WDBO AM & FM - A History
WDBO-AM 1250 Winter Park & WDBO-FM 92.3 Orlando – Beginning as a college physics class project, WDBO (Way Down By Orlando) went on the air May 24, 1924 from a small wooden building next to the tennis courts on the Rollins College campus in Winter Park. It was the first station in Orange County and only the third in Florida. Licensed to the college to broadcast on 1250 kHz, its power output was 50 watts from a 75-foot antenna. The station would shift to several other dial positions, even sharing the 620 frequency with Tampa’s WDAE in the late 1920’s before landing on 580, its current spot since 1932. WDBO’s first day programming began at 8:45 P.M. and concluded about an hour later.
In 1926 the college decided that it did not want to continue to budget the radio station and turned it over to Col. George C. Johnston, a radiologist from Pennsylvania, who formed Orlando Broadcasting Company to run the station. A year later WDBO moved into the Fort Gatlin Hotel on North Orange Avenue and, in 1930, began its long association with the CBS Radio network.
WDBO’s transmitter was relocated to the Dubsdread Country Club in 1936 and, in 1940, the FCC authorized a power increase to 5000 watts full time using a directional antenna system at night. By 1944 the station was broadcasting from studios in the Angebilt Hotel, the year the Great Atlantic Hurricane came to town and destroyed the studios’ roof and north tower at Dubsdread. After the storm, temporary facilities were set up in the Orange Court Hotel on North Orange Avenue.
In 1947, WDBO opened new studios on the shores of Lake Ivanhoe on South Ivanhoe Boulevard. The following year, WDBO-FM, the city’s first FM, signed on at 92.3 mHz programming a simulcast of the AM. In the early 70’s it dropped the AM simulcast and switched to beautiful music in stereo, and soon thereafter received a CP to boost power to 100-kilowatts.
When Col. Johnston died in 1950, WDBO’s employees acquired shares in Orlando Broadcasting and elevated vice-president/station manager Harold P. Danforth as President/GM. In 1954 the company put on the air WDBO-TV Channel 6, Orlando’s first TV station, from studios on Texas Avenue, just off West Highway 50. Channel 6 was a basic CBS affiliate but also carried programs from NBC, ABC, and DuMont. Only CBS remained after WESH-TV Channel 2 and WLOF-TV Channel 9 entered the market a few years later and took NBC and ABC respectively. DuMont, by that time, had already gone out of business.
In 1957, Orlando Broadcasting sold WDBO AM & FM and WDBO-TV to Rhode Island’s Cherry Broadcasting (William S. Cherry, president) which, in turn, sold it to The Outlet Company (Joseph S. “Dody” Sinclair, president/GM) in 1963. The properties split in 1983 when Katz Broadcasting bought the AM & FM. WDBO-TV became WCPX in anticipation of a sale to Columbia Pictures. That sale never happened and the station didn’t change owners until 1987 when it was bought by Rockefeller Center, Inc.
Following the purchase by Katz, WDBO-AM dropped its CBS affiliation of 50+ years and signed with ABC, and WDBO-FM switched to a country format as K92FM WWKA. WDBO celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2004, was awarded the coveted Marconi Award for Excellence in Broadcasting in 2005, and voted the station with the “Best Radio News in Florida” in 2006 by a panel of broadcasting professionals.
In mid-August 2011, 5-kilowatt WDBO-AM’s sister station, 100-kilowatt 96.5 WHTQ-FM (96 Rock), became WDBO-FM and began a simulcast of the AM’s 24/7 news/talk format. In early November 2012, the AM dropped the simulcast and flipped to all-sports, while the FM continued to air news and information. Both are owned by Cox and operate out of ultra-modern studios on the John Young Parkway in Orlando.
Other names from WDBO’s history include Gordon Willox (director/sales manager-1935), William G. McBride (sales manager-1944; nat’l sales manager/PD-1948), J.E. Yarbrough (chief engineer-1944), J.M. Pedrick (sales manager-1945; local sales manager-1948), Carter Schofield (news director-1951; 1957; farm director-1956), Don McAllister (sports director-1951), Bill Berry (women’s director-1951), Rosalind Boggs (PD-1952), Edward J. Lord (music director-1952), Kathy Lancaster (1952), Dick Batchelor (sports director-1955), Curtis Gibson (news/sports director-1956), D.J. Kutzenknabe (news/sports director-1957), Arnold F. Schoen (GM-1960), Carl Hallberg (operations director-1960; station/sales manager-1965), William H. Goodman (president of Cherry Broadcasting-1963), Allen J. Actor (PD-1965), Robert Arel (news director-1965), Bob Raymond (news director-1968), Bill Taylor (PD-1969), Fred Scarbury (promotions-1969), Chalmers Stromberg (chief engineer-1969), Perry Moore (mornings-1970), Julian Bennett (promotions-1971), Fred Bradshaw (news director-1971), Jim Turner (afternoons-1972), David E. Henderson (president of the Outlet Company-1973), Alan Ecklund (sales manager-1973), Jim Martin (news director-1973), Glenn C. Lewis, Sr. (PD-1974), Leigh Morgan (PD 1975-1978), Wayne Trout (news director-1979), Morton Downey, Jr. (nights-1982), Wayne Weinberg (news 1983-1994), Marsha Taylor (reporter and mid-day anchor-1986; news director-1988), Woody Wooden (1988-1997), Officer Jim Bishop (traffic reporter-1994), Tom Kennington (PD), Col. Richard Bouchard (traffic reporter), Sal Tee (Solid Gold Reunion), Dick Ravenhill, Ben Aycrigg, and Mike Burger.
1924 - 2012 Other Central Florida Stations (History)