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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.

Omar Romero Headshot.jpgClear Channel Radio is going with one of its own to handle the key afternoon drive host job at Mega 95.5, the new contemporary Spanish music-formatted station that debuted on May 22. Beginning June 15, Omar Romero will handle both afternoon drive responsibilities and the program director job for Mega 95.5. The call letters for the new station have not yet been designated.

Romero most recently was afternoon drive host and program director at the Clear Channel's Houston outlet KLOL-FM (101.1), which has a contemporary Latino pop sound. He also previously held various programming and on-air jobs at Clear Channel outlets in Dallas and Albuquerque. Romero was born in El Salvador and moved with his family at an early age to Houston, where he started his career at KLTN-FM (102.9), which has a regional Mexican music format.

Mega 95.5 replaced smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5). Clear Channel dumped smooth jazz because it wasn't generating enough ad revenue to continue as a viable format.

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."

More layoffs at Clear Channel Communications in Chicago on Tuesday. Among those staffers shown the door today are Jeff Murray, who was known as Smash on WKSC-FM's (103.5) "Drex in the Morning" morning drive show. In addition to serving as music director for the show, Murray also was Drex's sidekick and engineer. Also let go were Troi Tyler and Irene Mojica from WVAZ-FM (102.7) and overnight host Erica Campbell at WGCI-FM (107.5).

The ax also fell on Bill Cochran, who was creative director at Clear Channel's smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5). One source described Cochran, who also filled in on occasion for on-air talent, as one of the station's most recognizable voices. Cochran had worked at WNUA for more than two decades.

With Cochran having been let go, a source said WNUA had lost the last of its "heritage voices." Cochran's departure also fueled speculation that Clear Channel might be preparing to introduce a new format at WNUA, which has not proved a huge moneymaker for Clear Channel in recent years. Some observers familiar with the Chicago radio market believe it might make sense for WNUA to go country. CBS Radio's WUSN-FM (99.5) is the only major country-formatted station now operating locally.

A Clear Channel spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company had to adjust its business to the realities of the current economy and advertising market. She added the layoffs on Tuesday "complete a process begun in January" when Clear Channel laid off a number of staff.

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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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