WCFL — 25 Years Ago — The FM Years…

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  • Posted In: Chicago / Illinois

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    Hard to believe that we just hit the 25th Anniversary of the “rebirth” of WCFL on the FM dial back in the spring of 1990. I was looking to see if anyone had any memories of the re-creation of Super CFL on what I believe was 104.7 on the FM dial.

    Here are some of the things I know about the station:

    • Premiered in 1990 and was still cranking into at least the summer of 1993 — when I last heard the station passing through northern Illinois.
    • The station was located in an office park in Morris, IL. Not sure of the transmitter location, but the signal barely reached the Loop.
    • They brought back most of the old jingles and music format.

    Here are some of the rumors I have heard about the station:

    • I had heard that they occasionally got in trouble by the FCC for trying to expand their coverage area in the rimshot areas of Chicago by going over their allotted wattage. This would ultimately interfere with a 104.7 station in Gary, IN.

    • I had also heard that the owners of the station (I forget the name of the then-owners) also owned a few others in the Midwest (including a station in Ottawa, OH). WCFL-FM was the cash cow and the owners took the profits to fund their other stations, and the lack of re-investing in their Morris station is what caused them to fail.

    If anyone can confirm or deny the rumors above, or if anyone has any good or intersting stories of the station, or how they did ratings-rise (I assume their ratings were not as good as in the AM days due to their location and signal coverage) I would love to hear about them here.


    I don’t know about the history of WCFL-FM out of Morris. I will tell you that if they were in fact interfering with another 104.7 in Indiana, it would have been what is now WFRN-FM Elkhart. 104.7 has never been allocated to any part of NW Indiana, & especially not Gary Indiana, due to 104.3 & 105.1 being in the primary contours of Gary.


    I remember WCFL on FM. I remember their stunting with “Louie Louie” over & over in April 1990 before they came on. I also remember the issue with them running too much power.
    Their signal was not good in my area, the northern suburbs. I had a good FM antenna on the roof which helped, but in the car it was usually very tough to hear them.


    The station was sold to a religious organization (not the same one that owns the Indiana station) but never changed the call letters. It’s still WCFL.

    The transmitter is two miles west of Morris. (too far out for a reliable signal in the Loop) It was originally built as a local station in Morris. As dave73 said, the need to be separated from 104.3 & 105.1 in the Loop requires the 104.7 transmitter to be well outside the city. 68km (42 miles) is required.

    There was a (legal) power increase around the time the WCFL format moved to this station. My bet.. is that before the power increase, WFRN was reasonably listenable in Gary. The WCFL increase probably resulted in interference to that WFRN reception. Interference from a rock station was probably not very popular with the audience for WFRN’s religious programming. But Gary is well outside WFRN’s protected service area.

    Doug Smith W9WI
    Pleasant View (Nashville), TN


    There is a Internet radio station with live DJs you can interact with, resurrecting Super CFL Morris Ill with the Jingles and the same Music format on the web if you miss that station here it is on the web live in the evenings and auto music the other times check out supercfl.net you will be amazed with this internet station. it’s Super CFL all over again. or Just Google Phoenix True Oldies it’s the link on vaughn live.tv


    If you want a pretty accurate history check this old article http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1993-05-30/features/9305300134_1_station-twilight-zone-listeners

    I worked at Super CFL for it’s entire run, minus a few days at the bitter end.  It was a passion filled, fun packed roller coaster ride on the fringes of the Chicago radio market.  The most creative and talent-packed station I worked at was the FM rebirth of Chicago’s legendary Super CFL.

    I suppose we were doomed from the start due to the inept ownership and their lack of funds, imagination, and miniscule understanding of the Chicago market, Super CFL’s heritage, and general radio common sense.  But we persisted and, I think, prevailed.  A directional FM signal (pointed in the wrong direction) based in Morris (60 miles southwest of the famed “downtown Chicago at Marina City) captured the ears, hearts and loyalties of listeners that could pick the station up.

    And many that couldn’t.

    From LaSalle County to DuPage, throughout Will and Kankakee, and in a few pockets Cook County, people found out about the station, put up antennas, and fell in love with the jingles, boss jocks, wide ranging playlist and the fun and exuberance of the sum of all the parts.

    We were able to garner ink and kudos from Robert Feder, Radio and Records, a host of folks that worked at the original Top-40 WCFL, radio geeks from around the country and even Superjock himself, Larry Lujack.  The FCC even shut us down once.  That’s another story.

    As Creative Director I was allowed to play and run wild.  I did weekends, then overnights, and finally afternoon drive.  Still in touch with several of the other jocks.


    BTW…the only thing the internet station has in common with what we did is a few of the jingles and some common songs.


    I have never heard a “recreation” of a station that lived up to the station they’re trying to claim they “brought back.” I’ve heard some that didn’t even match the music well.


    Probably true Beachguy.  Personally, I’ve never heard any other station that tried to.  We tried to recreate an era, more than the station.  But the jingles and call letters gave us our ‘hook.’  I would humbly say, though, that judging by the reactions of listeners, advertisers, employees of the original Super CFL and the media, that we did a pretty good job.  Matching music playlists to the letter was never an intention.  And 20+ years after the fact, I don’t know that anyone would know the difference.  We had a huge library, unlike other “oldies” stations, but what really set the station apart was the presentation by the station’s personalities.  Something that nearly all current stations are sorely lacking in.



    Thanks for your input on the rebirth of WCFL.  I can still remember hearing the rumors that the station and heritage were coming back to the airwaves that spring.  I heard the station was to be HQ’ed “somewhere out by Joliet”, so on a whim, I packed a resume and demo tape and went out in search of the station (coming in from Ohio).  I don’t know how, but I found the soon-to-be-running studios in an office park on IL-47 just south of the interstate and spoke with someone.

    Suffice, to say, I didn’t get a job there then, but I tried again in late May, 1992 as I was passing thru Morris en-route to a radio job in the western US — hoping to cut my move short — but nothing was available then either.  I did, though, manage to get airchecks of you and Don Beno while in the radio range.

    I was also surprised when I dropped off a tape & resume at a tiny station in Ottawa, OH in person and found out that WCFL was their sister station.  They told me ‘CFL was the cash cow that fed the smaller chickens.  Sad to hear that they never truly re-invested the profits into their true profiting station.

    As far as the format, it was definitely cutting edge. It didn’t really matter what year the song came out (50s-80s), if it sounded upbeat and rockin’, it was played on WCFL/104.7.  It was just too bad that the station was sucked down the drain with the then-owners, and that the internet, especially internet radio, was not around yet.

    Glad you and your staff were able to prove that any small-town station could sound like a major market station if you let the personalities shine, the jingles flow and the playlists run into the thousands of titles — even if most of the commercials were for sponsors like Ed’s Carpet Warehouse and Laundromat in Princeton.

    Thanks again for the fun and memories, Rafe!




    Rafe, I don’t fault you for trying, but there are some I’ve encountered (such as one for KHJ) which had NOTHING in common with the original, and played a lot of stiffs KHJ would never have played. I did hear YOUR CFL and it was a fine effort. I am just one who believes in being original or faithful to the one you wish to recreate. My comment really was intended in a more generic mindset than the specific WCFL effort.

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