WTSB: First And Foremost in Johnston Co.
The idea to build WTSB came from Fred Horton who operated a dental laboratory in Wilson. He picked up orders in Johnston County and noticed that there was no radio station in Smithfield. He applied for a station on the frequency of 910 kHz and it was later switched to 1270 kHz. The land was bought from John Hobbs through Elbert Bingham. The building was built by Doug Smith with most of the material coming from Strickland Lumber Company. WTSB actually began in 1950 as WLNJ and used the slogan “Newsradio”.
Jack Townsend came to Smithfield, got married and lived in a garage apartment behind John Dail’s house. The station went on the air with 1000 watts. Bill Kirby was one of the first announcers. Mrs. Lousie Grimmer was the first secretary. There were no telephones or telephone lines to the station. The news teletype was located at Jack Townsend’s home and was so noisy that it had to be turned off at night. A 200-foot self-supporting tower bought from WWDC in Washington, NC was put up. Jack Townsend brought it to Smithfield on a flat bed truck. The tower blew down during Hurricane Hazel and was replaced with the present tower. The station signed-on Sunday August 2, 1950 at 1:00PM and the first commercial was for LaSalle Service, a repair shop located near the post office. The cost of the first commercial was $1.50.
The station was purchased by Lynn Barry, John Ciccone, Carl Lamm and Ellis Barbour. In January, the station was authorized by the FCC to increase its power to 5000 watts. A dedication service for the power boost took place on March 8, 1961 (Wednesday) at 3:00PM. On hand for the dedication were Smithfield Mayor Ben Baker, Harry Young, Manager of the Selma Chamber of Commerce and Clifford Massengill, President of the Smithfield Chamber of Commerce. Rev. J.H. Lancaster gave the invocation.
John Ciccone died of a heart attack on May 14.
Some of the major news events broadcast over WTSB include the end of the Korean War, Assassination of John Kennedy, the first man into space, the resignation of President Nixon, and the death of Ava Gardner. The station has carried interviews with the top names in entertainment, sports, government and politics and baseball legend Mickey Mantle, a personal friend of Carl Lamm, even produced a few commercials for clients of WTSB Radio in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
WTSB’s programming is a blend of traditional country and some Southern Gospel. The station features local news several times daily and WTSB is a very community oriented station. WTSB is affiliated with CBS Radio Network and the Tarheel Sports Network. Most of the CBS Radio Network features are aired daily. WTSB also carries the University of North Carolina football games. For many years, WTSB has been rated the #1 radio station in Johnston County in all surveys and is also known as “The Voice of the Smithfield Tobacco Market.”
Smithfield is located in Johnston County, and Johnston County is one of the most important agricultural counties in the state, and is also ranked in the top 100 agricultural counties of the nation. Johnston County is located in east-central North Carolina along the fall line that divides the state’s Coastal Plain and Piedmont areas. The county covers an area of 795 square miles. The main crops are tobacco, nurseries and greenhouses, sweet potatoes, swine, poultry, soybeans, and cattle. Annual farm income now exceeds $116 million dollars. The county population is approximately 102,000. The major industries are:Bayer, Miles Laboratories, Channel Master, Chicopee, Caterpillar, K.R. Edwards, Block Industries, Bowman Enterprises, Burlington Mills, Carolina Packers, E.R. Squibb, Johnston Mills, Kabi, Oneida, RCL/Shallcross. WTSB’s programming is a blend of traditional country and some Southern Gospel. The station features local news several times daily and WTSB is a very community oriented station. WTSB is affiliated with CBS Radio Network, TN Farm Network, and the Tarheel Sports Network. Most of the CBS Radio Network features are aired daily. WTSB also carries the University of North Carolina football games. For many years WTSB has been the #1 rated station in Johnston County in all surveys and is also known as, “The Voice of the Smithfield Tobacco Market”. WTSB Radio advertising gets results!!! One politician recently was quoted saying “The recorded political advertising and live broadcast by WTSB at several BBQ suppers given were instrumental in my winning the election by a two thirds margin.” One local advertiser began advertising with us 14 years ago recently said, “I know that advertising with WTSB works. Not only did we notice an immediate increase in sales in our market, but we actually had prospects calling and asking if we were the company that advertised with WTSB”. Another local advertiser commented, “We have been advertising with WTSB for 20 years and we have used every type of advertising media available and found WTSB to be our best source. One of our local pharmacies recently wrote, “We have been using WTSB for more than 39 years and have always found them to be courteous and friendly.” “We feel that WTSB has helped us reach our customers and potential customers better than any other type of advertising.” And from a Ladies Fashion shop: “Your advertising department listens to what we want to convey to the public and they immediately grasp the message. Recently an advertiser told WTSB that, ~our spots brought us unbelievable results. I want to make sure that as long as I’m in business, that we have advertising daily on WTSB. We get more mileage from our advertising dollar on WTSB, and we have tried them all.”