- WLS (AM)
Infobox Radio Station
name = WLS
April 12, 1924
frequency = 890 kHz HD Radio (daytime)
area = Chicagoland
format = News/Talk
licensee = Radio License Holding XI, LLC
erp = 50,000
branding = "890 AM WLS"
slogan = "Chicago's Talk Station"
class = A (
facility_id = 73227
webcast = [http://gateway.andohs.net/player/?sid=1044&nid=2920 WLS-AM Live Feed]
website = [http://www.wlsam.com/ wlsam.com]
callsign_meaning = World's Largest Store "(reflecting past ownership by Sears)"
WLS is a
Chicago radio station. The call letters stand for World's Largest Store (for its original owner, Sears, Roebuck). The station operates on an AM clear channel frequency of 890 kHz with a power of 50,000 watts, with IBOC during the day, and C-QUAM AM Stereoat night (as of 2007). Its transmitter and towers are located in Tinley Park, Illinois.
WLS is currently a
talk radiostation, with its programming consisting of about half local talk shows, featuring " Don Wade and Roma,"" Jerry Agar," and "The Roe ConnShow," and the rest syndicated programming featuring Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others. WLS also covers Notre Dame football and basketball.
WLS had been owned and operated by the radio division of the
American Broadcasting Company(ABC) since the purchase of its parent company in 1959 and the subsequent merging with WENR, a station with which WLS had shared its frequency since the 1920s. ABC-owned radio stations not affiliated with ESPN Radioor Radio Disney[http://www.suntimes.com/business/feder/151173,CST-FIN-feder28.article] , including WLS, merged with Citadel Broadcastingon June 12, 2007. [http://www.suntimes.com/business/feder/424942,CST-FIN-feder13.article]
Despite different owners, WLS-AM and
WLS-TVmaintain a strong partnership (as WLS-TV is the local ABC owned-and-operated television station).
Sears opened the station in
1924as a service to farmers and subsequently sold it to the "Prairie Farmer Magazine", which continued that orientation through 1960. It was the scene of the " National Barn Dance", which featured Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, and George Gobel, and which was second only to the " Grand Ole Opry" (in itself a local "National Barn Dance" spinoff) in presenting country musicand humor.
The station also experimented successfully in many forms of news broadcasting, including
weatherand crop reports. Its most famous news broadcast was the report of the Hindenburg disasterby Herbert Morrison.
Starting in the 1930s, WLS had been an affiliate of the
Blue Networkof the National Broadcasting Company ( NBC), and as such aired the popular " Fibber McGee and Molly" and " Lum and Abner" comedy programs (both produced at the studios of Chicago's NBC-owned stations, WENR and WMAQ) during their early years. When the Federal Communications Commissionforced NBC to sell the Blue Network, WLS maintained its affiliation with the network under its new identity, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Under this affiliation, some programs from the network that were not commercially sponsored or which were scheduled to cross the time that WLS and WENR shifted its use of the same frequency (such as baseball or football games) were transferred to air on a third Blue Network/ABC affiliate in Chicago, WCFL. Blue/ABC network broadcasts of addresses by labor leaders were also shifted away from WLS and WENR to WCFL, which was owned at the time by the Chicago Federation of Labor.
In 1960 WLS hired star
disc jockey Dick Biondi( RHOF) [http://www.museum.tv/rhofsection.php?page=173] from WKBW in Buffalo, New York, to anchor the station's new Top 40 music radioformat. Other notable disc jockeys who worked at WLS include Fred Winston, Art Roberts, Clark Weber, Ron "Ringo" Riley, Gene Taylor, Mort Crowley, Larry Lujack, Dex Card, Chuck Buell, Bob Sirott, John Records Landecker, Yvonne Daniels, Kris Erik Stevens, Steve Dahl, Garry Meier, Brant Miller, Steve King, and [http://www.edisonresearch.com/home/archives/2003/10/first_look_wrll.php Tommy Edwards] . ["the history of WLS radio" [http://www.wlshistory.com/WLS60/] ] Some of the production directors responsible for the sound of WLS were Ray Van Steen, Hal Widsten, Jim Hampton and Bill Price. In the 1960's WLS was a major force in introducing new music and recording artists. WLS was voted by broadcasters nationally as "The Station of the Year" in 1967, 1968 & 1969. John Rook was named "Program Director of the Year" in 1968 & 1969 as WLS was estimated attracting 4.2 million listeners weekly by Pulse research.
By the mid-1970's, WLS became conservative about introducing new songs, and many record promoters referred to the station as the "World's Last Station" to add new releases for airplay, usually only after the songs had reached the top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100.(Although in 1974, the station started playing a track by a Chicago band called
Styxfrom an older album of theirs. The track was called "Lady". This resulted in other stations around the country adding the song and it became the first national Top 40 hit for Styx.) During the 1970s WLS ran a Sunday night music interview program called Music People.
Beginning in the mid 1980s WLS cut back on mainstream Top 40 music with mostly AC leaning and oldies and had more talk from disc jockeys rather than music, including a Sunday night late night talk show called "Sex Talk" and a daily late night sports related talk show. On
August 23 1989at 7pm, WLS stopped playing occasional music on its AM station (appropriately, the last song played was a song by Chicago, "Just You 'N' Me", from their 6th album) as it became a 24/7 all talk stationfeaturing high-rated talk talents from around the country, such as Bob Lassiterfrom Tampa Bayand Stacy Taylor from San Diego. After a few years, however, they dropped many of these hosts. Jay Marvinalso had several stints on WLS, where he was one of the few liberal voices on its political talk shows.
On Memorial Day 2007, WLS took a cue from sister station WABC and ran a special day of musical programming, "The Big 89 Rewind," featuring live visits from
Larry Lujack, Tommy Edwards, Fred Winston, Chris Shebel, Jeff Davis, John Records Landecker, Tom Kent, and other DJs, sounders, and airchecks from the Musicradio era. The broadcasts re-aired on Independence Day 2007, and there was a new Rewind the following year as well.
* [http://www.wlshistory.com Scott Childers' History of WLS]
* [http://www.wlsam.com WLS web site]
** [http://wlsam.com/programming.asp Program Schedule]
* [http://www.oldiesloon.com/il/wlsyear.htm WLS music surveys from 1960 to 1982]
* [http://user.pa.net/~ejjeff/jeffwls1.html Jeff Roteman's WLS tribute site]
* [http://www.irememberjfk.com/mt/2007/01/wls_radio.php I Remember JFK: WLS Radio]
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