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David H. Citron's
South Florida Radio Pages
and South Florida Radio History

South Florida Radio History:

WGMA, The Country Giant

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In addition to writing this article, Mike has also created a WFTL tribute web site, WFTL: A Tribute to The Voice of Broward, including historic pictures.

The next day the station made headlines after angry listeners took baseball bats to the cars in the station parking lot.

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Deejay Bob Gordon, a favorite on WQAM, WFUN, WINZ, WWOK, WWWL, WIOD, WLQY, and WFTL, among others, has written his autobiography: Invisible Tears: How Do You Keep the Music Playing?

You can read excerpts from Invisible Tears on the South Florida Radio History web site... Or order your copy today!

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Mike Sheridan, known to south Florida radio audiences for many years before retiring in NC, has written all about WGMA's brief history. Thank you, Mike!

I have added some comments in brackets.

History of Hollywood's
WGMA "The Country Giant"
1320 kHz
Hollywood, Florida

copyright 2005 by Mike "Sheridan" Miranda

WGMA was at one time owned by Barry & Enright who produced some of the quiz shows on TV which came under attack for questionable practices in the famous quiz show scandals. One can only assume the FCC forced them to give up the license for the little 1,000 watt daytime-only radio station known as WGMA 1320 Hollywood.

WGMA wooden nickel, 1972

In the mid '60's WGMA had studios in the stately Hollywood Beach Hotel where Hollywood Blvd meets the ocean. The format was popular music for adults, also known as Middle of The Road. The transmitter was a single tower located at Stirling Road and US 441. As I mentioned the power was 1,000 watts dawn to dusk.

In 1967 the station was owned by a collection of local Hollywood businessmen led by C. Edward Little who later became president of the Mutual Broadcasting System in Washington, DC. It's not clear who came up with the idea of a full-time Country Music station but that's what happened in 1967.

WGMA burst forth with great fanfare and a special eight-page advertising section in the Miami Herald. The station had three major changes to announce, one was a power increase to 5,000 watts directional with 5 towers from a site that was west of what was then well past the end of Sheridan Street, the second was the station would now be on 24 hours and of course the format change to Modern Country. WGMA featured new up temp jingles done by Pams of Dallas. The "Country Giant" was born!
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It was no idle boast. It might be hard to believe but South Florida did not have a full time AM country station at the time. [This was a couple of years before WWOK, which signed on June 20, 1969.] In Miami there was WOAH a 1,000 watt daytime only station on 1220 (which later went Spanish as WLTO and even later WCMQ). In Broward there was WIXX 1520 (now WEXY) which was also a 1,000 watt daytimer in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park. [Further north, country with a bluegrass flavor was heard in north Broward and Palm Beach County on WSWN 900 in Belle Glade, still another daytimer.]

If you wanted to hear Country after dark in South Florida you were basically out of luck unless you had an FM radio and could pull in WGOS 93.9 (now Love 94) in Miami Beach. Remember in the '60's there were not very many FM radios out there, AM was still king.

The timing of WGMA's switch to Country was perfect. Country music was experiencing a surge in popularity with artists such as Buck Owens, Glen Campbell, Eddy Arnold, Bobbie Gentry, and Tammy Wynette. The uptown "Nashville Sound" featuring slick production with a full string section was gaining popularity as Rock and Roll was going though it's psychedelic phase. Many of the older Rock & Roll listeners couldn't identify with the new rock sounds. At the same time artists like Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley were going back to their country roots.

When WGMA billed itself as "Modern Country" it was more than just a slogan. The station for the first time took a Top 40 approach to country music. At WIXX you'd here laid back folks like "The Ranger" and WOAH had "Happy Harold" WGMA limited the talk and kept the music playing, the jocks usually didn't stop the music unless there was a commercial break. The idea was forward motion, the jock was allowed to talk on the intro of the music but keep the country hits coming!

Unfortunately the names of the early air talents at WGMA have faded from my memory except for Program Director Frank Wiltsie and News Director Ken Roth. Any of them would be at home in either an adult contemporary radio station or a top 40 station. Later Dave Burgess worked at WGMA to gain experience before moving on to WQAM. Jerry Wichner by this time long known in Miami radio also found a home at WGMA. Jerry's show was a departure since he talked more on the air about things like flying and Ham Radio.

