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.
The early years
WBBM-FM began as a simulcast of WBBM radio in 1941, a very conservative mix of music which appealed to a broad range of ages. "The Young Sound" format was invented by John DeWitt in 1966 for CBS Radio at WCBS-FM in New York. Bud Kelly was the announcer for "The Young Sound" on WBBM-FM; 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.
By 1969, WBBM-FM moved to a more progressive rock format, but by 1973 evolved to Top 40. Another change in the late 70s put WBBM-FM in a rhythmic format focusing on Disco & R & B. Dick Bartley, who later became a very popular syndicated personality, spent time at WBBM-FM as Program Director in the late '70s. 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/AOR 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 CHR, 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 recurrents or Oldies whatsoever. The format was delivered with up tempo energy and plenty of "Actualizers" a.k.a. "Fusion" jingles from TM Productions. The original staff of "96 Now", as the station was called, included Steve Davis, Joseph "Smokin' Joe" Dawson, Gary Spears, David "Dave Rock 'N' Roll" Robbins, Bob Lewis, Franklin "Frank Hanel" Foster and Tony Taylor. Over the next few years, as the original staff moved on, Joseph "Joe Bohannon" Colborn, Tomm Rivers, Don Geronimo, Mark Windsor, Anthony "Tony The Wild Child" Hamilton, Chuck Evans, and Dick Biondi were added to the air crew. As a Hot Hits station, WBBM-FM played the Top 5 hottest hits every hour, and in between other hits on the Top 50 chart.
After Mike Joseph's departure as music consultant in 1983, the station decided to adopt its trademark "B96" moniker. The "B" moniker came from B97 in New Orleans and was is known as the original "B" moniker. The station began playing recent hits from the past several years, mixed into the Hot Hits under new program director Buddy Scott. Aided by TM's newest jingles entitled "Airpower", WBBM-FM evolved into a more mainstream CHR station. The station continued to be tremendously successful, and at times was the number one station in Chicago. Out of all of the "Hot Hits" stations, WBBM-FM was the most successful, for the longest period of time. "B96" accomplished what a long line of stations since the 1960s had been unable to do: defeat WLS for Chicago's top 40 radio crown.
"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 out of nowhere. Through most of the decade, B96 would set the standard as a cutting-edge leader when it came to breaking Dance music acts from La Bouche to Rozalla in the United States.
Transition to rhythmic Top 40
By 1997, however, B96 would start embracing acts from the world of R&B/hip-hop and pop as the dance scene dried up. Even today, they have not forgotten their roots as most of their daily and weekend mixshows are still dance-intensive and still spike a track or two in between the current hits from time to time.
In October 2008, the station slogan changed from "Chicago's Hits & Hip-Hop" to "Chicago's New #1 Hit Music Station". The change occurred due to the station's shift back to Mainstream Top 40, as the Rhythmic format nationwide was suffering a downturn in ratings, as well as the introduction of the PPM used for Arbitron radio ratings measuring purposes in order to make station more advertiser-friendly and to attract a more diverse audience. The trend was later followed at sister rhythmic contemporary stations KLUC-FM in Las Vegas (which moved from contemporary hit radio in 2009) and as of 2010, KZON in Phoenix, Arizona.
B96 was probably most known for its flagship "Eddie & JoBo" morning 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.
On November 21, 2008, Eddie, JoBo and Erica were relieved of their morning show duties, marking the end of an era in Chicago radio.
On December 31, 2008, it was announced that Julian Nieh and Jamar "J. Niice" McNeil would be replacing the Eddie & JoBo & Erica Show. "J. Niice & Julian on the Radio" made its debut January 5, 2009 in the 5:30-10 a.m. slot. The two were previously together at Clear Channel's WIHT in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, November 28, 2012 Julian Nieh announced his departure from the B96 morning show. The show now continues with the name "The J. Show with Showbiz Shelly", with J. Niice as the main morning host, with direct support from Michelle "Showbiz Shelly" Menaker, and expanded support by Gabriel "Producer Gabe" Ramirez.
Summer Bash concerts
B96 has held a summer concert 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, including J Roman as the vocalist of the electro-pop group the Jump Smokers. J Roman is half of B96's afternoon drive show. Several artists have appeared more than once over the years. The Summer Bash concert series proved so successful that the station also began a winter/holiday season version of the event called Jingle Bash.