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Chicago is one of the greatest cities in music and this was no less true of the Chicago music scene in the 1970s and ’80s. In fact, its reputation as a summer music festival town was firmly taking root at the end of the ’70s with the arrival of ChicagoFest at Navy Pier, and the inaugural Jazz Fest and Blues Fest in Grant Park. But you could easily catch fresh acts year round from homegrown solo artists or bands in every kind of venue imaginable. There were punk shows in north side bars, rock and power-pop concerts in vast arenas, intimate avant-garde jazz shows in south side living rooms, and Chicago House spinning in clubs every weekend until dawn.

The Chicago FM dial was as rich and varied as the music scene that grew around it, too. You could turn on the radio and listen to Bob Sirott playing the hits on WLS, classical music alongside the beloved Studs Terkel on WFMT, talk radio pioneer Steve Dahl railing against disco on WLUP, all manner of rock on WXRT (but only after-hours), and brilliant free form radio on WXFM. And if this golden era of radio wasn’t enough to keep you satisfied, the birth of the cassette tape made it possible to have your favorite jams on-the-go or at least on hand long after the signal faded.

Photo credits:
Chicago Fest - Credit: Sun-Times Media file photo
CSO Goes to Europe - Credit: Rosenthal Archives, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
AACM - Credit: Lauren Deutsch
Disco demolition - Credit: Diane Alexander White
Punk - Credit: Psycho Cindy
Radio - Credit: Chicago History Museum

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