|City of license||Clearwater, Florida|
|Broadcast area||Tampa Bay Area|
|Slogan||Tampa Bay's Rock Station|
(also on HD Radio)
|First air date||December 1967|
HD2: News/talk (WFLA simulcast)
|Callsign meaning||We X (cross) Tampa Bay|
|Former callsigns||WQXM (1967–83)
|Affiliations||Compass Media Networks
|Owner||Clear Channel Media and Entertainment
(Citicasters Licenses, Inc.)
|Sister stations||WBTP, WDAE, WFLA, WFLZ-FM, WFUS, WHNZ, WMTX|
WXTB (97.9 FM) – branded 98 Rock – is a commercial active rock radio station licensed to Clearwater, Florida, serving the Tampa Bay Area. Owned by Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, WXTB serves as the local affiliate for Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx and Skratch 'N Sniff. The WXTB studios are located in South Tampa, while the station transmitter resides in Holiday. In addition to a standard analog transmission, WXTB broadcasts over two HD Radio channels, and is available online via iHeartRadio.
The station signed on the air in December 1967 as WQXM with a beautiful music format with owners John T. Rutledge and Joseph S. Field, with Jerry Reeves as music director and station manager until the sale of the station to Plough Broadcasting in 1975, switching to album-oriented rock in 1977. In 1983 the station changed their call letters to WZNE and aired a top 40 format until 1986.
The WKRL classic rock format lasted from 1986 until late December 1989 when the signal went silent briefly, and then Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" began playing in constant rotation, eventually lasting for 24 hours, as an early form of stunting. Finally, the repetition gave way to the announcement on New Year's Eve 1989 that 98ROCK, now controlled by Great American Broadcasting, would be the first all-Led Zeppelin format station in the country, playing the band's entire catalog in its entirety as well as solo efforts by the bandmates and their other music-related projects. WKRL received national coverage from MTV to CBS and many other outlets, and was the first station to get worldwide coverage for a true "artist flip", where a broadcaster based its entire business on one group or solo artist.
Two weeks unfolded with conjecture from various news outlets as to how long this format could last, given that all studio Zeppelin recordings available at the time added up to less than 10 hours of continuous play. The station responded over the following week by adding a few classic acts such as the Rolling Stones and Van Halen. With the bells of AC/DC's "Hells Bells" playing in the background, a major announcement came at noon on January 18, 1990 that the station would be changing its call letters to WXTB, and the station would be relaunched as "98ROCK, Pure Rock and Roll".
New Program Director Greg Mull, brought in from K-ROCK (WRXK-FM) in Fort Myers to replace the outgoing Beau Raines, immediately reorganized the On air personality list. Brian Smith and Bruce Barber, morning D.J.s who trailed in the ratings, were released and replaced by Tom "Sea Bass" Sebastian, who stunted his first few weeks as "Buck Maui", and was also the voice of the popular character 'Big Chief Meteorologist'. Ted Cannarozzi took the name "Ted Kamikaze" and assumed the 10 am-2 pm slot. Scott Legere and Austin Keyes kept their afternoon and evening spots, respectively. Kelli Kasey and Pete McClaren rounded out the schedule.
In late 1990, 98ROCK launched what would turn into a 15 year tradition-the "Livestock" annual rock festival. A tongue-in-cheek portmanteau of "Live Aid" and "Woodstock" and the brain-child of Greg Mull and Sea Bass. Each weekend-long Livestock event brought well known national acts such as Soundgarden and Tesla together with lesser-known bands hoping for a chance at success. In keeping with the charitable spirit of Live Aid and other rock benefits, bands donated their performance time and a portion of the gate proceeds were donated to charities such as Greenpeace.
As the station rose in the ratings books, 98ROCK took over local promotional opportunities at The Rock-It Club and Killian's Rock Cafe in Ybor City. Meanwhile, WXTB gained a huge piece of the morning show market with the popular SeaBass and Marla show. 98ROCK was now a huge ratings success. It aggressively exposed the Seattle bands in 1991 early on and the nu-metal bands of the mid to late 1990s before other stations across North America outside of those bands' home bases caught on. This "Active Rock" format and style soon launched hundreds of stations across the United States and North America in the coming years and even affect the playlists of modern rock stations that were becoming hugely popular in the mid-1990s. WXTB still continues its current active rock programming to this day and since December 1992 has hosted the Tampa Bay Children's Home auction and Pay for Play weekend which auctions off rock memorabilia for donations and receives funds from donors in exchange for playing a wide variety of music requests (including those out of format).
