||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (August 2012)|
|City of license||Freeport, New York|
|Broadcast area||South Shore, Nassau County|
|Slogan||The station that serves your community|
|First air date||December 1924 (as WGBB)
January 22, 1988 (as WBAB)
April 15, 1991 (as WGBB)
|Format||Specialty, Multi-cultural programming|
|Power||1,000 watts (day)
1,000 watts (night)
|Callsign meaning||Where Good Broadcasting Begins|
|Former callsigns||WGBB (1924-1988)
|Owner||WGBB AM, Inc.|
WGBB (1240 AM) is a radio station licensed to Freeport, New York and serves the south shore of Long Island. It broadcasts Chinese language programming weekdays, and various English language programs on weekends.
WGBB was born December 1924 as a 150 watt share-time outlet. The call letters were twisted into the slogan “Where Good Broadcasting Begins,” but in actuality were sequentially assigned by the Commerce Department from an alphabetical list. Harry H. Carman, ham station operator 2EL, was creator and owner until his death in 1954. Carman was seriously hurt in an auto mishap just before Christmas 1953 and perished the following July.
Initially WGBB transmitted on several frequencies:
- 1924: 1230 kHz (150 watts)
- 1927: 1220 kHz (400 watts) sharing with WAAT, Jersey City, and WSOM, New York City
- and by November 1928: 1210 kHz (100 watts) and now sharing with several suburban stations including WBRB, Long Branch, NJ, WFAS, White Plains and WGNY, Newburgh, NY.
Share-time agreements were common in radios’ early days because there were more stations than frequencies. WGNY dropped out in 1939 by moving to 1220. Then as part of the March 29, 1941 Federal rearranging and expansion of the entire band AM band WGBB was shifted to 1240. By 1942 the frequency share was condensed when WBRB went out of business. On March 22, 1943 WFAS relocated to 1230 and WGBB became the sole occupant of 1240 ending eighteen years of share-time operation.
In 1931 “The Voice of the Sunrise Trail” was moved from the Carman Bedell Street Freeport home to the Freeport Post Office Building at 64 S. Grove Street. In 1937 the studios were relocated to the celebrated 44 S. Grove Street loft. The transmitter remained at 217 Bedell Street; situated in Carman’s garage. In 1946 WGBB’s long wire antenna, strung between utility poles in Carman’s backyard was replaced by a gleaming self-supporting 290 foot vertical antenna. This improvement probably was response to WHLI, a new 250 watt station in nearby Hempstead, WGBB’s first local competitor. Carman’s original tower was replaced with the current structure in the early 1980s.
After Carman’s death, WGBB’s long-time sales manager Murray Evans took the wheel until the station was sold for 95 thousand dollars (800 thousand in 2012 dollars.) to a group of Long Island businessmen. “Long Island’s First Station, Inc.” named John Whitmore station manager and he rapidly restructured programming into an up-to-date presentation playing current music. Despite the makeover WGBB fell into receivership.
On August 6, 1956 Edward J. Fitzgerald, owner of WGSM in Huntington, NY took control. The sale approved by the Federal Communications Commission and a bankruptcy court judge; the price was assumption of WGBB’s debt. And the FCC waved its duopoly rule which prohibited ownership of overlapping signals saying this is a way to be sure creditors would be paid. Fitzgerald guided the station’s music policy back to standards away from current hits and especially doo-wop which was being played on the popular Night Train evening music show hosted by Lee Donahue and then Alan Fredericks. Soon after taking over Fitzgerald invested in a Collins 300G transmitter boosting WGBB’s output to 250 watts. In 1956 WGBB was the only remaining 100 watt station in the New York area and one of a just handful in the entire country. It was said that Carman had asked the FCC not to grant a power increase because of the substantial investment. It was also rumored that Carman rejected an FCC proposal to outfit WGBB with a new frequency and a power increase to 50 thousand watts to fill the need for another major coastal signal. Staffers, disheartened by these unusual choices, knew that Carman and program director Ada Cheesman did not have the competence or assets to accomplish such a transformation.
