WLS (AM)

From Academic Kids

WLS is a pioneer Chicago radio station. The call letters stand for World's Largest Store (for its original owner, Sears, Roebuck). The station operates on an AM frequency of 890 kHz. Since the purchase of its parent company in 1959 and the subsequent discontinuation of WENR, a station with which WLS had shared its frequency since the 1920s, WLS has been owned and operated by the radio division of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Its transmitter and towers are located in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Sears opened the station in 1924 as a service to farmers and subsequently sold it to the Prairie Farmer Magazine, which continued that orientation through 1960. It was the scene of the National Barn Dance, which featured Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, and George Gobel, and which was second only to the Grand Ole Opry in presenting country music and humor.

The station also experimented successfully in many forms of news broadcasting, including weather and crop reports. Its most famous news broadcast was the report of the Hindenburg disaster by Herbert Morrison.

Starting in the 1930s, WLS had been an affiliate of the Blue Network of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and as such aired the popular Fibber McGee and Molly and Lum and Abner comedy programs during their early years. When the Federal Communications Commission forced NBC to sell the Blue Network, WLS maintained its affiliation with the network under its new identity, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). However, some programs from the network that were not sponsored were transferred from WLS to air on another Blue Network/ABC affiliate in Chicago, WCFL.

In 1960, the station became a Top 40 music radio station, notable for such disc jockies as Dick Biondi, Fred Winston, Art Roberts, Clark Weber, Ron Riley and Larry Lujack. WLS became a predominantly conservative talk station in 1989.

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