WMBL-AM 1310 Lakeland – Few people realize that Lakeland had its own radio station as far back as the late 1920’s – before WLAK, which has always been referred to as Lakeland and Polk County’s first station. The call letters were WMBL, which operated with a power of 10 watts (later increased to 100 watts), on 1310-AM. Coincidentally, when WLAK went on the air a few years later, in 1936, it also broadcasted on 1310.
WMBL was authorized to broadcast in January 1927 and its license deleted in May 1930, most likely due to financial problems, common to many early operations. Studios were in downtown Lakeland’s Hotel Thelma on South Kentucky Avenue.
According to the June 30, 1927 issue of U.S. Radio Digest, the station was owned by Benford Radio Studios. Tampa Bay historian Hampton Dunn, in his 1972 book, “WDAE – Florida’s Pioneer Radio Station,” states that WMBL was managed by Douglas Russell.
Little information is found regarding programming, other than a series of sermons delivered by Cecil B. Douthitt, a preacher at Lakeland’s Lake Weir (Wire) Church of Christ, who published many of them in a 1929 book titled “Radio Sermons – A Series of Sermons Delivered Over Radio Station WMBL , Hotel Thelma, Lakeland, Florida.”