UNC Charlotte Special Collections J. Murrey Atkins Library - Special Collections & University Archives

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WBT/WBTV Corporate records

 Collection
Identifier: MS0324

Scope and Contents

Collection contains the corporate records for WBT radio and WBTV television, at one time subsidiaries of the Jefferson Standard and Jefferson Pilot insurance companies. Records for these two broadcasting companies date back to their earliest days and consist of paper documents, sound recordings, "plugs" of television news film, and photographs. There are also a few records from WBCY.

The moving-picture film that came with this collection consists not of entire news broadcasts, but of film "plugs." Whenever a newsworthy event took place, the television news crew would travel to the location and shoot a few minutes of film, return to the station, develop the film and use a portion of it (a "plug") in the news broadcast. That is the contents of series VI. However, though the dates of this film spans from 1959 to 1981, most of the material spans from 1966 to 1981; and even within that span of dates, there are gaps of missing film. A file of index cards, listing names and subjects of accompanies the film.

Among the noteworthy items found in this collection include photographs of the "Dixie Mammoth Minstrels" a musical group of the 1920s and 1930s that included white performers in blackface makeup. These photographs are numbers P324/657-659. Another file of this group is found in box 1:14. Also, WBT sponsored an annual award for the Woman of the Year in the Charlotte area. This collection contains both the files and photographs of these award recipients. Since so much of the history of these stations coincided with that of the Cold War, there are files concerning Radio Moscow in this collection, found in box 8. This archive also contains an assortment of files and photographs (and slides) of the NASA Space Program, including material on the Apollo rockets, the Voyager spacecraft and the space shuttle.

Dates

  • 1920-2009

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Original audiovisual materials are closed to patron use. Please contact Special Collections to request the creation of use copies for particular items; requests will be accommodated when possible. The remaining materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

WBT Radio Historical Note

The origins of the WBT radio station can be traced to 1920, when Fred Laxton, Earle Gluck, and Fred Bunker set up an amateur radio station in Laxton's house and chicken coop. Within a few months, these fledgling broadcasters applied for and received an experimental license from the Federal Communications Commission with the call letters 4XD. In 1922 they incorporated their station into a commercial enterprise, naming it the Southern Broadcasting Corporation with the call letters of WBT. In 1925 the owners sold the station to C.C. Coddington, who also owned a Buick dealership. Coddington used the station to promote his dealership business and referred to the WBT call letters as Watch Buick Travel. Later, in 1929 Coddington sold WBT to CBS. As the station gradually increased its power output FCC regulations required CBS to sell the station, which it did to the Jefferson-Standard Life Insurance in 1945 (though WBT remained a CBS affiliate). The Jefferson-Standard Life Insurance Company was later known as Jefferson-Pilot Life Insurance Company.

Early in its history, WBT's programming consisted of comedy shows like Amos & Andy, soap operas, sports programming and music. WBT featured such bands as the Briarhoppers, Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks, and more; and some of these bands were formed for WBT. Most of the music played country music, but some popular big band orchestras were also heard on this station. By the 1970s the station's format changed to adult contemporary music. Much later, in the 1980s the station began featuring talk radio (mostly at night) and broadcast such figures as Henry Boggan, Larry King, and Bruce Williams' Talknet and Rush Limbaugh's conservative talk program.

Aside from its corporate and business history, WBT has earned a number of noteworthy distinctions to its credit. In 1935 Charles Crutchfield, one of the station's early radio announcers, interviewed eight Confederate veterans who performed a "Rebel yell" on the air. In 1935, President Roosevelt recognized Grady Cole's fundraising efforts for the victims of a flood in Louisville, Kentucky, by awarding him a plaque for his efforts. In 1941 the Federal Communications Commission designated WBT as a Key Station and the communications center for twenty five other stations in the event of a national emergency.

When WBT was first incorporated in 1922, its broadcasting output was a mere 100 watts (about the same as an average light bulb!). By 1925 it had increased to 500 watts. In 1929 its output shot up dramatically to 10,000 watts, and jumped again in 1933 to 50,000 watts. By 1948, it was up to 56,000 watts and started broadcasting in FM radio waves.

WBT was the first of its kind in many important categories. It was the first to hire a woman announcer, the first to broadcast major league baseball in the South, the first television station in the Carolinas (in 1949), and the first local television station in the world to record and rebroadcast color programs on video tape (in 1958).

