This is a dual-purpose list...it has current area stations (in bold) with studio and transmitter locations (when known), and also information for as many former call-signs as I could track down from the sources available to me. The list includes all radio stations in the 8-county Chicagoland area...Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties in Illinois, plus Lake and Porter counties in Indiana.
Current station programming information is on another page o'mine.
Much of the "fun" in producing such a list is from getting clear details on the old days of both AM and FM. Historic AM call-signs are easy enough, thanks to the many "DX" reference publications available from the 1920s and 30s, but tracking frequencies before the Federal Radio Commission took charge is pretty much an exercise in futility. Thus, for 1921 to 1928, I mention only those frequencies stations used most prominently, and then only if those were even known. Frequency-hopping was a major problem prior to onset of the Federal Radio Commission, around 1927. The FRC, which is now of course the FCC, first clamped down in 1927-28...stations, if they were still allowed on the air at all, were assigned specific frequencies they had to be on by November 11th of 1928.
The deck was re-shuffled in 1941, with most stations told they were to shift
frequencies on March 29th. For the Chicago-area stations on the air at the
time, it was more orderly the second time around...560, 670 and 720 stayed
put, while 770 moved to 880, 870 up to 890, and others moved up 30 or 40kHz.
The 1941 moves were meant to open more "clear channels" for Canada and
Mexico, and to fill out the new "expanded band" of the day (1510-1600kHz).
[Come to think of it, Chicagoland did not get any of the 1990s' newfangled 1610-1700 assignments!]
For some reason FM activities, especially before 1960, are very hard to track down. There is some colorful history there, but documentation is weaker. Most folks I knew old enough to have heard these are either gone, or their attention was still just on AM at the time, or being distracted by that other new broadcast medium, TV.
Anyway, I hope the list will be of some information and/or entertainment value. If you can fill in some holes or clear up some discrepancies, please by all means contact me by clicking the Morse code key below. Also, if you or someone you know is considering anything similar for a radio market they know or love, I can try to help out with what reference materials and personal experience I have. Thank you!
The text is in 3 sections, in part to break up the looong text, but also thanks to space limitations on these "free" web pages. Check the links below to get into each section.
Reference sources for this radio history included: Lefax "List of Radio Telephone Broadcasting Stations" (Fall, 1927), WBBM Radio Guide (1929), White's Radio Log (several, from the 1930s to 1977), Vane Jones Log (most of them, from the 1960s to 1986), FM Atlas (most of them, 1970s to the present), "ChicagoLand AM Call-Letter History" (by Robert Harrison, for the National Radio Club's DX News, 8/14/95), several amusing information pages on the National Radio Club's web-site, and my own personal lists from 1972 to the present.
Thanks also Lou Rugani for pinning down dates on the Zion stations, and to Phil
Boersma for loaning me his copy of the Harrison article. Oh yes, if anyone
should know the current address for Robert Harrison, please pass it along? He had
contacted me for information on his article, and I did send some but lost track of
his address before I could help further. Also, thanks to Tim Noonan for linking this article from his radio
(If you reached my article from another person's page, please let me know about it!)
The original inspiration and basis for this list was an article called, "A Chicago
Radio Geneaology" (sic), which appeared in the 12/16/83 and 1/1/84 issues of
RadioPhiles magazine. While a most interesting article, there were enough
discrepancies and so much missing information that I thought I had to do my
own version. However, it would take me until December of 1996 to finally sit
down and type it up the first time. Folks who saw my first attempt will
undoubtedly notice a substantial improvement with this edition, worked on during
frequent but short stretches of free time at home and at work from 7/20/98 to
8/17/98. I get back to the list whenever I'm aware of a new call, or a really old one
(Writing on 9/4/99, this has really been a quiet year for call-sign changes...good!)