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Broadcast area Chicago metropolitan area
Branding AM 1690 WVON
Slogan The Talk of Chicago
Frequency 1690 AM (kHz)
(also on HD Radio)
First air date 2003
Format African-American Talk
ERP 10,000 watts (day)
1,000 watts (night)
Class B
Callsign meaning "The Voice Of the Negro", "The Voice Of the Nation." (WVON)
Owner Clear Channel Communications

WVON (1690 AM) is a radio station licensed to Berwyn, Illinois, serving the greater Chicago area, airing an African-American-oriented talk format. WVON is managed by Midway Broadcasting Corporation, via a local marketing agreement with frequency owner Clear Channel Communications. Civil rights leaders The Rev. Al Sharpton and The Rev. Jesse Jackson, along with Jackson's daughter, Santita, all host talk shows on the station.


WVON began as WHFC in 1926, broadcasting from the Hotel Flanders in Chicago. Like many small stations of the time, WHFC was squeezed into a shared-time frequency, with as many as five stations taking turns on 1310.

In 1930, they were given permission to move to 1420 with two other stations. WHFC bought out the other two in 1936 and changed its city of license to Cicero, Illinois. WHFC was shifted to 1450 in 1941.

In 1963, WHFC became WVON when it was purchased by Leonard and Phil Chess, the owners of Chess Records, a successful record label specializing in blues music. WVON debuted on April 1, 1963 and quickly became a success playing R&B music, ranking consistently among the top five most listened to stations in the market. Despite having only 250 watts of power, WVON's non-directional signal was engineered well enough to blanket the south and west sides of Chicago.

WVON was a "heritage" station to Chicago's black community featuring great Black air personalities like Lucky Cordell, Bruce Brown, Herb Kent "the cool gent", E. Rodney Jones, Cecil Hale, Butterball Crain, Pervis Spann, Yvonne Daniels, Don Cornelius and many others. WVON became well-known outside the Chicago area as well. Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, sent every song he produced immediately to WVON before any other station. Other similar stations across the country took inspiration from WVON's format. The station also had an active role during the Civil Rights Movement, covering it extensively.

After Leonard Chess died in 1969, the Chess family decided to sell WVON to Globetrotter Communications, owned by George Gillette and Potter Palmer. A few years later, Globetrotter bought WNUS-AM-FM from the McLendon interests; they moved WVON from 1450 to the 5000-watt former WNUS signal on 1390, which increased WVON's coverage area significantly. The 1450 frequency was left silent for a time; eventually, FM classical music station WFMT was allowed to simulcast on 1450 as an interim operator while the FCC evaluated applications for a new license for the frequency.

The FCC process resulted in a shared-time situation on the 1450 frequency, as applicants Midway Broadcasting Corporation and Migala Communications reached an agreement to split the broadcast day. Two former WVON personalities, Pervis Spann and Wesley South, were the principals of Midway Broadcasting. They called their new station WXOL. Migala chose WCEV as their call sign. Under the agreement WCEV would operate from 1PM to 10PM Monday through Friday, with WXOL taking the rest of the hours. Both stations were on the air by 1980; they shared a transmitter, located at the old WVON site at 3350 South Kedzie Avenue. WXOL broadcast from studios at that location, while WCEV built its own facilities elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in 1977 Globetrotter sold WVON to Gannett along with WGCI-FM, the former WNUS-FM that Globetrotter had picked up when it acquired the 1390 frequency. WGCI was also programmed to appeal to black audiences, and it and other FM stations won away many of WVON's listeners. WGCI became so successful that Gannett changed the call letters of 1390 from WVON to WGCI(AM) in 1984. Midway Broadcasting immediately filed a request with the FCC to change WXOL's call sign to WVON, thus returning the WVON call letters to their former home at 1450.

In 1986, WVON adopted its current Black-oriented talk radio format.

On September 18, 2006, WVON's call letters and programming moved to 1690 AM, with Midway Broadcasting taking over management of a station on that frequency licensed to Berwyn, Illinois and owned by Clear Channel Communications. The move displaced the oldies format of Clear Channel-operated WRLL on 1690. The WRLL call letters were assigned to Midway's half of the time-share on 1450.

See also

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