WVFM/WEZY-FM 94.1 Lakeland – Lakeland’s first stereo FM, WVFM, signed on the air in September 1967 with 27-kilowatts and an MOR music format. Owned by Lakeland FM Broadcasting, Inc. (Bud Kurtz, president/GM/sales manager), its slogan was “The Air Is Alive with the Sound of Music.” Other company principals included former WSIR/Winter Haven co-owner Arnold Silvert but he was bought out in 1973 by Herbert R. Todd and Lakeland radio executive Duane F. McConnell.
WVFM’s studios were located south of Lakeland off Lakeland Highlands Road in the middle of an orange grove (at that time) with its broadcast tower rising high above the fruit trees out back. Operations moved downtown into the Todd-McKay Building on Lemon Street in 1974, the year the station switched to Bonneville’s beautiful music format and 13-minute uninterrupted music segments each hour.
That year WVFM erected a new 499-foot tower off State Road 540 near the PCC/USF campus and boosted power to 100,000 watts. The stronger signal not only gave the station coast-to-coast coverage, but benefited the local listener, too, by subduing interference and giving a greater depth to the stereo music that was played.
In 1983, Kurtz, McConnell, and Todd sold WVFM to Root Communications (Chapman Root, president), a Daytona Beach company, which also acquired Lakeland’s AM-1430 WQPD at 1412 E. Lime Street. Since Root wanted the stations under one roof, they temporarily re-located both to the Todd McKay Building downtown while the Lime Street building underwent renovations. In early 1986, the facility was ready for occupancy and, by the following summer, both stations had completely moved in. Two years later, WVFM changed its call letters to WEZY.
Root automated WEZY in 1992 and let go all but two of the air personalities. Bud Kurtz remained as GM, but he was replaced by Leroy Bradley in 1992. Bill Fowler replaced Bradley in 1994. The beautiful music format continued until the station was sold to Paxson Communications (Lowell “Bud” Paxson, president) in 1995 when it adopted an adult contemporary (soft rock) format for a year, picking up a 9 share in the ratings. Paxson then moved WEZY’s offices and studios to Tampa and changed its format and calls to Smooth Jazz WSJT.
Other names from WVFM history (1967-1988) include Garland Burt (operations -1967), Orden Craig (chief engineer-1967), Vic Dodzweit (nights-1967), Jim Maloy-1967), A.J. Anello (chief engineer-1968), Charles Hasbrouck (weekends-1969), Bill Montgomery (operations-1971; music director-1973), Bob Shoopman (chief engineer-1971), Murray Goldsborough (sales manager-1973), Joe Boyd (news director-1973), Bruce Weaver (weekends-1973), Ken Rand (chief engineer-1973), Marcia Miller (promotions/PR-1973), Lindsay Yates (sales-1973), Tommy Reynolds (1973), Kevin MacKenzie (mid 70’s), Tom Trulson (mid 70’s), John Taylor (PD-1974), Ken Simmons (news director-1975), Chris Harder (evenings & overnights 1976-77), Cliff Shilling (operations-1977), Celle Dillemuth (sales-1978), Bob McCarthy (traffic/nights-1978), Eldean Truax and Del Quary (bookkeeping-1978), Jay Kuppers (sales-1978), Jeri Yoders (copywriter-1978), Rose Nutley (promotions/PR-1978), Bill Burnett (news director-1978), Jim Carey (chief engineer-1978), Leroy Bradley (sales-1978), Tom Wilnau (mornings-1978), Allen Ross McVicker (overnights-1978), Marji Bedgood (copywriter-1979), Joyce Robbins (traffic director-1979), Mary Baggett (sales-1980), Gene Barry (operations/afternoons-1981), Paul Rebbman (chief engineer-1984). Dave Harrell (afternoons-1985, Dick Bennick (sales-1986), Jim Greenfield (news), Tom Anthony (news), Frank Berry (chief engineer), David Charles (news), and Dave Lane.
Names from WEZY history (1988-1995) were Paul Hershey (news director-late 80’s), Sharon Creedon (promotions-late 80’s), Bob Crews (operations-1988), Dave Campbell (Charles Hasbrouck/mid-days-1988), Dean Hanna (overnights-1988), Dave Harrell (afternoons-1988), Paul Rebbman (chief engineer-1988), Bob McCarthy (nights-1988), Dann Miller (mid-days 1988), Gary Dennis (Gary Kimler/weekends-1989), Melvina Letanosky (traffic director-1989), Joey Austin (promotions-1989), Lori Edwards (weekend news-1990), Freddie Smith (sales-1990), Tom Shaw (copywriter/production-1990), Gail Borden (sales-1990), Thomas Lee (Tom Trulson/news director-1990), Jim Maloy (mid-days-1990), Treva Surrency (sales-1990), Yvonne Abram (receptionist-1990), and Tim Galloway (engineering).