In 1982, WBBM-FM picked up a top 40 format known as "Hot Hits," which was created by consultant Mike Joseph in 1977 for WTIC-FM in Hartford, Connecticut. That concept, one of the earliest examples of CHR, 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 jingles. The original staff of "96 Now" as the station was called included Steve Davis, Joe Dawson, Gary Spears, Dave Robbins, and Tony Taylor. As a "Hot Hits" station, WBBM-FM (now known as "96 NOW") played the Top 5 hits every hour and in between other hits on the Top 30 chart. Beginning in 1983, Hot Hits stations started playing recent hits from the past several years mixed into the Hot Hits. WBBM-FM therefore evolved into a more common CHR station as a result. WBBM-FM led the competition with CHR 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 and managed to accomplish what a long line of stations since the 1960s had been unable to do: defeat WLS for Chicago's top 40 radio crown. By the end of 1982, Mike Joseph was no longer consulting WBBM-FM, and the station had adopted its trademark "B96" name under Program Director Buddy Scott. Even without Joseph the station continued to flourish.
By 1989, WBBM-FM would start embracing a lot of dance product, especially the home-grown house sub genre. That move would result in B96 evolving into a very dance-leaning rhythmic top 40 direction by 1990. Under this direction they would see ratings skyrocket out of nowhere and through most of the decade 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.
By the end of the 1990s, however, B96 would start embracing acts from the world of R&B/hip-hop and pop as the dance scene dried up. But even today they haven't 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. This choice of music genres puts WBBM in prime competition with heritage hip hop/urban contemporary station WGCI-FM and mainstream top 40 station WKSC-FM.
In December 2005, the existing station launched into HD Radio and added an HD2 FM sub-carrier to program commercial-free Dance Top 40 hits 24/7, similar to the pioneering former Energy 92.7/5 dance without hip-hop format.
B96 is probably most known for its flagship “Eddie & JoBo” morning show. Ed Volkman & Joe Bohannon have been a fixture at B96 for 20 years. Joe 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 “JoBo & Eddie” show was born.
The duo enjoyed success in the in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. They invited their listeners, who they dubbed “The Worlds Most Dangerous Audience”, to assist in some classic radio bits such as cold water wake-up calls, the daily Twinkie check, and the infamous mattress attacks. Eddie & JoBo rode a wave of success, but on May 10, 1994, they were fired in the aftermath of a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit filed against them by former WMAQ-TV anchor Joan Esposito. Esposito sued Eddie & JoBo in 1993 after JoBo falsely aired a statement that she had been impregnated by a member of the Chicago Bulls.
It was then that B96 decided to move morning drive in a whole new direction, asking the listeners to “choose” the new morning drive in what was known as “The B96 Morning Show Open Auditions” which ran through the summer of 1994. Terry Jacobs and Bill Cody were chosen by the listeners to be the successors of Eddie & JoBo. However, very few people warmed up to “T.J. & Wild Bill” as B96 watched Eddie & JoBo’s 5.7 share in the ratings plummet to a 1.9. T.J. & Wild Bill lasted just 10 months at B96. In July of 1995 former evening host George McFly, and former overnight host Frankie "Hollywood" Rodriguez were moved up to mornings in an attempt to offset the drastic ratings slide. But this also proved little popular as “George & Frankie” could only deliver a 2.1 share..
Once again B96 took morning drive in a new direction by “splitting up” the time slot and airing 2 separate shows. Frankie’s morning show aired from 5–8am, followed by B96’s hugely popular Sunday night sex talk show “Private Lives” hosted by Karen Hand and Dr. Kelly Johnson. Private Lives aired from 8-10am. Finally, B96 began to see marked improvement in the ratings, but only in the 8–10am slot as Frankie’s ratings continued to suffer severely. Caving into pressure from new competition on rival stations, and a relentless barrage of phone calls and letters sent by Eddie and JoBo loyalists, B96 announced on December 12, 1996 that Eddie & JoBo had been re-hired, and would be returning to host morning drive along with Frankie “Hollywood” Rodriguez starting January 13, 1997 from 5–8am.
B96 began to see significant improvements in their morning drive ratings as the combo “Eddie & JoBo And Frankie” show and “Private Lives” slowly crept its way up the ratings. Afraid of another possible lawsuit, station management and stepped in to exert more control over the show. They made on-air staff changes and imposed a taped delay, at times as long as 20 minutes. Every word spoken by the duo was closely monitored and had to be approved by a member of management prior to airing. In addition, a member of management had to be in the studio with Eddie & JoBo at all times or they could not broadcast.
Eddie & JoBo adapted to the changes, and ratings continued to climb back to their former glory. Private Lives was dropped from morning drive in 1999 and Eddie & JoBo hosted from 5–10am under tight restrictions until May 29 2002. Rival station WKSC-FM 103.5 made an offer to them to do morning drive unrestricted on their station. B96 pulled the show as a negotiation tactic in the hopes of keeping the show. Negotiations continued until July when B96 announced at an on air press conference that Eddie & JoBo have signed on with the station in a 7 year, $21 million deal to begin immediately. Most importantly, B96 agreed to drop all restrictions on the show.
B96 no longer felt a tape delay was needed, and Eddie & JoBo resumed a live show on July 22, 2002. Unfortunately, Eddie & JoBo have seen a marked decline in ratings in recent years. However, many attribute this to the overall stations severe decline in ratings ever since dropping its heavy dance music format for an all hip-hop & rap format in the late 90’s. Ever since abandoning dance music, B96 has witnessed a steady decline from #1 in 1998, all the way down to #9, and even lower in recent years.
On January 1, 2006 B96 left the "Killer Bee" image behind and transitioned to the current "Chicago's Hits & Hip-Hop" moniker. The purpose of the change was to reposition themselves as a rhythmic CHR station, not urban rap.
On May 10, 1994, they were fired in the aftermath of a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit filed against them by former WMAQ-TV anchor Joan Esposito. Esposito sued Eddie & JoBo in 1993 after JoBo falsely aired a statement that she had been impregnated by a member of the Chicago Bulls.