WGMA also did much to promote Country Music in South Florida with The WGMA "Back 30 Survey" available at most record stores much like the music surveys the top 40 stations were doing. There were also free Monthly Country Music concerts in the Hollywood Bandshell. The concerts usually featured local talents but once in awhile there were national names new artists who were on their way up the country chart. The Bandshell concerts were a great promotional vehicle for the station as well. They continued right up to the last day of WGMA's country format.

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Sometime in the early late 60's or very early '70's WGMA having outgrown their little space in the Hollywood Beach Hotel moved west to spacious new studios and offices in the Hollywood Federal Building at 441 and Washington Street.

As a country station, WGMA went through 3 owners, and seemed to lose a little of the special magic with each change. The local group headed by C. Edward Little sold to Tichnor Media. It was during the time the station was owned by Tichnor the offices and studios were moved once again way out west to a new building at the transmitter site. This took the station way out of the heart of town. To get to WGMA you had to go to the very end of Taft Street and turn right onto Palm Ave where the station and cows met you at the end of a dirt road. [Back then, Sheridan Street ended about a mile east of where University Drive would be, except there was no University Drive. At approximately Sheridan, University funneled traffic into Davie Road Extension!]

Shortly before I went to work at the station in 1979, Tichnor Media sold WGMA to Community Service Broadcasters Inc. a small family-owned company headquartered in McLainsboro, Illinois. Ed Cousins did mornings, my good friend (and son of famous channel 7 personality Charlie Baxter) Tim Baxter did middays and was the Program Director. Afternoons were handled by Ron Bison.
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Later the same year Ed Cousins left to start his own station in Texas and I left after a minor disagreement with the General Manager. Not long after CSBI became disenchanted with the country format, Y-100's ex GM Bill Cunningham came in as a consultant bringing with him Dave Denver who had been the Program Director of Y-100's sister station in Hawaii. This gave birth to the ill-fated Lady on 1320 for Singles Only.

To wrap things up, while doing the final Country Music concert at the Hollywood Bandshell, Dave Denver went on the air using the name Earl McDaniel (the name was taken from a Heftel exec, why I don't know) Denver proceeded to have fun making fun of the music and the audience. He started smashing records (carts actually) and taking calls from listeners who discovered after awhile there was no delay, Some cursed on the air. By midnight WGMA was history. The station played a continuous loop of Coca Cola Cowboy, inviting listeners to stay tuned for the change at 6 AM. The next day the station made headlines after angry listeners took baseball bats to the cars in the station parking lot.

Only 12 years after the Country format started WGMA was gone, becoming "WADY The Lady on 1320 for singles only". The music was adult contemporary featuring Rod Stewart, ELO, Linda Ronstadt and others, music that could be found on plenty of FM stations in the market. The Lady lasted only 4 maybe 5 months at the most before going dark. [Scroll down for more about WADY in the next section.]

CSBI sold the station to Sunshine Wireless a group which ran WKQS 99.9 (now Kiss Country WKIS). After awhile, 1320 was back on the air as WLQY (ironically the first call letters Y-100 used as a top 40 station before becoming WHYI). WLQY became one of the early Al Ham "Music of Your Life" stations.

Now you know.....
Mike "Sheridan" Miranda

This mailing label is the only WGMA item Mike still has.

WADY "The Lady"

I can only speculate how this came about but Tim Baxter and I might have been indirectly responsible for "The Lady" mess by recommending the hiring an old friend.

WGMA's then 12-year-old transmitter, a Gates BC 20H was suffering from neglect at the hands of previous engineers. By this time it hardly stayed on the air.

I had worked with a talented engineer by the name of Doug Holland at both WAXY-FM and WFTL. It was WFTL where I also met Tim Baxter for the first time so we all knew each other. Doug had just arrived back on the mainland after working for Y-100's sister station in Hawaii. Tim and I both knew Doug to be a wild guy and all-around great engineer.

Doug joined us at WGMA and saw to it that the audio processing at the station was updated and a new Rockwell "Power Rock" 5KW transmitter was installed. This was done after I left, but the quality in the station's sound was evident. It never sounded better.

The question is: was Doug also responsible for bringing Dave Denver, Bill Cunningham and the "Lady/Singles" format to WGMA? I would say there is a very strong possibility.

[I suspect they were inspired by Martha Gross's Singles Directory Magazine, which was started in 1977 or '78. For more about WADY, see Martha Gross on WADY, for Singles Only.]

Pae hatched on: June 1, 2005

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