|Broadcast area||Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana|
|Slogan||Chicago's New Country|
|Frequency||95.5 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|Translator(s)||97.5 W248BB (Hillside, relays HD2)|
|First air date||1959(as WDHF)|
ESPN Deportes Radio (HD2)
|HAAT||358 meters (1,175 ft)|
|Callsign meaning||We're BIG Country|
|Former callsigns||WDHF (1959
–December 1, 1976 )|
WMET (December 1, 1976 –1985 )
WRXR (1985 –August 3, 1987 )
WNUA (August 3, 1987 –January 13, 2015 )
(AMFM Broadcasting Licenses, LLC)
|Sister stations||WGCI-FM, WGRB, WKSC-FM, WLIT, WVAZ, WVON|
|Webcast||Listen Live (via iHeartRadio)|
WEBG (95.5 MHz) is a country music radio station located in Chicago, Illinois, owned and operated by iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel Communications until September 2014) and branded as "Big 95.5". WEBG has studios located at the Illinois Center complex on Michigan Avenue in Downtown Chicago, and it broadcasts from an 8.3kw transmitter based atop John Hancock Center.
The station began operation in 1959 as WDHF, owned by Hi-Fi systems and record store owner James Dehaan. The station operated out of Dehaan's store in the Evergreen Plaza in Evergreen Park, Illinois. Its transmitter and tower was in Oak Lawn at 97th and Central. WDHF and Dehaan's record store moved to 102nd and Western Avenue in Chicago, in 1961. In the mid 1960s comedian Bob Newhart purchased the station and moved its studios downtown to 108 N. State St. In the late 1960s, WDHF was sold again to the National Science Network. In the early 1970s, the station's transmitter was moved to the John Hancock Building on the near north side of Chicago. Under Dehaan's, Newhart's and the National Science Network's ownership, WDHF aired a big band music format. Metromedia would buy the station by the early 1970s and flipped the format to a full service station playing middle-of-the-road popular music. Within a few years, WDHF adopted a Top 40 format. On December 1, 1976, WDHF's call letters were changed to WMET, while keeping a top 40 format. Several months after the format flip of WEFM from Classical to Top 40 as "WE-FM" in 1978, Metromedia flipped WMET to an AOR format. Ratings were good into the early 1980s.
Metromedia would buy Field Communications's TV station WFLD in 1983. In March 1986, though, Metromedia sold all of their TV stations, including WFLD-TV, which was later owned by Fox, and restructured and became Metropolitan Broadcasting. WMET was then sold to Doubleday Broadcasting, which altered the format to "Rockradio, The New WMET." In January 1985, WMET was flipped to a highly unsuccessful mid-tempo AC for a short while. Then, the calls were briefly changed to WRXR, and the format became an oldies/classic hits hybrid.
In the fall of 1986, a new-age music show was added in evenings from 7 p.m. - midnight. Shortly after, WRXR was sold to Pyramid Broadcasting. The new-age music was added in overnights by the spring of 1987.
On August 3, 1987, the station's call letters were changed to WNUA as a full-time new-age broadcast began (which is believed to be the source of the call letters). Indeed, for a time the station's slogan was "Music For a New Age". Initially the station only played new-age music but by the Winter of 1988 it added smooth jazz music before 7 p.m. during the day. The station at that point was still all instrumental.
By the Summer of 1988, the station added four vocals per hour during the day. The vocalists were R&B artists, soft hits by rock artists, and a few AC cuts. By 1989, the station was about half vocals and half instrumentals during the day and still all new-age instrumentals at night.
By 1990, the station began to grow and attract many listeners. Smooth Jazz and a couple vocalists per hour at nights were also added. During the day, vocals were pulled back to about 1/3. New-age music was being played less than before. As a Smooth Jazz station, WNUA had become a major pioneer in the format, spawning imitators in other cities, such as KMYT in Temecula, California. KMYT used the same on-air jingles as WNUA, which mentioned the call letters first and the frequency second (sung as "WNUA 95.5" and "KMYT 94.5"). Some other former smooth jazz stations, such as KKSF in San Francisco, California, WSMJ (104.3 FM) in Baltimore, Maryland, WSJT in Tampa, Florida, WZJZ in Fort Myers, Florida and WJJZ (106.1 FM) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also used these jingles, and the new WJJZ (97.5 FM), also in Philadelphia, would use exactly the same jingles as a tribute to the old station's heyday, after originally using different-sounding ones that could easily be told from those of its predecessor. (It should be noted, though, that the new WJJZ's jingles used a slightly different arrangement, as they were last sung as "WJJZ 97-5," omitting the "point" that was included in the 106.1 version.) KYOT-FM (95.5 FM) in Phoenix, Arizona, sometimes used the jingles as well, but its identity was never sung. Prior to a format change in January 2009, WJZZ (107.5 FM) in Atlanta, Georgia (now WAMJ), used similar jingles that mentioned the frequency before the callsign, thus sung as "107.5 WJZZ". The jingles were used for the Smooth Jazz Network until 2012.
In 1994, Pyramid sold WNUA to Shamrock Broadcasting, which would merge with Chancellor in 1995 and then merge with Evergreen in 1997. WNUA was then owned by Chancellor, which restructured as AMFM Inc. in 1999. In 2000, AMFM merged with Clear Channel Communications, making WNUA a Clear Channel station.
