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WDAE AM & FM - A History

WDAE-AM 833 & WDAE-FM 105.7 Tampa – WDAE was not the first radio station to be licensed in the state of Florida, even though an historical marker says it was. In 1972, on the station’s 50th anniversary, the FCC sent Rounsaville Radio, the station's owner, a letter confirming that, instead, WDAE was the first station in the state to begin operations.

WDAE was put on the air by three-time Tampa mayor D.B. McKay, owner of the Tampa Daily Times newspaper. The first regularly scheduled broadcast took place on May 31, 1922. The call letters were issued by the Department of Commerce from an alphabetical sequence and its “Wonderful Days And Evenings” slogan was adopted to go with them.

At the time WDAE went on the air, it transmitted with a power of 250 watts on 833 kHz. During those early years, the station shifted dial positions a number of times, until the national frequency shift in 1941 when it moved to 1250 kHz and power was raised to 5,000 watts days and 3,000 watts nights.

WDAE’s first studios were on the sixth floor of downtown Tampa’s Citrus Exchange Building (later the home of Maas Brothers). Other locations would include the Bay Isles Building on Davis Islands, downtown’s Allied Building at Tampa and Cass Streets, the 12th floor of the plush Tampa Terrace Hotel and the ground floor of the Tampa Times building at 114 N. Franklin Street.

WDAE-FM, the first FM on Florida’s West Coast, signed on November 17, 1947 at 105.7 mHz and duplicated the programming from WDAE-AM.  Its transmitter was located at the AM’s Forest Hills transmitter site. In 1951, the Times constructed a new FM building on property at Tampa and Whiting Streets and erected a transmitter tower on top that reached 390 feet into the air, dominating the skyline over downtown Tampa. The FM was assigned a new position on the dial, too – 100.7 mHz – with a power of 32,000 watts. Management hoped to be awarded a license for a TV station so they made certain the building was large enough to accommodate not only the FM, but also any future TV facility.

In 1958, David E. Smiley, president of The Tampa Times Company (since 1933), announced that the newspaper was going to be sold to its competitor, The Tampa Tribune. However, the sale would not include the two radio stations. For the first time, WDAE-AM and WDAE-FM became an independently-owned operation of Smiley Properties, Inc. (David E. Smiley, president). Due to the newspaper merger, the AM’s studios moved out of the Times building and in with WDAE-FM at 101 N. Tampa Street.

In 1964 the combo became part of Rounsaville’s “Sunshine Group” of stations (Robert W. Rounsaville, president) which included WFUN in Miami, WBJW in Orlando, and WMBR in Jacksonville. A new owner also meant a brand new image for WDAE, including new logos, new stationery, new jingles, new music selection, and a new music format which they called The Sound of Music. The long-standing association with CBS (since March 13, 1930) was dropped and Burl McCarty, who had portrayed TV’s Captain Mac in the 1950’s on local TV, was brought in as news director. WDAE re-affiliated with a national network in 1969 but, unable to re-sign with CBS (which had been picked up by WINQ), signed with the ABC Information Network. It would, however, reunite with CBS in 1975.

WDAE-FM flipped its calls to WATL-FM in 1969 because (we’re told) Robert Rounsaville wanted to hold on to them until they could eventually be placed on one of his ATLanta stations. The change was a brief one and soon the WDAE-FM calls were re-instated.

After duplicating the AM’s programming for many years, WDAE-FM began a dual format in 1972 – The Sound of Music simulcast from the AM from 6am to 3:30pm, and Top 40 as (FM101) from 3:30pm until 6am. Chuck Monroe, the only air personality, was on the air from 3:30 until 10 each evening. A short time later, FM101 was broadcasting 24 hours a day and, by mid 1973, was Tampa Bay’s  #1 station, beating WLCY with other on-air personalities that included Rob Snowden (PD), Jerry Walker, Brother John Moore (music director), Larry Stevens, and Chip Taylor. Tedd Webb was added later to do evenings.

When Q105 WRBQ came on the air in December 1973, it became more difficult for FM101 to compete against their big money giveaways. WDAE-FM received a CP to boost power to 54,000 watts and a new 460 foot antenna, but that didn’t help much. So, in 1976, WDAE-FM switched to a beautiful music format as WAVV and never returned to the WDAE-FM calls after that.

Other WDAE-AM licensees were Cincinnati’s Taft Broadcasting in 1979, Florida Broadcasting, Inc. (part of the Gannett group) in 1986, Jacor in 1996, and Clear Channel in 2000.

The AM adopted a country oldies format (Froggy 1250) in 1994 with songs ranging from 60's and 70's country hits to currents, but that didn't last long, and the music was dropped entirely in the late 1990’s when it became AM-1250 The Sports Animal, a sports/talk station.