Under Fitzgerald’s direction WGBB began to attract big-league national sponsors because sale of commercial announcements on WGBB/WGSM were made in combination, accounting for a revenue surge. Fitzgerald connected his stations with broadcast telephone lines establishing “The Long Island Network,” which offered hourly news, sports, a fishing report, weekend public affairs programs, even a few music shows. The news originated at WGBB which had ample space for a newsroom. In 1962, under the direction of chief engineer Richard Carlsen, WGBB set up an RCA BTA 1 MX transmitter increasing day-time power to 1,000 watts but remaining 250 watts at night. The power increase was possible because of Freeport’s Kahn Laboratories and their ground breaking signal tweaking identified on the air as “experimental station KE2XXS.” A Kahn black-box cut the WGBB bandwidth in half and sent out a compatible single sideband signal. (AM transmits with twin signals on each side of the carrier wave.) This venture proved that adjacent local stations could operate with more power and not cause interference to each other clearing the way for WGBB’s 1,000 watt day-time signal.
Some announcers, personalities, and news reporters from the fifties and sixties with their future destinations: Nick Charles ('60 PD, UPI), Mike Sands, Edward Brown (WNEW), Bob Beneke, Bill Jaker (WSKG), Bill O’Toole, Cal Miller, Clem Cooper, Tony James, John Bohannon (CBS Radio), Don Crane, Jim Powers, Lee Carle (WSTA), Roy Whitfield (WPIX), Jon Ester (WHO-TV), Phil Allen (WPIX-FM), Robert Scott, Ray Adell, Bruce Herbert, Joe Roberts, Hank Howard, Norma Jenkins (switchboard), Dick London (WWRL), Al D'Amico (WPIX-FM), Steve Marko, Peter Strauss, Andy Rage (production/copy), Burt Stalper, Ben Thumb, Chet Adams, John Allen (WCBS-FM as Al Meredith), Bob Logan (WRHU), Ken Lamb (ABC-TV), Phil Doran (chairman BBDO as Phil Dusenberry), John Frogge (ND '31-'56 “News of Nassau"), Bill Goddard (ND '56-'62), Christopher Glenn (CBS), John Mead (WNEW), John Anthony Zee, Jim McKay (WCWP as James F. McConnochie), Andy Anderson, Harry Hart, and Andy Benedict. Zee was the on the air November 22, 1963 and reported the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and made the announcement that Kennedy was dead. Zee went to Hollywood and an acting career appearing in many movies and network TV shows.
On May 12, 1965 WGBB was sold for $452,000.00 ($3.3 million in 2012 money) to Susquehanna, a group broadcaster based in York, PA. Susquehanna built new studios in a building just a few steps from the Merrick Long Island Railroad station ending twenty-eight years at the 44 S. Grove Street loft. A World War Two vintage Gates mixing board from the main control room was salvaged and continued service in the new WGBB production studio. WGBB morphed into a pop music outlet with a strong local news presence enjoying what many have said were its best years. Names from the Susquehanna era include: William Musser (GM), Bob Lawrence (PD & PBP NY Islanders), Dave Vieser, Jim Quinn (for years as Dennis Quinn, WPIX-FM, NYC), Roy Reynolds, Mike McKay, John Gardener, Gary McFarlane, John Commins, "Bullet" Bob Ottone, Gil David, Don Rosen, Al Case (CE as Al Lush), Jerry Scott, Jerry Walker (as Harry Birrell on KNX, CBS, LA), Ed Grilli, Gary Lewi, Bob Dunn, Ben Avery (AP), Bill Whitney (CBS Radio NYC), Frank Setepani (CBS Radio NYC), Dr. Betinna Gregory (ABC News), Carol Sylva (WINS, News 12 LI), Drew Scott (News 12 LI), Ed Zidner, Bill Stoller, Howard Lieberman (WINS), Mitch Lebe (many including WRFM, WYNY, WCBS, WBBR all NYC), Wes Richards (WRFM, WOR, WBBR all NYC), Mike Sullivan, and Bob Allen (ND).
