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|Broadcast area||Chicago metropolitan area|
|Slogan||Positive and Encouraging|
|Frequency||97.9 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||1945 (as WEHS)|
|HAAT||425 meters (1,394 ft)|
|Callsign meaning||Chicago's K-Love|
|Owner||Educational Media Foundation|
WCKL-FM (97.9 FM, "K-Love") is a non-commercial FM radio station licensed to serve Chicago, Illinois. The station is owned & operated by Educational Media Foundation and carries network programming from K-LOVE, EMF's main contemporary Christian music network. The station's broadcast tower is located at , atop 875 North Michigan Avenue, formerly the John Hancock Center.
Early years as W83C/WEHS/WHFC/WSDM
The station was first granted a construction permit on April 7, 1942 with the W83C call sign, licensed to broadcast at 48.3 MHz on the original 42-50 MHz FM broadcast band. The station was owned by WHFC, Inc. which also owned WHFC. On November 1, 1943, the station was assigned the WEHS call sign, and it was granted its first license on October 8, 1945. In January 1946, the station received permission from the FCC to go silent to convert to operation on the new 88-108 MHz FM broadcast band, which the FCC had created on June 27, 1945. On July 31, 1946, the station was reassigned to 100.1 MHz, and then granted a move to 97.9 MHz on September 23, 1947. Broadcasting resumed on October 6, 1949. WEHS broadcast background music for National Tea Grocery stores in the Chicago area. When the contract with National ran out in the mid-1950s, WEHS simulcast the foreign language and black programming of co-owned WHFC for six hours a day, the minimum broadcast time to keep the license.
L & P Broadcasting Corporation purchased WEHS on December 12, 1962 along with WHFC. The Chess family of Chess, Checker and Cadet Records fame owned L & P Broadcasting (the "L" stood for Leonard Chess while the "P" stood for brother Phil Chess). Leonard primarily ran the record labels and recording studio while brother Phil was president of the radio company. The WHFC call sign was moved to WEHS on March 3, 1963, while WHFC was assigned the WVON ("The Voice of the Negro") call sign. WHFC then simulcast WVON 24 hours a day. On March 8, 1965, WHFC's call sign was changed to WSDM (which stood for "Smack Dab in the Middle", "the middle" meaning the exact middle of the FM radio dial). The slogan "Stereo Den for Men" was also briefly used. The station's format featured all female announcers (Yvonne Daniels and Dr. Cody Sweet among others) playing light jazz and instrumental music. This light jazz & instrumental format was similar to the more recent "Smooth Jazz" formats.
Ownership of the station was transferred to Phil Chess effective October 22, 1971. In the 1970s, WSDM began to mix album rock music with its light jazz. Although WVON was sold to the Potter Palmer family in the late 1960s, the Chess family held on to WSDM, which was being run by Phil Chess' son, Terry Chess. Terry Chess was General Manager of the station throughout the 1970s, up until the time the station was sold to Heftel Broadcasting Corporation effective March 5, 1979. The radio station positioned itself as "jazzed up rock" and the "station with the girls"—a reference to the all-female air talent. Its original program director was Burt Burdeen. Among the disc jockeys were Connie Szerszen, Cindy Morgan (who later left radio, went to Los Angeles and became an actress, her career including roles in such films as Caddyshack and Tron), Danae Alexander, Linda Ellerbee, Yvonne Daniels, Dr. Cody Sweet, Kitty Loewy, Susan Payne, Janice Gears and Glorie June. There were guys on "the station with the girls", too. Announcers such as Russ James (later known as Russ Albums on the LOOP) David Witz (cousin of former WCFL General Manager Lew Witz) and Don Davis (later an air talent on WDAI Chicago and then a Program Director for WWDC in Washington, D.C. and WCKG-FM Chicago) appeared on WSDM in the mid-1970s. Davis made the transition from WSDM to the WLUP airstaff when the format changed in 1977.
The call sign was changed to WLUP on March 14, 1977. The station rebranded as "The Loop FM98" referring to the nickname of Chicago's central business district. The first song on "The Loop" was "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens. WLUP programmed a low-key female-friendly AOR format. J. Blackburn was Program Director and Tommy O'Toole served as the station's first morning host and was the first Loop DJ to sign on the air. The original Loop air staff included O'Toole in mornings, William "Captain Billy" Martin in middays, Lester "Crazy Les" Tracy in afternoon drive, Gregory "Greg" Budell evenings, and Don Davis overnights, alongside was WLUP's first ever Rock Girl Lorelei "Pow!" Shark as the official spokesperson and as the face of The Loop in 1978.
