The 1970's were an odd time for music radio. The decade started with the underground rock of The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Then it moved completely in the other direction with soft sounds from Bread, Jim Croce and The Carpenters. Plus bubblegum artists brought us "Billy, Don't Be A Hero," "The Night Chicago Died" and "Run, Joey Run." Midway through the decade saw the eruption of soul, and later disco. At the same time corporate rock (Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Aerosmith) and a new genre of underground music first known as punk, later dubbed New Wave (Blondie, The Cars, Devo) vied for the ears of the listener. 

In the early seventies, WLS began to lose its way.  The jocks were instructed to talk less and play more music.  In 1972, Larry Lujack left to return to host the afternoon shift at WCFL.   


L-R: Bill Bailey, Chuck Knapp, Frisbee Girl, Charlie Van Dyke, Fred Winston, John Landecker.

In the summer of 1973, 'CFL beat WLS (the only time it happened) and changes were in the air.  With the ratings in jeopardy, WLS General Manager Paul Abrams promoted Production Director Tommy Edwards to Program Director, replacing Mike McCormick.  Working quickly to reverse the downturn, Edwards instituted the popular Musicradio Game, shifted afternoon jock Fred Winston to morning drive and hired future stars Bob Sirott, Steve King and Yvonne Daniels.  Jim Smith was brought in to tighten up the playlist as Music Director.  By the fall Arbitron book, WLS had regained its crown, boasting its highest cume audience in station history.  Tommy Edwards longed to return to the air and new General Manager Marty Greenberg brought in John Gehron as Program Director.  Together the three helped topple WCFL's short dominance and promoted its eventual demise.  The "big" had returned to The Big 89.

 

 


Lyle Dean in the 
WLS Newsroom.

 



Mike McCormick


Early 70's (L-R) Steve Lundy, Joel Sebastian, Bill Bailey, Chuck Knapp,
Gary Gears, Fred Winston, J.J. Jeffrey, Chuck Williams.


In the early 1970's, a music set that consisted of "A-B-C" by The Jackson 5, "Fox On The Run" by Sweet and "Handyman" by James Taylor may not have been uncommon on any Top 40 radio station in the country, but in Chicago, those songs were followed by John Records Landecker's Boogie Check and Americana Panorama. Bob Sirott's B-S Love Counselor and B-S Horoscopes as well as The Tooth Fairy and the WLS High School Team Of The Week. "Superjock" Larry Lujack, who worked here at both ends of the seventies, began it with The Klunk Letter of The Day and ended the decade with his Cheap Trashy Showbiz Report and Animal Stories (with 'Lil Tommy Edwards) after returning from rival WCFL, who threw in the Top 40 towel in 1976. The music may have not been the greatest then, but the personalities more than made up for it!

 

Program Director John Gehron 
in a music meeting.

 

 

     

     

The mid-late 70's (L-R)  "Superjock" Larry Lujack,  Tommy Edwards,  Bob Sirott,  John Records Landecker,
Yvonne Daniels, Steve King, Jeff Davis, John Gehron.

John Gehron photo courtesy of JAM Creative Productions.

 

 

A Columbia College documentary chronicling John Landecker.  Part one (left video), Part two (right video). 

The seventies were a time for many "firsts" at WLS Musicradio.  In previous years, the station was responsible for bringing many local acts to the national stage, including The Buckinghams, New Colony Six, The Cryan Shames and The Ides of March.  In 1974, it would help break one of the biggest acts in the music industry by playing a song by a local South Side band formerly known as TradeWinds 4 (TW4). The song was "Lady" by Styx. According to Styx guitarist James "J.Y." Young: "We always did the college and high school circuit, so people from Downers Grove to Wheeling bought the record and kept calling WLS to play it. The program director started having the record played, and that became our first big break."  After the song began airing on The Big 89, Styx was signed to a record deal with A&M, who bought out their contract with local Wooden Nickel Records.  Styx was also the first live rock concert broadcast on WLS on December 18. 1978 from the Chicago Stadium.  To this day, Styx still credits WLS with sparking their career.  Many other renown artists would make their way through the doors of WLS, whether it be for a live interview or to appear on Musicpeople.

