WMVP (1000 AM) is the callsign of a commercial radio station in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is owned by ABC, Inc. and operated by ESPN Radio. Its transmitter is located in Downers Grove. The station broadcasts live sports talk, both locally and nationally. Daily programming consists of talk shows that are both national and local. Mike and Mike in the Morning and the Scott Van Pelt show are done by ESPN, while Waddle & Silvy, Carmen and Jurko and Kap And Company are more focused on Chicago sports. It is also currently the flagship station of the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues of the NHL, and, until 2016, it was formerly the flagship station of the Chicago Bulls of the NBA (until it was taken over ironically by former sister station WLS). WMVP also airs the Northwestern Wildcats football and basketball games whenever flagship AM station WGN is unable to air the games due to other broadcast agreements.
During its years as a Top 40 station, like its rival WLS, WCFL's powerful nighttime signal enabled it to be heard by many listeners far outside the Metro Chicago area. And while it was primarily a Top 40 station, WCFL featured a Sunday evening program of progressive rock music called "The Ron Britain Subterranean Circus". The word "subterranean" was in reference to WCFL featuring "underground" music, which was the term used to refer to then-emerging album oriented rock music format. This genre of music was almost exclusively carried by FM stations, making WCFL being among the few AM stations to carry album cuts as opposed to singles.
The WCFL era
The sale of WCFL to Mutual
On March 15, 1976, after two years of falling ratings, WCFL abruptly dropped its Top 40 format in favor of "The World's Most Beautiful Music," leaving WLS once again as Chicago's only AM Top 40 station. Station management released all disc jockeys who did not have "no cut" clauses in their contracts with the official explanation of the format change as "being more in keeping with the labor movement". Larry Lujack, still under contract with the station, stayed on at WCFL playing easy listening music until moving back to WLS in September 1976. This format won few listeners from FM beautiful music stations such as WLOO, and by 1978 had been replaced by a gold-based adult contemporary format.
WCFL and the Chicago Federation of Labor enjoyed the support of Mayor Richard J. Daley throughout his 1955-1976 administration. He proclaimed January 11, 1966 "WCFL Day in Chicago" to mark the 40th anniversary of the station. In 1976, when it became evident it was time for the Federation to sell the radio station, Federation President William A. Lee turned to his long-time friend, Mayor Daley, for advice.
After deciding its profit margin was too small for the Chicago Federation of Labor to maintain, WCFL was sold April 3, 1978 to the Mutual Broadcasting System, at the time a subsidiary of the Amway Corporation. The history of the first and longest-lived labor radio station was over; after nearly 52 years, the "Voice of Labor" had been stilled. The station began to identify itself as "Mutual/CFL." A magazine-type news/talk format was adopted, with sports talk in the evening hours and Larry King overnight, but ratings remained low. In 1982, WCFL flipped to an MOR format playing standards and non-rock hits of the '50s and '60s mixed in with some softer rock and roll oldies and soft '70s and '80s AC cuts, and even a few currents. Ratings were still low, so WCFL evolved by the end of 1983 to an adult contemporary format.
In 1983, WCFL was sold by Mutual to Statewide Broadcasting. Statewide switched WCFL to adult contemporary Christian music about 10 hours a day and teaching programs the rest of the time. WCFL basically sold blocks of time to various Christian organizations. The format was profitable but received very low ratings. At that time, they advertised the call letters as standing for "Winning Chicago For the Lord". In early 1985, the station moved from Marina City into a two-story brick building built on its Downers Grove transmitter site. Statewide specialized in religious formats but opted to merge with a secular company called Heftel Broadcasting. WCFL became WLUP just after the stroke of midnight, April 29, 1987.
Initially, they opted to remain religious while keeping their longtime rock station 97.9 FM WLUP with an AOR format. Heftel opted to end the religious format in April 1987. The call letters of the station were changed to WLUP, and its FM sister became WLUP-FM. WLUP-FM remained an AOR station, while 1000 WLUP switched to a full service rock format focusing on personality, comedy and talk programs with a few rock cuts an hour. After 7 p.m., WLUP and WLUP-FM simulcast the AOR format. Heftel had bought a few Spanish stations in the late 1980s and bought a Spanish station in Chicago in 1992. They then sold their English stations, including WLUP and WLUP-FM. Evergreen Media would buy WLUP AM & FM in late 1992.
Becoming sports radio
Initially, the AM and FM stations remained the same. On September 27, 1993, though, WLUP-FM switched to a full-service talk/comedy format, while AM 1000 became sports. 97.9 then became WLUP and AM 1000 changed its call sign to WMVP, or "Most Valuable Player," to reflect the station's new emphasis on sports programming. WMVP's programming included nationally syndicated shows such as "Fabulous Sports Babe" and "Ferrall On The Bench" as well as play-by-play of local sports games. Despite their 24-hour signal, the station trailed in the ratings to (at the time) daytime-only WSCR and to WMAQ's Sports Huddle at night. WMVP dropped its all sports format at 6 a.m. on June 5, 1996, the day before the Chicago Bulls opened the NBA Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics, and returned to simulcasting WLUP-FM (though it would carry its own night-time sports talk program, and play-by-play broadcasts of the White Sox and Bulls, and would later air some shows from hosts who were moved over from the FM). Evergreen later merged with Chancellor and sold WLUP-FM to Bonneville International in July 1997, with WMVP permanently splitting from the FM and began airing its own talk/sports format. WMVP was sold from Chancellor to ABC in August 1998, and flipped back to sports on October 5, this time affiliated with ESPN Radio.
ABC operates WMVP from 190 North State Street in the Chicago Loop, where sister station WLS-TV also has its studios, maintaining both traditional in-building studios and a streetside studio for local programming right next to WLS's own streetside studios.