Haines City

Original Call Letters: WGTO
Originally Licensed: Sep 9, 1955
Original City of License: Haines City
Original Frequency: 540

Origin of Call Letters: Slogan; "Gulf To Ocean"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Palm Crest Hotel, Haines City

Original Power: 50,000 Watts
Original Location: Palm Crest Hotel, Haines City
Original Format: Top 40


1955-KWK, Inc.

1958-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)  

1964-Hubbard Broadcasting

1986-Cypress Broadcast, Ltd ($1.5 million)

1990-Florida Media Inc. 

1994-Paxson Broadcasting  ($1.5 million)

1997-Clear Channel Communications

Network Affiliation(s):


Unistar, Mutual

Florida Gators Radio Network

Motor Car Racing Network

History Of Call Letters and Formats:

WGTO-1955-Top 40  “Gulf To Ocean” and "Gainesville to Okeechobee"

WGTO-1958-Top 40   "Covering Florida Like The Sun"

WGTO-1977-Country Western "Great Country Music 54"


WGTO-1990-Oldies ''Cruisin' Oldies 54''  (Studios moved to Ocoee)





WQTM-1996-Sports "540 the Team" 

WFLF-1997-News/Talk "540 WFLA"

History of WGTO 

Haines City To Get Radio Station

The Orlando Sentinel Dec. 21, 1954

A radio station for Haines City for which an application has been on file for two years, has been approved by the Federal Communications Comm., Robert T. Convey, president of KWK, Inc., permittee of the new station, announced yesterday. KWK, Inc. is a Missouri corporation which owns and operates Radio Station KWK and Television Station KWK-TV in St Louis. The call letters assigned to the new station are to be WGTO. The letters "GTO" tie in with the station slogan "Gulf to Ocean," indicating the large area to be covered by the new facility. Ground for the erection of a transmitter building and broadcasting towers has been leased from J. C. Cox Jr. of Lake Alfred. The transmitter site will be .approximately four miles airline from Haines City, but it is expected that the studios and business offices will be located in Haines City. Whether a new structure to house the studios will be erected or whether some adaptation of an existing building will be undertaken, has not been determined as yet, according to Convey. Construction of the transmitter building and installation of equipment at the Lake Alfred site is expected to begin early in 1955, according to the company announcement. 
The station will operate during daytime hours only with 10,000 watts of power on 540 kilocycles. This wave-band was not available for use in the U. S. until 1952. Although 540 does not appear on the dial of many radio receivers, all sets should be able to receive the station without difficulty by turning the dial all the way to the left. According to the station announcement, all areas In Central and North-Central Florida and from the Gulf to the Atlantic, will be within good reception range of the station. Convey said the majority of he staff for the station will be recruited from the area to be served. 'We intend to operate In such a way as to render maximum service to Haines City and to the thriving agricultural and industrial part of Florida which will be covered by the signal of WGTO," he added. "We contemplate a varied and well-balanced program schedule in which education, religion, news, agriculture and entertainment will all have their proper emphasis. In this effort, we, covet the help, suggestions and understanding of the people who make Central Florida their home."

New Haines City Radio Station Nearly Finished 
Orlando Sentinel

Aug 2, 1955
HAINES CITY-Construction on Radio Station WGTO In Haines City is nearing the final stages according to N. J. Zehr, chief engineer of Station KWK, St Louis, and supervisor of the work on the local station. Testing of the equipment of the 10,000 watt station will probably begin soon but the opening date for the programming is still indefinite. The  transmitter towers and equipment houses are located approximately six and one-half miles of Haines City, near Lake Alfred, and are connected to the studio at the Palm Crest by two telephone leased wires. The station will operate from sunup to sundown, with the hours of broadcasting changing monthly. The significance of the stations call signal is that the "W" Is the FCC designation showing that the station is located east of the Mississippi River. The letters "GTO", said Zehr, could be interpreted as "Gulf to Ocean", or "Gainesville to Okeechobee" which will be the most effective range of the station.

New Radio Station
The Tampa Times, September 3, 1955
If radio listeners will turn dials to a new frequency (540 kilocycles) next Friday they will be greeted by a new radio voice for the Florida Gulf Coast. The station is WGTO, a 10,-000-watter going on the air for the first time at 6:30 o'clock next Friday morning from Haines City. Station officials expect the WGTO signal to be heard in 26 counties of Central Florida, stretching its coverage from Gulf to Atlantic and from Gainesville to Okeechobee..