On July 22, 1981 Susquehanna sold WGBB to a group headed by Franz Allina for close to $1 million. The new operators had taken control by mid-September. Just prior to this sale, progran director, Gil David handled mornings but was better known by his time on WHLI. It was 'Gary T' middays and Bob Dayton pm drive time, Dayton was once on WABC. 7-midnight was hosted by Glenn Turnbull, Dick Farrell, overnights. Weekends were covered by the weekday staff except the Saturday - Sunday 6 - Midnight shift which was hosted by Joseph M. 'Joe' Calisi. Juliet Papa and Debbie Wetzel were in the newsroom. Papa went on to WINS.
On November 19, 1986 Noble Broadcast Group acquired WGBB joining it with WBAB (FM) a Babylon, NY based AOR outlet. WGBB would soon move to the new West Babylon WBAB studios on Sunrise Highway. On January 22, 1988 the sixty-four year old WGBB call letters were retired and 1240 took the identity of its FM sister station becoming WBAB (AM) and began simulcasting WBAB-FM most of the time. Also in 1988 night-time power was increased to 1,000 watts from 250 watts as was the case for all class IV local channel stations in the US on 1240 and other local frequencies including 1230, 1340, 1400, 1450, and 1490. When the simulcast with WBAB-FM ended 1240 began airing a news-talk format and on April 15, 1991 returned to the original WGBB call letters.
WGBB and WBAB were purchased by Liberty Broadcasting on February 15, 1993 for $16 million. The deal did not separate WGBB’s value.
On October 7, 1996 WGBB and WBAB began an LMA with Chancellor Broadcasting owners of WALK (FM) in Patchogue, NY. A simulcast with WALK(AM) 1370 was begun under the name "Sunrise Radio Network". On September 4, 1997 Chancellor changed its name to Chancellor Media Corp. The deal with Chancellor Media to purchase WGBB & WBAB fell through in early 1998 & the simulcast ended. At that time WGBB began running the audio portion of CNN Headline News during the times no local talk shows were scheduled.
On May 22, 1998 Cox Broadcasting, a large national chain, owners of top 40 formatted WBLI (FM) in Patchogue, NY, purchased WGBB & WBAB. Cox’s main interest was in the two FM stations and a few months later, in October 1998, dealt WGBB to a splinter group of Multicultural Broadcasting for a breathtaking $1.7 million. After the sale of WGBB to Multicultural, WBLI moved from their studios in Medford, NY into the WGBB/WBAB studio complex.
Sold six times between 1981 and 1998, WGBB moved from a bright, modern facility to a dingy, cramped studio at 1850 Lansdowne Ave across Sunrise Highway from the Merrick Long Island Railroad station in sight of a former studio/office location. A few years later another move, this time to the old WBAB Building at Route 109 and Sunrise Highway in Babylon, NY which was home to WNYG another Multicultural outlet. 1440 WNYG was sold a few years later and relocated to Medford, NY which left WGBB alone in the old WBAB facility. Under the new ownership, WGBB began broadcasting in Chinese by simulcasting the Chinese Radio Network.Weekend airtime brokered to outside producers. Since its last acquisition WGBB has been removed from the presets of most mainstream listeners and has slipped into the shadows.
As indicated above, WGBB helped launch the careers of many. During the 1990s and early 2000s, programs included The Joyce Keller Show, The Comic Book Novice and Dave's Gone By. Today, the station's Chinese format on weekdays leaves only Saturday and Sunday for English-language programs including: Rich Johnson's The Fishing Line, the area's fishing voice; Mickey B's Jukebox Review, which offered Doo Wop and streetcorner harmonies before FM oldies station WBZO; Manos Gallanis' Hellenic Harmonies, the voice of the Greek community. Also: The Wizard of Is, OFF THE TOP Radio, STMS and Sports Radio NY. Since 1998, WGBB has featured a mix of sports, comedy, talk and music from producers that must buy air time in order to present their programs.
- "Call Sign History". CDBS Public Access Database. FCC Media Bureau. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
- WGBB official website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WGBB
- Radio-Locator Information on WGBB
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WGBB
- Chinese Radio Network heard on WGBB