|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2011)|
|City of license||Chicago, Illinois|
|Broadcast area||Chicago market|
|Slogan||Chicago's Classic Hits|
|Frequency||94.7 MHz (also on HD Radio)
94.7 HD-2 FM - (WLS-2 - simulcast of 890/WLS)
|First air date||January 1, 1948|
|Format||Classic Hits/Classic rock|
|Callsign meaning||World's Largest Store (from AM sister station)|
|Former callsigns||WENR-FM (1948-1964)
WDAI (1971-May 1980)
WRCK-FM (May to Dec. 1980)
|Affiliations||The True Oldies Channel (Cumulus)|
(Radio License Holdings LLC)
|Sister stations||WKQX, WLS, WLUP|
Listen Live (via iHeartRadio)
WLS-FM (94.7 FM) is a Chicago classic hits radio station. The station was founded by ABC, and was sold (along with the rest of ABC's non-Radio Disney and ESPN Radio stations) by Disney to Citadel Broadcasting in 2007; it is now owned by Cumulus Media, following its 2011 merger with Citadel. WLS-FM broadcasts from studios (shared with former television partner WLS-TV) located on North State Street in the Chicago Loop, and its transmitter antenna is located atop the Willis Tower. The station's official call sign changed to WLS-FM again on June 26, 2008.
The station was launched in 1948 as WENR-FM, owned by the American Broadcasting Company and simulcasting sister station WENR (AM), which shared the 890 kHz frequency with then Prairie Farmer-owned WLS; both stations carried ABC Radio Network programs. In 1954 (a year after ABC's merger with United Paramount Theatres) WENR and WLS merged their AM stations into one, jointly owned by American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres and Prairie Farmer and retaining the WLS call letters. WENR-FM then began simulcasting WLS, and later adopted its own separate programming formats (which included classical and Broadway theatre show tunes) for part of the day. The station was operated out of a broom closet with minimal personnel in hopes that FM broadcasting would grow.
In 1964, WENR-FM became WLS-FM, with a beautiful music format broadcasting in stereo from Noon to Midnight, as well as Blackhawks home games. By 1968, WLS-FM expanded its hours on the air to 6 a.m. to Midnight, simulcasting sister AM WLS's Clark Weber morning show from 6 to 8 a.m. and carrying Don McNeill's Breakfast Club from 8 to 9 a.m.
In the summer of 1968, WLS-FM experimented with a locally-produced underground progressive rock show. Dubbed Spoke, the program aired from 10 PM to 12 midnight. It was replaced in 1969 with a syndicated program from the ABC Radio Network entitled Love which aired from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Shortly afterwards, WLS-FM adopted a full-time progressive rock format.
The frequency adopted an AOR format as WLS-FM became WDAI in 1971 in order to establish a separate identity from WLS (AM) and WLS-TV (channel 7). The joke at the time was that "DAI" stood for "Develop An Identity". The WDAI call letters had originally been intended for Detroit's WXYZ-FM (ABC had requested WXIF for Chicago), but the FCC instead assigned WDAI to replace WLS-FM and WRIF to WXYZ-FM. Both call letter changes were part of ABC's 1971 AOR format conversions in New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles.
WDAI became the original Chicago radio home of Steve Dahl in January 1978, and used the tagline "Chicago's Best Rock" with the Morning Sickness with Steve Dahl.
WDAI switched to all-disco as Disco "DAI" in December 1978 and stayed with the disco craze until mid-1980, when it flipped to WRCK-FM 95 W-ROCK, featuring Bob Sirott in mornings for a brief time. The 1978 flip to disco was the first in a series of ill-fated format changes that continued up to its most recent switch to oldies in September 2005.
In late 1980, WRCK-FM initiated a simulcast of 890 WLS (AM), and flipped its call letters back to WLS-FM in December 1980. WLS-FM simulcasted 890's Top 40/rock format morning drive (Larry Lujack) and evening programming (Brant Miller) into the mid-1980s. WLS-FM was then programmed separately during the day and simulcasted 890 at night.
In 1986, WLS-FM broke away from AM and became known as WYTZ "Z-95". Initially, the station aired a rock-leaning Top 40 format, but by the late 1980s, the station was more mainstream, as competitor B96 increasingly focused on R&B and dance music. WYTZ, also known later as "Hell" (an aborted and controversial one-week stunt) and Hot 94.7, could not withstand the competition from "B96".
After a couple years of very low ratings, WYTZ again became WLS-FM at 7 PM on October 25, 1991. After playing "Everybody's Talking" by Harry Nilsson, the station flipped to talk, simulcasting 890 WLS much of the time. WLS-FM employed its own talk show hosts during the hours when WLS aired national programming. As a result, WLS-FM did not air Rush Limbaugh during the midday slot, instead airing secondary, FM-based talk shows. By 1994, WLS-FM had its own stable of hosts such as Robert Murphy ("Murphy in the Morning"), Lise Dominique, Johnny Von, Turi Ryder and Rich Roeper, as a way to compete against WLUP-FM's hot talk format. This failed to turn around ratings, and went back to a full time simulcast with 890 AM in 1995. After still achieving low ratings, WLS-FM separated from WLS again in November 1995. After stunting with Christmas music throughout November and December, the station took a country music format and became "94.7-Kicks Country" WKXK just after Christmas. Unfortunately, Infinity (now CBS Radio) station WUSN continued to do well as the heritage country station, while WKXK was unable to even achieve mediocre ratings.
