AM Technical Profile: WTBF
Northeast of Troy along and south of US-29, just off Radio Station
- Power (ERP):
- Day: 5 kW
- Night: 45 watts
- Day &
night: 1 tower, omnidirectional
Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files
Street View imagery of the WTBF and WTBF-FM studios on Highway 29 in
// W242DA Troy, AL
- Came on the air
February 25, 1947. A classic example of a small town station, they
played all kinds of music during the day, from MOR to country, even
with an occasional talk program. At night, the programming targeted
teens and college student. By 1970 the tempo was more Top 40 feeling
with MOR music. From 1973 to 1978, the station played country during
the day. From 1978 to 1985 it was all AC during the day. From 1985
to 1988 they went back to a hodepodge of music. All during these
periods, WTBF was still Top 40 at night, and some during the
weekends. At night the program was called "Night Flight". In 1988
The late night AC stopped and WTBF went country all the way. In
October 1994, WTBF made an unusual move and started "Night Visions",
a modern rock program airing at 8pm on weeknights. That became a
revival of "Night Flight" by 1996; it lasted until 2003. There was a
night of R&B and Blues, 70's music, 80's music, classic rock and
even contemporary Christian. This interesting arangement continued
off and on between 1998 and 2000 before ending altogether. In later
years WTBF simulcasts the FM station during some dayparts, and broke
away for Rush Limbaugh, Ken Hamblin and sports talk shows weekdays,
and for sports and syndicated nostalgia shows on weekends. According
to a longtime station employee, in 2006 the station is all talk
during the day, and with a whopping 44 watts at night, music is
played while college students are being trained. On 13 January
2015, the station dropped its talk & personality format for CBS
are some more great historical tidbits provided by that longtime
signed on at 12 noon on February 25, 1947 with the roll of the
timpani leading into "The Star Spangled Banner", played by the Troy
High School Band. That drum roll was played by the future Mrs.
Ann Gilchrist (wife of owner Joe Gilchrist). The original calls were
to be WTBC, for Troy Broadcasting Corporation, but those letters
were already taken, so they settled on WTBF.
- For the
first few years, WTBF was at 1490 on the dial, then moved down to
970 during the 1950s. Bob "Pappy" Tolbert, Jess Jordan, and
Joe Gilchrist did wild morning shows before the genre was
invented. Joe interviewed pigs who lived at the transmitter
site; Pappy gave away junk records with crazy trivia
questions. Birthdays, anniversaries, giveaways, obituaries,
weather, local news (bake sales, gospel sings, barbecues, yard
sales, etc.) are part of the Morning Show to this very day.
- On July
16, 1969, Joe Gilchrist did a live remote of the Apollo 11 launch
from Cape Canaveral. There were three other media outlets
there -- NBC, CBS, and ABC. And...WTBF.
original tower was over 300 feet tall and was located directly
behind the station.
- The AM
still uses its original audio processor, which has only been
disconnected one time -- when we changed locations.
little more background on the 44-watt transmitter: we had three
towers. Two of them were too rusty for engineers to climb and
repair after being struck by lightning a year or so ago. So,
the one we have is nondirectional -- 5000 watts by day with a signal
that goes everywhere, and the 44 watts at night, where you'll need
an aluminum hat inside the studio to hear the audition channel on
the AM board.
Gilchrist is the original engineer, and still owns the station,
along with Asa Dudley and Jim Roling. Jim Roling worked there
as a teenager in the 1950s and 1960s, left for South Carolina, then
returned in 1980 and bought out one of the original owners.
Jim has done "The Morning Show" since 1980, every day, and is an
icon in Pike County. He comes off as Edward R. Murrow compared
to the just-off-the-turnip-truck people on the other radio and TV
stations in that area.
Kirby (so named for his trumpet playing abilities) has been
the Program Director since 1974, with one break from 1985-86 when he
was a band director at a local school and was replaced by Joey
Meredith. Since 1986, Doc has developed a weekly program
called "On The Bookshelf," which is syndicated on the Alabama Radio
Network. Doc also became a Methodist minister.
long-term employees include Ralph Black, who worked there from the
late 1970s until the mid-1980s, when he started the Troy State
Sports Network. He was the voice you heard on every Troy
broadcast game. Ralph was bought out by the college in 2002,
and they unceremoniously dumped him from his own creation and
replaced him with Barry McKnight, who hosts a sports call-in show on
WMSP in Montgomery. Ralph came back to WTBF in 2002, and hosts
"Ridin' Home with Ralph" -- or, the afternoon drive.
- You got
the names right on your webpage about what each night was dedicated
to; it was a wonderful training ground for young DJs like
myself. Doc Kirby made it all happen and was a big supporter
of new air talent.
- Many of
those people have gone on to greener pastures -- Tonya Terry
(WSFA-TV), Michael Buchanan (the Auburn Network), Chris Ingram
(Washington, DC radio), Russell Wells (program director at WSVH in
Savannah, GA), and so on.
popular programs include "Crosby's Country Classics," which was
hosted by local personality Ray Crosby from 1998-2006. After a
bitter dispute with management over lack of pay, he was replaced by
Jason Ramsey in January.
Doc Kirby, who had the 8-11 shift in the mornings for over 30 years
(except 1985- 86), was bumped off the air in January to make way for
a new, expanded version of Jim Roling's Morning Show. So, the
only voices you'll hear doing live work on the FM are Jim and his
sidekick Professor Lee Daniel, Ralph Black in the afternoons, and
Jason Ramsey on Saturday mornings. The rest is ABC automation
running on a Digilink computer. However, we are switching to
the Scott system very soon, which will replace the outdated carts,
records and reels we have used for -- forever it seems.
- The new
engineer is Wade Giddens, who spends three days a week at WTBF and
four days a week at WAAO in Andalusia. Joe Gilchrist retired
after 59 years on the job, but still owns the station.
was located on the Troy University campus by the lagoon, from
1947-1997. On June 18, 1997, Joe Gilchrist flipped the switch
at the transmitter site...Larry Wells was operating with one CD
player at what we called "Skylab", the old studios, and Jim Roling
and Doc Kirby were waiting at the brand new studios at 67 West Court
Square. At 3:00 p.m., Larry faded the music, Joe flipped the
switch, and Jim and Doc signed on from the new location.
- I miss the
schizophrenic format we had...the college students loved it. I
fell in love with it, too. Unfortunately, the bottom
line comes first and hours (and jocks) had to fall by the wayside.
- AM 970
maintains its initial approach -- lots of community news and views,
talk shows, MOR music, gospel music on weekends, and a training
ground for college students who want to be disc jockeys. FM
94.7, licensed to Brundidge, airs about 8 hours per day of live
local programming, but the rest is devoted solely to Unforgettable
revenues have gone up every year the past four years, since WTBF
began carrying more sports and went to the beautiful music format
during the day. The community really supports the station and
likes the "mom and pop" aspect of it -- no Clear Channel or Cumulus
buyout is very likely in the future, and that's just fine by us."
- The building
that housed WTBF radio from 1947-1997 was bulldozed the last week of
March 2008 by Troy University, to make way for a new parking
lot. I guess the old Joni Mitchell record said it best ..
"don't know what you've got 'til it's gone".
The station acquired a construction permit for a new FM translator
companion station on 96.3 MHz in mid-April 2018. It signed on
in late August 2018.