WYEN radio memorabilia now at the Plains History Center

Almost 50 years ago, a new suburban radio station brought attention to Des Plaines as the hotbed of Request Radio. Even though WYEN 107 FM is long gone, you will now find the meaning of WYEN at the Plains History Center.

Stew Cohen, author of “The WYEN Experience,” presented the staff at the Plains History Center with several boxes of WYEN memorabilia.

In an initial survey with curator of collections Siobhan Heraty, Cohen learned that the History Center could certainly accommodate materials donated on Request Radio.

“The History Center had very little documentation of our WYEN holdings. This donation helps fill a gap in our collection on the history of local news media and is a great addition to our archives,” said Heraty.

As the radio station’s 50th anniversary approaches this winter, the former WYEN news director made available the research he collected and used for the book, audio interviews with the station’s broadcasters. , WYEN T-shirts and other memorabilia.

“While some of the WYEN materials donated to the History Center may seem insignificant, like a blue plastic WYEN coaster, the entire donation has a singular significance,” Cohen said.

The pages of “The WYEN Experience” and the audio CD interviews feature the names of broadcasters who have not only entertained and informed for decades in the Chicago area and across the United States, but have served as role models. another generation of over-the-air broadcasters today.

The names and stories of former WYEN broadcasters include Bob Roberts (formerly of WMAQ and WBBM-AM), Rob Reynolds (former voice of Speedway radio spots and owner of Omnibus Advertising), Garry Meier (formerly of WGN 720 and The Loop on -air with Steve Dahl), Jayne Neches Simon (formerly Music Industry Executive), Greg Brown (formerly of WLS-FM), Mike Tanner (formerly of Westwood One Radio / CBS Radio / Unistar / Transtar Radio), Dave Alpert (formerly of WMET-FM, Satellite Music Network and Los Angeles ABC Network correspondent), Bob Worthington / alias Danny Lake (formerly of WLS-FM and Solid Gold Saturday Night underwrites nationwide), Val Stouffer (formerly of WMET -FM), Ray Smithers (1st Program Director WYEN, formerly with WFMF, WIND-AM and WGLD), Allen Weintraub / aka Wayne Allen (formerly Director of Marketing and Sales at WLS-TV Chicago) and Mike Roberts (formerly of WTMX 101.9-FM).

On December 3, 1971, WYEN announcer Gil Peters turned on the studio microphone on the air. Watching with a mixture of relief and anticipation the long “wrestling match” with the Federal Communications Commission over the last radio license available in Chicago, station owner and chairman Ed Walters and vice chairman Jerry Westerfield of Walt-West Enterprises were among the key personnel. WYEN members looking through a studio window and listening intently on a monitor in the adjacent conference room.

Walters and Westerfield have heard every word and song from Gil on his show.

“They were mesmerized by this fresh new sound with mostly young and barely tested broadcasters,” Cohen said.

The major “WYEN Backyard” events of the mid-1970s to early 1980s sparked a commitment to the WYEN advertiser community.

On May 25, 1979, a fully loaded American Airlines DC-10 crashed and burned not far from where the plane had taken off at O’Hare Airport. The crash and explosion killed 271 passengers and crew and two people on the ground.

WYEN announcers Nick Farella (formerly of WXLC and WKRS) and Wayne Bryman / alias Roger Leyden (former announcer for WCFL and Satellite Music Network) were working on the day of the plane crash. Bryman was filling in the WYEN news for a vacation news anchor. All staff assisted them by gathering information from callers and official sources, and they aired for five hours of non-stop coverage.

WYEN FM, located in the O’Hare Lake Office Plaza, 2400 E. Devon Ave., in Des Plaines, had become the suburban competitor of Chicago radio stations with its music and news. Walters’ dream of giving local Chicago-area talent a radio house with room for creativity had finally come true.

“The WYEN Experience” is available for purchase at the Des Plaines History Center Gift Shop, 781 Pearson St. Proceeds from Cohen’s book benefit the History Center. For more details, visit www.desplaineshistory.org.

To donate to the History Center, visit www.desplaineshistory.org/joingive. Please contact the History Center staff if you are interested in donating material to the collection.

The current exhibition, “Des Plaines takes its take off”, explores the history of aviation in the Plains region.

“The exhibit tells the stories of Des Plaines’ civilian and military pilots and crews, of small airports in the 1920s-1930s, the WWII Douglas Aircraft factory in Mannheim and Higgins, and the construction of O’Hare, among other stories. ” said Heraty.

The exhibition is visible until the end of 2021.

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