Radio Station To Open Friday At Haines City 
The Tampa Tribune Sept. 3,1955
HAINES CITY-A new radio station has been announced to broadcast throughout 26 Central Florida counties, starting at 6:30 A. M. Friday, Sept.
9. It will be identified by the call letters WGTO, Haines City, and will operate with 10,000 watts power on a dial setting of 540 KC. A dedicatory program will be broadcast from the WGTO studios in the Pine Crest Hotel at 2 P.M..

New Haines City Radio Station Opens Tomorrow
Few persons, if any, ever thought about setting their radio dial on 540 KC; not until last week, at least. But large newspaper advertisements in 43 daily and weekly newspapers throughout 26 Central Florida counties aroused a lot of curiosity. The message in the advertisements openly urged readers to tune to 540 KC on the radio dial to hear music and news all day long over WGTO, Florida's new powerful 10,000-watt radio sta

WGTO goes on the air for the first time tomorrow at 6:30 a. m. SETTING UNUSUAL The dial setting of 540 KC is unusual. It isn't even marked on most radio dials. But the spot is there nevertheless one notch above 550 KC at the top of the dial.

In explaining the new setting, WGTO radio engineer consultants pointed out the Federal Communications Commission in Washington has only recently authorized this frequency for use in the U. S. plus high power of 10,000 watts j produces an exceptionally strong and far reaching signal that under normal conditions will well cover a large area in Central Florida from gulf to ocean and Gainesville to Okeechobee. When construction on WGTO was begun early in February, space was leased for studios in Haines City in the Pine Crest Hotel, and construction of the station's transmitter was begun at a point about three miles north of Lake Alfred. Neither telephone nor proper electric energy facilities were available at the outset of the station's transmitter con- They pointed out also 540 KC I struction.


WGTO was conceived by the owners of KWK, Inc. out of St. Louis.

1955-WGTO took to the air from The Pine Crest Hotel in Haines City. Licensed to broadcast with 10,000 watts of power at 540 on the dial. The format was Top 40. 

1958-Hubbard Broadcasting moved the station from Haines City to Cypress Gardens

1977-Music format changed to country

1978-WGTO was named Billboard Magazine's "Small Market Station of the Year"

1986-WGTO was sold to Cypress Broadcast, Ltd. and the format was changed to "gospel". 

1990-WGTO sold to Florida Media Inc. (a company owned by two Fort Myers doctors and a lawyer) the studios were moved to Ocoee.

1992-WGTO went to a satellite service, resulting in the layoff of 30 employees including Rocky Dee, Russ Ross (Original Doo-Wop Shoppe), Allan Brady (Music and Memories). Perry Moore would remain at the station in sales.

1994-WGTO was sold to Paxson Broadcasting, the call letters were changed to WWZN and the format became sports talk.

RCA Broadcast News, February 1957:

"WGTO is located in the center of a group of metropolitan areas as contrasted to the more usual establishment of a station in a principal city of its own. Its coverage, on 540 kc, encompasses such major cities as Gainesville, Daytona Beach, Orlando, Lakeland, Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg. This area, covering the more populous sections of Central Florida, extends from Gainesville to Okeechobee and from Gulf to Ocean hence the call letters WGTO.

Radio Station Begins 24-Hour Operations
The Tampa Tribune, April 4, 1979
Cypress Gardens WGTO radio quietly began broadcasting 24 hours daily last Friday after receiving authorization from the Federal Communications Commission. WGTO is the first AM station in Polk County to be granted a 24-hour license, although Winter Haven AM Station WZNG has applied for permission. "We received the information by telegram and just did it last Friday," station manager Dick Bennick said Monday, "We had virtually all of the county covered during the daytime and this is a real bonus for us." Bennick said the authorization culminated nearly a dozen years of effort on the part of WGTO management. Bennick said there are no plans to change the station's format.
It proclaims itself as the "Great Country Music" station. "Our music policy will continue to be great country music, retaining our traditional country flavor, with a strong local news department," Bennick said. Bennick, perhaps best known as Dr. Paul Bearer, the host of Saturday afternoon horror movies, said two new disc jockeys will be joining the staff to supplement veterans Bob Fuller, Rick Roberts, Jim Maloy, Dave Campbell, Jacki West and C.B. "Bird" Slane. The news department is staffed by Jim Greenfield and Bob McCord. "We are looking forward to a new era of providing full service AM radio ''to virtually all of Polk County, as we will be the only AM station to be heard at night throughout Polk County," Bennick said. He said the initial reaction to the station going 24 hours has been "unreal." He said the station has received calls from as far away as Vero Beach, indicating the signal is strong and clear.

