Monday, August 3, 2009

On This Date in Smooth Jazz History

The date was August 3, 1987. It was a Monday then, just like it is today. The time was 5:00 p.m. Do you remember where you were, what you were doing? Do you have an alibi?

I was working for what was then WCLR (these days it's called "The Mix"), sitting with Assistant Program Director Suzy Mayzel and Program Director Dave Ervin in his office back when their facility was up in Skokie on Gross Point Road. We were all gathered around the stereo, listening intently for the launch of a new radio station. For the weeks leading up to August 3, 1987, there had been much talk in the local and national press about the new radio format that would soon be coming to Chicago--a format that had taken Los Angeles and San Francisco by storm a few months earlier. Based on contemporary instrumental music and eclectic vocals, "Music for a New Age" as a full-time format was set to debut in Chicago at 95.5FM at 5:00.

To the strains of David Sanborn's "Chicago Song," WNUA 95.5 made its debut that August afternoon. Little did we know at the time that the station would become a Chicago staple and enjoy a magnificent run that would take it all the way to May 22, 2009.

The launch of WNUA was especially significant to me, because I had been hosting a weekend show on WCLR that featured essentially the same music. My show, "The Sunday Lite Brunch," debuted in February of 1987, six months before the start of WNUA. In just those few months on the air the Lite Brunch show had received such good reviews in the local papers and an outpouring of support from listeners (a thousand letters in the first six months) that I knew we were onto something. And, as soon as I heard the first few notes of "Chicago Song" coming from 95.5, I realized that, presented as a 24/7 format, "Music for a New Age" would have incredible potential.

"The Sunday Lite Brunch" would continue on WCLR through February of 1989, when it fell victim to a format and call letter change at the station. Another New Age outlet which took to the air in 1987, 106.7 "The Wave" (WTWV) in Des Plaines, would also hang on for a couple of years before switching to Christian Contemporary music. By 1990, WNUA was the only Chicago station in the format, a distinction it held until May 22, 2009, when it flipped to Spanish Adult Contemporary.

The 23 year history of WNUA was marked by memorable music, exciting contests and events and an audience whose devotion to the station was second to none. For Danae Alexander and me (and everybody else who was on the air) it was easily the best experience of our careers.

3 Commets:

Catarzina said...

Hi Rick!

I just stumbled on this website and's so GREAT to read your words. After hearing your voice for so many years on the radio I can hear your voice as I read your words. Finding this has made my day and I can't wait to pass this on to everyone else who misses you all so much!

Sigh....with a big smile!

Thomas said...

Rick, I discovered smooth jazz listening to a WLOQ, which I think was a pioneering station in this format in Winter Park, Fla. Are you familiar with their operation? I love your website - much more versatility than the radio format - I hope it works for all involved!

Shannon said...


Good to find you here! I just discovered this website after recently finding out about 87.7FM "The L". Glad to see the format still alive here in Chicago. You & I used to talk both when you were on air and when I was doing traffic there at Clear Channel. I'm still looking to do some on air work in smooth jazz. Let's talk soon. Here's my email address:

All the best!

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