Published on Thursday, 10 March 2011 13:27
What was rumor and speculation yesterday
was fully revealed today. WJMK-FM is flipping formats. As of Monday afternoon, "Jack-FM" will be no more and "K-Hits" will be taking over.
CBS Radio has been flipping most of their stations that have been branded as "Jack-FM" to other formats over the last couple of years. As of this week, there are only five "Jack-FM" stations left in CBS Radio's roster of stations nationwide. In less than four days, that number will be down to four CBS Jack stations.
On Monday, March 14th, at 1:04PM and three-tenths seconds (coinciding with the station's frequency of 104.3), WJMK-FM will stop with the "Jack" imaging and brand itself as "K-Hits 104.3: Chicago's Greatest Hits of the 60's, 70's and 80's." The music programming will not be that dramatically different from what it is this week. "Jack-FM" plays rock & pop hits of the 70's through more recent hits, with a special emphasis on the 80's. The new station will be a more even handed mix of the 70's and 80's rock & pop hits with some 60's rock & Motown hits added in.
The biggest change between "Jack" and "K-Hits" will be the return of DJs to WJMK-FM. "Jack-FM" was a jockless format with occasional pre-recorded snarky comments from "Jack" himself, played by Canadian radio voice-over artist Howard Cogan. The comments were often repeated and would either amuse or annoy the listener -- or both at different times. "K-Hits" will be returning to a more traditional radio format with live DJs introducing the tracks and connecting with the audience.
The biggest news surrounding "K-Hits" will be the return of Eddie & Jobo to morning radio. The team of Ed Volkman and Joe Bohannon (although he has not used the radio name of Joe Bohannon in many years, and simply goes by Jobo now) were first paired together in 1988 on WBBM-FM (along with Karen Hand) for the station's morning show. They became a staple of Chicago morning radio and were ratings winners for most of their career. In May of 1994, they were fired from the station due to a defamation lawsuit that was filed against the two morning hosts and WBBM-FM. However, ratings plummeted after their departure. In January of 1997, the station brought the duo back. Eddie & Jobo remained the anchors of the station until November 2008, when CBS Radio made a corporate decision to remove many of their veteran stars from their airwaves (and from their payrolls) nationwide. Eddie & Jobo were taken off the air as part of that wide-sweeping cost-cutting move. Despite the removal, the two stayed in good graces with CBS Radio Chicago and have remained friendly with their past co-workers and bosses. They now are happily being reunited with their CBS Radio family.
For the last year, Eddie & Jobo have kept in the public eye via social networking and working a Saturday evening shift for Citadel-owned WLS-AM, along with and doing fill-ins for the station. Their final shift for the station will be a fill-in for "The Roe Conn Show with Richard Roeper" on WLS-AM today.
Eddie & Jobo will anchor the new "K-Hits" as the station's new morning team, working the 5:30am-10:00am shift. The show will be a mix of the light-hearted fun program the duo are famous for, along with some music. They will first be on the air for a short while when "K-Hits" takes off Monday afternoon. Then, the following day at 5:30am, they will begin their regular morning shift.
In a statement today, Eddie & Jobo said joyfully: "This is one of the most exciting days in our long history in Chicago radio. To be rookies again, starting on a brand new radio station in our hometown is, well, who said 'you can't go home?' We knew when we walked out of the building in 2008 we weren't done. We weren't sure where we'd land but we're excited to have this opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Waking up Chicago once again is going to be great."
WJMK-FM is also bringing back a pair of slightly lesser-known names from Chicago radio's past to handle the midday and afternoon shifts.
The midday shift of 10:00am-3:00pm will be handled by Gary Spears. Spears was part of WBBM-FM twice, first from 1982-1984 and again from 1990-1994, as well as stints at other Chicago stations such as WKQX-FM and being one of the original DJs on WKSC-FM in 2000. He has worked all over America and may be best known nationally for his work at Washington DC's WRQX-FM and his over 12 year time period spent at Los Angeles' KYSR-FM, KBIG-FM and KIIS-FM. Additionally, Gary Spears went by the name Michael Ray earlier in his career (well before Chicago's WBBM-FM), which was closer to his true name of Michael Raymond Frosch. The comedic-improvisationally trained voice star has also picked up the nickname "Big Poppa" while working and living in California.
Gary Spears will begin on WJMK-FM on Monday, March 21st at 10:00pm. For the first week, middays will be handled by a fill-in. Broadway Bill Lee will be the midday host next week, starting Tuesday. Lee comes from WJMK-FM sister-station WCBS-FM in New York. Coincidentally, both WJMK-FM and WCBS-FM flipped from being Oldies stations to becoming "Jack-FM" stations on the same day: June 3, 2005. WCBS-FM has since flipped to the same classic format that "K-Hits" will become on Monday and is known as "New York's Greatest Hits." Broadway Bill Lee is a over 40 year radio veteran who will do the Chicago fill-ins from the WCBS-FM studios in New York.
