WJJG AM 1530

THE HISTORY OF WJJG, JOE GENTILE AND THE LEGACY OF WKDC-AM 1530

Former NBC engineer Frank Blotter signed on the air AM 1530 October 10, 1974. The station’s call letters were WKDC representing the signal coverage in Will, Kane, DuPage and Cook counties. The studios were built for stereo (Cetec Sparta stereo audio euipment) although it was not until 1976 when the FCC authorized the station to test AM stereo. Daytime and night-time findings on AM stereo were presented at the 1977 NAB Convention in Washington, DC.

WKDC Show Radio 1530

250 watt WKDC was operated by Blotter and his sister.  In 1981 Blotter sold the station to Frank Snyder, a broadcasting professor at Roosevelt University.  Snyder would try to revive the station’s local sound with a Broadway show tune format.  Within a year Snyder would run into financial troubles and had to file for bankruptcy.

Blotter regained control in 1984, upgrading the power to 500 watts and featured jazz plus show tunes around brokered programming. WKDC holds a unique place in radio history as it was chosen as the station to test the new Motorola C-Quam AM stereo system.  The station would claim to be the first to broadcast in what would become the AM broadcast standard.

Blotter operated the station until he sold it to Joe Gentile in 1994.  On August 19th, the station was revamped playing adult contemporary music until the call letters were changed.

Joe Gentile the Baron of Barrington + Mike Baker and the Forgotten 45s

In 1995, WKDC became WJJG with 760 watts. The call letters stood for owner Joseph J. Gentile. Joe was nicknamed “The Baron Of Barrington” where he owned a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership for many years.  Joe was heard mornings, syndicated Susan Loggins middays, Alan Colmes and Barry Farber afternoons from Major Networks (based in Chicago).  Major Networks also supplied national news and sports while Shadow Traffic added local reports.  On Saturday mornings, Bob Knack continued his jazz/big band show “The Great Escape” from the WKDC days.  And each Christmas Day, Joe and Carol Gentile presented “A Hometown Christmas” with host Mike Baker And The Forgotten 45s.  While Joe sold Chryslers with AM stereo radios, Mike Baker And The Forgotten 45s played the golden age of top 40 in AM stereo on Saturday afternoons.  WJJG was “Your Hometown Station” in the Chicago suburbs.

Loyola Joe Gentile

On September 19, 2012 WJJG changed call letters to WCKG, the voice of DuPage County.  The WCKG call sign was previously used by Cox Communications in 1985 for the 105.9 FM Elmwood Park radio station.  Cox Communications sold WCKG to CBS Radio in 1996.  CBS Radio changed the classic rock format to talk.  In 2007 CBS Radio changed the WCKG call sign to WCFS.

105.9 WCKG - AM 1530 WCKG

Joseph J. Gentile Center

In a short period of time, the Joseph J. Gentile Center went from being one of the newest basketball facilities in the Midwest to being one of the toughest places for opponents to play.

Since the 1996 season, Loyola has called the Gentile Center home. The Ramblers have compiled a 64-28 (.696) record at Gentile, including a 10-2 mark in 2002-03. On Dec. 9, 2000, a Gentile Center record 5,513 fans packed the gym to see Loyola face defending NCAA National Champion Michigan State. Last season, the Ramblers posted an 10-2 ledger at home, marking the fourth time in the past seven seasons they have won at least ten contests at the Gentile Center.

On November 23, 1996, the Loyola men’s basketball team played its first-ever game in its new home. The 5,200-seat arena was rocking as the team christened the building with a win over Eastern Kentucky.

One of the top practice facilities around, with three full- size courts and 18 baskets, the Gentile Center is tailor-made for the individual attention that student-athletes need.

The man with the vision was former Loyola President John J. Piderit, S.J., who made the decision to build a new multi-purpose facility that would be the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ new home. Then Joseph Gentile, a 1946 Loyola graduate, helped make the building a reality. Gentile graciously made a commitment with a total value of $3.5 million to cover nearly half the cost of the new facility that bears his name. He was the owner of Joe Gentile Chrysler Plymouth in suburban Barrington, IL – the “Baron of Barrington” and the pride of Loyola.