In 2000, the station moved its studios from Feather Sound Corporate Center to new owner Clear Channel's broadcast complex in southwest Tampa, Florida in an attempt to consolidate overall operations of Clear Channel stations in the area.
On January 18, 2010 at noon, 98ROCK replayed its format launch from 20 years earlier, including the final countdown in which soundbites from phone calls, many of which trashed WYNF, were played. The first four songs played after the launch ("Hells Bells" by AC/DC, "Kickstart My Heart" by Mötley Crüe, "Paradise City" by Guns n' Roses, and "Hot for Teacher" by Van Halen) were played again in tribute to the current format's 20th anniversary, along with original bumpers. Glaringly, The station did not do a 'year long celebration' of their 20th Anniversary and this blunder costs WXTB millions of dollars in potential advertising revenue.
The station covers the Tampa Bay market as a whole. However the station also covers areas of Levy County and Marion County, part of the Gainesville-Ocala Radio Market. 98ROCK is the only Rock Station Covering The Villages, Ocala, and other areas of Southern Marion County since WRUF-FM out of Gainesville switched to Country as of October 2010. There is another rock station, 100.5 WHHZ, out of Gainesville, but even that station has difficulty reaching Ocala and most areas of Marion County.
Notable on-air staff
WXTB-FM was the home of the top rated Sea Bass & Marla Morning Show, and later the flagship of the former regional radio host Todd Clem, better known as Bubba the Love Sponge. Bubba arrived on the air for the mornings at a time when the station was struggling to find a morning personality to replace the popular Sea Bass. Bubba had handled nights for Contemporary Hit station WFLZ 93.3 "The Power Pig". A huge backlash followed for months where Bubba's urban-influenced broadcast style conflicted with the 'radical surfer' Sea Bass and the hard rock listener mentality. Following a record-setting fine assessed by the Federal Communications Commission in February 2004 over alleged indecent content, he was fired as the morning host of WXTB-FM, which also ceased the syndication of Bubba's show carried by a number of affiliated stations mainly throughout the Southeast. The station has never recovered it's dominate ratings following the termination of Bubba, who has since taken up the morning spot at rival WHPT (102.5 "The Bone").
98 Rock PT 1: The RISE WXTB was home to the "Sea Bass" morning show hosted by Tom Sebastian from 1990-93. Marla Stone was added to make "Sea Bass & Marla" from 1993-1995. Shockingly, Sea Bass the original Morning Host and the creator of 'Buck Maui' and 'Big Chief Meteorologist' departed at the height of the morning show and 98 Rock's popularity. Insiders soon revealed this was due to frustration with 98 Rock Management and Marla's propensity for tardiness. Sea Bass's departure would definitively mark the end of the original 98 Rock glory era. 98 Rock PT. 2: The FALL The station inexplicably brought in former rival WYNF PD, and Marla's close friend Charlie Logan to replace Sea Bass. Charlie and Marla attempted to bring the WYNF biker/wrestling image to 98 Rock. Charlie and Marla lasted less than one year. A string of others were paired with Marla but would change every few months in a futile attempt to and salvage the morning show's plummeting ratings. Each attempt would end the same way. Epic Fail. Amateur Producers and station grunts Lee Daniels and Bob Gnarley were handed the morning slot and told to play music until Jacor bought the station. In a few months they too were let go. A big Bon Voyage Party was thrown for Marla. 98 Rock PT 3: The RETURN Jacor/93.3 superstar and faux-hip hopper Bubba the Love Sponge was hired and basically saved the 98 Rock morning show but in doing so changed the entire station from 1997 until his now legendary firing in 2004. He was succeeded by The Monsters in the Morning and later The Buckethead Show. The morning drive ratings tanked with talkers Lex and Terry, who were let go in December 2009 in a move announced on the station's Facebook page. "Big Rig" Ronnie Michaels, although not actually a part of the original 98 Rock Air Staff, (Austin Keys was the original night DJ) is the only remaining member left from the original glory days and remains at the station as the midday anchor. Today, WXTB has gone full circle and now wallows in Radio's ratings basement.
- Livestock concert series; now retired
- 98RockFest new annual concert series
- World's Largest Barbecue concert series; now retired
- "WXTB - A History". RadioYears.com. RadioYears.com. 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2011. "Some names and shows associated with 98 Rock WXTB include... Max Logan (afternoons-2000)"
- Official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WXTB
- Radio-Locator information on WXTB
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WXTB