WBT History

The History of WBT



Fred Laxton, Earle Gluck, and Frank L. Bunker met in an amateur radio supply store in Charlotte, and decided to pool their equipment and set up a station in the Laxton home.




In December, an amateur radio station began broadcasting at the home of Fred Laxton, Senior (corner of Mecklenburg and Belvedere Avenues-2632 Mecklenburg Avenue...adjoining the Charlotte Country Club.) The telephone-microphone and amplifier was on the dining room table and the transmitter was in another room. The radio receiver was in what had been a chicken house in the Laxton backyard.




In March, an "experimental" license was acquired from the Department of Commerce and the call letters assigned were "4XD".



In January, an application was filed with the Department of Commerce for a commercial radio license to be issued to Messrs. Laxton, Gluck, and Bunker. The transmitter and "studio" were moved from the Laxton home to the eight floor of the Independence Building on the Square. The men organized the Southern Radio Corporation to sell radio receiver parts and operate "4XD".

In April, the Department of Commerce issued a license for the first commercial radio station in the Southeast. The new call letters were...WBT. The station's power was 100 watts. Broadcast hours were from 10:00-11:45 a.m., and 7:30-9:45 p.m.



Laxton, Gluck and Bunker moved the WBT studios to the Andrews Music Company on Tryon Street. Mr. Charlie Andrews was announcer and pianist.



Hall Kemp made debut over WBT. Freeman Gosden and Charlie Correll broadcast over WBT as the "Two Black Crows". They later moved to Chicago to become "Amos and Andy." During the time period 1925-1926, the radio business was sold to James P. McMillan and the Carolina States Electric Company.



The radio station was then bought by C.C. Coddington, the Buick automobile distributor, and moved to the Coddington Building on Trade and Graham Streets. It was bought for about $2,000 dollars. Mr. Coddington made an arrangement with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce to manage WBT. Lee A. Folger, Sr., a partner of Mr. Coddington designed an ad campaign around the call letters. He announced W-B-T stood for "Watch Buick Travel". Also power was increased to 500 watts. And John Scott Trotter made his debut on WBT. Mr. Trotter later became Bing Crosby's orchestra leader.



WBT joined the NBC Radio Network, which began in November 1926. (CBS was inaugurated in September, 1927.) Power was increased to 1000 watts. Johnny Long made his debut on WBT as a big band leader.



Power was increased to 5000 watts when the transmitter was moved from the Coddington building to the present site...Coddington's farm on Nations Ford Road. Station Personnel: "Aunt Sally" (Mrs. Pasco Powell), who read stories for children. "Aunt Sally" later went to New York and was a guest on the NBC show "Evening Star". Jimmie Purcell and his Dixonians (6 piece orchestra) played dinner music at Hotel Charlotte. Remote broadcast from the ballroom daily 12:30-2:00 p.m., at which time 100 commercials were read. Eddie Clair, with J.O. Jones, were members of the band. Hawaiian Serenaders (3 piece string band) who recorded for Victor Records. Sweeney Prosser, Director. Woodlawn String Band (7 local musicians, hillbilly band) Joe Nesbit and his Pennsylvanians (11 piece band who came to WBT from Pennsylvania). Fisher Hendley and Carolina Tarheels (string band). WBT Staff Orchestra (8 people: flute, cello, 3 violins, piano, clarinet, bass, drums). Announcers: Kenneth Clapp, Tom Callahan, Donald O'Connor, Norman Sweet. Regular Sunday Broadcasts from First Baptist Church in Charlotte. The Minister, Dr. Luther Little, was the first minister to do a radio broadcast in America...over WBT.



CBS purchased WBT after C.C. Coddington's death. The studio was moved to the Wilder Building on South Tryon Street. Power increased to 25,000 watts. "Amos and Andy" made their debut on the NBC Radio Network in August. WBT has a full-time staff of 10 musicans. Fall of this year...Grady Cole began reading the noon news and stock market reports on WBT.

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