WLKF-AM 1430 Lakeland – In 1983 Bob Kelly and a group of local investors sold their Top 40 WQPD to Root Communications (Chapman Root, president) who switched the calls to WLKF. Shortly thereafter, the ABC affiliate moved from studios at 1412 East Lime Street to a suite of offices on the second floor of downtown Lakeland’s Todd McKay Building, also home to new sister station, 94.1 WVFM, which was acquired the same year.
In early 1986, WLKF (and WVFM) returned to the studios on E. Lime Street to find that, during its time away, the building had been completely renovated inside and out. Although still a music station, management decided to add a few talk shows at night – Bruce Williams, Sally Jesse Raphael, and Jim Bohannon, who had recently replaced Larry King. By 1987 the station had completely automated and officially switched to a talk format. Other talkers followed, including newcomer Rush Limbaugh.
WLKF’s own weekday morning local call-in talk show, “Talk Back,” began in 1992, hosted by a fast talking, yet highly knowledgeable, Brit named Nick Ashton. Nick developed quite a following, although many found him a bit confrontational. He was not one to back down from any topic, and he was never at a loss for words. He once did his entire show by cell phone while driving down I-4 heading to Orlando. When Ashton departed in 1993, Lynne Breidenbach, a former area political candidate and PR spokesperson for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, took over the show.
That same year, PD Bob Crews launched WLKF’s first local early morning news and information show, “Crews and Company.” In 1994, he was joined by Andrea Oliver, Tina Castle, and J.T. (Judith Tylke). During the infamous O.J. Simpson trial, WLKF began a local afternoon talk show right after Limbaugh called "Hoover’s House," hosted by Rick Hoover, which kept Polk listeners up to date on every move of the trial’s events.
WLKF and its successful talk format were acquired by Hall Communications (WONN/WPCV) in 1996. The following year studios moved across town to the Hall Communications building opposite the Lakeland Center. Intent on returning to a locally-produced news, information, and entertainment program in morning drive, Hall added “A.M. Polk County” in 1998, again hosted by PD Bob Crews with news reported by Larry Cox. A few years later, Mark Stevens joined the show which, in late 2003, was renamed “Mayhem in the A.M.” Crews retired in 2004 leaving the show to continue with Stevens, Erica Smith, and new news anchor Brian Bruchey.
Bruchey changed careers in 2007 and became a deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, Stevens moved to WFLA in Tampa in 2008, and Smith left later that same year to devote more time to her regular full-time job at The Lakeland Center. From 2008 to 2012, “Mayhem In the A.M.” was hosted by Seth Mela and various contributors that frequented the program on a regular basis. Today the WLKF morning show is hosted by Len Erickson and Chris Rhoden.
Other names from WLKF history include Bud Kurtz (GM-1983), Tom Anthony (news director-1983), Peter J. Callahan (music director-1983) Dean Hanna (PD), Paul Rebbman (chief engineer), Leroy Bradley (sales manager), Paul Hershey (news director), Dave Lane (production manager & news), Lee Garen, Mark Bond, Thomas Lee (Tom Trulson/news director-1990), Allen Kent (news director-1994), Bill Fowler (GM-1995), and Angela Harrell (news director-1996).