World's Best Battery Maker (referring to a former owner of WBBM (AM)) We Broadcast Better Music (from a slogan of its radio sister made from the calls) One of the two Bs in WBBM branding is used in B96 branding
WBBM-FM broadcasts two channels in the HD Radio format. HD2 is an all-dance format called B96 Dance.
The early years
The station began broadcasting in 1941, as W67C, broadcasting at 46.7 MHz. The station's transmitter was located atop the American National Bank Building, at 33 N. LaSalle Street. The station was a simulcast of WBBM 780, airing a very conservative mix of music which appealed to a broad range of ages. In 1943, the station's call sign was changed to WBBM-FM. In 1946, the station began broadcasting at 99.3 MHz. In 1947, the station's frequency was changed to 97.1 MHz, and in 1953 the station's frequency was changed to 96.3 MHz.
The Young Sound
In 1966, WBBM-FM split from simulcasting the AM and flipped to "The Young Sound", a format that was invented by John DeWitt for WCBS-FM in New York. Bud Kelly was the announcer for "The Young Sound" on WBBM-FM. "The Young Sound" aired contemporary pop and instrumental covers of recent hits, and had a contemporary energy that skewed the station towards a younger audience than WBBM-FM had previously sought. Every hour's playlist was designed so that each song would compliment the songs that preceded and followed it.
Chicago's Favorite Rock
By the early 1970s, the station was airing a format consisting of top 40, album cuts, and past hits. The station was branded as "Stereo 96 WBBM-FM, Chicago's Favorite Rock!"
By 1977, the station had adopted an soft rock format branded "The Mellow Sound of Chicago, Soft Rock 96 BBM-FM"Dick Bartley, who later became a popular syndicated personality, spent time at WBBM-FM as program director and morning disc jockey in the late '70s. WBBM-FM briefly carried "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem during the soft rock years.
In May 1982, WBBM-FM picked up a Top 40/CHR format known as "Hot Hits", which was created by consultant Mike Joseph. The station was branded B96 the following year.
In 1986, WBBM-FM started to move toward a rhythmic top 40 direction, and in the late 1980s began to embrace dance product. In 1990, the station became known as "The Killer Bee: B96."
In 1995, the station would start embracing acts from the world of R&B/hip-hop and pop as the dance scene diminished.
In January 2006, the station officially launched its HD2 FM sub-carrier, airing a Dance Top 40 format. In October 2008, the station's slogan was changed from "Chicago's Hits and Hip-Hop" to "Chicago's #1 Hit Music Station", as its format shifted back to Mainstream Top 40.
On February 2, 2017, CBS Radio announced it would merge with Entercom. The merger was approved on November 9, 2017, and was consummated on the 17th.
B96 was well known for its flagship "Eddie & JoBo" morning zoo show. Joe Colborn (stage name "Bohannon") first signed on at B96 in 1984 hosting evenings 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, launching the "Eddie & JoBo" show. The morning show was canceled on November 21, 2008.
On January 5, 2009, Julian Nieh and Jamar "J. Niice" McNeil started a new morning show, "J. Niice & Julian on the Radio". The two were previously together at Clear Channel's WIHT in Washington. Nieh stayed with the show until December 2012. The show continued with the name "The J. Show with Showbiz Shelly", with J. Niice as the main morning host. J. Niice left the morning show in March 2018.
Summer Bash concerts
B96 has held a summer concert at various local venues since 1992, with the exception of one year that it wasn't held due to a perceived lack of good musical talent available to perform. When it started in 1992, it was held at the World Music Theatre in Tinley Park (now called First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre). After several years, it moved to the Joliet Raceway where it stayed until moving to the Maywood Park Racetrack for a year, and then to Toyota Park in Bridgeview in 2007. The event has hosted top musical acts as well as local acts. The station also began a winter holiday season version of the event called Jingle Bash.