The afternoon drive shift of 3:00pm-8:00pm will be handled by Bo Reynolds. His name may not be instantly recognized by Chicago audiences, since when he worked here last, he went by the name of Pat Reynolds. (Pat is his true first name.) After leaving Chicago hit/Rock radio and moving into Country radio, Pat became "Bo" and the name has stuck ever since. Reynolds was a Top 10 rated DJ for WBBM-FM back in 1987 through 1990. Like Spears, Reynolds has worked at radio stations all across America, including Phoenix, Tampa, Los Angeles, and a few stations in Denver.
Chicago has always been Reynolds' dream market to work in. Growing up as a teen in Michigan's upper peninsula, he would listen to the strong signal of Chicago AM radio and idolize Chicago jocks like Larry Lujack and John Records Landecker. It was those jocks that put Reynolds on the path of his 30+ year radio career.
With "K-Hits" starting after 1:00pm in the afternoon on Monday, his first airshift for the station will be from 6:00pm-Midnight. (Eddie & Jobo will be doing 1:04pm-6:00pm on Monday.) The following day, Reynolds moves into his regular time slot.
All of the current "K-Hits" jocks -- Eddie & Jobo, Gary Spears, and Pat/Bo Reynolds -- have two things in common. They all worked at WBBM-FM in the 80's and they all worked under Program Director Buddy Scott, who they all give a great deal of credit to for helping shape their professional lives. It was Scott who first paired Eddie & Jobo together and Scott who brought young Reynolds to Chicago. Coincidentally (or perhaps, not so coincidentally), Buddy Scott himself returned to CBS Radio Chicago this past July
, when he was hired as the new Program Director for sister-station WUSN-FM/US 99.5.
CBS Radio still plans to hire more names familiar to Chicago radio listeners for its evening and weekend shifts in the very near future. In the meantime, fill-ins will will handle those spots. The names of the fill-ins should also be familiar to Chicago listeners, but no names have been released just yet.
The Program Director for the new station will remain veteran Chicago programmer Todd Cavanah. Cavanah joined WBBM-AM as an air talent in 1989. By 1993, he was promoted to PD. When WJMK-FM flipped to "Jack-FM," Cavanah was also given programming oversight at that station, in addition to his WBBM-FM duties.
Todd Cavanah said in the CBS Radio statement about the newly remade WJMK-FM: "Monday at 1:04pm is going to be an exciting time for not only Chicago music fans, but the great group of on-air personalities that we have assembled. Eddie, Jobo, Gary and Bo are thrilled about being a part of this brand new radio station, and are just as energized to share the airwaves and work together again as a team."
The station will be available on-air, online at its new domain address of KHitsChicago.com
, and via the Radio.com app available on smart phone apps. The new website went live early this morning. Although the logos are clearly plastered all over the site, it is still streaming "Jack-FM" and does not yet have any personality information posted on it. Additional website content will be coming next week, plus the remaining Jack-FM content & images will disappear.
The Classic Hits format has been one found to be very ratings-friendly for major market radio stations in recent years, especially since the roll out of Arbitron's PPM method of gathering ratings data. Still, CBS Radio may find themselves with an uphill climb to sustained ratings success. The station will be combating similar (but not identical) formats from stations such as WLS-FM, WLUP-FM, WILV-FM, WDRV-FM, and WLIT-FM.
WJMK-FM began in 1984, when the former call letters of WJEZ-FM were dropped and new station owner Infinity Broadcasting (which later became CBS Radio) turned the Country station into "Magic 104," an Oldies format, focusing mainly on the 60's. Although its playlist grew to include 70's and even some early 80's songs, it remained a popular Oldies station until CBS Radio decided to go with the "We Play What We Want" format of the original "Jack-FM" in the summer of 2005. Since that flip, CBS Radio has had to pay annual license rights to Sparknet Communications, the license holder of "Jack-FM," its logos, its slogans and "Jack" voice. Except for one year when CBS Radio Chicago experimented with having local legends Steve Dahl and Buzz Kilman as their morning hosts, and some morning traffic updates, the station has had no live personalities. Ratings and advertiser-supplied income have suffered because of it.
Despite past problems with ratings & revenue, along with the stiff competition locally, CBS Radio Chicago is confident they have an answer for those problems now with the new format and returning personalities.
Rod Zimmerman, Senior Vice President and Market Manager for CBS Radio Chicago said in today's statement: "104.3 K-Hits returns WJMK-FM to its roots as a station Chicagoans will remember for playing the Greatest Hits of the 60's, 70's and 80's. As much as the station is about the music, it will be equally about the local community, and the on-air talent who give the station its personality. From launch, listeners will instantly feel a personal connection to K-Hits."