City Chicago
Broadcast area Chicago market
Branding B96
Slogan Chicago's New #1 Hit Music Channel!
Frequency 96.3 MHz (also on HD Radio)
First air date 1941
Format Top 40 (CHR)
HD-2: Dance Top 40
ERP 3,300 watts
HAAT 474 meters (1,555 ft)
Class B
Facility ID 9613
Callsign meaning World's Best Battery Maker (referring to a former owner of WBBM (AM))
We Broadcast Better Music (from a slogan of its radio sister made from the calls)
One of the two Bs in WBBM branding is used in B96 branding
Owner Entercom
(CBS Radio East, LLC)
Webcast Listen Live
Website b96.com

WBBM-FM, known on air as "B96", is a Top 40 (CHR) radio station in Chicago owned by Entercom. The station broadcasts at 96.3 MHz with an ERP of 3.3 kW from a transmitter atop Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), and its studios are located at Two Prudential Plaza in the Loop. WBBM-FM's main competition is WKSC-FM, as well as urban rivals WGCI-FM and WPWX.

WBBM-FM broadcasts two channels in the HD Radio format. HD2 is an all-dance format called B96 Dance.[1]

Station history

The early years

WBBM-FM began as a simulcast of WBBM radio in 1941, with a very conservative mix of music which appealed to a broad range of ages. In 1966, WBBM-FM split from simulcasting the AM and flipped to "The Young Sound", a format that was invented by John DeWitt for WCBS-FM in New York. Bud Kelly was the announcer for "The Young Sound" on WBBM-FM, and unlike other FM stations airing a similar format at the time, it was not Elevator Music. "The Young Sound" had an energy to it, and definitely skewed toward a younger audience than WBBM-FM had previously sought.[2]

By 1969, WBBM-FM moved to a more progressive rock format, but by 1973, evolved to Top 40. Another change in the late 1970s put WBBM-FM in a rhythmic format focusing on Disco and R&B. Dick Bartley, who later became a very popular syndicated personality, spent time at WBBM-FM as Program Director in the late '70s.[3] By 1980, the format had changed yet again, this time to "Soft Rock 96." WBBM-FM briefly carried "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem during the soft rock years.

Hot Hits 96 Now/Most Music/Hitradio B96

In March 1982, WBBM-FM picked up a Top 40/CHR format known as "Hot Hits", which was created by consultant Mike Joseph in 1977 for WTIC-FM in Hartford, Connecticut. That concept is one of the earliest examples of what was soon to become "contemporary hit radio", but that concept also revitalized the top 40 format, and would play a role in bringing the format to the FM band throughout the 1980s. The concept was to play only the current hits on the top 30 and no recurrence or Oldies whatsoever. The format was delivered with up tempo energy and plenty of "Actualizers" (also known as "Fusion") jingles from TM Productions.

"The Killer Bee"/Dance/House music days

By 1989, WBBM-FM would start to embrace dance product, especially the home-grown house subgenre. That move resulted in B96 evolving into a very dance-leaning rhythmic top 40 direction by 1990 as "The Killer Bee: B96." Under this focus, they would see ratings skyrocket. The station broke Dance music acts from La Bouche to Rozalla in the United States.[4]

Transition to rhythmic Top 40

By 1997, however, the station would start embracing acts from the world of R&B/hip-hop and pop as the dance scene diminished.

In December 2005, the station an HD2 FM sub-carrier to program commercial-free Dance Top 40 hits 24/7, similar to the pioneering former Energy 92.7/5.[5]

Recent history

In October 2008, the station shifted back to Mainstream Top 40. The same action was taken in 2009 at sister rhythmic contemporary station KLUC-FM in Las Vegas, and in 201 byKZON in Phoenix, Arizona.

CBS had owned WBBM-FM since the beginning, even though they merged with Westinghouse in 1995, Infinity in 1997, and Viacom in 2000. Through CBS Radio, the CBS Corporation continued to own WBBM-FM.

On February 2, 2017, CBS Radio announced it would merge with Entercom.[6] The merger was approved on November 9, 2017, and was consummated on the 17th.[7][8]

Morning show

B96 was probably most known for its flagship "Eddie & JoBo" morning zoo show. Joe Colborn (stage name "Bohannon") first signed on at B96 in 1984 hosting evening as "JoBo In Chicago". Ed Volkman started at B96 in 1986 hosting morning drive along with Karen Hand and Mike Elston. When Elston left B96 in 1988, Bohannon was moved to mornings along with Volkman and Hand, and the "Eddie & JoBo" show was born. The duo enjoyed success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The morning show was canceled on November 21, 2008.

On January 5, 2009, Julian Nieh and Jamar "J. Niice" McNeil started a new morning show, "J. Niice & Julian on the Radio". The two were previously together at Clear Channel's WIHT in Washington. Nieh stayed with the show until December 2012.[9] The show continued with the name "The J. Show with Showbiz Shelly", with J. Niice as the main morning host.[10][11]

Summer Bash concerts

B96 has held a summer concert[12] at various local venues since 1992, with the exception of one year that it wasn't held due to a perceived lack of good musical talent available to perform. When it started in 1992, it was held at the World Music Theatre in Tinley Park (now called First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre). After several years, it moved to the Joliet Raceway where it stayed until moving to the Maywood Park Racetrack for a year, and then to Toyota Park in Bridgeview in 2007. The event has hosted top musical acts as well as local acts. The station also began a winter holiday season version of the event called Jingle Bash.


Coordinates: 41°52′44″N 87°38′10″W / 41.879°N 87.636°W / 41.879; -87.636

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