An excerpt of a fascinating bit of Chicago radio history by Tom Demos:
I was hired as a summer replacement engineer at WCFL in the summer of 1976, shortly after WCFL made the big switch from rock to beautiful music. I had just turned 18 and had graduated from New Trier West High School and I really needed the money before starting my first year as an Electrical Engineering student at Northwestern University.
Even with the format change, WCFL's engineers were still all IBEW union members and Larry Lujack was still employed as a "disk jockey" for the beautiful music format. I remember that he had an "iron clad" no-cut contract at the "incredible for the time" salary of about $150,000 per year (this according to the radio/tv newspaper columnists). My own salary was (I thought at the time) a mind blowing $650.00/week and this was just for a beginner at the bottom of the union scale. It was my honor to know some of the great WCFL engineers like Sheldon Post (who left the station shortly after I was hired) and Al Urbanski. Larry Lujack's personal engineer "Spacey Dave" was banished to the transmitter site in Downers Grove during the "beautiful music" days because, it was rumored, that the station management was uncomfortable that something might happen (Lord knows what) if the two were kept together. I was sad to hear that Dave died a few years later of cancer.
WCFL was a ghostly place during the summer of 1976. All of the machines, production rooms, music libraries, and voice studios were intact but there were few people present from her glory days as Chicago's Rock & Roll powerhouse. Somewhere in these spooky, empty hallways were the spirts of Dr. Brock (the ugliest motha in rock & roll!), Bob Dearborn, Dick Biondi, Chickenman Dick Orkin, Dick & Doug, and countless other air talents that had once worked here. Because of the union contract, there was sometimes extra engineers on duty during overlapping shifts and this did not look good to the management, even though the management was still the Chicago Federation of Labor.
Occasionally when two or three of us were scheduled for a shift that could be covered for one, one of us would be encouraged to "disappear" which meant basically sneak out and go home. Officially, extra engineers would be designated to be working a "maintenance shift", which, more often than not, involved playing a game of chess with another extra person on the schedule in some discrete back room storage area.
As I said, even though the people were gone, the master-control equipment remained. During my high school years, I loved the sound of WCFL. It was bright and sounded better than WLS from a technical standpoint, or so I thought. One possible theory I developed was that WCFL's three directional towers in Downer's Grove were the older self-supporting structures with no guy wires, as were used with the narrow, guy supported towers (like WLS) in Tinley Park. From an engineering standpoint, the older, wider towers are better able to radiate the broadband harmonics that are characteristic of AM radio and thus, it sounded better, brighter, and cleaner.
I might add that as late as 1976, there was no remote control of WCFL's transmitters. The station maintained a full staff of engineers on-duty at the transmitter site in Downer's Grove 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This was incredibly expensive, but this was also the way things were done at the time for this classy, 50,000 watt clear channel station that was the Voice of Labor in Chicago.
During those days in the beautiful music cocoon Lujack was not even allowed to say his name over the air. But as summer turned to fall, I got out of the Navy, and Larry Lujack emerged to become a rock & roll butterfly back at WLS. A lot of other great WCFL stuff there too.