WNUA was the home of the now-defunct Ramsey Lewis morning show, and it was also where he recorded his syndicated show, Legends of Jazz (which showcased the music of instrumentalists Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis, as well as vocalists Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald) for distribution to other smooth jazz stations across the nation. The show lived on in Chicago on WLFM-LP during that station's run, and continues on smooth jazz stations across the country.
In late 2006, three Smooth Jazz personalities, WNUA's Ramsey Lewis, Annie Ashe, and Dave Koz, were tapped by Broadcast Architecture to syndicate their respective shows on its Smooth Jazz Network. Lewis's morning show aired in other parts of the country for the first time. Ashe hosted the night time show, known locally as the now-defunct "Lights Out Chicago," for approximately two months; however, in December 2006, the show reverted to its local format as Danae Alexander was moved back to the 7 p.m.-12 a.m. slot after being in the afternoon slot for the past year. As of the first of the year, the afternoon slot was hosted via syndication by Dave Koz, the well-known saxophonist regularly featured on smooth jazz radio stations.
WNUA won R&R Smooth Jazz Station of the Year from 1998–2005, and was a recipient of the Marconi Award for Smooth Jazz Station of the Year, 2004.
Rick O'Dell was the program director until mid-January 2009. Glenn Cosby was his replacement.
On May 22, 2009, at 9:50am, after the station played David Sanborn's "Chicago Song", WNUA stunted for 5 minutes with a ticking clock and an announcer saying "In _ minutes, 95.5 reaches its big/mega event." Along with the clock sound, they aired a recap of jingles and moments from its history as WDHF, WMET, WRXR, and WNUA. 95.5 then had a countdown from 10 to 1 switching in the middle from English to Spanish. At 9:55 am, WNUA flipped formats to Spanish contemporary as Mega 95.5 to cater to Chicago's Hispanic community. It competed with WPPN for the younger Spanish speaking Hispanic audience in addition to its English sister station WKSC, which is heavily targeted towards the Hispanic population. The downslope of smooth jazz stations' popularity nationwide likely contributed to the flip.
The Smooth Jazz format was picked up a few hours later by television station WLFM-LP (Channel 6) by audio available through a technical quirk within Chicago proper on 87.7 FM, but in October 2010, the format was tweaked to a Smooth AC hybrid. "Smooth 87.7" featured several former WNUA smooth jazz hosts during the day on weekdays, and aired Broadcast Architecture's Smooth AC Network the remainder of the time. On April 30, 2012, Merlin Media, LLC took over the station, changed the format to a simulcast of Merlin's all-news station, WIQI, followed by a call sign change from WLFM-LP to WKQX-LP, and another format change to alternative rock. On May 3, 2012, Merlin added a satellite-fed version of Broadcast Architecture’s "Smooth Jazz Network" format on the HD3 subchannel of its WLUP-FM (97.9-HD3). On November 12, 2012, Rick O'Dell launched online radio station SmoothJazzChicago.net, which ran until midnight on January 1, 2016.
Since 2012, WNUA-HD2 has carried ESPN Deportes Radio programming, which is translated by Hillside-licensed W248BB at 97.5 FM, a station owned by the Educational Media Foundation, a frequent collaborator on iHeartMedia's translator operations.
Regional Mexican era
On June 19, 2012, WNUA shifted to a Regional Mexican format known as "El Patrón 95.5" to more directly compete with WLEY and WOJO. The shift was affected by low ratings from the previous Spanish Language Hot AC format. However, the ratings still remained at a 1.0 to 1.5 over the tenure of El Patron, lower than Mega. In the December 2014 Nielsen Audio PPM ratings, WNUA registered a 1.9 share, albeit on an upward trend from 1.5 in October.
Conversion to country
On January 5, 2015, at Noon, WNUA flipped to country as "Big 95.5", taking direct aim at WUSN, who has been unrivaled in the format since WKXK (now WLS-FM) in 1996. The first song on Big 95.5 was This Is How We Roll by Florida Georgia Line.
On January 12, 2015, WNUA changed call letters to WEBG to match the "Big" branding.
- All Stations - Delilah
- Deeb, Gary (November 11, 1976). Chicago Tribune. p. A12. Missing or empty
- WNUA-FM's Rick O'Dell Ousted as Clear Channel Starts Cutting; CEO Confirms Elimination of Around 1,850 Jobs, Chicago Tribune, January 20, 2009
- "Smooth Jazz, Alternative Returns to Chicago Air". Radio Online. May 3, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
- Feder, Robert (November 12, 2012). "Cue the sax: Rick O'Dell launches SmoothJazzChicago.net". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- "Rick O'Dell Streams Jazz Back To Chicago". All Access Music Group. November 13, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- ESPN Deportes To Also Debut Tomorrow On 97.5 FM - Chicagoland Radio and Media
- Clear Channel To Launch 97.5 ESPN Deportes/Chicago On Wednesday - All Access
- iHeartMedia Launches Big 95.5 Chicago - Radio Insight
- Feder, Robert (January 12, 2015). "It's out with WNUA, in with WEBG at new country Big 95.5". RobertFeder.com. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- Official website
- ESPN Deportes Radio Chicago
- Smooth Chicago - info on other smooth jazz happenings in the Chicago area
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WEBG
- Radio-Locator information on WEBG
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WEBG
- Query the FCC's FM station database for W248BB
- Radio-Locator information on W248BB
- Thank You for Listening to Smooth Jazz WNUA 95
- Memories of Smooth Jazz WNUA 95