Publisher Profile

THE INSIDER AUTHORITY ON GATOR SPORTS

The Golden Days of Florida
Gators Radio: From Transistors to Streaming

Written by David Shepherd, August 29, 2015, 2 Comments,
  • The Swamp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is the best venue that college football has to offer. Florida-Gators-University-of-Florida-Gainesville-Florida-Florida-Football-1280x852

    Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is one of the greatest venues in college football. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

  • Home
  • Feature
  • The Golden Days of Florida Gators Radio: From Transistors to Streaming
Print Friendly

This is the final of a three-part series where I will look back at my love for media and the ways and means that I have used it to keep up with the Florida Gators over the years.

The lifeline between Florida Gators fans and the games they play used to be connected by a radio far more than any other means. As one of our posters, ldgators, posted today “I can remember him (Otis Boggs) describing the action, “from left to right on your radio dial”.

Another poster, atchison13, pondered this “not sure if anyone remembers him, but my grandfather, Bob Leach, was an announcer for Gators radio in the 70s.” Well any Gator fan from the seventies with a radio would know and remember his grandfather as one of the connections to our past and what a great connection it was.

Otis Boggs and Bob Leach

I know I said in the last article that I loved television, well I loved my radio too. No one ever asked me how big our TV screen was, but everyone wanted to how many transistors my radio had. My favorite was an orange Arvin, six transistors and an earphone, which lent itself to many late night of listening to the golden voice of some disc jockey playing all the favorites.

Other than listening to music, the little radio had two other distinct purposes. One was listening to the Jacksonville Suns baseball games on WZOK with Dave Martin. I would listen every night we were home. As I listened to the games I would stand a pillow up on the end of my bed in a corner, with my pajamas on with a ball and glove I would throw each pitch for both teams. Every now and then I would miss the pillow and would get the “stop throwing the ball in the house” but I carried on. Two wild pitches and I would have to retire to the dugout, which happened to double as a twin bed.

But in the fall the radio was for Florida Gators football. Remember we only played ten games in those days so it seemed the season came and went before you knew it. No practice reports to build up our anticipation, just newspaper and magazines for anything that was not the game itself.

Folks who were born after 1980 or so may not be able to fathom this, but there was no sports talk radio (in Jacksonville). If I remember correctly we would be able to listen to a pregame show of thirty minutes or so, maybe an hour, but following a locker room show the radio was dead for Florida Gators and football for another week. It was a horrible time to be able to follow your favorite team, but we didn’t know any better because it was all we knew.

But then it happened!

The year was 1976 and a broadcaster in Jacksonville brought sports talk radio to our town. This was about three or four years ahead of cable television in Jacksonville so for the first time sports fans had a venue other than the newspaper and magazine to satisfy our lust for sports news. Wonder what took so long? Jay Solomon is credited with getting some of the sportswriters in Jacksonville to move over to radio and some have been there ever since.

Of course cable tv served a big hit to radio in general, but sports and news talk probably saved radio because they was in place as Ipods, Walkman and other devices took their listeners away from them, but the desire to hear news and sports, along with a nation that is in their cars a lot, radio still has a rightful place in the delivery of an important medium.

I wrote in the first part of this series about being in Corbin, KY and one of the things I really got a kick out of was during basketball season. I was a manager in a locomotive shop that would hold about twenty-four locomotives at a time and the first night I worked when there was a UK basketball game I walked out in the shop and was treated to a neat event.

As I walked down the first aisle I head a radio tuned to the game and just as I was about to get out of hearing that I start hearing it again getting stronger and stronger until it peaked and then it would start slowly fading. No matter where I went in the building that was the case. Every mechanic and every tool box had a radio and none of them were blasting, but if you left your spot to get a part you would hear the game.

I had worked in Jacksonville and Waycross, GA doing the same job with rabid football fans, but never heard a building with enough radios in synch that the volume was never too loud and never out of complete hearing. That was Kentucky fans and their basketball.

