My memories of listening to the radio station WLS-AM 890 in the 1970s.

wls musicradio stickers
Vintage stickers from the radio station WLS-AM 890 in Chicago.

Hello everyone. It’s been a while since I wrote a story on my blog. In the past few weeks, I have been dealing with prostate surgery and gradual recovery. I am getting better each day. Now, its time for some fun!

Today I will be writing about my memories of listening to the radio station, WLS-AM 890 in the 1970s. On May 2, 1960, WLS-AM 890 debuted its rock and roll-top 40 formats that lasted for years on this local radio station. I started listening to WLS-AM when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I listened to it on my Panasonic Toot-A-Loop Radio, which I wrote a previous story about that particular radio which I owned as a child.

The first person I heard on WLS-AM was Bob Sirott. Him and John “Records” Landecker were my absolute favorites. Larry Lujack was wonderful as well. I also remembered Yvonne Daniels on the air too. Her voice was absolutely beautiful. WLS-AM had one of the most talented on-air personalities at that time. They were perfect.

I have quite a list of pleasant memories of listening to the radio station that was unforgettable. The promos on the air, the contests, the announcement of upcoming concerts, classic commercials, and looking forward to the disc jockeys to play which song is coming up. The commercials that I remembered were Pepsi-Cola, Chicken Unlimited, Stri-Dex Medicated Acne Pads, Clearasil, Nestle 100,000 Chocolate Bars, K-Tel Albums,  bubble gum brands, school supplies, and many more.

I remembered the contest where you would send in a postcard to the radio station and one of the DJs would randomly select a postcard and telephone that person at home. The first thing you hear is the landline phone ringing, and the song, On The Run by Pink Floyd, would be playing. The DJ would ask the person to correctly identify him or herself and if they say yes, they would win a huge prize The last thing asked the winner was,” What is your favorite radio station?”And they would say, “WLS Music Radio 890”! Some of the prizes were very expensive at the time. John Records Landecker which his trademark was, records truly is my middle name, would do the classic Boogie Check. Boogie Check was a humorous feature; it was the last thing Landecker did each night on his show for about two minutes. A string of brief telephone calls was put on the air in rapid succession. They were hilarious. Another classic slogan for Landecker which I heard all the time was, Don’t be nervous, don’t be rocky, You’re our teenage guest disc jockey, now.

I remembered the T-shirts, bumper stickers, Frisbees, and book covers that were present during that time. The merchandise was very successful, and I saw most of it while I was growing up. I loved the music surveys that they put out every week. The songs that played were adult contemporary, disco, love songs, soul, and some hard rock. It was very diverse. The surveys showed the top-charting albums and songs. It also showed a photo of the Jock of the Week and upcoming concerts in Chicago.

There was also a feature called Animal Stories with Larry Lujack and Tommy Edwards. I didn’t listen to those at the time, because I thought they were boring and I wasn’t the least bit interested in them. But, as I got older and was more open-minded, I started listening to them online on YouTube and boy was I wrong. They are so funny now, They are classics! I regretted not listening to them back in the day. The other thing that was memorable was the WLS-AM Magic Bus. I would hear about its upcoming schedules on the radio where the Magic Bus will be in the Chicagoland area. I would hear the song, Magic Bus by The Who while the DJ who was on duty would make the announcements. That was another classic.

WLS-AM 890 went into an all-talk format in August 1989. It was kind of sad that it no longer plays music. At least, we have WLS-FM 94.7. That station has such a rich history that I will write another story in the near future. WLS-AM 890 will be in our memories forever. From the 1960s to the 1980s, it was a pleasant radio station to listen to. When I was a teenager, I listened to a variety of radio stations on the air. WMET-FM, WLUP-FM, WDAI-FM, WBBM-FM, WXRT-FM, WEFM, WRCK, WFYR, and others. Those were the best. The only radio stations I listen to in the car are WLS-FM and METV FM. Listening to the classic jingles from WLS-AM 890 on YouTube makes me smile all the time. It’s beautiful! Thank you Pete Kastanes, Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.

5 thoughts on “My memories of listening to the radio station WLS-AM 890 in the 1970s.

  1. Thanks for sharing your memories! I also remember going to the record store—not every week—but every week there was a newly published list of the top singles and albums(!) for that week. On the back were the lyrics to a popular song out at that time. I found one of these in my basement boxes not that long ago. Good times!!

  2. I thought for sure you would mention the “rivalry” between Clark Weber and Ron Riley! I started listening when we moved back to Chicago from Kansas City in 1964. The Beatles had just begun conquering America. I was fortunate in that my Dad worked for the airlines and I could fly for free or $12.00 round trip in first class! I flew to London several times just for the weekend. Ron Riley was great friends with Chad & Jeremy and he gave me Jeremy’s phone number! Jeremy was appearing in a play in the West End called “Passion Flower Hotel” and I met him at the stage door and got his autograph on the cast album. Pretty darn cool! Ron had a taste for Benedictine and I bought him a bottle duty free. I remember the concerts at Arie Crown that went for top price $5.50. I actually snuck backstage one time with a friend through an open door and hid in a closet!! The Andy Frain ushers found us and kicked us out! And I saw the Beatles 3 times. The first time was at the Stockyards. We had 5th row seats, John’s side. And of course both concerts at Sox Park. Those were the days!

  3. I too, listened to WLS on my Panasonic Toot-a-Loop radio, slid over the handlebars of my banana seat bike, tooling around my suburban Darien subdivision! I would ride that bike (and cross ROUTE 83!) to get to the Willowbrook K-Mart to get my WLS Top 40 sheet and buy 45’s. I would also string that Toot-a-Loop through the aluminum frame of my webbed chaise lounge and suntan in my bikini on my family’s patio as a teen, listening to WLS.

  4. I grew up in Philadelphia. In 1965, at age 16, a neighbor was throwing out his old console-style RCA radio which stood four feet tall. We dragged it into my bedroom. It had an incredibly powerful tuner and booming sound. So I started tuning into WLS-AM after sunset, listening to Art Roberts. He had a “teenage guest disc jockey” feature where you would send in a postcard and he would select one card per week and put that lucky teen on the radio for an hour with Art on a Sunday night. I sent in a card and got picked via a letter from Art. Well, I had no concept of where Chicago was or that you would have to fly there in an airplane, so my dad explained it was a half-baked idea to fly to a distant city just to be on the radio. But the next Sunday night a young girl was guest DJ and she mentioned my name and that she was on the air in my place because I lived so far away but was a loyal listener. She even mailed me a picture of her and Art in the DJ booth at 360 North Michigan Ave. Recently (in 2017) I attended a conference in downtown Chicago and stayed at the London House hotel which is the building WLS-AM broadcasted from for many years. I engaged a kind hotel employee who took me “behind the scenes” to the fifth floor which was now being converted into hotel rooms. I could almost hear sixties music as I stood in the space where “WLS, 890 on everyone’s dial” held court, overlooking the Chicago River.

  5. Thanks for this memory. I grew up in Eastern Iowa and everyone listened to WLS too! I wonder if the station recorded the programs.

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