WGUL AM & FM - A History
WGUL-AM 1500 & WGUL-FM 105.5 New Port Richey – The Golden Gull, WGUL-AM 1500, signed on the air on October 31, 1963 from studios on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. It was a 250 watt daytimer owned by Jasmin Properties (Sam Allgood, Jr., R.C. Tranter, W.C. Tranter, and Reginald Sims).
The station was heavily involved in the community and early programming was directed to the people of New Port Richey. In 1964 PD Thad Lowrey debuted a buy-sell-trade swap shop program called "The Jot ‘Em Down Show" and Tom Dixon’s "Teen Time" aired in the afternoons. Since it was a daytimer, the Friday night Gulf High School football games were taped for playback on Saturdays. That changed beginning in 1969 with the sign-on of WGUL-FM (105.5mc) which was not bound by the daytime-only restrictions imposed on the AM.
By the late 1960’s WGUL AM/FM was owned by Richey Airwaves, Inc., and Thad Lowrey was bumped up to Station Manager. In the early 1970’s new and larger studios were built along with a new 300 foot tower for the FM which had boosted its power to 3000 watts.
In the mid 1970’s, WGUL-AM’s format was MOR and talk while the FM programmed country music. Ralph B. Johnson, a former executive with Rounsaville Radio, bought the combo for $550,000 in 1979 and switched the AM to The Music of Your Life. The FM changed its calls to WPSO, Pasco 105½ FM, and dropped the country for a 60’s oldies format. It was mostly automated except for Marvin Boone’s popular Saturday night request show. In July 1983 the calls switched back to WGUL-FM, and the oldies dumped for a simulcast of the AM’s Music of Your Life.
WGUL AM & FM was sold to Carl J. Marcocci of Clearwater in 1984. Marcocci, a former 1950’s Pittsburgh deejay and one-time owner of Clearwater’s WAZE-AM 860, changed the AM calls to WPSO and sold it the next year to Thad Lowrey, former WGUL program director and station manager. Meanwhile, WGUL-FM, licensed to Beverly Hills, continued with its Music of Your Life programming. But what Marcocci really wished for was another AM to again simulcast with the FM. The wish became a reality when he bought Clearwater’s WAMA-AM 860 in 1986 and renamed it WGUL-AM. Shortly thereafter, AM-860 was re-licensed to Dunedin.
In the mid 1990’s WGUL moved its studios from Counsel Square in New Port Richey to The Fountains in Palm Harbor. The FM changed dial positions from 105.5 to 96.1 in 1995 and was re-licensed to Dade City, and then moved to 106.3 in 1998, licensed to Spring Hill.
Unfortunately, most things in life don’t last forever and neither do radio stations and the music they play. In January 2005, programming on the AM and FM split with the AM retaining the WGUL calls and its locally-programmed format of nostalgia and adult standards, and the FM becoming WJQB, The True Oldies Channel, with a syndicated 50’s and 60’s format. Salem Communications, a leading Christian and family-themed broadcaster, acquired WGUL-AM in February 2005. The calls were scheduled to change to WNTR, but less than a week after programming switched to a news/talk format, Salem announced that it would retain the heritage WGUL calls as a “tribute to the station’s legacy and its value to listeners.”
Many will remember the music WGUL played – music from the likes of Bennett, Streisand, Mathis, and Sinatra, and some big bands. Popular station features included Les Foerster’s morning birthday and anniversary club, “Cash Call,” the 5-times-a-day chance to pick up some easy cash just for listening, “The Sounds of Sinatra” with Sid Mark, every Saturday afternoon from 4-6 PM, and Prior Smith with “Canada Calling” during the winter months. From time to time WGUL also sponsored dances at the historic Coliseum in St. Petersburg featuring the music of the big bands.
WGUL Personnel 1960’s: Don Armstrong (Manager); Mrs. Don Armstrong (Office Manager); Joe Jankowski (announcer/Sales Manager); Glen Dill (announcer/ Sales); Francis A. Tillman, Jr. (Chief Engineer); Tommie Thomas (News Director); Thad Lowrey (announcer/PD); Tom Dixon (announcer/PD and host of "Teen Time"), and announcers: Chuck Roberts, Jim West, and Dave Harrell.
WGUL Personnel 1970’s: Thad Lowrey (Manager); Margaret “Peggy” Jankowski (Office Manager); Joe Jankowski (Sales Manager); Steve Diller (Sales Manager); Doug Thompson and Tom Boyd (Sales); Steve McClure (News Director); Mark Wyatt (News/Sports); Somers Smith (Engineer) and Bill Rossini (Chief Engineer); Tom Dixon (announcer/PD); Don Armstrong, Jr. (announcer/PD); Dave Harrell (announcer/PD); Rick Adkins (announcer/PD/MD); Announcers: Perry Flynn, Gary Benjamin, Bob Allyn, Matthew Johns, Dave Hunter, Chuck Long, and Rick Randall; Nancy Rigano (Copy & Traffic); Vera Kinkead (Receptionist); JoAnne Hettle (host of "Hettle’s Kitchen" and "Woman’s World"),
WGUL Personnel 1980’s and later: "Open Line" hosts: Matthew Johns, Arthur Crofton, John Coleman, Jeff Miller, and Tim Adkins; "Open Line Classifieds" host Nancy Rigano; Announcers: Dan Henry, Tom Edwards, Gary Wayne, Glen Adkins, Michael John, Bob Catron, Rick Reighard, Les Foerster (PD-mornings), Denny Bateman (mid-days), Bob Reynolds (afternoons), and Stu Hilder and Tom Fleming (weekends).
For more history of WGUL, visit Jeff Miller’s site at www.fivay.org/wgul.html.
1963 - 2007 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (History)