wgto qsl card.jpg (33931 bytes)
courtesy of Larry Flegle



1957 floor plan of WGTO studios in the Pine Crest Hotel
(RCA Broadcast News, February 1957)

    WGTO two antenna array on a cattle ranch 6.4 miles from Haines City

WGTO-AM 540 2 tower array.jpg (68959 bytes)
(RCA Broadcast News, February 1957)

              WGTO-AM 540 transmitter building.jpg (56875 bytes)
            WGTO Transmitter building 
           (RCA Broadcast News, February 1957)

540_WGTO_AM_1955_ad.jpg (271002 bytes)

1955 ad    

1957 ad.jpg (120606 bytes)
1957 Ad

Here's a photo of the WGTO control room when the studios were located on Marshal Farms Road in Ocoee in 1992 
courtesy of Dave Edwards


WGTO Personalities

Bayliss "Jim" Corbett-1955-News Director-KWK, Inc./1958-News/Farm Director-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)
Bob Wery-1955-KWK, Inc./1958-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)

Dale Starkey-1955-1958-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)

Dar Dodds-1955-1959-Morning Drive-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)

George Prescott-1958-Host of "Welcome to Florida Show" from Cypress Gardens/1966-1971-Program Director-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting) /1973-Promotions Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting

Richard Hart-1958-Farm Director--KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)/1964-Farm Director-Hubbard Broadcasting /1971-Chief Engineer-Hubbard Broadcasting

Paul Hershey-1958-Farm Director-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)
Bill Cramer-1959-Program Director-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)
William Gramer-1960-Program Director-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)
Bob Grossman-1964-Program Director/1969-General Sales Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting

Buddy Lee (Harold Wallace Lee aka Bob Collins)-1965-Hubbard Broadcasting

Woody Wooden
/1968-Farm News Director-Hubbard Broadcasting    In Memory

Larry Green (Larry Cox)-1967-1968-Mid-days/ 1973-1974-News-Hubbard Broadcasting 

John Taylor-1968-News Director-Hubbard Broadcasting                                    

Dan Grant-1968-Mid-days
-Hubbard Broadcasting

Ronnie Gee (Ron St. John)-1968/1973-Program Director-Hubbard Broadcasting

Jim Kennedy-1970-1971-Weekends-Hubbard Broadcasting

Dave Wright (David Lee Wright)
-1972-1973-Hubbard Broadcasting  In Memory

Dick Bennick
(Dr. Paul Bearer)-1973-1977-Mornings/Program Director/Production Director/Sales/1977-1986-General Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting         In Memory

Wes Belisle-1974-1978  1974-1978-News-Hubbard Broadcasting

James "Jim" Greenfield-1976-1982-News Director/Public Affairs Director-Hubbard Broadcasting
John Terry-1977-Program Director-Hubbard Broadcasting
"Crazy" Bob Fuller-1977-Hubbard Broadcasting

Jim "Jimbo" Maloy-1977-1982
-Mornings-Hubbard Broadcasting

Terry "The Bird" Slane-1977-Hubbard Broadcasting  Terry was named Small Market Broadcast Personality of the Year in 1979-Hubbard Broadcasting

Dave Campbell-1977-Hubbard Broadcasting

Mike McCoy-1977-Hubbard Broadcasting
Rick Roberts-Hubbard Broadcasting

Bob McCord-News-Hubbard Broadcasting

Terry Stone-1977-Program Director-Hubbard Broadcasting

Bill Carson-1979-1981-Midnight-6AM-Hubbard Broadcasting  
In Memory

“PJ the DJ”-Patti Jordan-1981-1982-Part time weekends/1982-1986-Midnight-6AM
-Hubbard Broadcasting 
Ron Riley-1982-Assistant News Director/News Director-Hubbard Broadcasting

Henry Jay-1984-1986-3PM-7PM/Music Director-Hubbard Broadcasting

Jerry Steffen
-1990-2008  Biography


Joe Penny-1987-1990-Cypress Broadcast, Ltd
Robert J. Wright-1990-Mornings-Florida Media Inc. 