Heftel Broadcasting Corporation, owned by Hawaiian Congressman Cecil Heftel, purchased the station effective March 5, 1979, kept the call sign, and "The Loop" branding. Lee Abrams was hired as consultant. The rock format was kept in place, but emphasis was put on harder-edged rock. Jesse Bullit was the program director. Steve Dahl, who had been unemployed since WDAI (94.7) went to a disco format in December 1978 – and who would become the basis for one of the most infamous promotions in sports history, Disco Demolition Night – was hired for mornings in March 1979. Overnight disc jockey Matthew "Mondo" Meier was teamed with Dahl to do news;and Danielle O'Farell ( Louise Marks, who went on to do mornings at WABX in Detroit) took over the 10 pm to 6 am slot. Mondo would eventually start to use his real first name, "Garry". Garry became Steve's full-time sidekick when Buzz Kilman was hired as the newsman in 1980. Tom Webb was the news director. Kurt Hansen was the Research Director, and Jeff Schwartz was the head of Sales. Additionally, Greg Solk was the Program Director. Chuck Swirsky provided sports reports. Russ Albums was the Production Director. Chicago rock veteran Mitch Michaels held the afternoon shift and his show was known as Mitch "Doin' The Cruise". Sky Daniels hosted evenings from 6p-10p. Matt Bisbee became the Production director. In December 1979 Michaels replaced Jesse Bullit as program director. Steve and Garry were fired in 1981 for "assaulting community standards". A series of morning men including Matt Bisbee, Mark McEwen (who later gained national fame as a CBS network TV weatherman), and the team of R.J. Harris and Pat Still tried their hand until Jonathon "Johnny B." Brandmeier from KZZP was hired in April 1983. Kilman remained as newsman, and Bruce Wolf replaced Swirsky when he went to WGN in 1981. Steve and Garry returned in 1986 to host afternoons.
In 1985, Heftel Broadcasting bought AM 1000 WCFL, which was once a powerful CHR (Top 40) station, but then became a Christian music and teaching station. In April 1987, the FCC assigned that station the WLUP call sign, and the FM station was assigned the WLUP-FM call sign. The religious format was dropped from 1000 WLUP and the station simulcasted WLUP-FM overnights. During the day, though, WLUP 1000 ran a full-service rock format while focusing on talk. By 1990, the AM station would evolve to mostly talk with a few rock songs mixed in per hour. In late 1992, Heftel sold WLUP to Evergreen Media, as Heftel sold all of their English language stations in order to focus on their Spanish language properties.
By this time, WLUP-FM also began mixing more talk into the format by simulcasting morning and afternoon drive with the AM station. On September 27, 1993, the AM station became a sports station as WMVP. At the same time, WLUP-FM became WLUP again, and switched to a comedy/talk format with a few rock songs mixed in per hour (WLUP's then-sister station WWBZ/WRCX would adopt the rock format full-time). WLUP was one of the first stations to have the "FM talk" or "hot talk" (comedy/talk) format in the early 1990s. Hosts during this period included Jonathon Brandmeier with "News-man/Blues-man" Buzz Kilman, Kevin Matthews, Danny Bonaduce, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, Liz Wilde, Ed Schwartz and Seka. In February 1996, sister station WYNY in New York simulcasted WLUP for a day as part of a week-long stunt of simulcasting sister stations nationwide before flipping formats to rhythmic adult contemporary as WKTU. In June 1996, WMVP dropped their sports format and returned to simulcasting WLUP.
WLUP switched to an Adult Alternative format on September 30, 1996. In 1997, Evergreen and Chancellor Media merged. In order to stay under federally mandated ownership limits, Evergreen opted to sell WLUP to Bonneville in July (which already had a Modern AC outlet in WTMX), and then switched WLUP back to a rock format on July 21 at 5 AM, after stunting with all-Who songs as part of a Who concert that previous weekend (Chancellor retained WMVP, which aired a separate talk/sports format before it was sold to ABC Radio in 1998 and became the Chicago affiliate for ESPN Radio). (The first song under the relaunched "Loop" was "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin.) Also that month, Jonathon Brandmeier would be released from the station due to the ownership change (a few months later, he would join WCKG as a midday host). In June 1998, WLUP shifted to classic rock and adopted the slogan, "Classic Rock That Really Rocks". During this period, full-time on air personalities included Byrd (now with WDRV Chicago), Steve Downes, Tim Virgin, Eddie Webb, Pete McMurray, Seaver, Cara Carriveau, Scott Loftus, Jimmy Novak, Laura Steele, Sari and Mark Zander.
