Bob Andrews  Biography

2003-Dave Edwards has supplied some additional information on Bob. "Bob Andrews of WLBE(-AM  790), a true legend.  I believe Bob is now 74, still on the air and sounding great.  Bob worked and may have been the PD at WABR(-AM) 1440 ...which was country formatted and became WBJW, WNBE and then WPRD..." "...According to fellow veteran broadcaster Gabe Burton, Bob also worked (at) WORJ-AM when it was at one North Orange Ave (Orlando) on 1270 KHz."
Photos courtesy of Bob Andrews

Bob fills us in on a 62 year career                                                                                             
Bob is a native of Eustis, Florida. In 1947, when WEUS-AM 790, Leesburg first went on the air Bob was in college at Port Arthur Texas. WEUS went on the air as a 1,000 watt full time directional and was licensed to the city of Eustis. Later, Leesburg City Manager, Wilbur Harkness, put 1240 on the air from Leesburg with the calls WLBF-1240 AM. In 1949, the Chicago owners of Liberty Magazine sold their magazine and came to Central Florida and purchased both radio stations (WEUS and WLBF). They shut down WLBF-AM 1240, but maintained ownership of WEUS and combined the call letters which became WLBE; Leesburg/Eustis. "...The call letters remain the same to this day. WLBE is one of the oldest set of call letters to be consistent with the facility." Bob left WLBE in 1951,went to Orlando, as he called it, “the big market” and went to work at WORZ AM 740. "...At that time WORZ was a 1,000 watt station, having water cooled output tubes, the only ones I had ever seen". Bob told us; “... it had a pump…the water would go through the tubes and then the water would be disbursed out into the ground system. Quite an interesting innovation.” During his time there he worked work with the duo of Gordon Town and Lou Kennedy, (whose real name was Lou Candido), who did a two person show in the morning on WORZ.  Bob also worked with "Sammy and Marsha", who hosted a breakfast show from their home. While at WORZ, a program director by the name of Tony Chastain, was brought in from Miami. "The Tony Chastain Show", became the first talk show in Central Florida. Tony passed away in 1971. After Bob left WORZ, he traveled around the state, and became an avid sailor living aboard his boat. This led to jobs in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Daytona, where he began a stint at WROD-AM 1340.  WROD was built and managed by Edgar J. SperryDick Fellows was the program director at that time. When Dick left and went to WPDQ in Jacksonville, as program director, Bob joined him in Jacksonville.  In 1958, Bob returned to Orlando and went to work for WHOO-AM 990.  The Bluegrass Corporation had just purchased the station from Ted Esterbrook. Under the leadership of Mr. Esterbrook, the format was “block programming”. Bluegrass Corporation, hired 
Roy Nielsen
and John Rutledge to make the switch to a “Top 40” format, similar to the Storz format (note: Robert Todd Storz, it's generally agreed, invented the "Top 40" format) and on August 17, 1958 they disbanded the old format and hired “Top 40” style DJs.  Bob worked with several others including Rock Robinson.  They played the record Monkey Jive (by Sheb Wooley also known for “The Purple People Eater”) for 24 hours straight. They were allowed to play this record, forwards, backwards, at any speed, but it had to be that one and only record. The curiosity factor grew an audience that was ready for the “Top 40” format, which began the next day. The survey company Hooper (C. E. Hooper Radio Audience Index) measurements of audience size were done by telephone, asking respondents to identify whether they were currently listening to the radio and if so the name of the program and sponsor) had been hired by Bluegrass to do a continuous survey, until WHOO was rated as the number 1 station in the Orlando market.  WHOO kept the “Top 40” format for about ten years.
After a short stint at WLOF-AM 950, Bob left to take over the management of WOKB-AM 1600.  WOKB began in Ocoee as a “classic” country station.  John Cook, after hearing rumors of Bob's trying to get money together to put a radio station on the air serving the black population, John bought WOKB and converted it from country to Urban Contemporary.  Bob ran the station and called it  "... one of the more interesting and hair-raising experiences of my life".  Later, John and Bob parted ways and Bob left WOKB to return to WLOF, where they were still going “head to head” with WHOO.  John Rutledge was the General Manager at WHOO and Howard Kester was managing WLOF.  Bob tells us "...WLOF still had the services of the "old home town boys" Bob Keith and Bocky Smith along with Ernie Leggie among others. Bob would leave WLOF to go down to Boynton Beach and build a radio station.  Bob was in business with Edgar Sperry, who had sold WROD in Daytona, and asked Bob to build the station and become a part owner.  Bob said "...It was a market we judged rather badly,  we got it on the air,  but it didn’t last. I came back up to Orlando.  At that time,  since there had been no country music station after WOKB,  a void was filled by WHIY 1270 AM.  They were operating out of the old Fort Gatlin HotelDoug Coombs and Gene Cooke created a position there for me; copywriting, engineering and I worked there for many years, actually engineering the move from the Fort Gatlin, which was going to be torn down, into the Number One building.  Country had been so successful with WHIY under program director Jack Gardener, that WABR-AM 1440  with Art Spector dad of Alan Spector
Ray Beale
and Andy Wilson went "country" and they were beginning to hurt us. I was offered a job at WABR. They were a 24-hour operation, not a sun up to sun down like WHIY. I jumped at the chance. WABR enjoyed the prestige of being the top country station for some time, until around 1968, when WHOO gave up “butting heads” with WLOF and went country. There by “wiping out” WABR. From that time on the market became a real "roller coaster" in the Orlando area..."  Bob left WABR in 1972, ended up in the St. Petersburg area, and finally back to Leesburg at WLBE.  Bob tells us "...I do a three hour show in the morning...It’s all nostalgic music and what is ironic is that I’m sitting here playing almost, and many times,  the identical music that I was sitting here in the same building playing in 1949.  Some other names I worked with young buddies  Gabe Burton and Bill Barber or "Billy the Kid",  Dave EdwardsFrank Reed and the list goes on and on.  A lot of people who have touched my life during my career have made the past 62 years a lot more interesting than it would have been otherwise. It’s been quite an interesting experience.

