CHICAGO (CBS) — Rock and Roll will never die, but legendary Chicago classic rock radio station The Loop soon will be on a very different Highway to Heaven.
Possibly within days, the Loop will be broadcasting contemporary Christian music instead of classic rock.
The Educational Media Foundation, a Christian non-profit broadcaster, has agreed to buy WLUP 97.9 FM for $21.5 million, and will convert the classic rock station to contemporary Christian music under its syndicated K-Love brand.
With its iconic logo and loyal army of fans, The Loop has been a major player on the Chicago airwaves for more than 40 years.
“The Loop helped an entire generation of kids find themselves through the music that we played,” former Loop disc jockey Steve Dahl said.
It wasn’t just the music. The Loop also created events that changed Chicago history; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
In 1979, Dahl teamed up with the Chicago White Sox to host Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. The raucous event proved a disaster, when a doubleheader sold out, leaving thousands of fans stuck outside the stadium. Many climbed fences and jumped the turnstiles to get inside.
Between games, after Dahl detonated a box filled with disco records on the field, thousands of fans rushed the field, climbing foul poles, setting records on fire, tearing up the turf, pulling up bases, and destroying a batting cage. The mayhem prompted police to descend on the stadium in full riot gear, arresting dozens of people. The White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader, due to the unplayable conditions on the field.
Dahl said it was worth every bit of criticism.
The Loop also has created its fair share of memorable commercials, most famously their “You Can’t Stop Rock & Roll” ad featuring Joey Bag O’Donuts dancing the running man on a sidewalk. The ad has featured lots of different music over the years, from “Suicide Blonde” by INXS to “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith.
For Dahl, switching the 97.9 FM from rock to Christian music is a personal loss.
“The Loop was a big part of my life. I’ve been in this market for 40 years, and it’s really where I found my voice and my audience. I guess it’s a sad passing of the torch. At least it’s to a Christian station, and not a Satanic station, I don’t know,” he said.
The station switch will take place Saturday. For those interested in recording The Loop’s last song, or the first song of a new era, it could theoretically happen at midnight.
The Chicago area already has other K-Love stations in the suburbs, on WJKL 94.3 FM in Glendale Heights, on WOKI 89.1 FM in Round Lake Beach, on 99.1 FM in Joliet, and on WZKL 91.7 FM in Woodstock. EMF also has two Christian rock stations operating under its Air1 brand in the Chicago area: WSRI 88.7 FM in Sugar Grove and WAIW 88.1 FM in Wheaton.