WVAZ (102.7 mHz, "V103") is an urban adult contemporary radio station serving the Chicago region. Licensed to Oak Park, WVAZ is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel Communications until September 2014), alongside sister stations WGCI-FM and WGRB-AM.
The station signed on in 1950. They were originally a black owned radio station and by the mid 1970s they were known as WBMX and an urban contemporary featuring soul hits, dance music and contemporary jazz. The station would become the launching pad for the radio career of syndicated personality the late great Doug Banks (who would also hone his skills at the stations eventual replacement WVAZ) and was owned by Sonderling Broadcasting.
In between, 102.7 in Chicago managed to etch its frequency and various call letters into radio history. In the early 70s Sonderling Broadcasting bought the station along with its sister station WOPA-AM. The call letters WOPA stood for The Oak Park Arms, a hotel on Oak Park Avenue where the station occupied the penthouse. Despite having a signal limited to the West Side of Chicago WOPA was a goldmine for Sonderling who brokered time to a plethora of colorful African-American entrepreneurs and entertainers. The FM had one of the better signals in the market operating off the John Hancock Tower on the near north side.
Sonderling programmed the station as an eclectic album rocker under Ed Shane, who brought in Dwight Cook out of Houston and Peter B. Collins from Cincinnati. Also on board was Morgan Tell who soon thereafter managed the career of balladeer Jim Croce. The station had some success but the album rock niche was crowded at the time with at least five other stations playing album cuts.
Buoyed by the success of their oldies station WMOD-FM in Washington, DC the company brought in Ron (Buzz) Brindle from DC. He soon brought with him Dusty Brooks with whom he had worked at WSVP in Providence. He retained Collins and Cook while taking over the morning show along with Pat Cassidy, who was his newsman and sidekick. The hope was that oldies on FM would work in the Windy City. Before WGLD could gain much traction, RKO-General converted its FM station on a nearby frequency to their brand of FM oldies. The legendary Bill Drake was instrumental in establish the company as the groundbreaker with oldies on FM thanks to his programming of KRTH in Los Angeles, WOR-FM in New York, and WROR-FM in Boston. In fact, longtime Chicago TV newsman Ernie Anastas was originally brought to town along with RKO's Boston boss Dwight Case to run WFYR. Within months, "The Chicago Fire" was raging.
WGLD and general manager Charles Manson (obviously no relation) did have one weapon--a show called "The Femme Forum." Hosted by Morgan Moore (who claimed to be a former taxi driver) the midday program was a local knock-off of the Los Angeles sex talk show hosted in that market by Bill Ballance. It was attracting a growing audience. One particular show dealt with subject of oral sex. Controversy and complaints ensued, with the Federal Communications Commission eventually getting involved. In a decision that would impact the radio industry for years the FCC ruling essentially said that the way a host handles a subject can have a bearing on the tone of the show and how it is perceived by the public. In this case Moore was determined to have encouraged listeners to take things well beyond what was considered "decent" in 1973. For that one show WGLD-FM and Sonderling Broadcasting were fined $2000. That decision remains a landmark and a benchmark in the evolution of shock talk on radio.
Not long after Moore was gone, Brindle was out, and the avuncular Art Roberts was installed as Program Director. He narrowed the focus of the station to 1950s and early 60s doo-wop. Despite his popularity WGLD faded quickly and within months WGLD was in transition again.
Around that time stations in several major markets were beginning to succeed with soft soul and disco on FM. With the change of call-letters to WBMX "The Black Music Experience" began. This incarnation remains today. Through the years the battle between WBMX, now WVAZ, and WGCI was the stuff of urban legends.
They continued as an urban contemporary station into the late 1980s when the station was sold to Broadcast Partners. They continued with an urban format. In October 1988, the station evolved to more of an urban adult contemporary format and took on the WVAZ callsign as "V103." Broadcast Partners sold the station in 1997 to Chancellor Media. Chancellor also owned former rival WGCI, which remained a mainstream urban station.
Chancellor sold 3 other stations but kept WVAZ and WGCI. WGCI remained a mainstream urban station while WVAZ plays the role as the urban adult contemporary station. Chancellor would restructure into AMFM, Inc., in 1999 and in 2000 merge with Clear Channel.
Until March 2009, WVAZ was the largest radio affiliate (market size) to carry the Tom Joyner Morning Show; in other words, Chicago was the largest market where Tom Joyner was syndicated due to a lack of popularity in New York City and Los Angeles (although his show would subsequently be picked up by New York's WNBM, which launched in late June 2014). There was discussion of dropping Joyner in late 2007 to make room for Doug Banks; however, Banks moved his show to afternoon drive time instead, leaving Joyner's show intact. On March 25, 2009, WVAZ dropped Tom Joyner and picked up the Steve Harvey Morning Show, which previously aired on WGCI-FM and WSRB (Joyner would move to the latter station that same day).
Current line up
- Market Manager Earl Jones
- Director Of Urban Programming Derrick D. Brown
- Assistant Program Director/Music Director Johnnie D.