One of the most exciting days of my career was Monday, December 14, 1998. Just two days prior, I loaded up my car with a few weeks’ worth of clothes and put Pittsburgh in my rearview. I was driving to my brand new job in Chicago! I’ll never forget the very first time I was behind the wheel on the Dan Ryan, watching the skyline of my soon-to-be favorite city rapidly approach. I still get those tingles when I see it today.
A month earlier, a brand new radio station signed-on called 92.7 Kiss-FM. This was the first true top 40 station here in the seven years since Hot 94.7 signed-off. (B96 may have called themselves “top 40” through the 1990’s, but it always favored dance/rhythmic music, ignoring most rock-leaning songs). Kiss-FM was going to do it right. Our slogan was “All The Hits, One Station.” How true that was. Finally, you didn’t have to listen to three different stations to hear them!
The big promotional kickoff for Kiss-FM was “10,000 songs, then $10,000!” The station would be commercial-free until that 10,000th song played. At that point, they would open the phones and give $10,000 to the 92nd caller. Nobody was sure exactly how long it would take to play those 10,000 songs. So, the brand new airstaff was hired and brought to town a few days early:
George McFly (mornings)
Harry Legg (middays)
Chris Shebel (early afternoons)
Shark (late afternoons)
Jeffrey T. Mason (evenings)
***George wasn’t here for the launch, but would arrive soon after. We brought Luis “2-Live” Lopez on for overnights a month or so later. Bill LaTour eventually replaced Chris Shebel on air when Chris focused exclusively on his role as program director. And last, but not least, Melissa Forman made her Chicago radio debut as George’s morning co-host about 5 months into the format.***
While waiting for that 10,000th song, I was listening at an Extended Stay America in Des Plaines. (At this point, the Kiss-FM studios were still in Arlington Heights with an impending move downtown soon.) Eventually, it became pretty clear everything would culminate on Monday. We just weren’t sure what time. Whoever was scheduled to be on the air at that point would be the very first DJ heard on Kiss-FM. That turned out to be me 🙂
I can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s been TWENTY years since this adrenaline rush began! While I’ve made so many friends throughout my career, I’ve never worked with a finer group of people than at 92.7 Kiss-FM…and eventually our sister station, The 80s Channel 103.1 WXXY.
Chris Shebel put together a video for our 1999 company Christmas party. It shows the good, the bad, and the ugly from our first year on the air. I’ll let YOU decide which is which.
Enjoy! And thank you so very much for being part of this story…just on the opposite side of the speakers.