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I just finished re-reading Valley Voices by John Russell Ghrist. This is a 1996 history of radio stations that were based throughout the suburbs of Chicago, with a primary focus of the towns in the Fox River Valley.
There are all kinds of interesting tidbits in the book, including the histories of Chicago stations WGN, WMAQ, WBBM, WLS, and all sorts of suburban stations like Elgin’s WRMN, Aurora’s WAUR, and Arlington Heights’ own WWMM.
There are sections about WFVH (Forest View High School) and WHCM (Harper College), two stations that carried the dulcet tones of my voice. There’s also a brief section on Zenith’s radio station and the twin antenna towers that once stood at the corners of Rand, Central, and Mt Prospect roads in Mt Prospect. (I saw those towers almost every day when I was growing up.)
This was truly a labor of love for the author, given the level of detail that appears in the book. It must have been difficult to collect all this information, given the fact that most of it was compiled in the days long before Google and Wikipedia.
I had an e-mail exchange with the author recently, in which he told me he received many upper-level credits from Indiana University for his work on the book, resulting in the degree he’d been working on. He also said that updating the book– even bringing it from 1996 to the present– would be a monumental task, and that radio stations don’t care about their history and “want to tell you about the junk they are playing these days.” Excellent points.
Mr Ghrist is currently the host of Midwest Ballroom on WDCB in Glen Ellyn, and occasionally speaks at local libraries on the history of Chicago radio.
Two versions of this book exist: the version that’s linked above is a softcover, and there was an earlier comb-bound “manuscript” version which contains significantly more detail and many more photos of the people, stations, and station logos and advertisements. This earlier version was self-published by Mr Ghrist in 1993 and, while it has more of an “amateur” feel to it, gives the reader an idea of how tremendous this effort truly was.
If you’re a fan of radio, especially Chicago radio, and you happen to run across a copy of Valley Voices, be sure to pick it up.

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