Station celebrates 70 years ‘on the air’

Published 3:00 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

WTBF-Radio in Troy will celebrate 70 years on air with open house and a live remote from the station’s lobby from 7 until 11 a.m. Friday. The public is invited to celebrate this momentous occasion with station owners, Asa Dudley, Angela Roling and Richard Gilchrist, and the WTBF staffers.

WTBF signed on the air at noon on February 25, 1947 with the roll of the timpani leading into “The Star Spangled Banner” played by the Troy High School Band under the direction of Herman Moll.

The drum roll was played by Ann Knight, who would become the wife of station owner, Joe Gilchrist, who flipped the switch that brought radio to Troy and Pike County.

The station was located in what was the Troy Travel Hotel located near the site of the Atlantic Coastline Depot in downtown Troy.

Initial investors included Roy Crowe, Sr., Corley Chapman, Sr., Lane Enzor and E.C. Orme.

For the first few years, WTBF was at 1490 on the dial but was moved down to 970 in the 1950s.

Gilchrist said WTBF soon moved from its downtown location to the campus of Troy State Teachers College and near the lagoon. The radio station was an imposing site with its 300-foot tower looming large on campus.

WTBF remained on the university campus until June 18, 1997 when Gilchrist flipped the switch at the transmitter site. Larry Wells was operating with one CD player at what the staffers called “Skylab,’ the old studios. Jim Roling and Doc Kirby were waiting at the new studios at 67 West Court Square. At 3 p.m., Wells faded the music, Gilchrist flipped the switch and Roling and Kirby signed on from the new location.

Richard Gilchrist said from day one, WTBF has had an excellent morning show following.

Bob “Pappy’ Tolbert, Jess Jordan and Joe Gilchrist did the wild morning show before the genre was invented. Gilchrist interviewed pigs that lived at the transmitter site. Talbot gave away junk records with crazy trivia questions.

“Everybody listened to the morning show because you never knew what you might miss,” Gilchrist said. The Morning show has continued to be popular for 70 years and counting… beginning on Saturday.

“We wanted to celebrate our 70th year on Friday rather than Saturday, which will mark the actual 70th year, because we felt like more people would be able to stop by the studio to visit and share radio stories with us,” Gilchrist said. “The morning show was and is the heart of the station and we’re looking forward to spending this Friday morning remembering and celebrating.”