WUSN (99.5 FM) is a radio station in Chicago, Illinois which plays mainly current new country, with some select 1990's tracks. Owned by CBS Radio and branded as "US*99.5", it is based at Two Prudential Plaza in the Loop, and transmits from atop the John Hancock Center with an HD Radio signal.
99.5 WEFM/99-"We" FM
Until 1978, 99.5 was classical WEFM, one of the first US FM stations, and the second station in the United States to broadcast in FM stereo. The station was owned by the Zenith Radio Corporation, now Zenith Electronics Corporation. It started as WWZR in 1940 on 45.1, also as W51C, then on 98.5 when the FM band moved. It changed to 99.5 and WEFM (named for Zenith executive Eugene F. McDonald) during the late 40s, which it was until it was sold. During this time, the only commercials were for Zenith, one each hour, usually directing listeners to their Display Salon on Michigan Avenue, "Where no sales are made."
In the early 1970s Zenith agreed to sell WEFM to General Cinema Corporation, which intended to change the station's call letters to WICV (pseudo-Roman numerals for 99.5) and institute a rock format. Objections from listeners delayed the format change until May 1978, at which time General Cinema converted the station to a top 40 format but decided not to change the call sign, branding the operation as 99-"We"-FM. Morning shows were hosted by Dan Walker, the (Illinois) governor of Rock and Roll (formerly of WDHF/WMET 95½) and joined by Willak. Afternoons featured "Cox on the Radio". Other disk jockeys during the top 40 era included John Calhoun and Ken Cocker.
In the early 1981, WEFM briefly flipped to a Soft Vocals format. In 1982, newly purchased by First Media Corporation, WEFM flipped to WUSN ("US*99"). The station was dark for several weeks while the ownership, the United States Navy, and the FCC came to agreement on the new call sign. When it came back on the air, the station called itself US99, but at the top of the hour ID had to continue using the WEFM call letters. The initial promotion was a guarantee of always playing four songs in a row, offering up $10,000 to the first person to call should they fail in the promise. The first day on the air, a disc jockey claimed to get his carts mixed up and only played three. A check was cut for the lucky listener who called in first. Within 48 hours, another mistake was made, and another $10,000 check was given away. It was in light of the continuing lapses of judgement that major changes were made in the staff. Chief among them was First Media's transfer of Lee Logan from KFMK in Houston to Chicago to take the helm as Program Director, following a brief stint by Dan Walker. Lee's first choice as morning man was Don Wade, who featured the always opinionated character Sheriff C.W. Turnipseed and his ever-present spitoon, and Don's wife, whom he always referred to as "The Lovely Roma Jean". Corporate management decided to bring in shock-Jock Gary Dee as the new morning man, an experiment that met with limited success. Under Lee's leadership, the station took on four country music competitors in Chicago: 670 WMAQ, 1160 WJJD (flipped to Music of Your Life in 1982), WJEZ 104.3 (formerly WJJD-FM, which flipped to oldies as WJMK "Magic" 104 in 1984, and then "Jack FM" in 2005), and WKXK (now WLS-FM). Having taken US99 to the top of the heap as the most listened to Country station in the nation, Lee Logan departed US99 in 1987 for Los Angeles.
WUSN was owned for years by First Media after it debuted in 1982. In 1992, Infinity Broadcasting bought WUSN. CBS bought Infinity in 1997, making WUSN a CBS owned station.
Since WMAQ (the current-day WSCR) switched to talk in the mid-1980s and a short-lived attempt at competition by WLS-FM in the mid-90s, the station has not had serious Chicagoland competition for the country format outside of fringe suburban signals such as Crest Hills-licensed WCCQ, which covers the southwest suburbs, and Valparaiso, Indiana-licensed WLJE serving mainly Northwest Indiana; its current main competitor, iHeartMedia's WEBG (95.5) converted to the format only at the start of January 2015. This has given it a domination and market force over one format rarely seen in the radio industry.
On April 13, 2001 a memo from WUSN management asked on-air station employees to attend the George Strait Country Music Festival on May 26, 2001 at their own expense and "work the crowd" on behalf of the station was leaked to Robert Feder's media column for the Chicago Sun-Times.
On July 7, 2003, country music radio personality Cliff Dumas sued Infinity Broadcasting Corporation and WUSN in United States District Court, seeking monetary damages. Dumas alleged that station management had induced him to resign gainful employment at a New Mexico radio station to take a job which was offered but then never materialized.
In 2006, WUSN won CMA (Country Music Association) major market station of the year under the leadership of General Manager, Dave Robbins, and Program Director, Mike Peterson.
In 2007, the station was nominated for the top 25 markets country music Radio & Records magazine station of the year award . Other nominees included KYGO-FM Denver, WYCD Detroit, KEEY-FM Minneapolis, WXTU Philadelphia, and KSON-FM San Diego.
In 2010, the station won Country Radio Broadcasters/Country Aircheck Awards for Station of the Year for a Major Market; the Lisa Dent and Ramblin’ Ray Show for Major Market Morning Show and Marci Braun (weeknight host/MD) for Major Market MD.