WCFL BIG 10 Radio Summer Music Festival, Chicago 1970

WCFL BIG 10 Radio Summer Music Festival, Chicago 1970
Authored By John Nicholson

Held on Sat Jul 18, 1970, at Soldier Field, Chicago this was a one-day festival organised by the radio station WCFL which was, at the time, one of area's big rock stations but had an interesting past.

WCFL was the nation's first and longest-surviving labour radio station. Created by the Chicago Federation of Labor in 1926, it initially was listener-supported. During its first decade it offered entertainment, labour, and public affairs programming designed to serve the labour movement and working-class communities. Sounds cool. 

By the 1940s WCFL had become more commercially oriented. It featured sports in the 1950s and '60s and, from 1966 to 1976, challenged WLS for Chicago's dominant rock music station.

“Chicago’s Voice of Labor,” at 1000 on the AM dial, the 50,000 watt station transmitted from a tower west of Chicago in Downer’s Grove. But in the fall of 1964, the station moved its studios and offices from American Furniture Mart on Lake Shore Drive to Marina City on North State Street.

The station took up the entire top floor of the 16-story office building, what is now Hotel Chicago.

The line-up they put together headlined by, perhaps inevitably,Chicago, who were the biggest selling band at the time. The complete line-up:  

Bloomsbury People, Bush, Chicago, Dreams, Funkadelic, Happy Day, Illinois Speed Press, Illusion, It Doesn't Matter, Joe Kelley Blues Band, Leon Russell, Mason Proffit, MC5, Pig Iron Blues Band, The Stooges

I love this idea of a radio station putting together festivals. It never really happened in the UK but in the USA where local radio was so crucial to breaking a band, it totally made sense. Also, at a time when the world was divided between freaks and non-freaks, having a radio station at least notionally on your side must’ve been a great feeling.  

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