On January 14, 2000 at precisely 6:20 PM, the WDAE calls were moved to 620 kHz to allow for a stronger signal of the station’s Tampa Bay Lightning and other team sports broadcasts.  As a secondary source to hear WDAE programming, a 250-watt FM translator transmitting on 95.3 from Pinellas Park was added to boost its coverage area in May 2013. In November 2018, 95.3 became the primary signal when the station was rebranded "95.3 WDAE".

In addition to the honor of being the first radio station licensed in Florida, WDAE scored many other “firsts” over the years. It was the first station in the United States to broadcast a complete church service (from the First Methodist Church in Tampa less than a month after going on the air) and the first Florida station to broadcast a regular high school football game and originate regularly-scheduled newscasts and weather reports.

Around the late 1940s/early 1950s, WDAE also did live broadcasts on Saturday mornings from “The Jack Dew Sealtest Review" at Tampa's Palace Theatre. These children’s shows were sponsored by Sealtest Dairies, a major milk and dairy producer of that time, and featured a movie, cartoons, action serial, live raffle, stage show, etc., emceed by local personality Jack Dew.

Other names from WDAE’s history include L. Spencer Mitchell (director/sales manager-1935), Ken Skelton (PD-1935; news director-1951), William “Bill” Pharr Moore (chief engineer-1935), Carl Oswald (promotions-1944), Mark E. Swingley (farm director-1951; news director-1956), Sol Fleischman (sports director-1951), Kay Doust (women’s director-1951), Jack King (chief engineer of WDAE-FM-1952), Van Wilson (PD-1956), Thelma Yager (promotions-1959), Don Miller (news director-1959), Robert M. Weeks (sales manager-1961), Bob Hoffer (PD/promotions-1964), Bob Mackey (news director-1964), Arthur Selley (GM/national sales manager-1964), George Prescott (PD-1964), Ed Ripley (PD/operations-1966), Carl Glicken (GM-1967), Warren Kauffman (chief engineer-1967), Robert Martinez (copywriter-1969), Donald K. Clark (GM-1969), Jerry Norman (sales manager-1971), Marie Almeda (secretary-1972), George McConnell (part-time engineer-1972), Dave Pegram (sales-1972), Gina Tidd (secretary (1972), Al Blake (mornings/APD-1972), Bonnie Heath (secretary-1972), Al Ritter (part-time engineer-1972), Robert French (sales-1972), Dan Grant (music director-1972), Mack Lee (part-time engineer-1972), Robert Smith (sales-1972), Mel Berman (promotions/production-1972), Pierre Bejano (sales-1972), Emmajeane Correll (traffic director-1972), Sylvia Fabbri (ass’t traffic director-1972), Ralph B. Johnson (succeeded Robert W. Rounsaville as president of Rounsaville Radio-1972), Cherie Troped (news-1972),
J T Anderton (Jim Anderson, announcer-1972), Tony Bell (announcer-1972), Linda Newbold (news-1972), Wiley Duff (announcer-1972), Dick Gilmore (editorialist-1972), Ken Dale Iglesias (news-1972), Scott Jennings (announcer-1972), Scott Ross (sports 1973-76), Steve Chick (engineering-1974), Richard Weinkauf (sales manager-1974), David Guthrie (chief engineer-1974), Bill Campbell (promotions-1975), Jim Lord (music director-1975), Dennis Crandall (news director-1975), Dick Lucas (chief engineer-1975), Don Beckman (overnights-1977), Frank Celebre (GM-1979), Chris Rathaus (PD-1979), Ronald J. Ebben (news director-1979), Bob Bateman (middays 1979-80), Dave Strubbe (sales manager-1986), Beecher Martin (PD-1986), Hank Struzik (music director-1986), Jim Nettleton (operations manager-1986), and Dan Scott (news director-1986).

Other staffers included Gail Darby (record librarian), Roger Connell (control room engineer), Betty Skelton (women’s editor/host), Aubrey Bullard (staff announcer), Chaz Roye (staff announcer and afternoon deejay), Ed Walker (staff announcer and musician), Wayne Farris (staff announcer), Damon Eckles (staff announcer and deejay), Priscilla Parker (women’s director), E.W. Sisson (comptroller), Bob Krueger (news), Kathryn Bradley (news), Al Ford (traffic reporter), Officer Dick Nelson (traffic reporter), John BohannonVince Meloy, Hampton Dunn, Ken Copper, Pat Chamburs, Frank Lynn, Joe Starr, Gene MacKay, Jerry Peterson, Andy Winston, Steve Fredericks, Fred Sanders, Doug Wade, Woody Bell, Mark Champion, John Eastman, Jeff Laurence, Steve Warren, Ed Pyle, and Ed Fairbanks

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