”On April 2, 2008 Miss Scottie hosted a celebration for Bob Andrews on his 80th birthday and his 60 years in broadcasting. About 500 of Bob's "radio friends" also came by with donations of canned food for the Salvation Army.

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photos courtesy of Bill Andrews

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Miss Scottie and Bob

Bob, son Bobby, daughter Tina & brother Bill

Bob and son Bobby

Our frequent contributor Dave Edwards tells us; "...Bob Andrews was a friend and mentor to many, including Frank Reed who worked at WABR and would go on to become  "Captain" Frank Reed  at WNBC in New York City.



Here's Bob Andrews "at the controls" of WFIV-AM 1080 in 1972.  
Thanks to Gabe Burton for the photo of Bob

  Bob at WABR-AM 1440

  Bob at WLBE-AM 790 in 2009

Leesburg Daily Commercial
Golden days of AM Radio
Date: April 06, 2008
Byline: David Donald
© Daily Commercial 2008

When Bob Andrews started his radio career, millions of Americans huddled around their radios to hear news, music and catch the latest episode of their favorite serial. Radio was king, and the television set was nothing more than a novelty in many department store windows. When Bob Andrews started his radio career, millions of Americans huddled around their radios to hear news, music and catch the latest episode of their favorite serial. Radio was king, and the television set was nothing more than a novelty in many department store windows. "It was really the golden age of radio," Andrews said. "Radio was king of the hill when I went into it." Andrews turned 80 on Wednesday, making him the oldest radio DJ in Lake County, if not Florida, said Mac McNair, station manager for WLBE-AM 790. The Eustis native began his career in 1949 as an engineer at WLBF-AM 1240 in Leesburg, which was created by then-City Manager Wilbur Harkness. The Leesburg station merged with WEUS-AM 790 in Eustis and became WLBE Leesburg-Eustis shortly after Andrews arrived. In 1951, Andrews left WLBE to work for WORZ-AM 740 and, eventually, WHOO-AM 990 in Orlando where he was a rock jock playing contemporary Top 40 hits. Andrews' resume spans nearly 60 years in radio and is an alphabet soup of radio station call letters. He worked for radio stations throughout Central Florida in the 1950s, 60s and 70s from Orlando to Tampa to Daytona to Jacksonville. He's interviewed dozens of celebrities, such as Andy Griffith, Eddy Arnold and George Jones. Andrews said he met Elvis, but lost the interview to his station manager. The radio industry went through many changes in Andrew's tenure as an on-air personality. Changes were spawned by the growing popularity of FM radio - with its crystal-clear reception - and television audiences flocking to the new technologies, Andrews said. He returned to WLBE in 1980. Andrews hosted the "Swap Shop," a call-in radio show and party line where listeners could buy and sell their belongings.
"I liked the concept," Andrews said. Radio is live, and sometimes there are surprises you're not prepared for, he said. Andrews recalled a time when a caller was participating in the party line and began to have a heart attack. "We stayed on the line until emergency services arrived," Andrews said. Getting out of control, Andrews abandoned the "Swap Shop" format.
Andrews hosts a morning radio show from 7 to 9 a.m. called the "Breakfast Club," a take on the longest-running program in radio history, hosted by Don McNeil. McNeil's show featured live audiences, unscripted shows and ran from 1936 to 1968.
