|City of license||Chicago, Illinois|
|Broadcast area||Chicago Metropolitan Area|
|Branding||103-5 KISS FM|
|Frequency||103.5 (MHz) (also on HD Radio)|
|Format||Top 40 (CHR)|
|Callsign meaning||We're KisS Chicago|
|Sister stations||WGCI-FM, WGRB, WLIT, WNUA, WVAZ, WVON|
WKSC-FM (103.5 FM, "103-5 Kiss FM") is a Top 40 (CHR) radio station with a rhythmic based playlist serving the Chicago area. They are owned by Clear Channel Communications. The station is known as "103-5 KISS FM" or simply "103-5" WKSC's main competition is WBBM-FM "B96".
WKFM was the original call sign of the radio station signed on by Frank Kovas Jr. at 103.5 on FM frequency. The original location of WKFM was at 188 W. Randolph, with the transmitter located on the top of the tower. In the last days of Kovas ownership, the antenna fell about 30 stories off the building, but, according to Gary Deeb in the Chicago Sun-Times, no one was injured.
The original station operated from 7am until midnight. It played a mix of "semi-classical" and beautiful music. It was a competitor to the "beautiful music" stations of its day, like WFMF, WCLM and WFMQ.
Announcers included Bob Burns, Bob Longbons, Wendell Poe, Dick Lawrence, Ned Jaus, and Bill Jurek.
Sponsors included The House of Mena (an expensive furniture store).
WKFM had a "high brow" kind of sound with announcers and pauses between the songs. There were several newscasts daily. The music had several "moods" through the day: it was more upbeat in the morning and more strings at night, and every program had a "theme song." "Rendezvous with Rhythm was the title of the afternoon drive program. Though WEFM, the Zenith owned Classical station was the first station to broadcast in stereo, WKFM was the first to broadcast in stereo 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The evening program was known as a good place to really hear stereo-recorded music, featuring lots of "Command" label stereo records.
According to Broadcasting Magazine, when Kovas sold WKFM to RKO in 1971, it brought the most money ever paid for an FM radio station to that date ($1 million).
RKO, the new owner, changed the call letters to WFYR (the letters FYR was a reference to the famous Great Chicago Fire) installed a Schafer automation system and for two years used the Drake-Chenault format, solid gold rock and roll. Later, the Drake format was dumped for live jocks playing oldies.
WFYR also did a "Saturday Night Oldies Dance" from a downtown hotel and RKO eventually operated "The FYR Station," an oldies dance club.
By 1975, WFYR had flipped to an adult top 40 format, playing the music of the '60s through current hits.
By the early 1980s, WFYR shifted its focus to the '60s and '70s oldies along with some current music and a moderate amount of pre-1960s oldies. They were marketed at that point as an adult contemporary radio station. On weekends they had "oldies weekends" featuring songs from the '50s and '60s.
In 1984, the new WJMK signed at the 104.3 frequency with a format of oldies similar to WFYR, but with more 1955-64 oldies and some current songs. By 1988, WJMK was strictly '50s and '60s and very early '70s oldies. WFYR stayed the course playing the 1964-85 hits with very little currents and pre-64 songs. By 1989, however, WFYR had begun to drop in the ratings. They then dropped the currents and late '80s songs all together, continuing as a '60s and '70s oldies station. Broadcasting Magazine reported that in 1989, RKO had to carry out the sale of all of their stations to separate owners due to a court ruling in the early '80s. WFYR 103.5 was sold to Summit Broadcasting, who kept the format for a while. On October 29, 1989, WFYR's oldies format and DJs were abruptly dropped and replaced with a "soft hits" format.
In early 1991, WFYR-FM (103.5) was sold by its parent company Summit Communications to Major Broadcasting of Chicago. Major, a newer company, had success with a high-energy hard rock format in Salt Lake City at KBER-FM. With alternative rock stations WKQX (Q101) and WXRT, talk/comedy WLUP, and classic rock WCKG, there was a need for a straight-forward rock station. On March 29, 1991 the sounds of "soft hits" and the early evening program "Love Songs on Fire" gave way to 24 hours of Rock Rock ('til you drop) by Def Leppard. At noon on April 1, the station "snuffed the fire and stoked The Blaze!" The Blaze featured acts such as Skid Row, Billy Squier, Ratt, Ozzy Osbourne, Slaughter and other hard rock and quasi-metal bands. With the change, the call letters became WWBZ. The abandoned WFYR call letters eventually came back into use in downstate Peoria's 97.3 FM "River Country".
The initial on-air staff consisted of Steven Craig in the mornings, Steve Seaver in middays, Brian Kelly in afternoons, music director Kevin Lewis and Leslie Harris at night, as well as several personalities from WFYR and some new hires including Jimmy Novak, Brad Jeffries, "Major Tom" Johnson, Scott Childers, and Ryan (Cherry) Meiers. In addition to the Blaze DJs, helicopter reporter Major Tom was a hit with listeners with his irreverent morning and afternoon traffic updates. Tom also buzzed a Jonathon Brandmeier (Johnny B) remote in Lincoln Park which was live on The Loop, WLUP. When Johnny B figured out what was going on, he went to a commercial. 1992 brought Blazefest, a rock memorabilia show and concert at the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, with bands such as Kiss, Saigon Kick and Warrant.
By 1994, Major sold the station to Evergreen Media, parent company of WLUP (97.9 FM) and WMVP (1000 AM). Glam rock had started to run its course and Major made a minor sum on the sale. They moved into television, producing "The Mort Downey Show," and continued radio with syndicated formats. Evergreen held onto the rock format, and the Blaze name was kept through the spring, at which time they changed their name to "Rock 103-5," featuring a commercial free "A-Z" kickoff around July 4. The call letters then became WRCX.