Emmis Communications traded three of their stations in Phoenix to Bonneville for WLUP-FM and $70 million in 2004. While under Emmis ownership, WLUP slowly evolved into a mainstream rock format, while continuing to lean on classic rock with a harder edge.
On January 15, 2007, Chicago's NBC owned and operated station, WMAQ-TV channel 5, began a new weekday morning show called Barely Today which airs from 4:30–5 a.m. The new morning show was simulcast on WLUP-FM and hosted by Bruce Wolf, who was the former weekday morning traffic/sports anchor for WMAQ. The show would be cancelled five months later due to poor ratings.
On September 8, 2008, Emmis announced a programming partnership with WorldBand Media and used WLUP's HD3 signal to produce programming for the South Asian communities in 3 major cities, including Chicago. The South Asian format, known as HumDesi Radio, became available on the HD-2 signal of alternative-rock sister station WKQX.
By 2011, WLUP shifted completely to a classic rock format.
Sale to Merlin Media, Cumulus Media LMA
On June 21, 2011, Emmis announced that it would sell WKQX, sister station WLUP-FM, and New York's WRXP to Merlin Media, a group headed by former Tribune Company executive Randy Michaels. Emmis, who would retain a minority stake in Merlin Media, would grant Merlin a local marketing agreement to operate WKQX and WLUP-FM from July 15 until the sale to Merlin officially closed on September 1.
On May 3, 2012, Merlin added a satellite-fed version of the smooth jazz format on WLUP's HD3 subchannel (97.9-HD3). As of July 2012, the syndicated Broadcast Architecture Smooth Jazz feed has been dropped and replaced with a locally produced, automated Smooth AC format featuring a wide mix of music from Frank Sinatra to The Jackson Five in addition to instrumental contemporary jazz. However, the smooth jazz format can be heard in Chicago on WKSC-FM's HD2 subchannel (103.5-HD2).
On January 3, 2014, Merlin Media announced a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Cumulus Media that would see Cumulus take over operations of WLUP-FM and sister station WIQI as well as inherit Merlin's LMA for WKQX-LP. The deal included an option for Cumulus to purchase the stations from Merlin. The deal sees Merlin relinquish operations of its last remaining radio stations; the company had previously sold off single stations in New York City and Philadelphia in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The deal also sees an expansion of Cumulus' Chicago reach; the company already owns and operates news/talk station WLS (890 AM) and classic hits station WLS-FM (94.7).
In January 2018, as part of Cumulus Media's bankruptcy proceedings, the company requested that a U.S. Bankruptcy Court release the company from several "extremely unprofitable" contracts, including its LMAs with WLUP-FM and WKQX. Cumulus stated that under the agreement, which carries a monthly fee of $600,000, the company had lost $8.4 million on the two Merlin stations.
Sale to EMF
On March 5, 2018, Merlin Media sold WLUP-FM to Educational Media Foundation for $21.5 million, who would convert the station to non-commercial status. The sale was prompted by Cumulus Media's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, in which it was determined that Cumulus would not proceed with the existing LMA or a sale of WLUP-FM from Merlin to Cumulus. The move gives EMF its second full-power outlet in Chicago; the organization also owns translators and lower-power stations in the market. On March 6, Cumulus ended manned operations on WLUP-FM and the entire air staff was dismissed; however, the Mancow show continued via its independent online streaming platform. An automated playlist of music continued until March 10 at midnight, when EMF took control of the frequency from Merlin under a new LMA and assumed the K-Love schedule carried by future sister station WJKL (94.3). EMF also retained the WLUP-FM call sign, warehousing it on an existing station in Starke, Florida (near Gainesville) which held the WCKL-FM call sign; that call sign was in turn transferred to the Chicago station on March 12, 2018, to stand for Chicago's K-Love. Merlin retained the "Loop" intellectual property and related properties, and transitioned that branding to WKQX-HD2 in a fully automated form.