Andrews plays many of the same tunes he did when he started in radio. "Most of the time it's a lot of fun," said Andrews. "Why do it if it's not fun."  Duke Taylor, of Eustis, has known Andrews for 25 years. They're fishing buddies, were on the air together for five years and they even tried to start a papaya stud farm, which failed miserably. Before they became friends, Taylor use to wave everyday to Andrews, who worked in a mall radio station. One day Andrews waved Taylor into the station and they were friends ever since.  "He's just one of kind," said Taylor. "He helps a lot of people. When he tells you something, you can bank on it."  He knows most of his caller's phone numbers by heart, said Liz Andrews, his wife of 30 years. She admits that she doesn't listen to his show that often. When she was working, she didn't have the time, and now that she's retired, she doesn't wake up early enough.  "He's made a lot of good friends. It gets a little hectic sometimes," she said. "We run into people he knows all the time."  Andrews has formed a bond with many of his listeners who aren't callers.  Betty Shaffer has listened to Andrews for more than 20 years. Her radio is always tuned into WLBE, she said. Shaffer said she enjoys Andrews' good humor and his collection of oldies by artists such as Pat Boone.  "He's always so jovial," said Shaffer. "I wonder what he looks and acts like when he's mad."  For some of Andrew's listeners who are transplants from colder climes, he's a guide in an unfamiliar place.  When Tom and Barbara Lefebrve moved to Lake County more than 20 years ago, they looked to Andrews for guidance in an unfamiliar area where snowbirds come and go.  "He was a person that connected you with the community," said Tom Lefebrve. "He has a very insightful spirit about people."  For Andrews' birthday, Scottie Swor, a long-time friend and listener, threw a party. Swor invited his friends, family and listeners and asked them to bring, not presents, but canned goods for Andrews' favorite charity - the Salvation Army.  "People love him and they believe in him," said Swor. "You just feel good and hopeful when Bob is on the air."  After almost 60 years, Andrews isn't likely to retire voluntarily.  "It's been a pretty good run and still is," said Andrews. "My retirement party will be graveside."

8-24-09-Bob announced on WLBE-AM 790, his semi-retirement from radio this afternoon. Due to health concerns he will no longer be hosting the morning show that he has hosted for the past 10 years, called "The Breakfast Club".  Bob said he would be back once in a while to host the program.

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   Bob doing his Charles Atlas impression 2 days after surgery.

Bob Andrews Update
Bob announced on WLBE-AM 790, his semi-retirement from radio this afternoon. Due to health concerns he will no longer be hosting the morning show that he has hosted for the past 10 years, called "The Breakfast Club".  Bob said he would be back once in a while to host a program.
Thanks to Bill Andrews for this update. "
Bob  came home from hospital Thursday feeling very upbeat and wanting to go back to work...No longer has the MRSA infection and morphine is taking care of all his hurts Bob.  will be on the air today after the noon news on WLBE-AM 790 to explain the situation to all his listeners and hopes to start back with his regular program the following week. 

11-15-09-Bob lost his battle with cancer today. He was 81 years old.

