WLS-FM dumps Oldies for Classic Hits

In a huge sweeping change, Cumulus’ WLS-FM (94.7) has undergone a format change – the first in approximately seven years – from Oldies to Classic Hits, focusing on more 1970’s and 1980’s rock songs.

In addition, WLS-FM program director Jan Jeffries realigned the DJ shifts, replacing previously morning personality Dave Fogel (who was let go last Thursday) with a returning Brant Miller, midday personality Greg Brown, legendary jock Fred Winston in afternoon drive, John Records Landecker in evenings, and Dicki Biondi in late night (overnights are jockless.)

The shift of Greg Brown to middays means Scott Shannon, who helped launch the True Oldies Channel on September 26, 2005 (replacing an alternative rock format at then-WZZN-FM) will no longer be heard on WLS-FM (you’re welcome.)

The shift had been gradually taken place for the last few years, as the term “Oldies” no longer fit the image of the station – not to mention dropping the monkier was meant to attract more advertising to WLS-FM, as nothing repel them than the word “Oldies”. During the August PPM period, WLS-FM tied for fifth place overall with WGN-AM, but among adults 25-54, ranked fifteenth. The September PPM period showed WLS-FM in a tie of sixth place with a 4.0, down 11 percent from August.

Gone for the most part are the pre-1964 tunes, Motown, and most 1970’s pop and disco hits. A quick look at WLS-FM’s playlist Monday afternoon from yes.com (which often malfunctioned) consisted of songs from Eddie Money, Bryan Adams, Journey, Billy Preston, Marvin Gaye, Eric Clapton, Boz Scaggs (seriously, is he still around?) and Chicago, among others.

Listener reaction to the flip was mixed. On message boards, the shift was completely panned – you’d think they were replacing the Oldies format with one whose playlist consisted of just 50 Cent and Kanye West songs. Complaints ranged from the removal of older songs from the playlist to the lack of racial diversity to even the photo posted above (to paraphrase, many commenters referred to the photo as “a white male dinosaur fest”.) Others complained about the lack of dialogue from the station’s personalities, though the “shut up and just play the music” crowd won’t have a problem with that. The reaction was a bit kinder on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.

It is not known if reruns of American Top 40: The ’70s with Casey Kasem will remain on Sunday mornings.

By the way, if you need your Scott Shannon fix, you can always catch him on syndicated yuckfest Dish Nation weekdays at 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on WFLD-TV.

Did You Know? This marks the twelfth time (or so) the 94.7 frequency has undergone a format shift since 1971, when the station was known as progressive rock WDAI. A sampling of formats over the years include disco, CHR, talk, rock, ’80’s music, country, and oldies under the call letters of WXCD, WYTZ, WKXK, and a few others I can’t remember. And why does this latest shift qualifies as a format change? Jeffries himself said so.


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