WGCI-FM (107.5 FM) is an Urban Contemporary radio station that has a city of license of Chicago, under ownership of iHeartMedia, Inc. (formerly known as Clear Channel Communications until September 2014).
WGCI broadcasts with 3700 watts (3.7 kilowatts) at 107.5 megahertz (MHz) from atop the Willis Tower in Downtown Chicago, and has studios located in the Illinois Center complex on Michigan Avenue. Like many Clear Channel-owned urban radio stations, it uses the slogan "#1 for Hip Hop and R&B".
As of May 2013, the WGCI was the 7th most listened to radio station in Chicago, with an average of 1.4 million listeners.
107.5 signed on in 1958 with the original call letters WFMQ-FM. In late 1964, the station was purchased by broadcaster Gordon McLendon and its calls were changed to WNUS-FM; it was at that point that 107.5 FM was first paired with 1390 AM, then known as WNUS and programming all-news. It was the last major FM on a shorter downtown Chicago building but was far enough west to avoid most shadowing and interference problems. The current call letters WGCI came from then-owner Globetrotter Communications Inc., who purchased 107.5 FM and its sister station 1390 AM for $4.5 million from Gordon McLendon on February 5, 1975 and made the stations urban contemporary and disco. While that transaction was being finalized, both stations played Maria Muldaur's "Midnight at the Oasis" and "Sweet Georgia Brown," the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters which was also then owned by Globetrotter Communications, in a continuous loop for six straight hours from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (CST). The new WGCI slowly took over listenership from WVON, which went to other formats since, although both would be permanently paired up through various ownership from then on. The stations were later purchased by Combined Communications Corporation thru a buyout of Globetrotter Communications. Combined Communications later folded into Gannett Co. Inc.).
In 1983, WVON flipped its callsign to WGCI AM to match its FM partner. Into the early 1980s, WGCI FM and AM broadcast with 33,000 watts atop the Civic Opera House - Kemper Insurance Building at 20 North Wacker Drive at 625 feet above average terrain. It was from this transmitter location, that the station climbed to become the #1 FM and #1 station overall in Chicago. That location is a back-up, in emergency, to the Willis Tower antenna.
In December 1997, Gannett sold both the WGCI-AM-FM couplet to Chancellor Media, which then merged with Capstar Broadcasting to form AMFM, Inc. This gave WGCI FM an urban format companion in WVAZ, which was sold by Broadcast Partners that same year, and WGCI gravitated its longtime format to a younger mainstream audience.
In 2000, WGCI FM and AM and WVAZ were acquired by Clear Channel through its purchase of AMFM. in late 2003, WGCI AM (formerly WVON) 1390 AM decided to change calls to WGRB to prevent confusion of the stations among union employees. From mid-2004 until the introduction of Arbitron's Portable People Meters (PPMs) to the Chicago radio market in mid-2008, WGCI was the #1 music station and overall radio station in the Chicago radio market. Since that time, however, the station's overall ranking fell out of the top 10 partly due to the differences between the old diary system (which the Chicago market had used prior to mid-2008) and the PPMs in the way the ratings are tabulated and also due to the emergence of sister station WVAZ as a strong urban music station in the Chicago market ratings, even though that station is more focused on R&B and soul. In the latest June 2011 Arbitron ratings period, WGCI was tied for eighth place among all Chicago AM and FM stations.
WGCI FM formerly simulcast on XM Satellite Radio channel 241. Station owner Clear Channel sold off its ownership stake in Sirius XM Radio during the second quarter of fiscal year 2013. As a result of the sale, nine of Clear Channel's eleven XM stations, including the simulcast of WGCI FM, ceased broadcast over XM Satellite Radio on October 18, 2013.
In the mid-1980s, Tom Joyner, was simultaneously working for both a morning show at K-104 KKDA-FM in Dallas, Texas and an afternoon show at WGCI. Instead of choosing between the two, Joyner chose to take both jobs, and for years he commuted daily by plane between the two cities, earning the nicknames "The Fly Jock" and "The Hardest Working Man in Radio". He was later heard on WVAZ. WGCI was also the station that launched the radio career of syndicated personality, Doug Banks, who was the morning show personality until 1993. Banks was later heard on WPWX in the early 2000s until it dropped the show.
The Crazy Howard McGee Show, co-hosted by Nikki Woods, was replaced by the Steve Harvey Morning Show on August 1, 2007. Harvey, who McGee had previously replaced, was a host on WGCI before moving to Los Angeles where he eventually landed a syndication deal. He was heard on WSRB, but moved back to WGCI, this time as a syndicated show, due to WSRB's poor promotion of the show. On March 25, 2009, Harvey moved to WVAZ, replacing Tom Joyner. On April 1, "The Morning Riot" debuted starring Tony Sculfield, Leon Rogers and Nina Chantele. Nina also did middays at Clear Channel sister station WKSC-FM. In May 2015, WGCI began airing the "Chicago Morning Takover", hosted by Leon Rogers, Kyle Santillian and Kendra G.
Other notables include: Comedian George Wallace.
As an urban radio station, WGCI competes with urban/hip hop rival WPWX Power 92, Top 40 (CHR's) WBBM-FM B96 and WKSC-FM (KISSFM, 103.5), as well as Urban AC counterparts WVAZ V-103 (its sister) and WSRB 106.3.