WDBO-AM  580

Original Call Letters: WDBO

Originally Licensed: May 24, 1924  

Original City of License: Winter Park (Rollins College)  

Original Frequency: 1250, moved to 1040 in 1927, moved to 620 in 1928, moved to 1120 in 1929 then to 580 in 1932

Origin of Call Letters: Slogan; Way Down By Orlando 

Original Power:  50 Watts

Translator(s): W297BB 107.3 Orlando

Original Location: Rollins College, Winter Park

Original Format: Concert programming and college lectures

Network Affiliation(s):


NBC Talknet
NBC News Radio


1924-Rollins College  
1926-Orlando Broadcasting Company, Inc.
1929-Central Florida Broadcasting Station, Inc. (563 N. Orange Ave., Orlando) 
1957-Cherry Broadcasting Station of Providence, Rhode Island
1963-The Outlet Company ($6 million for WDBO-AM, FM and WDBO-TV)
1982-Katz Broadcasting (Purchased WDBO-AM 580/WDBO-FM 92.3 for $9.5 million)
1986-New City Communications (New City would purchase Katz in 1986)
1997-Cox Broadcasting (Cox acquires New city in 1997)

History Of Call Letters and Formats:

WDBO-1924-Variety  "Way Down By Orlando"
WDBO-1985-News/talk  ''News & Weather Leader''

WDBO History

It began as a physics class project. In May  E.F.  Wineberg, a Rollins College math, physics and engineering professor, launched  a 50-watt radio station in a small wooden building on the Winter Park campus. The first night's programming - less than an hour - included talks by college officials, a violin solo and a performance by the men's glee club, according to the Rollins newspaper that week. It was the first radio station in Orange County and only the third in  Florida. WDBO operated at 1250 on the dial with 50 watts of power for thirty hours a week. There are some conflicting stories surrounding the call letters. Some research says the call letters were issued in alphabetical sequence as was the policy of the time.  There was WDBN Bangor, Maine, and WDBP, in Superior, Wisconsin. That would make the next set of call letters WDBO. Other research shows a request for the call letters WDBO to stand for "Way Down By Orlando." If the first story is true it sure was a great coincidence for Rollins College. The original studios were alongside the tennis courts on the campus of Rollins College During the initial broadcast, announcer Dean Sprague said "...anybody who can hear this..." would receive a box of oranges from the Gentile Brothers Packing House, if they would send a postcard to verify the signal was being heard. Cards came from Orlando, Apopka and Sanford. On that first broadcast day some of the programming included the Rollins Men's Glee Club singing, "Rollins Goes Rolling Along." And "Taps" was played on a bugle at sign-off. On-air programming started at 8:45pm and signed off 1 hour 5 minutes later. Because school was about to close for the summer, the station shut down  after just a few days until that October. In the fall of 1924, programming  resumed with frequent concerts and the broadcasting of college lectures. The station's only employee then was engineer and announcer Harold P. Danforth, who was paid $250 a year. Danforth eventually would rise to  president and general manager of the station.

Orlando Evening Star  Nov. 21, 1925

Station WDBO to Be On Air By Dec. 1st

The Winter Park radio station WDBO will probably be on the air by December 1st.  It is planned to broadcast regularly each night from then on.  This station will have ample power to reach over the greater part of the United States and is certain to prove of great benefit to Winter Park,  Orlando and surrounding territory. 
The equipment for the station is all new and a great many improvements are being made in the studio located on the campus of Rollins College,  Winter Park.
This station is owned by Justice Lee,  W. L. Greene and Edwin McConnell.  McConnell will have direction of the station and will use much outside talent as well as such exceptional as may be secured locally. 
The Orlando headquarters for station WDBO will be in Mr. McConnell's office in the Phillips building on Washington and Orange.  Mr. McConnell will be glad to interview artists in all lines who might prove of interest to the radio public.

1925-A ship in the Pacific picks up WDBO's signal, making headlines all over the state of Florida. Meanwhile, WDBO is permitted to increase power to 100 watts.

1926-Rollins College decided the $600 budget to run WDBO was too much and gave the station to Col. George C. Johnston. Johnston was a radiologist from Pennsylvania who headed an investment bank called The Morris Plan, Col. Johnston named the corporation that took ownership of WDBO, The Orlando Broadcasting Company.
According to author Eve Bacon in her book "Orlando - A Centennial History"...cooperating in the maintenance of  the station were (the cities of) St. Cloud, Sanford, Winter Park, Sanlando, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Chase & Company, and Rollins College". The first  remote broadcast over WDBO originated from the Angebilt Hotel  

WDBO programming was broadcast from the traffic tower at the intersection of Central and Orange Aves in 1926. Traffic control towers served as a bridge between the times when Police officers directed traffic while standing in the roadway and when automatically controlled signals were installed. The "crow's nest" elevated the officer above traffic so  he would have a clear view of  traffic in all directions while he manipulated the colored lights. Broadcast time was increased to fifty hours per week.

