WTOB AM 1380 Brings Back the Music of the 50s, 60s & 70s
Baby Boomers welcome the songs from their youth at revamped local station
By Judie Holcomb-Pack
When Tony Pack first tuned in to the “new” WTOB 1380 am, he thought he had found a time machine. Then when he heard “Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On” for the first time in many years, he knew he had discovered the radio station of his youth.
WTOB was a Top 40 station in the 1950s, 60s and 70s; and it was considered the station that brought Rock and Roll music to Winston-Salem, to some of our parents’ dismay. Popular DJs back then were George Lee, Dick Bennett, The Flying Dutchman, and Curtis Lee. On Friday and Saturday nights, you could hear WTOB playing the chart toppers on radios as cars cruised from The Triangle on one end of Stratford Road to Chuck Wagon on the other end.
But times change, stations are sold, and formats change to a different genre. DJs move on to other stations in other towns. For one DJ, however, there was always a dream in the back of his mind that WTOB would return to its heyday of rock and roll music.
Sometimes serendepity can help dreams come true, as in the case of Jerry Holt and Bill Norman. Jerry had worked as a DJ in Myrtle Beach for many years and knew Dick Bennett, a popular local DJ, and Bill Norman. When Bill heard WTOB was up for sale, he contacted the owner and made an offer, which was immediately rejected. Not giving up easily, Bill continued to stay in touch and occasionally made more offers. Sadly, Bill died unexpectedly last year, which is where Jerry Holt came in. Knowing acquiring WTOB was Bill’s dream, he again contacted the owner, only to discover the station had been sold. Not to be deterred, Jerry continued to chase what was now his dream all over the country, locating the new owner, and when he couldn’t work out a sales agreement, he negotiated a lease. After many years, WTOB was going back on the air!
First, however, Jerry needed more DJs – he couldn’t do it all himself. Through mutual friends, he met Jim Starr, who had been broadcasting “The Blues Café” in Memphis for 25 years and was looking for a new job in the Triad area. He urged Dan Curtis, “The Voice of Rock & Roll,” to come back. He got Nicole “Penny Lover” to sign on. And of course, the station wouldn’t be complete without, “Big Daddy Bring It On.” Most of the DJs were retired by now, but all agreed to come back on the air for the fun of spinning the oldies once again. WTOB was back in business!
When Jerry sent out the news release announcing that WTOB would begin broadcasting on April 1 after a 30-year hiatus, the response he received wasn’t what he expected. Numerous people called to ask if this was an April Fool’s joke. Was WTOB really coming back? After convincing callers that it was no joke and to turn in to 1380 am, the word started getting out and listeners tuned in.
Jerry’s plans for WTOB are for the station to return to the good old days of radio, when DJs had personal interaction with their listeners, announced songs and included tidbits about the artists, and accepted song dedications from listeners. In just the few months they have been on the air, WTOB already has a group of loyal listeners, many of whom stream online locally or listen around the world at www.bigdaddybringiton.com and www.wtob1380.com. Not only are they receiving accolades for their music selections, but they have received word that Jim Starr is under consideration for being inducted into the Radio DJ Hall of Fame!
The future looks bright for Bill Norman’s – and Jerry Holt’s – dream of making WTOB again a Top 40 station. Not one to stop once his dream becomes reality, Jerry is now working on a local WTOB magazine listing Top 40 beach music, articles of local interest, coupons, and a digital surprise that will be a first in the local magazine industry.
As for the future, no one says it better than Big Daddy. “Bring it on!”