Kathy McFarland-1990-Morning News Anchor-Florida Media Inc.

"Captain" Joe Canzoneri-1990-Traffic Reporter/Weekends-Florida Media Inc.

Hank Dole-1990-Assistant Program Director-Florida Media Inc.

Terry Mason (Terry England)-1990-Program Director/Afternoon Drive  In Memory

Jeff Allen (Cassell)-1990-Florida Media Inc./1994-Program Director/Morning Drive/Sports Director-Paxson Broadcasting  Biography

Perry Moore
-1991-10AM-Noon Weekdays/Sundays/Sales/Promotions-Florida Media Inc. Biography   In Memory

Dave Edwards
-1992-Florida Media Inc. Biography
Russ Ross-1992-"Original Doo-Wop Shoppe"-Sundays-6PM-Midnight-Florida Media Inc.

Ric Karlson and Ed Schmidt Jr.-1993-Co-hosts of Golf Talk- Fridays 4PM- 5PM-Florida Media Inc.

Peter Banks-1993-Host of "Singles Connection", a talk show for singles-Florida Media Inc. 

Gordon Banta-1993-Co-host and psychic on "Singles Connection", a talk show for singles-Florida Media Inc. 

Doug Gilley-1993-Host of "Let's Go Fishing"-6AM-7AM-Florida Media Inc.

Steve Duff-1993-Producer of "Let's Go Fishing"-Florida Media Inc.

Peter Rocchio-1993-Florida Media Inc.

Ed Hartley-1993-"Cryin', Lovin' & Leavin'"
-Florida Media Inc.

Jack Nelson-"MoneyTalk"-1993-Saturdays from 8AM- 9:30AM
-Florida Media Inc.  In Memory

Vince Regan-1994-Host-"House of Sports"-6PM- 9PM Weeknights-Paxson Broadcasting

Jack ''Goose'' Givens-1994-"Courtside Weekly"

"Judge Krater"  (Mike Greager)-7PM-Midnight-Hubbard Broadcasting

Bob Fuller

Doug Rockwell

"Uncle Russie"-Russ Ross  Biography

Rocky D! 

Lee Manning

Allan Brady
-Host of "Music and Memories" and "The Rock and Roll Palace Show", "live" from Little Darlin's Rock and Roll Palace.   Biography

   WGTO 50+4 survey 2-14-70.jpg (667965 bytes)   
Courtesy of Steve Kennedy

Tom Drake

Keith Holliday

Scott Edwards
Beth Fouchee

Becky Johnson

Jeff Kierce

R.C. Kelley

Carol Lamons

Dave Lane

Jay Menchen

Allen Rich

Roy Riley

Jack Robertson

Tom Rusk

Dan Sanborn

Harry Sharp

Maris Siegel

Kathi Tanner

Lyle Wood

Roy Beemer

Patricia Madden

Tom Anthony

Merrill Craig

Jay Cresswell

Clive Thomas (Clive Thomas Cuthbertson)    Biography

Jerry O'Neill

Greg Warmoth

Al Brock

Charlie "Rock" Brown

Larry Cox

Allen Shaw, Jr.

Joe Francis-News Director

Rick Beckett   In Memory
Todd Wright

Other Names in WGTO History

Robert Convey-1955-President-KWK, Inc.
V.E. Carmichael-1955-Vice President-KWK, Inc.
Roy Dady-1955-Director of Operations-KWK, Inc.
Eugene Hill-1955-General Manager/Commercial Manager-KWK, Inc.
David Schick-1955-Chief Engineer-KWK, Inc.
Nick Zehr-1955-Chief Engineer-KWK, Inc.