Remembering Bob...
Rest in Peace Bob, you've earned it. The man worked so many years in Central Florida Broadcasting. I first met him when I was in high school in the early 60s. he was helping Jim Moore doing engineering work with Ed Fertic at WHOO. It seemed that all the engineers were always available to help each other out no matter what the station. Bob was engineering at WHIY as well. He was an on the air talent, copy writer, engineer, PD and whatever it took to keep a station on the air. I worked with him at WABR in early 1970 as well. Truly nice guy.
Dick Camnitz 

I was working my third job in radio, at WABR, where Bob was Program Director and Chief Engineer.  I think he hired me for about $110.00 a week.  The year was 1970.  After being there a while, I determined that my future in the business was limited because I only held a 3rd Class FCC license.  Basically this prevented me from operating a directional station, which WABR was pre-sunrise, and after sunset.  I told Bob I'd like to go to school in Sarasota for five weeks and get my first class license, and could I get a 5 week leave of absence.  Bob told me great idea, good for your career, yes I  should go for it.  While I was away on my leave, the GM wanted to have me replaced.  Bob basically told him, "if he goes, I go".  I returned almost five weeks to the day, First Class license secured, and my job was still there.  I will never forget that.  And I will never forget Bob Andrews. There are so many other stories, but that is the one I remember most.  He was a great mentor, and a very loyal friend.  Love you Bob.
Frank Reed, Dallas, TX

What a great guy Bob Andrews was. Just as friendly to everyone as you could want. I worked for him on two different occasions. He treated you like an adult even though you were 16 and a complete fool. I always respected him for his ability to get along with people. Never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. When I think back about all the people I have heard of, known, etc., in Orlando radio, there were a lot of nice people. Bob WAS special though. He was consistent. I'm not sure he doesn't deserve the title of "Mr. Orlando Radio." Of course there are plenty of other folks who should have similar titles too but Bob is right up there at the top. 
Steve Rutledge, WTLN/WABR with Bob

I was very sorry to hear of Bob's passing but I knew he has been very ill and in much pain. The very first job I had in radio, at age 16, was at WABR AM 1440 in 1966.  Bob was the engineer and went on to do the program directors job as well. He was always kind to me and I am proud to have known him. God rest his soul. We lost a great one.
Greg Galloway

Bob was very instrumental in supplying loads of information for this website. He was an invaluable resource for us. Though we never met, his spirit will always live here.
Bob Padilla

I'm very sorry to hear that Bob Andrews is no longer with us. He was certainly a Central Florida radio fixture and legend in his own time in addition to being an all around great person. He will be missed. 
Mark Tillery

I was stunned and saddened to hear that Bob had left the stage---from the time I  first met him, sometime around 1969, and worked with him at WABR between 70 and 72 Bob had a positive impact on both my career and life.  Not only did he help me learn the Radio Ropes, but in observing his interaction with others, it was apparent his versatility, ethics, and professionalism didn't overshadow his warm and genuine personality. One thing I Never saw in him was EGO !  Thru the years we were in contact many times, and I always found Bob's kindness and compassion refreshing.
I remember one night at WABR when Bob was at the Rainbow Ranch doing a remote. Frank Reed came by the station and with nothing better to do we added some Barn Yard sound effects to the evenings festivities.  Bob wasn't amused at the time, and told us so the next day (still don't know why he didn't fire us) but in time he came to appreciate the attempt at humor. 
The last time I saw Bob was in July of 2007 at WLBE, meeting up with Dave Edwards and Frank Reed for old war stories -- it was a treat I'll never forget, as was knowing Bob.
What a career Bob !   You're The Man !
Gabriel Burton

It all started in a 5,000 watt radio station in Fresno, California...”
                                                                                                                                 -Ted Baxter, WJM-TV 

