Welcome to WLS...

WLS header

Curator's note: The curator is greatly indebted to Dave Phillips of the Chicago Architectural Photographing Company for for providing the copies of the various WLS Family Albums that are reproduced here. Dave is a tenant in the old Prarie Farmer building (he, in fact, occupies the office that once belonged to Prairie Farmer mogul Burridge Butler).

Tired of the terminal dyspepsia of Don Wade and the rantings (and thumpings) of Rush Limbaugh? (Dr. Laura, for better for worse, has permanently left the building).

Then make your way out to 1230 West Washington Boulevard and walk up to the third floor. Enter the world of WLS, the Prairie Farmer station. You'll receive a warm greeting. And if you walk into the legendary "Cornstalk Studio", you will very likely find some of your favorite radio artists performing on the air. (They might include Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, Little Georgie Gobel, Lulu Belle and Scotty, Mac and Bob, the Cumberland Ridgerunners, the Prairie Ramblers, Patsy Montana, Rex Allen, Bob Atcher, "Arkie" (the Arkansas Woodchopper), Hermann Felber and the WLS Orchestra, the Maple City 4, or "Jolly Joe" Kelly---to name a few whose names pop into mind).

If it's a weekday, you'll want to stick around for the Dinner Bell program at noon. But if it's Saturday night, make a beeline for the Eighth Street Theater and see if you can get a ticket to the WLS National Barn Dance (if it's sold out, you can listen in; and if you're beyond the range of WLS's 50,000 watt signal, you can catch the hour picked up by NBC).

From 1928 until the spring of 1960, WLS (which went on the air in 1924) aimed its programming at the farm families of the prairies of the Midwest. Sharing (until the the mid-50's) the 870 (and later 890) spot on the dial with WENR, WLS was one of the nation's great broadcast stations.

Below you can enjoy a few of the WLS artifacts that I've found here and there. (More to come when I get a chance).

Visit the WLS Studios at 1230 West Washington. The building is still there. The studios were on the third floor.

Listen to the NBC Network portion of the WLS National Barn Dance from October 2nd, 1943. You'll hear Jolly Joe Kelly, Lulubelle and Scotty, the Dinning Sisters, Pat Butram, the Hoosier Hot Shots and a host of others.

Enjoy the 1932 WLS Family Album. Prairie Farmer, the publishing parent of WLS, produced one of these every year. Featuring a wealth of material about WLS artists, staff (and their families), it was as indispensible on the farm as the Sears Roebuck catalogue.

View highlights from the 1934 WLS Family Album. Read the original text and see early photos of great WLS stars like George Gobel, Gene Autry and Red Foley.

View highlights from the 1941 WLS Family Album. Included are spectacular photos of WLS folks taken by Fons Ianelli. (Prairie Farmer celebrated its centennial in 1941).

View highlights from the 1954 WLS Family Album. Only a few more years would pass before ABC would show the country folk the door.

Join the WLS-Prairie Farmer Protective Union. Your membership will keep thieves away from your barn, though it will probably not deter the travelling salesmen who have eyes for your daughters

For more on one of the nation's most evocative call letters, check out the following:

The WLS MusicRadio89 site (courtesy of Jeff Roteman)

The WLS History site (maintained by Scott Childers)

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
Audio and video downloads
About the Curator

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Created by Rich Samuels (e-mail to rich@richsamuels.com)