“Loyola has a basketball tradition and this facility can help continue that,” said Piderit. “Joe Gentile is a man who sees the future by looking at those who follow in his footsteps. His vision, linked with ours, is that this building will be the site where our basketball programs regain the championship status we once enjoyed in Alumni Gym.”

“This center will become to this generation what Alumni Gym was to generations of the past: the home for not only great basketball, but great men and women whose excellence on the court is only surpassed by their excellence as students and as contributors to our great society,” Gentile said.

Gentile has been a long-time fan and supporter of the athletics department at Loyola. For many years, he sponsored the television and radio broadcasts of Ramblers basketball games and has donated cars for raffles held by the Loyola Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The Chicago native, along with Gerry Nagel and John Rosich, were the main benefactors for the construction of the Gentile Center. Gentile, who is known in the area as the “Baron of Barrington”, was named the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame Man of the Year in 1990 and earned the Founders Award one year later.

The facility is easily the most visible symbol in the current rise of the Rambler men and women’s basketball teams. The Joseph J. Gentile Center replaced tradition-rich Alumni Gym, the legendary “Big Brown Box that Rocks,” as the Ramblers’ basketball home. The new structure, located on the Lake Shore Campus, just east of Alumni Gym, is used for athletics, recreation and special events.

While the most visible tenants of this building are the Rambler basketball teams, an equally important group uses the building – the Loyola student body. Whether for graduation, intramural activities or entertainment purposes such as concerts and speakers, the facility allows the Department of Student Affairs to greatly expand its offerings. In 2002 and 2003, the Gentile Center was the site of the Illinois High School Association boys and girls basketball supersectional rounds.

For the coming years, the 45,000-square-foot facility will be used not only for men’s and women’s basketball, but also for Loyola special events, as well as by the community in the Rogers Park-Edgewater neighborhood. Graduation, which used to be held downtown in Medinah Temple, also is held in the new facility.

The architecture firm of Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz and Associates Inc., is responsible for the facility’s design. The same firm also designed the Simpson Living-Learning Center as well as the Lake Shore Campus parking facility.

The Joseph J. Gentile Center

6511 N. Winthrop

He is surrounded by photographs of the hundreds of people – most of them well-known celebrities, politicians, sports figures, some famous and others infamous n who have dropped into his auto dealership, radio studio, or backyard.

He is Joe Gentile, the retired “Baron of Barrington.” He is the Patron Saint of Loyola University Chicago’s basketball team. And he is the Voice of WJJG-AM 1530 – the man of the hour for two hours every weekday morning for thousands of Chicagoans.

He is an Italian-American who is proud of his heritage, and just as proud to give back to the communities and people who have helped him along the path of life for the past 76 years.

“It’s all about people,” he says. “If you don’t have friends and family, you don’t have much.”

He was nicknamed the “Baron of Barrington” by Chet Coppeck in 1982, broadcasting from the grand opening of Gentile’s new car dealership. The opening culminated an already noteworthy career in automotive sales.

“I started out at Milo Brooke Ford in 1952, on West Madison in Chicago,” he relates. “Pretty soon I was Ford’s sixth best salesman in the area, and worked my way up to general manager at Brooke.”

He went on from there to work at two Buick dealerships, in Oak Park and Chicago, in the ’70s. During that time he was ranked Buick’s top salesman in the entire U.S. – for 10 straight years.

After operating his own dealership for more than a decade, he was nominated by the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association for the 1995 Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award – the auto industry’s highest honor, one Gentile will never forget.

“Sales has its rewards, of course,” he notes, “but being recognized by my peers in the industry…. it was very special. It was wonderful; a great, great honor.”

About that same time, in the mid-90s, Gentile decided to purchase a local radio station in Elmhurst as an advertising outlet for the dealership. He changed the call letters to his own initials – WJJG and a star was born.

“I bought the station to sell more cars,” he says with a laugh. “I never had any intention of becoming a radio host…. but boy, did I love being on the air!”

Bitten by the celebrity bug, and after more than a half century in auto sales, Gentile decided it was time to move on to his second career. He sold the Joe Gentile Chrysler Plymouth dealership in 2003 and set about to build an audience for his radio station.

School Rules

A 1948 graduate of Loyola University, Gentile might also be the school’s most loyal and generous alumnus. He donated half the funding – some $3.5 million – to build the team’s 5,600-seat arena in Rogers Park. The Joseph J. Gentile Center hosts Loyola’s Ramblers basketball home games and a number of other events throughout the year.

