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Veteran smooth jazz radio personality Loni Taylor has been tapped to host a new evening jazz show called "Chicago After Hours" on WLFM-FM (87.7) from 7 p.m. to midnight on weeknights. Taylor previously was the afternoon drive host from 1994 through 2001 on WNUA-FM (95.5) during a period when it was a smooth jazz outlet. A family illness forced Taylor to move back to her native Philadelphia in 2001. "She's a true fan of the music, in addition to being a solid pro," said Rick O'Dell, program director and host at WLFM-FM. "I'm absolutely elated to be back on the airwaves in Chicago," said Taylor

Rick O'Dell back on air at WLFM-FM

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Veteran smooth jazz radio host Rick O'Dell quietly launched his new mid-day radio show last week on his new radio home, WLFM-FM (87.7). O'Dell's show now airs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. "Our idea was to execute a soft launch to get Rick back in rhythm," said WLFM general manager Pat Kelly, adding "having Rick on the air at 87.7 FM is an important part of our plan to give Chicago what they are asking for in a well-programmed, tailor-made contemporary smooth jazz radio station." Not surprisingly, O'Dell welcomed the chance to re-connect with listeners. "I can't be anything but humbled by the welcome back I've gotten from listeners," said O'Dell.

Rick O'Dell hopes to be back on the air in January, doing something he loved doing for many years -- hosting a smooth jazz radio show. O'Dell, the former WNUA-FM (95.5) host, said Tuesday he has hitched his star to a little-known radio outlet WLFM-FM (87.7). His last day as an Internet radio host and programmer with Chicago-based AccuRadio will be Friday.

WLFM has been on air as a very barebones smooth jazz outlet since last May, when WNUA dumped the smooth jazz format and switched to hot Spanish hits. O'Dell will host a mid-day show on WLFM, but first he must wait for the station's studios to be built out. The exact start date and the hours of O'Dell's mid-day show on WLFM have yet to be determined. O'Dell is the only on-air talent the station has hired so far. O'Dell will also serve as WLFM's program director, which will require him to create from scratch a library of music. "I have most of what I will need to do that in my music library at home," said O'Dell.

For some two years, WLFM has been co-owned by Cleveland-based Malibu Broadcasting and Los Angeles-based Venture Technologies Group. But the radio station only went live with music last spring, first with an alternative country music format and then smooth jazz. Only recently, said O'Dell, has the station begun to generate enough cash to hire on-air staff and a program director. WLFM's General Manager is Pat Kelley, who previously was the general sales manager at WNUA. Both Kelley and O'Dell were let go from WNUA as the station prepared to transition to the new Spanish hits format last May.

Though smooth jazz fans have turned to WLFM in the wake of WNUA's demise, some have complained WLFM is hard to tune in to because of its awkward position at the very low end of the radio dial.

Clear Channel Radio's smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5) is dead. Better forget about it, folks. You can be sure heartless Clear Channel Radio has, even though they continue to stream the format online. Still for those longing for another smooth jazz outlet, it is already here. It actually launched the same day WNUA died last Friday. The new station, WLFM-FM (87.7), which broadcasts from atop the Hancock Center, acquired the smooth jazz format broadcast rights from the Smooth Jazz Network (a division of Clear Channel).

As senior vice president and market manager, Patrick Kelley will oversee operations at WLFM, which he said in a statement will "deliver Chicago a hipper, cooler smooth jazz station." Kelley said he hopes to create a station with a very strong Chicago identity. WLFM will blend the most popular playlists from WNUA with new programming. including shows on which smooth jazz artists play the music and serve as hosts. WLFM's morning show from 6 to 10 a.m., for instance, will be hosted by Chicago native and jazz artist Brian Culbertson. WLFM will go by the nickame "The L."

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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