We are the sum of every individual that comes into our lives. We are the end result of life-long relationships, brief camaraderie, uncomfortable interludes, and even a glancing encounter with a total stranger. 
To say that no one person had any effect on your being is not only lying to yourself, but discounting the blessings that are bestowed upon us each and every day.
Bob Andrews had an effect on people. Many, many people. His effect was gentle, subtle, and memorable. His impact was sincere and his nature accommodating; He made room for you.
And with that measure, others had an effect on him as well. He is the end result of all that came into his world.
In a sense we are not bidding farewell to one man, but paying homage to a multitude of effects, experiences, and memories spanning more than eighty years and hundreds of people.
When I first met Bob Andrews, I was a baby. The relationship began typically enough- He called me Son, I called him Dad. Or Sir.
He never took me to a baseball game. We never arm-wrestled. He never taught me how to cheat at cards. Those memories can’t be associated with him. The memories that were left behind were much richer.
He taught me how to treat people. I learned from him how to talk to others, and also how to listen. And he taught me how to fish.
I can’t say that I learned how to ‘catch’ anything, but for Dad it was all about the serenity you enjoyed when you had only a line in the water. He used to say that if you did catch anything, it was a bonus.
It’s easy to imagine now that he has a line in the water, alongside his father and his brothers. It’s also easy to imagine that someone’s lying about what they almost had before it got away.
Dad’s love of the water was a passion that ran deeper than the lakes, creeks, tributaries, and ocean that he navigated during his life. 
He even started a family on a houseboat.
Any doctor recommending transfusions of blood or plasma would not have been as helpful to him as 20ccs of Lake Eustis. 
Who’s to say that, in a previous life, he wasn’t some sort of seafarer? A very talkative seafarer.
Dad was a ‘people person’ long before the term was fashionable. This was an ideal fit for his place on Earth, as well as his career in radio. He also made an impact on us over the airwaves.
Bob Andrews was a dominant element in the world of central Florida AM radio. Mostly because of his ease with the format, and his mastering of the medium. This is where he lived for more than sixty years.
Please don’t harbor the impression that he wasn’t good enough or ready for FM radio. My strong belief is that FM radio wasn’t good enough or ready for him. 
After his final radio broadcast of October 28, 2009, FM radio may have breathed a big sigh of relief. The threat had passed.
Meanwhile, AM radio sat and cried and would never be the same. 
And neither would Leesburg, Lake County, and all the surrounding areas. Practically every resident knew Bob Andrews. 
If you walked downtown Leesburg with him, he was greeted by businesses, patrons, pedestrians, dogs, birds, and traffic lights. It wouldn’t surprise me if various forms of vegetation said, “Hello”.
When you walked with him, you were walking with comfort. 
If you came barefoot, he would find shoes for you. He was generous. But his generosity was limited, because he wanted to give more. Whatever he gave was done without reciprocation. He wanted to see people happy.
Bob Andrews had a strong vernacular. His vocabulary was a living growing entity that amazed and inspired me. Sadly, in the end, the words that he had so much control over won’t be enough to describe him. Or encompass his very colorful life. Words will only be pedestrian when trying to illustrate such a decent and exceptional soul.
The only words I have left are his;
“Keep on keepin’ on” and “Don’t worry about tomorrow, God’s already there”.
Scott Andrews

The Daily Commercial
Radio broadcaster Bob Andrews signs off

DAVID DONALD   Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

LEESBURG -- Before signing off after each morning show at WLBE-AM 790, radio broadcaster Bob Andrews always left his listeners with this gem: "Don't worry about tomorrow. God's already there." Andrews died Saturday after losing his battle with cancer. He was 81. Known for his penchant for spinning vintage vinyl records from the 1960s, '50s and '40s, Andrews considered anything after the 1970s as new, said Bill Sayer, a long-time friend and fellow radio jock. "He was an icon as far as I'm concerned," Sayer said. "He was Mr. Radio in Lake County for a long time." Andrews' radio career spanned more than six decades. The Eustis native's foray into radio broadcasting began in 1949 at WLBF-AM 1240 in Leesburg, where he was an engineer. That radio station merged with WEUS-AM 790 and became WLBE Leesburg-Eustis shortly after Andrews arrived. Andrews left WLBE in 1951 and did not return until 1980. In between his stints at WLBE, Andrews' career led him to radio stations in Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and St. Petersburg. When Andrews returned to Leesburg, he hosted a show called "The Party Line," or the Swap Shop, where listeners could call in to buy and sell their belongings. "It's a great loss for the WLBE audience," said Mac McNair, station manager. "He was a great friend and employee." Sayer said he was with Andrews every day through his battle with cancer. Andrews and Sayer met more than 25 years and became good friends. They often went fishing, had a beer and talked together. "I knew it was coming and he knew it was coming," Sayer said. Andrews announced his semi-retirement in August because of his failing health. He returned periodically over the last two months to host "The Breakfast Club," which he hosted for the last 10 years, Sayer said. Sayer said Andrews hosted the show a week before he died. "I've had a pretty good run and still am," Andrews said in an April 2008 Daily Commercial story. "My retirement party will be graveside."


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