He’s been a vocal supporter – and sometime critic – of his alma mater’s basketball team, often referred to as “the lovable losers,” but is quick to say he’ll always be Loyola’s biggest fan. A master promoter himself (the Baron of Barrington always had something going on at his dealership to attract buyers), he has long strived to bring the Loyola U Ramblers to the forefront of the national college basketball arena.

“I speak my mind, I speak out, because I want to fire ‘em up,” he says of his often-controversial comments. “I want to see the team go all the way, but I also want to see these hard-working kids {the players} get the attention and accolades they deserve.”

You can catch Gentile at almost every Loyola basketball game, in the beautiful stadium bearing his name. You can’t miss him – he’ll be the VERY boisterous guy in the warm-up suit along the sidelines.

Gentile has also bestowed his high school alma mater with a generous $1 million gift. St. Ignatius College recognized his contribution by naming Joe Gentile Drive that runs along the front of the school.

Gentile points out. “My education, from elementary school through graduation from Loyola, got me where I am today. I am so grateful for that opportunity, and I wish every child in the world could have the same thing.”

While he says he “can’t think of any institution in America more deserving than our schools,” Gentile has thought of many others. He promotes scores of charities and good causes on his radio show, as well as events he sponsors and/or helps organize: from bake sales at local schools to fundraisers for Chicago-area churches and veteran’s groups (he was the Navy’s youngest lieutenant in WWII). He has hosted 1000 students from i’ St. Ignatius at “Joe Gentile Day” at Wrigley Field.

“Education is everything,” says Gentile. “If I can help further that, help give other kids the opportunities I had, then I can feel good about my success.

His success includes many honors and accolades, including being named Midwest chairman for the National World War II Memorial in 2000. The Memorial, which opened last year, honors the veterans as well as citizens who served their country in WWII and is situated on the National Mall in Washington DC. He has also recognized as the National ltalianco American Sports Hall of Fame Man of the Year in 1990, as well as presented with the Founders Award in 1991.

“Broadcasting live from Berkley … !’ The former Baron of Barrington now rules the airwaves of Chicagoland from high atop a tidy, brick, two-story apartment building in Berkeley.

One of the two-bedroom apartments has been converted into a studio, from which WJJG-AM 1530 broadcasts Gentile’s talk show, as well as “The Sounds of Sinatra,” “Mike Baker and the Forgotten 45s,” and more.

Never one to shy away from controversial topics, Gentile’s talk show, aired live from 7 to 9am every weekday, features lively conversations, serious discussions about every topic imaginable, and occasionally an argument with a parade of guests – both live in-studio as well as call-ins.

“You never know who’s going to call- or drop in,” says the energetic host of “Chicago’s Hometown Station.” Evidence of that can be seen in those hundreds of framed photographs that cover nearly every inch of every wall in nearly every room – including the bathroom. It’s a testament to the influence, and charm, this knight in shiny armor holds over the people of Chicagoland.

Whether a high school freshman on his way to see his first Cubs game at Wrigley, another die-hard Ramblers fan, a morning commuter tuned in to WJJG, or any of the thousands of others whose lives have been touched by Joe Gentile, the Baron of Barrington will long be recognized for his generous and giving spirit.

“I’ll always measure my success,” says Joe, “by how much I can give back to others.” •

Amici Journal Publications Inc,

Article Fall 2005 All Rights Reserved

Amici Journal

WJJG was a Class “D” 760 watt directional “daytimer”

AM 1530’s hours of operation are determined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule concurring daytime broadcasting and vary monthly with the changes in sunrise and sunset.

Sign On – Sign Off
January… 7:15am – 4:45pm
February… 6:45am – 5:30pm
March… 6am – 6pm central standard time
March… 7am – 7pm daylight savings time
April… 6:15am – 7:30pm
May… 5:30am – 8pm
June… 5:15am – 8:30pm
July… 5:30am – 8:30pm
August… 6am – 8pm
September… 6:30am – 7pm
October… 7am – 6:15pm
November… 7:45am – 5:30pm daylight savings time
November… 6:45am – 4:30pm central standard time
December… 7:15am – 4:15pm

WJJG coverage map

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