1927- The station was moved to the Newell Electric Company store located in The Robinson Building on Pine street, Orlando, prior to the move to the Fort Gatlin Hotel1927-The station began broadcasting from the "new" Fort Gatlin Hotel in Orlando. Programming featured groups, including The Beasley Band. Colonel Johnston's  Orlando Broadcasting Co. takes full control of WDBO. The Federal Radio Commission authorizes WDBO to operate at 1040 kilocycles, with power of 1,000-watts daytime, 500-watts nighttime.
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1928-WDBO officials asked the City of Orlando to buy the station, saying it would go off the air because Col. Johnston refused to comply with new rules set by the Federal Radio Commission. The City Council agreed to put the matter to a  referendum, but the city's residents turned down the purchase.  

The FCC authorizes WDBO to switch operation from 1040 kilocycles to 620 kilocycles.

Tampa Morning Tribune 11-19-29
Nov 21, 1929
WDBO receives full me authorization from the FCC that the station was permitted to broadcast on a full time basis on 1120 kilocycles.

Tampa Morning Tribune 11-21-29

1930-In March, the station became a part-time affiliate of the CBS Radio Network, which  brought national advertising to the new chain of five CBS South Atlantic stations. 

1931-WDBO became a full-time CBS Radio Network affiliate in June.

1936-WDBO's transmitter is moved to Dubsdread Country Club.

1937-WDBO is authorized to operate at an output power of 5,000-watts daytime

Wings Over Jordan

    President James A. Colston of Bethune-Cookman college speaking to a nationwide audience..jpg (27744 bytes)    Choir rehearsal-Wings over jordan.jpg (28167 bytes)
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In the 1930s and 1940 the Accapella sound of Cleveland's famed black choir captivated the nation. The popular Sunday morning radio program was broadcast by Columbia Broadcasting System from WDBO in  1943. Hoping to spread Christianity through Negro spirituals, the Rev. Glenn T. Settle launched the choir in 1935 from the sanctuary of Cleveland's Gethsemane Baptist Church. The choir drew the praise of mixed-race audiences with traditional spirituals and original works. For nearly a decade, America listened to the Wings Over Jordan choir, the first black singing group with a national radio audience. CBS began airing the "Negro Hour" in 1938 from the Cleveland studios of WGAR in Cleveland. The weekly program was later renamed "Wings Over Jordan." Besides presenting music, it featured sermons and black artists and scholars who offered ideas not heard on national radio.

Remodel Rooms
Daytona Beach Morning Journal
April 28, 1937
DELAND-Work of remodeling two downstairs rooms, unused in the DeLand chamber of commerce building into a branch studio for Orlando radio station WDBO will start within the next few days, city Manager Grant Bly said tonight. Bly was authorized by the city commission tonight to let a $500 contract for the work. Co!. George Johnson, president of the Orlando Broadcasting company, told Bly in a telegram received tonight that WDBO will reimburse the city to the full amount of the expenditure if WDBO doesn't use the studio consistently for at least one year.

1938-Construction was completed and WDBO would have an "extension studio" in Deland at the Deland Chamber of Commerce. 563 N. Orange Ave., Deland.       

1940-WDBO is authorized to operate at a power output of 5,000-watts full time, with a directional antenna at night.

1944-The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 destroyed the roof of the WDBO studios, in the Angebilt Hotel in downtown Orlando. WDBO's north tower in Dubsdread blew down. WDBO set up temporary studios in Orlando's Orange Court Hotel

1947-WDBO moves in to its studios to 30 South Ivanhoe Boulevard on the shores of Lake Ivanhoe.

Artist rendering in 1954. Thanks to Pete Simonson 


1948-WDBO signs on Orlando's first FM station, WDBO-FM operating on 92.3mhz with 34,000-watts of power

-You could listen to "The Goldbergs" on Friday evenings.

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WDBO Ivanhoe studios-courtesy of Dennis Snyder

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The building was rented by a number of people from 1986 on, with its last tenant being Strollo Architects, Inc. The building is now in its beginning stages of disrepair, and has closed it's doors. The future of the building has been determined as being torn down and replaced with a twin tower 34-story condominium complex and 37-story condominium  complex with retail and restaurants called Orlando Palace.

The WDBO studio building is still standing as of May 2015. This image from Google maps. 

Oct 2017 The demolition of the WDBO studios on Ivanhoe Blvd          photo by Mike Esposito 

1986-WDBO studios are moved from Ivanhoe Boulevard to its current home on John Young Parkway 

1991-The Gulf War creates a demand for talk radio. WDBO picks up the Rush Limbaugh Show. Music is completely phased out and other shows, including Bruce Williams, Sally Jesse Raphael and Larry King are phased in.
1983-WDBO becomes an affiliate of the ABC Radio Network                                                                                                           
WDBO Comes Home      6-24-20 
WDBO-FM 96.5 is moving back to its former frequency at 580 AM. WDBO began simulcasting on 580 AM, 96.5 FM HD2, and 107.3 this afternoon. The 96.5 frequency will become the home of Spanish Hot AC as Éxitos 96.5 FM on Monday 6-29. The ESPN programming heard on 580 AM since 2012 will now air on WCFB-FM 94.5 HD2.

For More WDBO History see page 2

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