Musically alternative artists were now mixed in with metal artists, but the format was simply a current AOR or active rock format. Mancow Muller was added to mornings and soon began receiving the highest ratings on the station.
Evergreen owned the WRCX until 1997 when they merged with Chancellor Media. On June 26, 1998 Mancow Muller left WRCX and joined Q101 (WKQX) on July 27 (a station he previously talked badly about on a regular basis). By then, WLUP had been sold to Bonneville and returned to a rock format with a lean on harder edged classic rock and WKQX was becoming musically closer to WRCX, mixing a moderate amount of active rock.
With Mancow's morning ratings lead-in gone, (Bob & Tom were briefly aired on WRCX after his departure), Chancellor opted to shut down WRCX in November 1998. Chancellor had been rolling out "Jammin Oldies" formats on many stations in other markets and decided to put this format on 103.5. The call letters became WUBT, which represented "103-5 The Beat, Chicago's Jammin' Oldies". The format featured '60s Motown, '70s and '80s soul and disco, '80s dance, and rhythmic pop hits from the '70s and '80s. It was marketed as "Not Your Father's Oldies Station." Chancellor merged with Capstar in 1999, becoming known as AMFM Inc. Radio legend Doug James did mornings on the station. The most well known personality on WUBT was Larry Lujack. Lujack was hired out of retirement by program director Jay Beau Jones. Lujack had been off the air (WLS, WCFL) for many years but was still very well known in the market. Lujack did his Saturday show from his home in New Mexico while his co-host, Matt McCann was in the Chicago studio. Lujack's show out performed the rest of the station.
In 2000, Clear Channel and AMFM Inc. merged, making 103.5 a Clear Channel station. Clear Channel was not interested in keeping the "Jammin Oldies" format in any of their markets and flipped each "Jammin" station one by one in 2001. On January 12, 2001 at 4pm, after "Last Dance" by Donna Summer came to an end, 103.5 took a CHR format and became known as WKSC "Kiss 103.5" At the time of the flip, Big City Radio's WKIE, WKIF, and WDEK had collectively been known as "92 Kiss FM" (Also with a CHR format) since 1998. Clear Channel issued a cease and desist to Big City for the use of the Kiss name because Clear Channel owns the rights to it in most markets. WKSC's playlist was more rhythmic then WKIE and the station was heavily voice tracked and automated. Mornings were handled by KIIS Los Angeles's afternoon host Valentine. Overnights were locally voice-tracked by Craig Carson (AKA Matt Wright), who had most recently held the afternoon spot for the previous format's WUBT "103-5 The Beat." Middays were held by Gary Spears of KIIS (later Randi West of Kiss 107 FM in Cincinnati), and afternoons were locally-hosted with Zurek (Formerly Rick Party (formerly of WGCI-FM). Evenings were also hosted locally by Pyke. Weekends included syndicated Rick Dees (which was dropped from the station at the end of 2004) and American Top 40 first with Casey Kasem and later with Ryan Seacrest.
In the fall of 2001, 103.5 began leaning more rhythmic, though it still reports as mainstream. On November 19, 2001 Java Joel was hired to do evenings as "The Rubber Room". The show featured wacky stunts, parodies, and interviews. In September 2002, the station adjusted its slogan from "KISS 103.5" to "103.5 KISS FM" and later that year, Scott Tyler replaced Rick Party in afternoons and Nikki replaced Randi West's voicetracks in middays. In early 2003, Valentine was replaced by former San Antonio host Drex. In late 2004, Scott Tyler was released for allegedly making a negative comment toward Drex and moved to KDWB Minneapolis for nights. He was replaced by Nikki (the midday host) and middays were handled by alternating Rod Phillips and Jeff Murray (AKA Smash).
On January 11, 2005, Java Joel was fired from the station for a comment that was deemed racist by one vocal black listener. He was replaced by Mack. The midday position was filled later in 2005 by Adam Smasher. After a year, Adam Smasher was replaced by Kiss FM Music Director and former overnight DJ Smash from 10am-Noon and Nikki from Noon-4am. Alexx Dupri was also brought over from sister urban station WGCI-FM to Kiss for overnights.
In the spring of 2006, the station finally beat its main rival, WBBM-FM, B96, in the 12+ Arbitron ratings. Toward the end of July 2006, Kiss FM dropped the "point" from their name and started referring to themselves as 1035 Kiss FM, instead of 103.5 Kiss FM. Nina Chantele from Casa 106.7 KZZA-FM, in Dallas, TX was named mid-day DJ. Overnight host Alexx Dupri who was filling in for Nikki in middays because Nikki was doing afternoons went back to overnights. On October 4, 2006 Global Records vice president Ty Bentli was hired for the afternoon position. The current afternoon DJ, Nikki was fired.
In late 2006, Silly Jilly, a long-time sidekick of Java Joel was hired to work the night shift, 7-11PM. After years of working with Java and on her own both in Chicago and on her own nighttime show in Pennsylvania, to replace Mack at night and local club DJ Special K was given Weekend shifts including hosting CLUB KISS.
In April 2008, WBBM-FM released Candi Gomez and KISS promptly hired her for weekend duties.
In the first week of September 2008, midday host Ty Bentli's shift was moved to 4-8pm, and was replaced by the syndicated show of Ryan Seacrest, which airs 1-4pm. Silly Jilly's shift was moved over to 8pm-1am. Billy Hammond was fired from his late night shift.
Also, Angi Taylor was added to the cast of the Morning Show.