Educational Media Foundation Acquires 97.9 WLUP Chicago

97.9 The Loop WLUP Chicago Educational Media Foundation EMFUpdate 3/10: WLUP-FM signed-off its Classic Rock format at exactly midnight as Educational Media Foundation’s “K-Love” Christian AC network took over mid-song. Outside of promos from former middayer Lindsey Marie and afteroon host Tim Virgin hyping the format’s move to 101.1 WKQX-HD2 and to purchase Loop logo shirts online, the station ran jockless in its final hours following Steve Dahl’s tribute show simulcast in the afternoon on WLUP-FM and 890 WLS.

The final hour of music on The Loop consisted of many songs including the final one making light of the programming replacing it. The final hour of WLUP-FM consisted of:

  • Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven
  • Europe – The Final Countdown
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
  • REM – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
  • Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Rush – Limelight
  • Mötley Crüe – Shout At The Devil
  • Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast
  • AC/DC – Highway To Hell

Listen to the sign-off of The Loop at FormatChange.com.

Update 3/7:The Loop brand will not completely die when EMF takes over the station on Saturday. The automated Classic Rock format with the Loop branding will move to 101.1 WKQX-HD2 in order to keep the Intellectual Property alive. We can also exclusively report that the WLUP-FM call letters will be leaving Chicago as Educational Media Foundation has filed to swap them with their 88.3 WCKL-FM Starke FL with WCKL-FM heading to Chicago and WLUP-FM retiring to Florida.

Loop afternoon host Tim Virgin will remain on-air as he will start hosting afternoons today at Alternative 101.1 WKQX. APD/MD Walter ‘Stabwalt’ Flakus moves to nights as Lou Lombardo exits. Lombardo moved from morning co-host to nights and Digital Content Captain at the start of this year.

WLUP night host James Van Osdol remains with Cumulus hosting weekend specialty show Demo 312 on WKQX and working in digital for it and 890 WLS/94.7 WLS-FM.

Update 3:30pm: The demise of The Loop will be a lot sooner than thought.

Robert Feder reports that Cumulus will “end the classic rock station’s current programming today” with the Chicago Tribune adding that EMF’s Christian AC “K-Love” network programming will debut on Saturday, March 10. WLUP-FM has been running jockless since this morning.

Cumulus Chicago Market Manager Marv Nyren told staffers in a memo shared by Feder that the company remains in discussions with Merlin to acquire Alternative 101.1 WKQX.

Original Report 3/6 12:00am: After the collapse of its sale of Classic Rock “97.9 The Loop” WLUP-FM and Alternative 101.1 WKQX Chicago to Cumulus, Merlin Media has found a buyer for one of the stations.

Educational Media Foundation has agreed to purchase WLUP for $21.5 million and will convert the station to non-commercial status upon closing of the sale. EMF’s “K-Love” Christian AC network is currently heard in the Chicago market on 94.3 WJKL Glendale Heights. Christian CHR “Air 1” is not currently heard in the Chicago market, but if past indications mean anything that will go on 94.3 with K-Love going to the stronger 97.9 signal.

The deal was filed with the FCC on Monday.

INSTANT INSIGHT: The deal will mark the end of “The Loop” brand after over 40 years. From Rock to Hot Talk to Modern AC to Classic Rock, and being stuck in baseball and historical lore thanks to Steve Dahl’s Disco Demolition Night, the station will go down as one of the most important radio stations in history. And now just another historical footnote.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

8 Comments


  1. The station has stunk for years and was handily defeated by a classic rock upstart (97.1 The Drive) that used to be a classical station. Should’ve been put out to pasture years ago.

    Whereas this site and many others completely missed the ball on the ramifications of the Cumulus bankruptcy filing vis-a-vis the Merlin Media deal in Chicago, I knew right away that the Chicago deal with Merlin was in jeopardy.


  2. It didn’t help that the Merlin era of WLUP had no concrete airstaff that was almost entirely voice-tracked. That only cemented WDRV’s lead as a classic rocker in the market.

    I honestly thought there was little to no chance a new deal would be reached with Cumulus the second the bankruptcy court details were released. Meanwhile, Randy takes a $30M markdown on WLUP from his 2011 purchase (both it and WKQX went for $100M), of course excluding the LMA fees Cumulus paid overall from 2014 on.


  3. The Loop flipped formats 4 times in 40 years and of all things to Modern AC so ease up on the “most important” label.
    Hard to believe that fact plus a racist and homophobic stunt against entire population groups in a city the size of Chicago would earmark it as one of the most important radio stations in history. Frankly quite the opposite-other than a couple good personalities.
    History should note the referenced stunt did not do what music and radio should actually do and that is to bring people together. BTW referenced personality now shares the same AM frequency as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and the aural and viral infection called Red Eye Radio.


    • That stunt had major implications in popular culture, popular music and sports in general (the White Sox had to be sold shortly thereafter due to Bill Veeck getting humiliated out of baseball and his son Mike being blackballed). It was a watershed moment that wound up punishing the genre of disco rather than Steve Dahl and the rioters he instigated.

      The WLUP call letters will forever be associated with Disco Demolition Night, for better or for worse.


  4. The FM band, now following in the footsteps of AM radio’s demise. First the bible thumpers move in, followed by bloviating conservative talk formats which are sure to take over as soon as the music industry finally gets what it wants with imposing their royalties.


  5. EMF does currently have some coverage for Air 1 in the western suburbs, on WSRI and WAIW. Also, there’s some additional coverage for K-Love in the northern and northwestern suburbs, on WOKL and WZKL. It’s possible that EMF may shift some of those stations’ programming around.


    • It didn’t sink in earlier, but I think that all four of those stations–plus both WLUP and WJKL–are considered within the Chicago metro. That should officially put EMF over the cap–although, of course, the organization would’ve already planned for that.


  6. Freebird may have been included in the final hour per Kevin Matthews’ request…

    https://twitter.com/Whatareyougoofy/status/971111667894489091

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