While radio is still very much a part of media fabric it has changed. No transistor radios and no boom boxes to be seen, yet I listen to the radio most every day and like many I suppose, I do not own a radio outside of the one in my car. The Internet came along and swallowed up all of our media devices, newspaper, magazine, television, movies, records, video and audio tape and now we are relegated to that one powerful device.

I suppose it is a great thing what has happened over these 63 years of my life. I can now watch Gator games over a TV through a cable inserted into its connection and/or through a wireless signal dispersed throughout some select cities, which will almost get us back to where we started with signals coming into our homes to deliver the media.

How odd.

Still deep into my life and perhaps in the final quarter, I still love media just as much as I did as a 10 year old boy. It is bigger, it is better and I would not trade it for what we had.

Still, as I heard last week a replay (through the Internet) of Bob Costas doing the Mickey Mantle eulogy, I wonder if the children born with all this will somehow miss the love of a transistor radio stuck in a notebook plastic pouch trying to find a World Series game while the teacher is out of the room, only to be caught when the only punishment was having to give up the score… and you couldn’t just say the score, it was with Mantle homered and Koufax struck out sixteen.

Of course the kids of today will not miss that because they never experienced it, just as we did not miss big screen TVs and 24 hour sports, because then, we had never experienced it.

Each night of my teenage years there was a DJ who signed off the same for every broadcast which I will now do in honor of the times…then

“Whether you’ve got your own teeth or not, keep smiling everybody….”

Then he played this

Then I could sleep.

With thanks to Ron Wayne!

David Shepherd

About David Shepherd

David Shepherd has been a member of Gator Country since 1996. He retired from CSX Railroad in 2001 after nearly 30 years of service. Since that time he has worked for Gator Country, Waycross Journal Herald and First Baptist Church in Paris. When he is not on Gator Country he is probably at the Shindler Drive Baptist Church where he has been a member since he returned to the Jacksonville area in 2013.

  1. tricksterAugust 29, 2015, 3:30 pm

    Ive really enjoyed yoir series. I remember Ottis and Ted Covington well. I was a student there from 1967 until 1970 and worked as an announcer for WRUF-FM. Ted was at least station manager, but may have owned it back then. I’m grew up in Gainesville and had always listened to him on the away games, and whenever I could on AFN when I was in the military before starting college, so getting to meet him was a real honor. He was a marvelous man. Ted’s still alive, in his 90′s and infirm now, but living in his old home in Lakeland. He’s still a rabid Gator and a real delight to talk to.

  2. zippyzeeAugust 29, 2015, 4:16 pm

    I remember Otis and Bob Leach well. I was an announcer also from ’64 to ’67 on WRUF-FM. Had a show that followed Otis and then did Sunday nights from 6 to sign-off. Spooky sitting all alone in the stadium studios. I think my only listeners were the tower engineer and Bob Leach! Worked for Bob at WUFT-TV as well.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/The-Swamp-at-Ben-Hill-Griffin-Stadium-is-the-best-venue-that-college-football-has-to-offer.-Florida-Gators-University-of-Florida-Gainesville-Florida-Florida-Football-1280x852-150x150.jpg David Shepherd FeatureFootball ,,,,,
Print Friendly

This is the final of a three-part series where I will look back at my love for media and the ways and means that I have used it to keep up with the Florida Gators over the years.

The lifeline between Florida Gators fans and the games they play used to be connected by a radio far more than any other means. As one of our posters, ldgators, posted today “I can remember him (Otis Boggs) describing the action, “from left to right on your radio dial”.

Another poster, atchison13, pondered this “not sure if anyone remembers him, but my grandfather, Bob Leach, was an announcer for Gators radio in the 70s.” Well any Gator fan from the seventies with a radio would know and remember his grandfather as one of the connections to our past and what a great connection it was.

Otis Boggs and Bob Leach

I know I said in the last article that I loved television, well I loved my radio too. No one ever asked me how big our TV screen was, but everyone wanted to how many transistors my radio had. My favorite was an orange Arvin, six transistors and an earphone, which lent itself to many late night of listening to the golden voice of some disc jockey playing all the favorites.

