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The Stories Behind the Shirts

WMET, 95 1/2, Rocked Chicago

by OldSchoolShirts Info 15 Mar 2018
WMET logo image

The country radio station now known as Big 95.5, WEBG, in Chicago has a storied history, including a run as one of the city’s most iconic rock stations in the ‘70s and ‘80s when its call letters were WDHF and later WMET.

The 95.5 frequency was originally licensed by the Moody Bible Institute just after World War II. WMBI-FM served as a sister station to WMBI-AM, 1110 kHz, which was established in 1926. The latter is still on the air today and is still owned by the Moody Bible Institute under the name Moody Radio.

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In 1958, the FM signal was awarded to James De Haan, owner of De Haan’s Hi-Fi store which was located in the Evergreen Plaza at the corner of 95th Street and South Western Avenue.

On March 9, 1959, WDHF (for De Haan’s Hi-Fi) began broadcasting out of the backroom of De Haan’s store. In 1963, De Haan sold his interest in the station to a fellow Chicagoan, George Newhart, who was better known by his middle name, Bob.

The famous comedian owned the station with De Haan’s former business partner, Frank J. Hogan, and the station continued to play big band and classical music.

At 52,000 watts, WDHF’s signal, broadcast from atop the Dearborn Bank Building, reaching well past Aurora, Illinois to the west, as far south as Iroquois County, as far north as Racine, Wisconsin and as far east as South Bend, Indiana and Southwest Michigan.   

Newhart and Hogan sold the station to the National Science Network, who kept the format, around 1968. Metromedia acquired the station on March 15, 1973, changing the format to adult contemporary. That lasted just over a year as the station changed to a Top 40 format on June 20, 1974, and also began airing Casey Kasem’s very popular American Top 40 radio program.

While it may seem odd today, the station positioned itself as a rock station, even though it was playing Top 40 music, which at the time included disco, adult contemporary, and occasionally country. Indeed, the station’s slogan was “WDHF Rocks!” and was branded “95 1/2.” On December 1, 1976, the call letters were changed to WMET but kept the very popular Top 40 format.

A playlist dated Friday, August 15, 1976, shows The Starland Vocal Band topping the station’s chart with “Afternoon Delight,” followed by Elton John & Kiki Dee doing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” Also in the top ten were The Beatles with “Got to Get You Into My Life” and The Beach Boys covering Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music.” DJs such as Steve Campbell, Dan Walker, Gary Price, and Screamin’ Jay Walker spun the tunes.

The Top 40 programming ended on April 20, 1979, when WMET switched to a heavier album-oriented rock format and adopted slogans like, “the mighty MET,” “Chicago’s classic rock,” and “95 and a half, Pure Rock, WMET.” Metromedia sold the station to Doubleday Broadcasting in 1981 but did not change formats as ratings were solid despite competition from WRCK who had recently ditched disco in favor of a rock hits format.

Those glory days ended in January of 1985, when WMET switched to an adult contemporary format. In advance of the change, the rock music was interrupted about every half hour by a burst of static and a man's voice saying, “enough is enough!” When the new format debuted, the station’s slogan became “the noise is gone,” and so to was one of the city’s great rock radio stations.

In 1986, the station became WRXR, playing oldies and classic hits. A year later it was WNUA, which featured a New Age format, somewhat popular at the time. Contemporary and smooth jazz were folded into the format through the early ‘90s as the station gained a solid following.

That lasted until 2009 when the station switched from English to Spanish becoming Mega 95.5 and later El Patrón 95.5.

In January of 2015, the station started playing country music, changed its call letters to WEBG, and rebranded itself as Big 95.5. To a generation of rock radio listeners, though, 95.5 will be remembered fondly as WMET, the station that rocked Chicago.

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