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WMAQ
City of license Chicago, Illinois
Broadcast area Chicagoland
Branding *67-Q (early 1970s)
*67 WMAQ (mid 1980s)
*WMAQ All News 67 (late 1980s-mid 1990s)
*WMAQ All News 670 (late 1990s-August 1, 2000)
Slogan You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world (All News Era from late 1980s-August 1, 2000)
Frequency 670 (kHz)
First air date April 13, 1922
Format Adult standards (1940s-1960s)
Hot Adult Contemporary (early 1970s)
Country (1975-1985)
News/Talk (1985-1988)
All News (1988-2000)
Power 50,000 watts
Class A
Facility ID 25445
Transmitter coordinates 41°56′1″N 88°4′23″W / 41.93361°N 88.07306°W / 41.93361; -88.07306
Callsign meaning W e M ust A sk Q uestions
Former callsigns WGU (1922-?)
Affiliations NBC Radio (1931-1988)
CNN Radio (late 1980s-mid 1990s)
Owner Chicago Daily News (1920-1931)
NBC Radio (1931-1988)
Group W (1988-1994)
CBS Radio (1994-2000)
Sister stations WMAQ-TV (1948-1988)
WBBM-AM, WBBM-FM, WBBM-TV, WXRT (1994-2000)

WMAQ was an AM radio station in located in Chicago, Illinois, USA, and broadcast at 670 kHz with 50,000 watts. The station was in existence from 1922 to 2000, and was the oldest surviving broadcast outlet in Chicago. It was a class A clear channel station, and could be heard, particularly at night, over most of the eastern U.S. WMAQ was owned in its later years by CBS radio but for much of its life it was owned by NBC and later Westinghouse. The station's original owner was the Chicago Daily News newspaper its longest running ownership was as a NBC Radio owned-and-operated station. Its transmitter was located in Bloomingdale, Illinois just off of Army Trail Road, with a 780 foot tower where it remains to this day. The AM 670 transmitter is now in use by WMAQ's successor, All Sports Radio WSCR and remains under CBS radio ownership.

Contents

History

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1920s

WMAQ came to life as WGU on April 13, 1922. The station was formed as a joint venture between Fair Department Store and Chicago Daily News. Technical problems forced the station quickly off the air. Herbert Hoover would inaugurate a new antenna and transmitter and give the station the call letters WMAQ. The station's longtime motto was "We Must Ask Questions," which was derived from this call sign.

WMAQ was the first station to broadcast Chicago Cubs games. The first game, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, was called by Hal Totten on April 20, 1925.

1930s

NBC purchased the station in 1931 as an affiliate. WMAQ carried original local and network programming. Marian and Jim Jordan started at WMAQ with a local show and later would move on to form Fibber McGee and Molly. Interestingly, during its first months on the air, Fibber McGee and Molly was distributed over NBC's Blue Network, which meant that in Chicago the program was produced at WMAQ but heard over WLS, one of three NBC Blue Network affiliates in Chicago at the time. Amos 'n' Andy was also a popular program.

1940s

Sister station WMAQ-TV went on the air in 1948 and moved from an experimental station to a television pioneer. The call sign for the TV station was WNBQ a close match to the New York NBC TV station WNBC. As television made waves around the nation, radio stations like WMAQ shifted to recorded music. The WMAQ Radio live studios in the Merchandise Mart were converted to TV studios for use by the new TV station. With radio moving to a different floor of the building in much smaller studios.

1950s and 1960s

During the 1950s and 1960s, they played adult popular music by artists such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.WNBQ TV would change its call letters to match WMAQ radio as the stations played up the common NBC ownership. A move also done by ABC owned WBKB TV Channel 7 who switched call letters to WLS TV to match commonly owned WLS radio.

1970s

Although the station never shifted completely to Top 40, by the early 1970s, WMAQ's playlist could be considered something of a Hot Adult Contemporary. During the period, WMAQ used the on-air name "67-Q". One of the first "sports-talk" programs, "Sound off on Sports" also debuted during this time. A 1975 format change to country music saw WMAQ taking on WJJD-AM. The first song played under the new format was "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams Sr. The station's fortunes were helped in no small part by the infamous "WMAQ is Gonna Make Me Rich!" cash giveaway promotion, which was eventually used on other NBC-owned radio outlets. WMAQ also served as the flagship station for Chicago White Sox broadcasts, mostly at night, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the Chicago Black Hawks. Bob Pittman , future head of MTV , was Program Director of WMAQ during its country period. Ellie Dylan, WMAQ's overnight host, later replaced Don Imus at WNBC New York.

1980s

As the country format faded in 1985, WMAQ saw a transition to a news/talk format, but that format did not last very long. After 57 years, NBC sold all of their radio stations following RCA's merger with General Electric. NBC sold WMAQ to Group W in 1988. This was Westinghouse's third stint at station ownership in the Chicago market, having founded KYW before relocating that station to Philadelphia in 1934, and later with WIND from 1955 to 1985. Group W switched WMAQ to an all news format of the "give us 22 minutes" variety, patterned after its more successful all-news outlets in Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. Morning anchor Pat Cassidy (now with WLS, Chicago) was on the air when the switch was made to all-news. The news staff included reporters Bill Cameron, Bob Roberts, Lisa Meyer, Larry Langford,(now the media voice of the Chicago Fire Department) Dave Berner, Mike Doyle and Mike Krauser. Chicago news veteran Jim Frank (deceased) was hired as the first news director, following a stint at WIOD-AM in Miami. Other news directors included Bonnie Buck (daughter of late sports broadcaster Jack Buck) and Krauser, who took the same position at rival WBBM-AM after Viacom shuttered WMAQ and fired the staff. WMAQ was among the first Chicago AM stations to use Motorola C-Quam AM stereo even though most of its format was talk.

1990s

WMAQ eventually added more long-form news programming and some assorted call-in shows in the late 1990s.The highest rated long form show was Cameron and Langford a nightly talk show with City Hall reporter Bill Cameron and WMAQ Police beat reporter Larry Langford who grew up covering crime and politics from back in the 1960's. The two had a good mix of conservative versus liberal views and City versus Suburban.

A series of acquisitions in the 1990s, precipitated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, would eventually doom the station. Westinghouse merged with CBS in 1995. Ironically, this made WMAQ a sister station to longtime arch-rival, WBBM. While both stations were able to successfully run separate news divisions after the first buyout, Viacom then purchased CBS in 1999. With the second merger, Viacom exceeded the allowed number of stations in the Chicago market and had to spin several off to different owners.

The end of WMAQ-AM

On August 1, 2000, after 78 years WMAQ-AM signed off for the last time with a live sign off message from nighttime police beat reporter Larry Langford (current media spokesperson for the Chicago Fire Department) who arrived at the station that morning in formal attire. Langford had also signed off Westinghouse station WIND in December when that station folded. Following the live sign off, the traditional NBC chimes were played for the last time with a very old historic ID that although inaccurate, was appropriate as it spoke, "This is WMAQ and WMAQ-FM, NBC Chicago," at 6 a.m. CDT. After a short automated period of guiding 1160 listeners to 670 and reminding 670 listeners of the change, Viacom relocated all-sports WSCR from 1160 AM to WMAQ's former dial position at 670 AM, and spun off the 1160-AM frequency to Salem Communications. The WMAQ call sign is still retained to this day by its former TV sister station WMAQ-TV, channel 5.

Preceded by
None
Occupant of the AM 670 kHz frequency in Chicago, Illinois (facility id=25445)
1922–2000
Succeeded by
WSCR

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