WLS-FM switches from oldies to ‘Chicago’s Classic Hits’
Cumulus Media programmer Jan Jeffries (foreground, seated) with new WLS-FM lineup (from left): Greg Brown, middays; Brant Miller, mornings; Dick Biondi, overnights; Fred Winston, afternoons; John Records Landecker, evenings.
Robservations on the media beat:
- When WLS-FM (94.7) debuts its all-star lineup of Chicago personalities Monday, it’ll also boast a revamped music playlist along with a rebranding as “Chicago’s Classic Hits.” “It is clearly a shift of format from oldies to classic hits,” Jan Jeffries, senior vice president of programming for Cumulus Media and program director of WLS-FM, said in an interview Sunday. “There will not be any radio station like this one.” He pointed to a playlist spanning ’60s to ’80s rock featuring Bryan Adams, Journey, John Mellencamp, Chicago, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Supertramp, Styx, Blue Oyster Cult, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen. “We still will play a lot of the music that we’ve always played, but it’s no longer oldies. We will not use that word.” Above all, the presentation will be unique, Jeffries said. “We will be fresh to the market and will have instant relevance that is unduplicated. And that will be compounded by the fact that we have the most legendary [talent] lineup in Chicago — no question about it. Probably in the whole country.”
- Bill Kurtis, the Chicago television icon and CBS 2 news anchor, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Journalists Association at the group’s 73rd annual dinner Friday at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza. Honored as Chicago Journalist of the Year will be John Conroy, the Chicago Reader investigative reporter and playwright who exposed the Chicago police torture scandal. Adela Navarro Bello, editor of Zeta magazine, will receive the Daniel Pearl Award for her coverage of Mexican drug cartels. Bill Moller, weekend host at news/talk WGN-AM (720), will emcee the event.
- College Radio Day, a worldwide event co-founded by Peter Kreten of Saint Xavier University in Chicago and Rob Quicke of William Paterson University in New York, will be commemorated Tuesday by more than 500 stations in 20 countries. The global effort spotlights the work of college and high school radio stations and their place in the media landscape. Saint Xavier’s WXAV-FM (88.3) will mark the second annual event with special programming including in-studio appearances by local bands and a documentary about the station’s history.
- Great news for fans of Scott Adams’ The Sounds of Brazil: Twenty years after the show premiered on the College of DuPage’s WDCB-FM (90.9), it’s back where it began. Starting this week, it will air at 7pm Wednesdays on the west suburban public radio station and online at wdcb.org. Adams describes the two-hour show as “classic Bossa Nova, contemporary jazz and Brazilian chill with down tempo and New Bossa hits from São Paulo to London, Milan, Tokyo and right back here to ‘Sweet Home Chicago.’” Shortly after its debut on WDCB in 1992, The Sounds of Brazil moved to former smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5) and later to Chicago’s Smooth 87.7, where it aired until last April.
- Chicago’s rival sports/talk stations are setting aside their usually fierce competition to support a good cause. Mitch Rosen, program director of CBS Radio's WSCR-AM (670), and Adam Delevitt, program director of ESPN's WMVP-AM (1000), are devoting substantial airtime to promote the first National Sports Radio Hall of Fame Awards Show Saturday at the Chicago Theatre. Both Rosen and Delevitt once worked for Bob Snyder, who’s spearheading the event. Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the first 24-hour sports/talk station (on WFAN-AM in New York), it’s being produced independently by Snyder and his wife, Michele, in memory of their daughter Jenny, who died of sudden cardiac arrest while playing soccer at age 17 in 2008. Proceeds from the awards show will benefit the nonprofit Parent Heart Watch.
- Veteran radio programmer Jay Beau Jones, who helped launch the Jammin’ Oldies format on the former WUBT in 1998, has published an inspiring and insightful memoir of his 25 years in the business. Written under his real name, John Dowd Jr., Heroes, Mentors and Friends: Learning From Our Spiritual Guides is a collection of stories about the memorable characters he encountered and many of the challenges he overcame. In the chapter devoted to his time in Chicago, he reveals the fascinating combination of strategy and luck it took to lure the legendary Larry Lujack out of retirement and bring him on as the station’s star attraction. “I had accomplished what no PD had ever done before,” Dowd writes. “Larry was such a pro and had so much class. It was one of the most amazing management experiences I had ever had.” The Balboa Press paperback is available on Amazon.com.