WWBF - A History
WWBF-AM 1130 Bartow – Tom and Susan Thornburg purchased Bartow radio station WPUL in February of 1984, changed the call letters to WWBF and switched from a Country music format to Lite Contemporary with a heavy emphasis on local news and sports. In an effort to stand out and be unique, the station dropped the first ‘W’ from their call sign for on-air promotion, and was identified as WBF, The Talk of Polk County.
The broadcast studios, located at the transmitter site at 1130 Radio Road North in Bartow off U.S. 17, were redesigned and upgraded with new equipment. A new solid state transmitter was installed along with a stereo exciter. WBF was the first station to bring AM stereo to Polk County. Two additional 220 foot towers were erected in 1985 for a 3-tower night-time array enabling a power increase to 2500 watts non-directional daytime and 500 watts directional at night. WBF broadcasts 24/7 on clear channel frequency 1130 and continues to be the only AM-1130 in the state of Florida.
In the late 1980’s WBF decided to experiment with oldies music for a day. Their “Oldies Monday” became a hit and listener reaction was positive. Since no other station in the area was serving that audience, the decision was made to change the format.
Today (2005) WBF runs a hit-oriented personality driven oldies format from the Jones Radio Network, musically focusing on the Beatles era (1964-1969) with a dose of late 50s and early 70s rounding out the mix. The station primarily appeals to adults who grew up listening to AM radio in the 60s and 70s which reflects the tastes of America’s largest demographic. There are also daily features, weekend specials and on-air contests and giveaways.
WBF carries national news from CNN as well as local, county, and state news. A popular program during the winter months is Canada Calling with Prior Smith which has been on each season since 1984. The station also places a heavy emphasis on sports and broadcasts Bartow High School football, basketball, baseball and softball, University of Florida Gator football and basketball, and Nascar racing.
Perhaps the program most associated with the station is the WBF Shopper, heard Monday through Saturday from 9 to 10am – a call-in classified column of the air that records an average of 65 calls per show, assisting listeners buying and selling used household items. The Bartow station also supports area civic clubs and other non-profit organizations with the donation of thousands of dollars in complimentary air time to promote their community activities.
WBF continues to be locally-owned and operated. Tom Thornburg serves as President of Thornburg Communications, Inc., and Sales Manager. He also co-hosts the morning show. His wife, Susan, is the station’s Business Manager, handling traffic, some copywriting and production and any other paperwork associated with the station. Their son, Jeff, is Chief Engineer, host of the WBF Shopper program, and the person who created and maintains the station’s website, www.wwbf.com.
1984 - 2005 Other Polk County Stations (History)