On August 31, 1978, WBT-FM became "WBCY-108, Charlotte's Best Rock". According to an ad appearing in the September 1st edition of The Charlotte Observer, WBCY played 108 hours of music uninterrupted by commercials. Artists played included Chicago, Peter Frampton, The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, Billy Joel, and Eddie Money. Popular announcers on the station during this time included John Lambis, Chris Jones, Alan Ryan, Becky Kent and Fred Story. Over the next 11 years, the station moved back and forth between adult-leaning CHR and high-energy adult contemporary. Also in 1978, Marty Lambert became Jeff Pilot, the traffic reporter for WBT and WBCY. Lambert became assistant program director and music director in 1982. In the early '80s, WBCY hired Johnny Ray Isley as morning host, and later added Billy James as co-host. After John Boy quit WBCY in February 1986. Bob Lacey, a veteran announcer for WBT and WBTV, replaced John Boy temporarily. Jim "Catfish" Prewitt also paired with Billy, who left the station in April. Later in 1986, Randy Cook and Spiff Dingle became the new morning hosts, while John Boy and Billy went to work elsewhere. WBCY was also the home of popular Contemporary Christian music program, "Visions", hosted by Ken Mayfield. The program aired every Sunday morning from 1985 until 1993 when Mayfield left to manage WRCM. When the North Carolina Tar Heels and the NBA Charlotte Hornets played at the same time, WBCY aired the Hornets. In December 1988, Randy and Spiff were dismissed because WBCY intended to move toward "a more adult-oriented sound" under the new moniker "B108". The change in format resulted in several other staff changes. In November 1989, WBCY announced that Bob Lacey would be the station's morning host starting December 11. That same month, WBCY returned to the WBT-FM call letters[2] and changed its format to mainstream adult contemporary under the moniker "Sunny 107.9". Sheri Lynch joined Lacey in February 1992, forming the "Bob & Sheri" show. Eventually, the station's music began leaning in a top 40 direction again.

WBTV Historical Note

WBTV made its first broadcast on July 15, 1949, and the first person seen on this new medium was Jim Patterson, a long time WBT employee. Like its AM radio counter-part, WBTV was owned by Jefferson-Standard Insurance Company of Greensboro. This company would later merge with Pilot Life Insurance Company in 1968 and then became known as Jefferson-Pilot Insurance Company. Its broadcasting subsidiary was named the Jefferson-Pilot Broadcasting Company, and owned both the WBT radio station and the WBTV television station. The address of both of these stations is One Julian Price Place named after long-time executive of the Jefferson-Standard and Jefferson-Pilot insurance companies. WBTV has always been affiliated with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and has broadcast many of its popular television programs, mostly during the prime-time hours.

Along with its associated radio station, WBTV has been one of the early fore-runners in broadcasting. It was the thirteenth television station in the United States, the first in the Carolinas and the oldest in between Richmond, and Atlanta.

By 2007 the radio and television stations were owned by the Lincoln Financial Group, which decided to sell the radio station to Greater Media (of Braintree, Massachusetts) and the television station to Raycom Media in Charleston, South Carolina. These sales broke up the ownership of Charlotte's last paired radio and television broadcasting companies.

As Charlotte's first television station, WBTV had and maintained a strong competitive edge over its television rivals for many years, so much so, in fact that television experts often claimed that the television dials of most Charlotteans had "rusted to channel 3". Over the years, however, other stations in the area gained in popularity and viewership, depending on the time slot.

Some of the more memorable locally produced television programs were Betty Feezor's program for home-makers; talk shows like Top of the Day, On the Square, PM Magazine, and Barbara & C.J. Underwood's Down Home with Carolina Camera; Fred Kirby and Jim Patterson's kids show known by the names of Whistle Stop; Fred Kirby's Little Rascals; Kirby's Corra; the high school students' quiz show High-Q and several others.

Extent

31 Linear Feet

Language

English

Overview

This collection contains the records of WBT radio, WBTV television, and the Jefferson-Pilot Communication Company of Charlotte, North Carolina from the 1920s to approximately the year 2009. There are also records from the Columbia Broadcasting System and a variety of syndicated television shows.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged into six series. Series I contains the earliest records of this collection: the WBT radio station records. Series II holds the WBTV television records; series III consists of the Jefferson-Pilot Broadcasting Company records; and series IV holds the Columbia Broadcasting System corporate records. Series V lists the photographs that came with this collection; and series VI consists of the plugs of WBTV news film.

Series I. WBT Radio Records; Series II. WBTV Television Records; Series III. Jefferson-Pilot Broadcasting Company Records; Series IV. Columbia Broadcasting System Corporate Records; Series V. Photographs; Series VI. WBTV News Film

Immediate Source of Acquisition

WBT-WBTV, Inc. (via David Eades) in 2007.

Related Materials

WBT Collection, Robinson- Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenberg Library

Processing Information

Cameron Smith, David Miller, Denelle Eads, under the direction of Robert A. McInnes, 2009.
Title
WBT/WBTV Corporate records
Status
Completed
Author
Cameron Smith, David Miller, Denelle Eads, under the direction of Robert A. McInnes
Date
2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Contact:
Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte 28223 United Stated