Stanley E. Hubbard-1958-President-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)/1969-Chairman of the Board-Hubbard Broadcasting

C.M. "Max" Kimbrel-1958-General Sales Manager/1959-General Manager/General Sales Manager-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)
Gary Miller-1958-Sales Manager/Promotions Manager-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)

Hal Meyer-1958-Sales Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting

Marvin Rosene-1959-Vice President In Charge Of Sales-KSTP, Inc. (Hubbard Broadcasting)/1969-Vice President-Hubbard Broadcasting
Stanley S. Hubbard-1969-President/General Manger-Hubbard Broadcasting

Spencer Danes-1970-1972-General Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting

Dick Hart-1958-1971 and 1982-1986-Engineer-Hubbard Broadcasting

Frank Berry-1971-1973 and 1979-1982-Director of Technical Operations-Hubbard Broadcasting   In Memory
Frank tells us about his time at WGTO-AM. "...During my tenure at WGTO, I replaced almost all of the studio equipment and, when the old RCA BTA 10H transmitter failed, I replaced the transmitter with a Harris MW-1A to provide better nighttime service at their 1kw licensed power level. The night that the old RCA transmitter failed, I put the Gates MW-50 transmitter on the air at its lowest stable power which was about 8kw.  I was able to reduce the output power further by detuning the output network of the transmitter so that it produced about 1kw of power. After we achieved stabile nighttime operation, I called Stanley Hubbard at home and explained that the old RCA transmitter had failed beyond reasonable repair.  Stan authorized me to purchase a Harris MW-1A transmitter. I called Harris and ordered the transmitter and requested rush delivery. We operated in that mode overnight and before pattern change in the morning, I re-tuned the output network so that the station could operate at full power. We went through these detuning/retuning gyrations for two or three days until the new MW-1A transmitter arrived. During the time that it took to receive the new transmitter, we removed the old RCA 10kw unit and moved the nighttime phasor  into its new position...directly beside the soon-to-be-delivered Harris MW-1A. Before moving the phasor, I called our Consulting Engineer, Ogden Prestholdt of A. D. Ring and Associates and told him of my desire to move the phasor.  Mr. Prestholdt told me "absolutely not.  You don't have the knowledge to re-tune the antenna array". I moved the phasor anyway and retuned the array.  It remained stable and within the licensed specifications throughout my tenure at WGTO..."

Bob Kelly-1971-1973-Station Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting-Now owner of Kelly Communications, Inc in Peoria, Illinois

Hal Myer-1972-Sales Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting

Paul Titchenal-1972-1979-Engineer-Hubbard Broadcasting

Howard Trickey-1973-1978-General Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting  

John Redwine-1977-Commercial Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting
Jackie West (Moira Jackson)-1979-1986-Noon-3PM-Promotions Manager/1981-Country Music Association's Disc Jockey of the Year Award Winner (Small Market Division)-Hubbard Broadcasting

Lloyd Barham-1978-General Manager-Hubbard Broadcasting

Howard Hoffman-1990-General Manager-Florida Media Inc. 

Keith Feeney-1990-Comptroller/Accounting/Traffic Manager-Florida Media Inc. 

Bill Patti-1990-Creative Services Director-Florida Media Inc. 

Mark Anderson-1990-General Sales Manager-Florida Media Inc.

Bob Johnson-1991-General Sales Manager/General Manager
-Florida Media Inc. 

Jay Waggoner-1992-Chief Engineer-Florida Media Inc.  
In Memory

Lowell "Bud" Paxson-1994-1997-President-Paxson Broadcasting   
In Memory
John Frost-Operations Manager for Paxson Broadcasting

Nancy Cattarius-Sales

Tommy Kramer-Program Director

Thanks to Jay Waggoner for these WGTO photos


 WGTO 6 Tower Array                      WGTO Transmitter Workshop


WGTO FEMA Bomb shelter                          WGTO phasor                        

  Jay Waggoner at WGTO

photos courtesy of Jay Waggoner

Frank Berry
took this photo of the original WGTO transmitter in 1975. It was an RCA BTA-10H which was purchased in 1955. The photo was taken as the old RCA Ampliphase transmitter was being dismantled for shipment to Guayaquil, Ecuador. The 10H was on the air as WGTO's only transmitter at the time this photo was taken. The boxes in the photo contain parts for the old RCA BTA 50G Ampliphase.  On the far right of the photo you can see one of the power amplifier tubes.

Other Programs In WGTO History
"Cousin Brucie's Cruisin' America"-1991-Friday nights from 10PM-1AM-syndicated

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