Darrel Peters, whose name was once synonymous with “beautiful music” on Chicago radio, died Tuesday in Barrington. He was 84.
A Chicago native and prominent broadcast executive in the city and suburbs for more than 40 years, Peters was general manager of WLOO in its heyday in the 1970s as “FM 100,” a top-rated easy listening station known for lush instrumentals and unobtrusive hosts. Using automated tape reels, he created the FM 100 Plan, marketing and syndicating variations of beautiful music formats to more than 100 stations nationwide.
“He was the first to utilize both the Chicago and London Symphony Orchestras to produce beautiful-music ‘cover’ versions of 1960s and 1970s hit tunes, providing them to his major-market affiliates,” according to Sounds of Change: A History of FM Broadcasting in America.
Bonneville Broadcasting purchased the FM 100 Plan at its peak in 1981, and named Peters president of the Chicago division of Bonneville.
He later formed Arlington Heights-based Darrel Peters Productions Inc., encompassing broadcast and publishing businesses.
Peters made national headlines in 1983 when he bought WTCO, an FM station in Arlington Heights, and filed to change its call letters to WSEX. The FCC initially rejected the designation, saying it was in “bad taste.” But Peters argued that new call letters “would have nothing whatsoever to do with ‘dirty radio’; we just wanted the station to have an identity.” Peters won, running WSEX FM 92.7 as a pop music station until 1989 when he renamed it WCBR (“The Bear”).
In 1998 Peters sold WCBR for $17 million to Big City Radio. He and longtime associate Tim Disa formed Air Time Media, a consulting and production firm specializing in air-time brokering.
Survivors include his wife, Alaine, two daughters and two grandchildren. Visitation and a memorial service for Peters will be Saturday at Davenport Funeral Home, 149 West Main Street, Barrington.