Chuck Johnson  Biography

WNDB-AM    WNDB-FM    WSBB    WROD

Growing up I was in love with broadcasting. My Uncle was "Cracker Jim Brooker", a Miami radio and television personality for 30 years, and he invited me to tag along as his apprentice summers. This was 1963 and 1964. He was on morning drive and again in afternoon drive on 50,000 watt WMIE (later WQBA). FM was fairly new then and he was on the sister station WEDR-FM for an extra few hours in the afternoon. He sold his own advertising and often needed to be out on sales calls later than the FM show permitted, so at age 14 and 15 I was in heaven doing a few hours most every afternoon in a major market. Uncle Jim him would arrive in time for the AM simulcast. In those days he had a studio at home, or we would do the show from the studio on 36th Street. He had done live broadcasts for years from Shell's City, an early big box grocery, drug, bakery, butcher, barber and beauty shop all in one before anyone else was combining everything. His broadcast booth was behind glass above the pharmacy. During this same time 1963 - 1965, while attending Mainland High School in Daytona I was taking a radio broadcasting class one evening a week at the DBCC's Vocational Division taught by Ken Lueck from WNDB-AM 1150, WNDB-FM 94.5. So with my uncle in Miami and Ken as teachers and mentors I was ready to work. As it happened, the chief engineer at WNDB had a motorcycle accident and could not fill in for the staff to take summer vacations. Ken suggested me and I was hired for two months as the vacation replacement. I went to work the day after high school graduation. The staff at WNDB that summer included Ken Lueck, Frank Webb, Bob Smith and Harry Johnson on the air. We had ABC News including Paul Harvey and local news live each hour from the Daytona Beach News Journal City Desk as the newspaper owned the stations. When that summer ended I began attending DBCC and worked with the college Communication's Director Bob Troup. I was producer and announcer for "Education Beat" a five minute recorded program of campus activities, interviews with faculty, student leaders, visiting lecturers and performers. It was heard twice weekly on many Daytona, Deland and Sanford stations. I occasionally did another DBCC program "Faculty Forum". In the summer of 1966 I was called by Murray Pendleton at WSBB-AM 1230 offering me a job replacing Frank Northrup who was leaving their staff. Frank was also band director at Seabreeze Junior High School and needed more time for his family. I accepted the job and found at WSBB a great broadcast family. Al Pruitt, general manager, was a kind boss. Several times he asked me to pull an all-day shift while Murray was working at the speedway for race week. Al brought meals to the studio for me and always expressed appreciation for everything his staff did. We added Braves Baseball with the team's first season in Atlanta. WSBB salesman Gary Faulkner had pushed hard for the Braves network affiliation. Over the years I represented WSBB on the field at Fulton County Stadium for "Network Day" if Al couldn't attend. That first season the Braves' announcers were Milo Hamilton and Ernie Johnson, Sr.
When I graduated from DBCC, it was time to move on to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. There I quickly went to work at WWOG-FM. It was an all instrumental, good music station with a powerful 100,000 watt signal from a 330 ft tower on the west side of Glades Road and the Sunshine State Turnpike in Boca. We transmitted horizontally and vertically and also had a subcarrier with a commercial music service. The station ID said "serving all of South Florida and the Bahamas... this is WWOG-FM, Boca Raton." I returned to WSBB in 1970 and then to WROD-AM 1340 in 1972. At WROD I did a mid-day show, afternoon drive news, and our talk show "Open Phone Forum". Lynn Younger, Bob Edwards and Richard Cox were among the staff. Winnie Brown was traffic director and wrote copy. John Stearns was chief engineer. In March of 1973 I moved to Atlanta as it was defrosting from a big ice storm. I worked at WLTA-FM through the end of 1974. It was 100,000 watts on the 1,00 ft TV 17 tower on Spring and West Peachtree. Then with mixed emotions, I abandoned my first love-broadcasting and became the Public Information Officer, or spokesman for DeKalb County Public Safety. It gave me a chance to work with all the media, write press releases, plan public relations campaigns and also get beeped and called out because of fires, murders, etc. at all hours. I enjoyed about 23 years working with some of the greatest cops, detectives, firefighters and paramedics in the country and retired in 1998.

 

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   (1964) Ken Lueck and Chuck (seated)  in the DBCC Vocational Division studio for the radio broadcasting class

Christmas card with a note from Al Pruitt about WSBB's new equipment and control room. circa 1975
courtesy of Chuck Johnson


Chuck at the WSBB studio in 1966
"It was the original Collins board that had been moved from the original Indian River Lodge studio in the 50s to the North Causeway studio/office/transmitter facility. I believe WSBB's power was increased at the time of the move and the Tidmore purchase from 250 watts to 1,000 day/250 night. Our old stand-by transmitter was the original Collins and it was 250/100 watts,  the newer RCA was 1kw/250. When I first went to work there in 1966 we were still using Crown reel-to-reel tape recorders for commercials, etc. The carts were added in early 1967. At that time we carried Mutual news on the hour and half, Florida Gator and Notre Dame football, Atlanta Braves Baseball, and all (home and away) New Smyrna High School Barracuda football and basketball games. There wasn't a hard and fast play list and so each DJ had a slightly personal sound, however most of us used the Billboard Easy Listening Top 40 and other album cuts. Our DJs at the time included Murray Pendleton, Dave Roberts (Ross), Sim Egglesson, Jr., (son of the chief engineer) and me. I was attending DBCC at the time and also did several programs for the college including "Education Beat" that was broadcast on other area stations in Daytona, Deland and Sanford. It was fun and WSBB under Al (Aubrey Lee) Pruitt's management certainly served the community well."


          
Ken Lueck Obituary from the Daytona Beach News Journal   
courtesy of Chuck Johnson


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