    
Lujackabilia: The Superjock Super Clock that hung in WLS' Studio A,
Animal Stories TV commercial, Chicago Tribune ad for an in-depth interview with Lar.

 

Other "firsts" included the first remote broadcast from Hometown Square at Marriott's Great America in 1976.  WLS inaugurated several of the park's rides including "The Tidal Wave" (1978), "The American Eagle" (1981) and "The Edge" (1983).  In 1978, the first annual WLS 8.9 Mile Run For The Zoo was held along the lakefront to benefit the Lincoln Park Zoo. 

But one of the biggest "firsts" was the hiring of Yvonne Daniels, the station's first female air personality, who also was African-American.  Yvonne came from a musical family background and had worked at several stations including WYNR, WCFL during it's jazz days and WSDM-FM.  She held down the overnight shift for nearly eight years before moving on to WGCI and later WNUA.  Yvonne succumbed to cancer in 1991 and has been posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall Of Fame.

 


Bill Bailey    Scottie Brink    Allan Burns    Yvonne Daniels    Jeff Davis    Tommy Edwards    Gary Gears    Jim Hampton    J.J. Jeffrey    Jerry Kaye    Jim Kerr    Steve King    Chuck Knapp    John Records Landecker    Tom Lee    Steve Lundy    Larry Lujack    Brant Miller    Bill Price    Art Roberts    Dick Sainte     Joel Sebastian    Bob Sirott    Kris Erik Stevens    Charlie Van Dyke    Art Wallis    Chuck Williams    Fred Winston

 

 

1978 WLS Holiday card sent to clients and advertisers.

 


Click here to look at the lists!

 



Promotional sticker given away at "US 30 Dragstrip" and "Santa Fe Speedway" racetracks.


Click here to learn more about the famous 
WLS jingles!

The contests were a big deal. The WLS "touch-tone" alerted listeners to be the "...15th caller at 591-30-89" to win just about anything under the sun. Musicradio Game lips stickers were designed to put near the bottom of the telephone.  It was the first station to give away an entire trip to Disney World, a complete $50,000 house and tons of records, concert tickets, t-shirts and of course plenty of money. Listeners were conditioned to "sing it and win" and even non-WLS listeners knew that if someone called and asked "what's your favorite radio station?" to answer "WLS Musicradio." That's a powerful promotion machine.

 

         

(L-R): "The Musicradio Game", The "Musicradio Lips" sticker (1973), 
"Say It and Win" (1974) and trips to Walt Disney World (1975).


Production Director Bill Price was the voice
 of the Musicradio Game for many years.

            

Summer road crews (left): The WLS Musicradio Volkswagen "Thing" at North Avenue Beach. 
(right): Listeners stand in line for goodies like t-shirts and bumper-stickers from the WLS Magic Bus.


WLS newscasters Kathy McFarland and Jeffrey Hendrix flank Larry Lujack in Studio A in 1979.


As the seventies came to a close, WLS was not everybody's favorite station. Bob Sirott left for a career in television, although he briefly returned to radio at WRCK-FM. Morning news anchor Kathy McFarland also left for TV on Channel 32. Fred Winston was let go when Larry Lujack returned, and went on to enjoy a successful run as morning guy at WFYR-FM with his former WLS cohort, newsman Lyle Dean. Steve King had left to join WIND, then jumped over to the FM side (only to return to AM a few years later with his wife Johnnie Putnam, over on WGN) and J.J. Jeffrey (like Dex Card) plunged into the world of station ownership. FM radio was slowly creeping up on WLS, but the salad days would definitely last into the mid 1980's.

 



Click for a larger image.      Click for a larger image.
The famous '?" survey from 1979, a promotional page from 1978 and newspaper ad from 1973.

WLS NEWS AND INFORMATION HOSTS OF THE 1970's
Bob Benson     Paul Clark     Bob Conway    Lyle Dean    Les Grobstein    Gil Gross     Karen Hand    Jeffrey Hendrix    Jim Johnson    Linda Marshall    Kathy McFarland    Bud Miller     Laurel Ornish     Chuck Scott     Jack Swanson

 


(left) Linda Marshall and News Director 
Bud Miller in the WLS Newsroom.

(right) WLS Sports Director Les Grobstein.

 

 

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