|City of license||Chicago, Illinois|
|Slogan||Chicago's Hit Music Channel|
|First air date||1941|
|Format||Top 40 (CHR)|
(CBS Radio East, Inc.)
|Sister stations||WBBM, WBBM-TV, WCFS-FM, WJMK-FM, WSCR, WUSN, WXRT|
WBBM-FM, known on air as "B96", is a radio station in Chicago, Illinois owned by CBS Radio. Although classified by Mediabase and CBS Radio (the station's owner) as a Top 40 (CHR), BDS classified the station as a Rhythmic Top 40 from 1990 to 2012, when it returned to the Mainstream Top 40 panel. The station broadcasts at 96.3 MHz with an ERP of 4.2 kW. WBBM's main competition is WKSC-FM "103.5 Kiss FM", as well as urban rivals WGCI-FM and WPWX.
WBBM-FM began as a simulcast of WBBM-AM radio in 1941. They played a MOR personality and music format. By 1967, WBBM-FM adopted the "young sound" easy listening format along with its sister stations. By 1969, WBBM-FM switched to a progressive rock format but would evolve to an adult top 40 format by 1973. In the late '70s, the station morphed to a rhythmic top 40 format focusing on disco and R&B. An interesting sidenote, Dick Bartley, who later became a very popular syndicated personality, spent time at WBBM-FM as Program Director in the late '70s.
Hot Hits/Top 40
In 1982, WBBM-FM picked up a top 40 format known as "Hot Hits," which was created by consultant Mike Joseph in 1977 for WTIC-FM in Hartford, Connecticut. That concept, one of the earliest examples of CHR, also revitalized the top 40 format and would play a role in bringing the format to the FM band throughout the 1980s. The concept was to play only the current hits on the top 30 and no recurrents or oldies whatsoever. The format was delivered with up tempo energy and plenty of jingles. The original staff of "96 Now" as the station was called included Steve Davis, Joe Dawson, Gary Spears, Dave Robbins, Bob Lewis, Frank Foster and Tony Taylor. As a "Hot Hits" station, WBBM-FM (now known as "96 NOW") played the Top 5 hits every hour and in between other hits on the Top 50 chart. Beginning in 1983, Hot Hits stations started playing recent hits from the past several years mixed into the Hot Hits. WBBM-FM therefore evolved into a more common CHR station as a result. WBBM-FM led the competition with CHR and at times was the number one station in Chicago. Out of all of the "Hot Hits" stations, WBBM-FM was the most successful for the longest period of time and managed to accomplish what a long line of stations since the 1960s had been unable to do: defeat WLS for Chicago's top 40 radio crown. By the end of 1982, Mike Joseph was no longer consulting WBBM-FM, and the station had adopted its trademark "B96" name under Program Director Buddy Scott. Even without Joseph the station continued to flourish.
Killer Bee/Dance-House Music Days
By 1989, WBBM-FM would start embracing a lot of dance product, especially the home-grown house sub genre. That move would result in B96 evolving into a very dance-leaning rhythmic top 40 direction by 1990 as "The Killer Bee-B96", Under this direction they would see ratings skyrocket out of nowhere and through most of the decade would set the standard as a cutting-edge leader when it came to breaking Dance music acts from La Bouche to Rozalla in the United States.
Dance transition into Top 40
By the end of the 1990s, however, B96 would start embracing acts from the world of R&B/hip-hop and pop as the dance scene dried up. But even today they haven't forgotten their roots as most of their daily and weekend mixshows are still dance-intensive and still spike a track or two in between the current hits from time to time. This choice of music genres puts WBBM in prime competition with heritage hip hop/urban contemporary station WGCI-FM and mainstream top 40 station WKSC-FM.
The station also acknowledges its gay audience by appearing at the annual Chicago Pride Parade, as well as many other gay-related events.
Hits & Hip Hop
In October 2008, the station slogan changed from "Chicago's Hits & Hip-Hop" to "Chicago's #1 Hit Music Station". The change was to help promote the station as a rhythmic CHR station, and will not play as much hip-hop as before. At the time B96 was "Chicago's Hits & Hip-Hop", ratings were falling and B96 was making many changes in their air-staff. The trend was later followed at sister rhythmic contemporary stations KLUC-FM in Las Vegas, Nevada (which moved from contemporary hit radio in 2009) and as of 2010, KZON in Phoenix, Arizona. On August 1, 2011, the WBBM-FM calls were not transferred to 105.9 FM as CBS Radio decided to retain the WCFS-FM calls for the station after it began flipping from adult contemporary to all-news to simulcast WBBM.
Return to CHR
By 2012, WBBM-FM was moved to the Mediabase contemporary hit radio panel; however, it continued to report to the Nielsen BDS rhythmic contemporary panel until November 2012 when BDS moved the station back to the Mainstream Top 40 panel. The shift is reflective on the more pop/rock leaning strategy B96 has taken to resemble 103-5 KISSFM more closely, as KISS has seen major success the last several years as a CHR station.
The WBBM-FM on-air staff include:
- J-Niice - Morning Show host
- Showbiz Shelly - Morning Show Entertainment Reports
- Nikki - Midday host
- J-Roman - Afternoon host
- Dougie Stylz "Stylz"- Afternoon host
- Jason Cage- Evening host
- Jerzy - Weekend Host
- Rebecca Ortiz - Weekend Host
- Dj Flipside - 5 O'Clock Traffic Jam
B96 was probably most known for its flagship “Eddie & JoBo” morning show. Joe Colborn (stage name "Bohannon") first signed on at B96 in 1984 hosting evening as “JoBo In Chicago”. Ed Volkman started at B96 in 1986 hosting morning drive along with Karen Hand and Mike Elston. When Elston left B96 in 1988, Bohannon was moved to mornings along with Volkman and Hand and the “JoBo & Eddie” show was born. The duo enjoyed success in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
On November 21, 2008, Eddie, JoBo and Erica were relieved of their morning show duties, marking the end of an era in Chicago radio.
On December 31, it was announced that Julian Nieh and Jamar "J Niice" McNeil would be replacing the Eddie & JoBo & Erica Show. "J Niice & Julian on the Radio" made its debut January 5, 2009 in the 5:30-10 a.m. slot. The two were previously together at Clear Channel's WIHT in Washington, D.C.
Summer Bash concerts
B96 has held a summer concert at various local venues since 1992, with the exception of one year that it wasn't held due to a perceived lack of good musical talent available to perform. When it started in 1992, it was held at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park (now called First Midwest Bank Amphitheater). After several years, it moved to the Joliet Raceway where it stayed until moving to the Maywood Park Racetrack for a year, and then to Toyota Park in Bridgeview in 2007. The event has hosted top musical acts as well as local acts, including J Roman as the vocalist of the electro-pop group the Jump Smokers. J Roman is half of B96's afternoon drive show. Several artists have appeared more than once over the years. The Summer Bash concert series proved so successful that the station also began a winter/holiday season version of the event called Jingle Bash.
- "CBS Radio Market : stations". Retrieved March 18, 2012.
- "It's Over, Everyone Listens To Techno" from Radio-Info.com (September 27, 2011)
- CBS Radio, Inc. "Shows". Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Chicago Tribune Staff. "B96 summer music festival of pop", Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2010, accessed March 6, 2011.