WLS (The Big 89)
WLS was founded in 1924 by the Sears Roebuck and Company. The call sign stood for “World’s Largest Store.” For many years this station served as the radio outlet for Prairie Farmer magazine. The station aired speeches from President Calvin Coolidge, the Chicago reception of Colonel Charles Lindbergh, and the Saturday night WLS Barn Dance—one of the country’s most popular country and western shows in history.
On May 2, 1960, WLS changed to a Top 40 music format. The first disc jockey was Mort Crowley and the first song played was “Alley-Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles. The station’s first jingles were sung by the Anita Kerr singers. In that same year star DJ Dick Biondi was brought in from WEBR in Buffalo, NY where he remained until 1963. Others joining in 1960 were Art Roberts, Clark Weber, and Ron Riley. Dex Card would join in 1964. Larry Lujack would join the lineup in 1967.
Others joining the station were John Records Landecker, Chuck Buell, Kris Stevens, Joel Sebastian, Gary Gears, Jerry Kay, Yvonne Daniels, Brant Miller, Tom Kent, Steve King, Jeff Davis, Bob Sirott, and Fred Winston.
In the 1960’s WLS was a major force in introducing new music and recording artists. The first U.S. airplay of the Beatles “Please Please Me” happened when Dick Biondi played the record on February 8, 1963. WLS’s Silver Dollar Survey ran from 1960-1967 and presented the top forty songs in the country weekly. 4.2 million listeners were tuning in weekly.
Due to sagging ratings and without warning, WLS played “Just You ‘n’ Me” by Chicago on August 23, 1989, and abruptly changed to an all-talk format.