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WMNF - A History

WMNF-FM 88.5 Tampa – Florida’s first independent community radio station, WMNF (Member-sponsored Non-commercial FM), went on the air in September 1979, licensed to the Nathan B. Stubblefield Foundation, a non-profit organization established solely to operate the station. Stubblefield (1860-1928) was an eccentric Kentucky inventor who, according to the story, invented the radio four years before Marconi and died of starvation because he refused to market his idea for fear it would be stolen by big business.

With its 70,000-watt transmitter in Riverview, WMNF began operations from studios in an old Hyde Park mansion on South Boulevard before moving to a church on Nebraska Avenue, and then to a bungalow on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Boulevard in 1988. Since 2005, non-commercial WMNF has operated from a newly-built $2.2 million state-of-the-art facility in Tampa’s Southeast Seminole Heights section at 1210 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Twelve year on-air veteran Roy Bodden hosted the station’s long-running show “Country Music Memories” (1979-1991) and was one of WMNF’s first volunteers, joining the staff one month after the FM went on the air. In the beginning, programs were needed to fill extra hours in its broadcast day and it was Roy who did many of these programs from multiple genres – country (including bluegrass and western music), classical, musical theater, composers, and others.  

WMNF is a charitable organization and all gifts and donations to it are tax deductible in accordance with the law. Many modern-day listeners may not recall that a significant part of the initial “seed” money to get the station up and running was provided by the efforts of groups of volunteers who canvassed throughout Tampa and St. Petersburg, house by house, knocking on doors and asking for money.  The station continues to be listener-supported and volunteer-powered, and provides a mix of eclectic music with non-mainstream news, views, and public affairs programming.  WMNF sponsors numerous events throughout the year, including concerts. One of the most popular is the annual music party, Tropical Heatwave, a mini-festival held each year in Ybor City.

Some names and shows from WMNF history include Pat Chamburs (longtime host of a Wednesday night jazz show), Randy Wynne (program director-1985), Michael Eisenstadt (host of “Sunday Simcha”), Lisa McCormack (station manager-1989), Michael Beattie (morning news anchor-1990), Rob Lorei (news director-1990), Cameron Hendrix (operations manager-1990), Greg Musselman (station manager-1990), Rob Wilson (alternative music program assistant-1991-94), Richard Eiswerth (station manager-1996), Robert Vann (jazz show host), Bob “Soulman” Scheir (longtime blues show host-1998), Jean Palmquist (station manager 1999-2000), “Oye Latino” (latin music show), Louis D. Putney (president of WMNF’s board of directors-2000), Vicki Santa (station manager-2000), and Gene Moore (volunteer/membership coordinator-2003).

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Station History

1979 - 2021 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (History)

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