The sale of WLUP-FM also ended the annual "Loopfest", a sponsored event that was planned for August 3, 2018 at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, with Lynyrd Skynyrd to support their final tour with .38 Special and the Marshall Tucker Band. WLUP-FM informed listeners who bought tickets that the event was canceled immediately after the station announced it the previous February, despite leaving event details on its website while not indicating who may take over the sponsorship.
Upon hearing the news of the sale, Steve Dahl pointed to WLUP-FM's legacy and heritage, saying:
As I look back on my 40 years on the radio in this market, I am reminded almost daily of The Loop's impact not only my career, but also rock and roll history in Chicago, and around the world. They just don't make brave risk-taking local radio stations like that anymore, and that's everybody's loss. I hope the last song they play there is AC/DC's 'Highway to Hell'!"
On March 9, 2018, Dahl gave listeners a chance to say goodbye to WLUP-FM via a simulcast of his afternoon program on WLS. Dahl also brought back alumni Sky Daniels and Kevin Matthews to help give WLUP-FM a proper send off, while WDRV paid homage to the station with a day long tribute lead by Bob Stroud, another WLUP-FM veteran, with guests and surprises. WGN's 'Dave Plier Show' also aired a reunion of ex-WLUP-FM DJs, including Kevin Matthews, current WGN hosts Wendy Snyder and Bill Leff, and broadcast executive Larry Wert, paying tribute to its legacy.
The LMA with EMF took effect March 10, 2018 at midnight, at which point The Loop switched to K-Love. In a last jab at the impending transition to Christian music, WLUP-FM closed by playing "Shout at the Devil" by Mötley Crüe, "The Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden, and (as Dahl suggested) "Highway to Hell". The first song played on WLUP-FM as K-Love was "Whom Shall I Fear" by Chris Tomlin. The move also removed WLUP-FM's HD Radio subchannels — not only the digital simulcast of the analog FM signal, but also a second channel carrying automated stand-up comedy and a third with smooth jazz/soft adult contemporary music, effectively leaving that struggling format's only presence in the Chicago market over-the-air on WKSC-HD2 and WTMX-HD2.
On September 15, 2014, three quarters of the new Loop on-air talent lineup were named. Midday personality Lyndsey Marie (Lyndsey Marie Cook), afternoon personality Tim Virgin (replacing Patrick Capone, who was released on September 12, 2014). Virgin previously worked at The Loop in the mid-’90s during their brief run as a Modern AC. Also added is evening personality Pyke (Jeremy Peterson). Mornings remained open while The Loop conducted a nationwide search to replace Maxwell Slater "Max" Logan (Benjamin Bornstein) and John Czahor (who were also released on September 12, 2014). This search culminated in the hiring of Matthew Erich "Mancow" Muller, who now hosts the "Mancow Morning Show".
In 2009, Jonathon "Johnny B." Brandmeier exited WLUP.
Radio personality and WEBN alum Maxwell Slater "Max" Logan (Benjamin Bornstein), best known for his years as host of The Maxwell Show at WMMS and WNCX in Cleveland, took over as the WLUP-FM morning host on July 30, 2012. Former personality Zakk Tyler (Dominic Zaccagnini) was also returned.
On February 16, 2015, Chicago shock jock Mancow Muller was announced as WLUP's new morning show host.
Their current Loop Rock Girl is April Rose Haydock, the Loop Rock Girl from 2007 to 2008.
Some of the former music themed shows include:
- Get the Led Out! (a three-song set of Led Zeppelin songs that aired weeknights at 8 PM)
- Saturday Night Rock Of The 1980s (an all-'80s rock music show that aired from 7–9 PM)
- The Loop on Stage! (a full hour of live rock music that aired at 10 PM on Fridays)
- The Live at Nine (a full hour of live rock music aired weeknights at 9)
- The Loop's 11 Grooves (a full album played weeknights at 11)
- The Loop's Rock 'N' Roll Diner (all request show weekdays at noon)
- Two Fer Tuesdays (2 songs from the same artist, every Tuesday, all day)
Saturday Night Rock Of The '80s was originated by one-time Night and Overnight DJ Zander in 2003. He brought the show over from WCKG where he created it in 1997, later took it to WXXY (The '80s Channel), then into syndication, and eventually streaming on the Internet only.
Dr. Demento was carried on WLUP from 1987 through 2010, just prior to when Dr. Demento ceased over-the-air broadcasting.
