was an AM
radio station in located in Chicago, Illinois
, and broadcast at 670 kHz
with 50,000 watts. The station was in existence from 1922 to 2000, and was the oldest surviving broadcast outlet in Chicago. It was a class A clear channel
station, and could be heard, particularly at night, over most of the eastern U.S. WMAQ was a charter affiliate for the CBS Radio Network
, but was longest known as a NBC
Radio owned-and-operated station.
WMAQ came to life as WGU on April 13
. The station was formed as a joint venture between Fair Department Store
and Chicago Daily News
. Technical problems forced the station quickly off the air. Herbert Hoover
would inaugurate a new antenna and transmitter and give the station the call letters WMAQ. The station's longtime motto was "We Must Ask Questions," which was derived from this call sign
WMAQ was the first station to broadcast Chicago Cubs games. The first game, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, was called by Hal Totten on April 20, 1925.
NBC purchased the station in 1931
as an affiliate. WMAQ carried original local and network programming. Marian and Jim Jordan started at WMAQ with a local show and later would move on to form Fibber McGee and Molly
. Interestingly, during its first months on the air, Fibber McGee and Molly
was distributed over NBC's Blue Network
, which meant that in Chicago the program was produced at WMAQ but heard over WLS
, one of three NBC Blue Network affiliates in Chicago at the time. Amos 'n' Andy
was also a popular program.
Sister station WMAQ-TV
went on the air in 1948
and moved from an experimental station to a television pioneer. As television made waves around the nation, radio stations like WMAQ shifted to recorded music.
1950s and 1960s
During the 1950s and 1960s, they played adult popular music by artists such as Frank Sinatra
and Perry Como
Although the station never shifted completely to Top 40
, by the early 1970s, WMAQ's playlist could be considered something of a Hot Adult Contemporary
. During the period, WMAQ used the on-air name "67-Q". A 1975
format change to country music
saw WMAQ taking on WJJD-AM
. The first song played under the new format was "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams Sr. The station's fortunes were helped in no small part by the infamous "WMAQ is Gonna Make Me Rich!" cash giveaway promotion, which was eventually used on other NBC-owned radio outlets. WMAQ also served as the flagship station for Chicago White Sox
broadcasts, mostly at night, throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
As the country format faded in 1985, WMAQ saw a transition to a news/talk format, but that format did not last very long. After 57 years, NBC sold all of their radio stations following RCA
's merger with General Electric
. NBC sold WMAQ to Group W
in 1988. This was Westinghouse's third stint at station ownership in the Chicago market, having founded KYW
before relocating that station to Philadelphia in 1934, and later with WIND
from 1955 to 1985. Group W
switched WMAQ to an all news format of the "give us 22 minutes" variety, patterned after its more successful all-news outlets in Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles.
WMAQ eventually added more long-form news programming and some assorted call-in shows in the late 1990s.
A series of acquisitions in the 1990s, precipitated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, would eventually doom the station. Westinghouse merged with CBS in 1994, putting WMAQ and WBBM under the same ownership. While both stations were able to successfully run separate news divisions after the first buyout, Viacom then purchased CBS in 1999. With the second merger, Viacom exceeded the allowed number of stations in the Chicago market and had to spin several off to different owners.
WMAQ-AM radio signed off permanently on August 1
, with the final playing of the NBC chimes
at 6 a.m. CDT. Viacom relocated all-sports WSCR
from 1160 AM to WMAQ's former dial position at 670 AM, and spun off the 1160-AM frequency to Salem Communications
. The WMAQ call sign
is still retained to this day by its former TV sister station WMAQ-TV, channel 5.