[In 1924...WLS-AM, Chicago, Illinois began broadcasting.
In its first month, WLS started its “National Barn Dance” program, a live country-music showcase that was the direct predecessor of the Grand Ole Opry.
A Chicago radio manufacturer signed on WENR Radio in 1925. The station entered a time-sharing agreement with WBCN Radio. An investor bought both stations in 1927. He later sold the licenses to NBC. The network kept WENR on the air. It shared a frequency with WLS for decades. One station would sign off and another would sign on.
Sears sold WLS to the “Prairie Farmer” magazine in 1928. The radio station became an essential part of agriculture in the Midwest. Farmers relied heavily on agricultural news, commodity prices and weather reports from WLS.
Audio clips from 1924-1949:
WENR-WLS boosted power to 50,000 watts in 1932, beaming its programming over much of the nation. Despite its part-time status, the station built a large amount of goodwill and a huge audience.
In addition to farm programming, WLS offered entertainment and educational programs. It also made history in news broadcasting. WLS reporter Herb Morrison famously said, “Oh the humanity!” as he watched the 1937 Hindenberg crash in Lakehurst, N.J. The recorded account aired the next day over NBC.
The station also experimented successfully in many forms of news broadcasting, including weather and crop reports. Its most famous news broadcast was the report of the Hindenburg disaster by Herbert Morrison.
VISIT SCOTT CHILDERS' WLS TRIBUTE WEBSITE: Click Here
VISIT JEFF ROTEMAN'S WLS TRIBUTE WEBSITE: Click Here
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.
WLS was an NBC Blue Network affiliate during radio’s golden age. NBC was forced to sell the Blue Network, which became ABC. In 1954, ABC bought a controlling interest in WENR-WLS, combining the two into WLS. The network bought WLS outright in 1959.
The ABC era brought a major change. The staid, conservative WLS that brought Midwesterners a steady diet of farm reports, news and weather, general-interest music and entertainment and the “National Barn Dance” became a Top 40 station at 6 a.m. on May 2, 1960. ABC created one of the nation’s most influential radio stations in the rock era, attracting millions of listeners each week.
Here’s a sample of a 1962 aircheck featuring Dick Biondi:
By the late 1980s, it was an adult contemporary station during the day and offered talk programming at night. WLS switched to its current full-time news/talk format in 1989. Cumulus Media now owns the station.
Your Hit Parade began on NBC April 20, 1935, as a 60-minute program with 15 songs played in a random format. Initially, the songs were more important than the singers, so a stable of vocalists went uncredited and were paid only $100 per episode. In 1936-37, it was carried on both NBC and CBS. Script continuity in the late 1930s and early 1940s was written by Alan Jay Lerner before he found fame as a lyricist. The first number one song on the first episode was "Soon" by Bing Crosby.
One source says his contract was not renewed due to demanding a raise and the show being moved to the West Coast. As he zoomed in popularity he was rehired, returning (1947–49) to co-star with Doris Day.
Hugely popular on CBS through the WWII years, Your Hit Parade returned to NBC in 1947.
Dozens of singers appeared on the radio program, including "Wee" Bonnie Baker, Dorothy Collins, Beryl Davis, Gogo DeLys, Joan Edwards (1941–46), Georgia Gibbs, Dick Haymes, Snooky Lanson, Gisèle MacKenzie, Johnny Mercer, Andy Russell, Dinah Shore, Ginny Simms, Lawrence Tibbett, Martha Tilton, Eileen Wilson, Barry Wood, and occasional guest vocalists.
The radio series continued until January 16, 1953.
[In 1941...The Life of Riley family comedy was heard for the first time on the CBS radio network, as a Saturday morning half-hour. William Bendix starred in the more successful prime time version (first on ABC, then NBC Radio) from 1944 to ’51.
[In 1954…Bill Haley and His Comets recorded "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" at the Pythian Temple, "a big, barn-like building with great echo," in New York City. Most music historians agree that the song, featured in the 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle," ushered in the rock 'n' roll era. It hit #1 on June 29, 1955 and stayed there for eight weeks, remaining on the charts for a total of 24 weeks, and has sold more than 25 million copies.
[In 1989...David Cassidy's comeback begins when Los Angeles KLOS, to which the former Partridge Family singer is listening, wonder what happened to him. Before long, he's at the studio, performing three songs that land him a new record deal.
[In 2002...WTJM 105.1 FM NYC switched call letters to WWPR
[In 2007...Don Imus was fired from his syndicated program by CBS Radio after a week of controversy brought on by racial remarks broadcast a week earlier about the Rutgers women basketball team. One day earlier, Imus' simulcast of his show on MSNBC was canceled.