building at 360 North Michigan Avenue. That year the WLS Silver Dollar Survey was introduced…
In the late 1960’s WLS was making a transition to a new slogan..”Musicradio 89″ and a new announcer lineup,except for Art Roberts who left in 1971.
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article July 10, 1969..
Bill Bailey in the 1969 announcer lineup..
Music artists created so many changes in this decade on radio. From the bubblegum artists like The Osmonds, Bobby Sherman, Jackson 5, Blue Suede,Three Dog Night, The Carpenters to Rockers like Boston, BTO, Eric Clapton, The Who, Pink Floyd, Supertramp and STYX. The WLS Music radio playlist contained a big variety of hit songs. Mike McCormick was Program Director until 1973. General Manager Paul Abrams was Station Manager in the early to mid 1970’s. That’s when WCFL finally and briefly won the rating war with WLS that went on since 1967.
1969- mid 1971 WLS Music Survey..
WLS 1970-1974 Air Composite (44:42)
The Late 1971-1972 WLS Music Survey..
The 1971-72 WLS Tooth Fairy Membership Card
John Landecker, October 11, 1972 (25:10)
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article December 17, 1973
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article December 30, 1973..
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article November 22, 1974..
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article January 14, 1976
WLS Musicradio Logo’s 1971-1980
WDAI FM 94.7 and WLS AM 890 were both owned by ABC Radio. WDAI played underground album rock in the early 1970’s.
The WLS 1974-1976 Announcer Lineup
The WLS Music Survey Late 1975-1985
Billy Joel and Larry Lujack 1978
WDAI was known as “Chicago’s BEST Album Rock” in the summer of 1976. Disco music peaked in 1979 and WDAI briefly changed format to ‘Disco DAI’.
The 1971 sticker..
WDAI FM 94.7 Alan Burns, May 24, 1976 In STEREO (44:39)
My original recording..enjoy
Hmm.. The Screamin’
WDHF..WDAI T shirt..
The WDAI FM disco format ended in early 1980 and the calls were changed to WRCK FM 95. W-Rock was a progressive top 40 station later simulcasting WLS AM, mornings with Larry Lujack and evenings with Brant Miller.
WLS July 1980 Air Composite (45:36) My original recording
In 1981,the WRCK calls changed to WLS-FM 95. The WRCK calls were assigned to Utica, New York’s Rock 107.3
One of the station’s biggest promotions was the WLS Fantastic Plastic Card in 1979
1981 Rock Guide
WLS Chicago, The Big 89 of 1984 with Jeff Davis, #13 – #1 plus the 1955-84 music montage,
December 31, 1984. (40:29) My Original Recording.
The WLS Mini Billboard given to me during a ’84 station tour..
WLS 1984 Announcer Lineup / Calendar
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Ad January 22, 1984..
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article July 19, 1984..
Chicago Tribune Newspaper Article January 9, 1990..
The end of an era…
August 23, 1989 was the last day WLS AM played top 40 since they started 39 years ago on May 2, 1960. Management and loyal listeners knew that WLS would fall. ABC owned 77 WABC did in 1982 to Talk Radio, as many other classic top 40 stations did in this decade.
WLS AM 890 is a Republican Talk Station