WSPB AM & FM - A History
WSPB-AM 1420 & WSPB-FM 106.3 Sarasota – At 7 A.M on December 7, 1939, Sarasota’s 250-watt WSPB (We’re Sarasota-Palmetto-Bradenton), went on the air at 1420 kHz from its studios and transmitter/tower site on City Island in Sarasota Bay. The station was bumped to 1450 kHz due to the NARBA national frequency change in 1941, and became a CBS affiliate in 1943, a relationship it would enjoy for many years to come.
WSPB was put on the air by WSPB, Inc., which consisted of three Chattanooga, TN businessmen – Robert C. Jones, Jr. (president), S.H. Campbell, Jr., and S.C. Hutcheson. The city of Sarasota offered the group two plots of land on which to build the station, one on City Island and the other in a city-owned park. Engineers chose the island site because the surrounding salt water acted as a better electrical conductor. The island itself, primarily used as a supply base for the newly formed Sarasota Mosquito Corps, was uninhabited except for a bait shack at the side of the New Pass Bridge.
The original WSPB building was designed by Ralph Twitchell, the founder of the Sarasota School of Architecture. The utilitarian, square concrete block structure cost more than $40,000 to erect and was formally dedicated on January 1, 1940. Operation was a struggle the first five years, with the company losing $25,000 over the first three. They were lean times. The war was on, and supplies and help were hard to get.
In 1958, WSPB was acquired by WSPB Broadcasting, Inc. (John Morgan Davis, president) for $335,000. WSPB-FM went on the air in June 1965 with 860 watts on 106.3 mHz, and programmed a 100% duplication of the AM. Worth Communications of Detroit (Worth Kramer, president) purchased the combo in early 1966 and upgraded the FM’s power to 3,000 watts.
In the summer of 1970, the AM’s original 185-foot tower, which stood at the eastern most point of City Island, was dismantled and replaced with a 280-foot stick and an antenna side-mounted at the top for the FM. In 1972, Walter-Weeks Broadcasting Inc. (Robert M. Weeks, president) acquired the stations. The duplication of the AM’s programming on the FM was dumped in 1974 when the FM adopted its own MOR format and began broadcasting in stereo.
Other owners of WSPB have been Wilkes-Schwartz Broadcasting (1988), Randall Harris (who flipped the station a classical music format in 1990), Great American Communications (renamed Citicasters in 1993), Jacor (1996), and Clear Channel (1998). The original studio building, which housed the station’s offices and studios since 1939, was demolished when Clear Channel moved the operation from City Island to the mainland in 2003. The transmitter and tower, however, remained on the island property.
WSPB-AM operated with the heritage call letters from the time it signed on the air in 1939 until 1988 when they became WWKY. In September 1989, they flipped back to WSPB briefly before becoming WSRZ in October 1989. About ten months later, in August 1990, the WSPB calls were again reinstated, only to be dropped in 2003 and changed to WSRQ. WSPB-FM became WMLO-FM in 1982.
Other names from WSPB’s history include Frank S. Lane (GM-1939), John B. Browning (GM-1942), Gertrude W. Browning (PD-1944), William A. Sheetz (chief engineer-1944), Jim Grant (chief engineer-1945), Ken Randolph (sales manager-1946), Robert H. Neff (sales manager-1948), David C. Hale (PD-1948), Raymond Brown (sales manager-1949), Jack Bennett (sales manager-1950), Dean Fleischman (sports director-1951; news director-1956), Bob Peters (1951), Bandel Linn (1951), Dave Murphy (1951), Nita Parker (bookkeeper-1951), Herb Sjolander (“Sarasota Angler”-1951), Hack Swain (1951), Jeanne King (traffic-1951; women’s director-1954), Dorothy Mead (women’s director/host of “Date with Dottie”-1951), J. McCarthy "Mac" Miller (sales manager-1952), Ruth Ellen Hearn (promotions/copy writer-1952), Don Priest (1953), Joy Cone (music librarian-1953), Eleanor Brown (bookkeeper-1953), Paul Roberts (1953), Marie Richardson (copy writer-1953), Al Moreau (1953), Gerald McGougan (chief engineer-1957), Hamilton Woodle (GM-1958), Charles Shaw (news director/promotions-1960), Maril Woods (GM-1961), Ray Perkins (promotions-1961), Paul F. Kelley (GM-1963), J. Edward Nichols (sales manager-1963), Gerry Pike (promotions-1963), Lee Furman (news director-1963), W.W. Van Steenburgh (GM-1965), Dan Sawyer (sales manager/promotions-1965), Robert W. Chambers (PD-1965), Joseph Fitzgerald (news director-1965), Tom Drane (mornings as Tom Douglas and production manager 1968-69), Neil Rogers (mornings-1973), Cliff Lanson (GM-1974), Frank Lasko, Jr. (news director-1974), Al Stockmeier (PD-1975), George Barber (sales manager-1975), Stan Grams (music director-1975), Craig Sager (news director-1975), Robert Lewis (FM sales manager-1975), Jim Driscoll (1976), Steve Warren (1977), Dick Reynolds (sales manager-1979), Mark Wheeler (PD/music director-1979), Bruce Williams (news director-1979), Cyndy Paulos (weekends/traffic/production-1979), Craig Kuckens (sales 1980-86), Gary James (continuity director 1981-84), Frank Ward (GM-1986), John Starr (sales manager-1986), Joe DeMay (PD-1986), David Graupner (music director-1986), Debbie Levins (promotions-1986), Bill Freeland (news director-1986), Tom Evans (1988-90), Paul Delaney (station manager 1989-1991), and Big Ed Edwards (1995).
Others who worked at WSPB were John Browning, Jr. (announcer-engineer), David Lawrence (sales manager), Fred Ryder (later chief announcer at WFLA), John Buning and Al Austin (engineers), Fred Angers, Gene Loffler (GM), Randall Harris, Lowell Schumaker, Art Howell (nights), Brian Holmes (operations), Jim Davis (marketing), John Patten, Jim Genovese (PD and mornings), and Chuck Phillips (aka Chuck Stuart).
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1939 - 1989 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (History)
1990 - 2003 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (History)