WCFL logo (source: Wikipedia, fair use)
WCFL (“The Voice of Labor,” “The Big 10,” and “Super CFL”) was owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor and for many years broadcast union and labor-related news, Chicago White Sox baseball, and some music. In 1965, they became Chicago’s second rock station, competing with WLS. The offices and studios of the two stations were about three blocks apart, with WLS’s in the Stone Container Building at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive and WCFL’s in Marina City (which had just been built, mostly at the behest of the Chicago Federation of Labor) at State Street and Wacker Drive, on the north bank of the Chicago River. Over the years, many on-air personalities moved between those two buildings.
“Super CFL,” as it was called in the years leading up to its abandonment of the Top 40 format, issued a weekly survey of the Top 40 in Chicago, based on record sales and requests to the station, which explains the occasional differences between its survey and WLS’s. Here is the Top Five on the station on this date in 1971.
#5: Put Your Hand In The Hand – Ocean The sound of early Christian rock. It reached #3 at the Voice of Labor in early May, but fell to #11 the week of May 20 and started its descent.
#4: Another Day – Paul McCartney This was the first single by the band which would become Wings. A friend of mine tells me he was in a record store and overheard one pre-teen girl tell another, “Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?” The song dropped to #10 the following week.
#3: Never Can Say Goodbye – The Jackson Five I chose the “live” version they did on The Flip Wilson Show over the single version because the dancing is tremedous. It went to #2 the week of May 13 before beginning its descent.
#2: Joy To The World – Three Dog Night This song rose to #1 the following week and stayed there for four weeks before being supplanted by Donny Osmond’s “Sweet And Innocent.”
#1: Stay Awhile – The Bells This song had peaked the week before and was still enjoying the top spot this week. Listen to (or read) the words; they’re kind of creepy…
WCFL dropped the Top 40 format on March 15, 1976, at 5:00 PM. They played two hours’ worth of sounds of the ocean before slipping into their new “beautiful music” format. The last Top 40 song they played was a modified version of “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)” by Reunion. Hall of Fame disc jockey Larry Lujack, who had just signed a big contract with the station that they were going to hold him to, is the announcer here. Here are the last ten minutes of “Super CFL.”
After a few years and several more format changes, WCFL became WMVP, or “ESPN Radio 1000,” which it is today. The call letters now belong to a Christian station out of Morris, Illinois, which simulcasts WBGL, a Christian station out of Champaign, Illinois.
And that’s your history lesson for today. Many thanks to my friends at Oldiesloon, which is a tremendous resource for popular music surveys.