Advertising and promotion
In the early 1990s, WLUP aired a popular television commercial featuring a fat man dubbed "Joey Bag O' Donuts" dancing to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way". In the time span since the original commercial was aired, the footage of the dancing fat man in the commercial has been used by numerous other radio stations across the country. The original WLUP commercial was re-created in the mid-late 2000s and briefly featured Kelly the Loop Rock Girl.
- "History Cards for WCKL-FM". fcc.gov. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
- "In the Matter of Allocation of Frequencies to the Various Class of Non-Governmental Services in the Radio Spectrum from 10 Kilocycles to 30,000,000 Kilocycles (Docket No. 6651)" (PDF). fcc.gov. Federal Communications Commission. June 27, 1945. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
- Time, Mark (September 5, 2000). "Chicagoland Radio Call-Sign History". angelfire.com. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
- "Yvonne Daniels, Radio Hall of Fame". Radio Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on January 11, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
- "Industry Newspaper" (PDF). americanradiohistory.com.
- Feder, Robert (June 27, 1996). "Music, new exec join Loop's lineup". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (September 10, 1996). "Loop getting ready to rock new format". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- "New Music `Loop' Is Adult Alternative" (PDF). Radio & Records. October 4, 1996. p. 3. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (September 25, 1996). "DJ shift to launch Loop's rock revival". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- "Industry Newspaper" (PDF). American Radio History.
- Feder, Robert (July 21, 1997). "New owners take Loop back to its `rock roots'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (July 3, 1997). "Era ends after 14 years for Brandmeier on Loop". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- Eggerton, John. "New Morning Show for NBC's Chicago WMAQ." Broadcasting & Cable. December 21, 2006. Retrieved on October 12, 2007.
- Staff Writer. "NBC5 To Air 'Barely Today' At 4:30 A.M.." WMAQ-TV. December 21, 2006. Retrieved on October 12, 2007.
- "Emmis and WorldBand Media Partner to Launch First-of-Its-Kind Digital Radio Network" (Press release). PR Newswire. September 9, 2008. Retrieved September 13, 2008.
Top 3 U.S. markets to offer programming in HD for the South Asian ethnic community
- Feder, Robert (June 21, 2011). "Q101, Loop deal blows Randy Michaels back into radio business". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
- "Merlin Media Officially Owns WLUP & WWWN," from Chicagoland Radio Media, 9/2/2011
- "Smooth Jazz, Alternative Returns to Chicago Air". Radio Online. May 3, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- "Deal for 'the Loop' gives radio powerhouse bigger reach in Chicago," from Crain's Chicago Business, 1/4/2014
- "Cumulus Purchasing All Merlin Media Properties; Alternative Coming Back To 101.1," from Chicagoland Radio & Media, 1/3/201
- Rosenthal, Phil. "WLS-AM's parent company asks court to end 'unprofitable' radio deals with White Sox, Bulls". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
- Venta, Lance (March 5, 2018). "Educational Media Foundation Acquires 97.9 WLUP Chicago". RadioInsight. RadioBB Networks. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (March 6, 2018). "Loop Rock Era Ends Today". RobertFeder.com. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
- Ross, Sean (March 9, 2018). "Final Listen: WLUP Chicago". RadioInsight. RadioBB Networks. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (March 8, 2018). "Robservations: 101 WKQX picks up The Loop's Tim Virgin". RobertFeder.com. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (March 6, 2018). "Rock Radio Shocker: Christian Broadcaster Buying The Loop". RobertFeder.com. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Venta, Lance (March 8, 2018). "Steve Dahl To Host WLUP Farewell Show". RadioInsight. RadioBB Networks. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (March 9, 2018). "Robservations: Steve Dahl to 'lock up' The Loop today". RobertFeder.com. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
- "97.9 The Loop Becomes K-Love - Format Change Archive". March 10, 2018.
- Feder, Robert (September 15, 2014). "Tim Virgin returns to new Loop lineup". RobertFeder.com. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
- "WLUP FM Releases Morning Show Personalities Maxwell And John Czahor". Chicago Radio and Media. September 12, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
- "WLUP FM Releases Patrick Capone". Chicago Radio and Media. September 12, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
- "Joey Bag O Donuts." YouTube. September 27, 2006. Retrieved on October 12, 2007.
- Official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WCKL
- Radio-Locator information on WCKL
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WCKL