Early in May 1997, WKXK dropped the country format and flipped to "CD94.7" WXCD and a broad-based classic rock format (similar to today's 97.1 The Drive). After some early ratings success at WXCD, former heritage classic rocker WLUP, which had earlier switched to a modern adult contemporary format, returned to the classic rock format as a direct competitor of WXCD, causing mediocre ratings at WXCD until 2000.
On November 29, 2000, at 6 PM, WXCD abruptly dropped classic rock for an 80's hits format and "The Zone" moniker, and assumed the new call sign WZZN. As "The Zone," the station broadcast 80s music that leaned towards rock and uptempo pop. By 2001, the station had evolved into a gold-based modern AC format. In September 2001, the Zone morphed again to alternative rock to take on WKQX, which previously had the genre to itself.
By 2003, "The Zone" again evolved into more of an active rock format, all the while using "94.7 The Zone" as its handle, and positioning itself on the air as "the hardest rock on the planet". However, the station continued to flounder in the ratings. By 2004, the station began beating WKQX with the shift to active rock, but yet beaten again by WKQX during the Spring/Summer 2005, when WDRV moved from classic hits to classic rock and WLUP-FM from classic rock to mainstream rock.
After long-time oldies station WJMK dropped its 60's/70's oldies format in June 2005 for a variety hits format called "Jack FM", WZZN dropped its active rock format (and finally ditched "The Zone" handle) at Noon on September 26, 2005 (after playing "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Metallica) for an oldies format (The True Oldies Channel) playing the hits of 1964 to 1969 with some 1955-1964 hits and some early 70s hits mixed in. This change made WZZN the only oldies station on the FM dial in Chicago. Among the air talent from "The Zone" let go in this transition include WRCX alums Freak and Sludge, and WLUP alums James Van Osdol, Mark Zander, and Jimmy Novak. The format then was strictly off of ABC's satellite "The True Oldies Channel", hosted by Scott Shannon. In 2006, the station added some local air personalities who were previously at WJMK when it was an oldies station. Ratings have been good for this format. Eventually, the station was live and local (which included hosts such as John Landecker, Dick Biondi, Greg Brown, and Danny Lake) except for Overnights, when they would continue to run True Oldies Channel. The "True Oldies Channel" programming would be dropped entirely in the Fall of 2012.
In 2007, Walt Disney Company sold its ABC Radio radio division, including WLS (AM) and WZZN, to Citadel Broadcasting. From 2007 to 2008, the oldies format was modified to include a small amount of 1980's hits and a focus on oldies from 1964 to 1979. The station continued to play a couple pre-1964 oldies per hour. On June 19, 2008, Citadel announced that WZZN would become once again WLS-FM. The WZZN call letters were dropped at Midnight on June 25, 2008, and as of 12:01am on June 26, 2008, the station has officially been known as WLS-FM. The idea was to bring back the heritage of WLS and its old Top 40 format and jingles. The station is now positioned as "94.7 WLS-FM" with the slogan "Chicago's Greatest Hits Of All Time." Citadel merged with Cumulus Media on September 16, 2011.
On October 1, 2012, WLS-FM modified their oldies format to a Classic Hits format leaning on Classic Rock. The pre-1964 oldies were dropped entirely, while Motown and 1970s pop and disco hits were cut back, and more 1980s songs were also added. The focus on the station is now hits of the 1970s and early 1980s with only several 1960s songs per hour. Morning DJ Dave Fogel was released to make room for Brant Miller's return to the station (Fogel was hired at WJMK just two days after being let go from WLS). Fred Winston was also hired as a full time DJ in afternoons. In 2013, Robert Murphy was hired as an afternoon jock; Winston was let go.
- Disney-February 6, 2006-ABC Radio To Merge With Citadel Broadcasting
- Disney June 12, 2007-Disney and Citadel Announce Completion of ABC Radio Merger
- "Cumulus now owns Citadel Broadcasting". Atlanta Business Journal. September 16, 2011. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
- Feder, Robert (2008-06-19). "Calls waiting: 'True Oldies' outlet to resurrect WLS-FM as station identification". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- "Radio Stations". Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel. Archived from the original on July 28, 2008. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
- WLS-FM Website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WLS
- Radio-Locator information on WLS
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WLS
.7's History at WLShistory .com
- Chicago Tribune December 10, 2009-Citadel Broadcasting Prepares for Pre-Arranged Bankruptcy
- A look at the WLS-FM (then WZZN) studios-2004