Internet radio pioneer channels classic country artists
Believe it or not, there’s more to country music in Chicago than US 99.5.
CBS Radio’s WUSN-FM (99.5), which has defined the format here since 1982, enjoys a near monopoly in the market with a 4.2 percent share of all adult listeners. Last year it was Chicago’s fifth highest-billing station with revenues exceeding $23 million.
But it’s what US 99.5 wasn’t doing that inspired Allan Winters to launch Chicago’s Real Country. “Many of the legends of country music, including Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Charley Pride, are no longer heard on country music radio in the Windy City,” he said. So he created a 24/7 webcast to fill just that niche.
The channel also features such stars as Johnny Cash, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, along with a mix of bluegrass and gospel.
Winters, who caught the radio bug when he was a student at Columbia College in the 1960s and worked for the former WEDC, WXFM and WCFL, segued to a career in television, including a job as promotions and public relations director at WCFC-TV, the former Chicago Christian station. But radio remained his passion.
A pioneer in the webcasting business, Winters has been at it since 1997, when Internet radio was in its infancy. What he first saw as a cheaper alternative to syndicating programs on satellite became the nucleus for his Chicago-based company, Sunlite Radio. He now programs more than 25 channels from his studio, ranging from lullabyes to blues to inspiration, and claims to have reached nearly two million listeners worldwide.
Last week Winters added a new channel of classic country music videos, boasting a playlist of more than 1,000 titles. “It’s a real joy to bring these artists back to some measure of prominence again,” he said.