Other than listening to music, the little radio had two other distinct purposes. One was listening to the Jacksonville Suns baseball games on WZOK with Dave Martin. I would listen every night we were home. As I listened to the games I would stand a pillow up on the end of my bed in a corner, with my pajamas on with a ball and glove I would throw each pitch for both teams. Every now and then I would miss the pillow and would get the “stop throwing the ball in the house” but I carried on. Two wild pitches and I would have to retire to the dugout, which happened to double as a twin bed.

But in the fall the radio was for Florida Gators football. Remember we only played ten games in those days so it seemed the season came and went before you knew it. No practice reports to build up our anticipation, just newspaper and magazines for anything that was not the game itself.

Folks who were born after 1980 or so may not be able to fathom this, but there was no sports talk radio (in Jacksonville). If I remember correctly we would be able to listen to a pregame show of thirty minutes or so, maybe an hour, but following a locker room show the radio was dead for Florida Gators and football for another week. It was a horrible time to be able to follow your favorite team, but we didn’t know any better because it was all we knew.

But then it happened!

The year was 1976 and a broadcaster in Jacksonville brought sports talk radio to our town. This was about three or four years ahead of cable television in Jacksonville so for the first time sports fans had a venue other than the newspaper and magazine to satisfy our lust for sports news. Wonder what took so long? Jay Solomon is credited with getting some of the sportswriters in Jacksonville to move over to radio and some have been there ever since.

Of course cable tv served a big hit to radio in general, but sports and news talk probably saved radio because they was in place as Ipods, Walkman and other devices took their listeners away from them, but the desire to hear news and sports, along with a nation that is in their cars a lot, radio still has a rightful place in the delivery of an important medium.

I wrote in the first part of this series about being in Corbin, KY and one of the things I really got a kick out of was during basketball season. I was a manager in a locomotive shop that would hold about twenty-four locomotives at a time and the first night I worked when there was a UK basketball game I walked out in the shop and was treated to a neat event.

As I walked down the first aisle I head a radio tuned to the game and just as I was about to get out of hearing that I start hearing it again getting stronger and stronger until it peaked and then it would start slowly fading. No matter where I went in the building that was the case. Every mechanic and every tool box had a radio and none of them were blasting, but if you left your spot to get a part you would hear the game.

I had worked in Jacksonville and Waycross, GA doing the same job with rabid football fans, but never heard a building with enough radios in synch that the volume was never too loud and never out of complete hearing. That was Kentucky fans and their basketball.

While radio is still very much a part of media fabric it has changed. No transistor radios and no boom boxes to be seen, yet I listen to the radio most every day and like many I suppose, I do not own a radio outside of the one in my car. The Internet came along and swallowed up all of our media devices, newspaper, magazine, television, movies, records, video and audio tape and now we are relegated to that one powerful device.

I suppose it is a great thing what has happened over these 63 years of my life. I can now watch Gator games over a TV through a cable inserted into its connection and/or through a wireless signal dispersed throughout some select cities, which will almost get us back to where we started with signals coming into our homes to deliver the media.

How odd.

Still deep into my life and perhaps in the final quarter, I still love media just as much as I did as a 10 year old boy. It is bigger, it is better and I would not trade it for what we had.

Still, as I heard last week a replay (through the Internet) of Bob Costas doing the Mickey Mantle eulogy, I wonder if the children born with all this will somehow miss the love of a transistor radio stuck in a notebook plastic pouch trying to find a World Series game while the teacher is out of the room, only to be caught when the only punishment was having to give up the score… and you couldn’t just say the score, it was with Mantle homered and Koufax struck out sixteen.

Of course the kids of today will not miss that because they never experienced it, just as we did not miss big screen TVs and 24 hour sports, because then, we had never experienced it.

Each night of my teenage years there was a DJ who signed off the same for every broadcast which I will now do in honor of the times…then

“Whether you’ve got your own teeth or not, keep smiling everybody….”

Then he played this

Then I could sleep.

With thanks to Ron Wayne!

Read previous post:
Florida Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves covers receievr Antonio Callaway - Florida Gators football- 1280x852
Florida Gators football mailbag: One week until kickoff

Florida Gators football mailbag: Quarterback battles, running back rotation and more.

Close