I hope that everyone who enjoys reliving these great memories can appreciate how much time and dedication goes into building and maintaining a site like this.
The first time I walked thru the doors of The Big 89 was in the early 80’s. I was hired as the production director for WLS/FM and did an occasional shift on the AM. After about 2 years I moved to Nashville to do mornings at the Top Dog Rock station. That lasted about a year and a half and then I moved back to Chicago and landed at WLS/AM again. This time I was working the coveted midnight till 5:30 shift. That’s the one that turns your whole body clock upside down but the rush that you felt just knowing that you can be heard all over the country was unbelievable.
I also hosted the “Oldies Show” live from Ed Debevic’s every Saturday night and that was just as much fun as it was a challenge. It was during that time that John Gehron (one of the last of the really down to earth Program Directors I’d worked for) called me at home and asked me to go down to Grant Park to help the rest of the jocks cover the Welcome Home Parade for the Viet Nam vets since I was the only vet on staff. I had my own personal reasons for not wanting to be there but I went and the blessing for me was meeting a great group of guys (and gals) from VVA Chapter 153. It was thru them that I became heavily involved in the POW/MIA issue in a time when there was still Hope and most civilians were still wearing POW/MIA bracelets. It was thru these vets and with their help that we did many shows on the subject with special guests including wives and family members of their missing loved ones. The volume of mail that I began to receive from all over the country was overwhelming.
A meeting was finally arranged with then mayor Harold Washington in City Hall where we presented him with a POW/MIA flag. We all left that night with raised spirits. The next day I was awakened by my producer telling me to turn on the TV. It was then that I learned that Mayor Washington had died of a heart attack. When I went on the air that night I couldn’t help but wonder (in all of the turmoil and confusion in City Hall) where that flag was. Two days later, after I’d gotten off the air at 5:30 I walked from the Stone Container Building to City Hall in a dark freezing rain and I was overwhelmed to see that the flag that we had presented him with was flying at half mast under the Stars and Stripes. I haven’t been home in years but I’m certain that it remains there today.
WLS was more than a radio station, it was a chapter in the lives of many generations and I remain proud to have been a part of broadcasting history.
– Chuck Britton
WLS AM & FM Air Personality